In 1990, 16 year-old Jeffrey Deskovic was convicted of the rape and murder of Angela Correa, a 15-year old student at Peekskill High School in NY. After seven hours of police interrogation (during which no parent or attorney was present) and the persuasive power of fear and fabricated evidence, Deskovic confessed to the crime despite his innocence. He was sentenced to 15 years to life, and spent 16 years in prison. The Innocence Project finally put an end to Deskovic’s saga, proving through DNA testing that Deskovic was not the perpetrator. The DNA evidence eventually led to the conviction of another man.
Using funds from a settlement, Deskovic admirably set up The Deskovic Foundation for Justice, based in the Bronx, NY. The Foundation provides counsel to wrongfully convicted persons, and also advocates for legislative changes to help prevent future wrongful convictions.
In 2012, we appealed to The Deskovic Foundation for assistance in Shane Watson’s case of wrongful conviction. I spoke to someone in the office about the case and was told that their office would follow up on it.
On February 22 of this year, Shane received a letter from The Deskovic Foundation. The letter claimed that the organization was “swamped with requests for help while also having a limited staff.” The letter thanked Shane for his patience, and asked for several documents pertaining to the case, such as the appellate brief, police reports, and a questionnaire. The letter concluded with an underlined sentence in bold type: we have not yet decided to accept your case.
The work of The Deskovic Foundation for Justice is admirable, as is the work of The Innocence Project, The Exoneration Initiative (which has provided paralegal assistance to us) and other similar organizations working on behalf of the wrongfully convicted. What is startling is that this letter from The Deskovic Foundation took five years to be generated. If we were to proceed with applying for assistance from The Deskovic Foundation, it would easily be another two years before any substantial action on Shane’s behalf would take place. That’s two more years in prison, added onto the twenty-three Shane has already spent behind bars.
Fortunately, our case is now in the hands of the Federal Court and we are not in need of further legal assistance. When Shane sent a copy of the Deskovic Foundation letter to me his words were “Praise God for where we’re at!” Indeed.