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Jeffrey Deskovic and Criminal Justice American Style

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This article first appeared on News That Matters April 14, 2011

"I'm not standing here in front of you because the system works. I'm standing here despite the system."

- Jeffrey Deskovic

Criminal Justice American Style

Jeffrey Deskovic is in the news again, winning his lawsuit against Westchester county for putting him in prison for a crime the authorities responsible knew he did not commit. His lawsuits against Putnam County and the City of Peekskill for their complicity in this crime against him are still pending.

A 1990 study conducted by Ohio State University claims that as many as 10,000 Americans are wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year and admits the number is rather conservative.

The Innocence Project has freed more than 200 people wrongfully convicted of such crimes when they were able to force DNA evidence into appeals where local judges, police and District Attorney's offices put up significant, illegal or immoral roadblocks to new evidence or to admit old evidence that was intentionally suppressed.

Here's what they said about the Deskovic investigation:

The Trial
In January 1991, Deskovic was convicted by jury of 1st degree rape and 2nd degree murder, despite DNA results showing that he was not the source of semen in the victim's rape kit. The state argued that the semen had come from a consensual sex partner and that Deskovic killed the victim in a jealous rage. [Emphasis, mine]

In January 2006, the Innocence Project took on Deskovic's case. The semen from the rape kit was tested with newer technology for entry into the New York State DNA databank of convicted felons. In September 2006, the semen was matched to convicted murderer Steven Cunningham, who was in prison for strangling the sister of his live-in girlfriend.

On September 20, 2006, Jeff Deskovic was released from prison when his conviction was overturned. Following an apology from the assistant district attorney, the court dismissed Deskovic's indictment on the grounds of actual innocence on November 2, 2006.

Read the full report here.

A frightened 17 year old boy is interrogated by police for 6 hours, spends years in prison, and he only gets an apology from the assistant district attorney?

These false convictions are rarely mistakes: They are most often the result of the intentional misleading of a jury by corrupt prosecutors, the designed suppression of evidence by police, a knowing abdication of proper procedure by judges, deliberately shoddy investigative work by criminal investigators and too often, conscious perjury on the part of 'expert witnesses' for the prosecution.

All of this begs the question:

Why is it enough that we satisfy years of wrongful and intentional imprisonment with cash payouts when the corrupt do not have to wake up for the next 20 years in a prison cell of their own?

If we begin to sentence those responsible to an equal time spent by the innocently condemned we may see a positive change in honesty from the police and courts. But breaking through the Iron Curtain of prosecutorial misdeeds is often impossible as our culture has been whipped into accepting the word of the police as Gospel Truth - even when we know it is not.

In criminal cases citizens must begin to question the authorities at every opportunity and juries must learn that what the judge "instructs" them is not necessarily their sole responsibility and that they are free to be more critical and to nullify if the behavior of the justice system warrants.

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