March 13, 2012; Source: Wall Street Journal
Jeffrey Deskovic was imprisoned for 16 years after being wrongfully convicted of killing a high school classmate. After DNA tests pointed to another man, Deskovic was given his freedom in 2006, along with an apology in the form of a $6.5 million settlement from his slam dunk wrongful imprisonment lawsuit. Since his release, the Associated Press Reports, Deskovic has “been active in criminal justice reform and anti-death penalty movements,” and now Deskovic plans to put $1.5 million of that settlement towards establishing operations at the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice Work. The nonprofit will provide assistance to those who believe they have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned in the New York City area.
It is hard to imagine spending 16 years of one’s life in prison for a crime that one didn’t commit, and Deskovic’s desire to help others who might face a similarly horrible predicament is admirable. We do wonder, however, if Deskovic’s funds might be more efficiently and effectively spent by an organization that is already up and running on this kind of work—say, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld’s Innocence Project, which has been using DNA tests to free innocent people since its founding in 1992. Nonetheless, we won’t quibble. Deskovic would be within his right to use the entirety of his settlement for completely selfish purposes. After all, can any amount of money make up for more than a decade in prison on a bogus conviction? So it is refreshing to see that Deskovic has chosen to invest some of his settlement money in helping to improve a system that did him wrong. –Mike Keefe-Feldman