Forensic Students Learn from Wrongfully Convicted Man
New Rochelle High School forensic science students had just learned about DNA evidence. Yesterday, they and some schoolmates gained perspective on the topic they could never get from science studies alone, when they heard the harrowing first-hand account of man wrongfully imprisoned for 16 years before DNA evidence proved that someone else committed the crime.
"I was a sophomore," Jeffrey Deskovic said of his wrongful conviction in 1990. "I was younger than most of you."
Despite the original DNA evidence in the case, Deskovic was convicted of murder on the strength of a confession he says was coerced. It wasn't until 2006 that Westchester County's then-District Attorney Janet DiFiore ordered another DNA test, which led to Deskovic's exoneration and release.
He spoke Thursday in the Whitney M. Young Jr. Auditorium to an audience of mostly juniors and seniors from two forensic science classes, the AP Government class, the Law in Government Class and others. He told them about starting the Deskovic Foundation to further his work on behalf of others who are in prison for crimes they did not commit.
"I wanted to take my work to the next level," he said. "I wanted to reach back into the prisons and free people - innocent people - who were in the same position I had been in."
He told them of the challenges of returning to society after 16 years - unfamiliar technology, lost friends and family members, the difficulty in finding a job. He received a master's degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and is set to graduate with a law degree from Pace University in May.
Speaking with the experience of a former inmate, he urged the students to appreciate what they have, enjoy sunlight and the freedom to travel and to understand that they can overcome difficulties. For those entering law enforcement, science or the legal professions, he implored them to dedicate themselves to doing the job well.
"Take your job very, very seriously, and go that extra mile," he said.
It was a message received by students such as senior Kimberly Sanchez, who plans to become a police officer.
"It helps me to see how I should be as a cop," she said.
City School District of New Rochelle