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Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Good Example of Why Immunity Laws Should Be Revisited

Jeffrey Deskovic: 'I'm still paying' for wrongful conviction
The Journal News by Jonathan Bandler  -  April 14, 2011

Jeffrey Deskovic spent nearly 16 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of the murder of a Peekskill High School classmate. 

He survived years in prison for a murder he did not commit and will now get millions for his ordeal. But 4 1/2 years after Jeffrey Deskovic's release, he is still trying to make up for lost time, struggling to be defined by more than his exoneration. "I tend to be seen as the sum total of my experience, that I'm just an advocate who couldn't possibly have a life outside that," he said. "I feel like I'm still paying for my wrongful conviction." Deskovic was 17 when he landed in prison after jurors convicted him of second-degree murder in the November 1989 rape and slaying of Angela Correa, a classmate at Peekskill High School. The jury relied on a false confession he gave police after hours of interrogation and the prosecution's spin for why it didn't matter that DNA found on the victim was not Deskovic's. It took nearly 16 years before a DNA match linked the killing to another inmate, Stephen Cunningham. He was in prison for murder in the death of his girlfriend's sister four years after he killed Correa.  Deskovic was released in September 2006 and has been trying to adapt, socially and professionally, ever since.

On Wednesday, he spoke with The Journal News over lunch at a Hastings-on-Hudson diner, two days after the Westchester County Board of Legislators approved a $6.5 million settlement of the county's portion of his federal civil rights lawsuit. The settlement covers Westchester; its former chief medical examiner, Dr. Millard Hyland; and Dr. Louis Roh, the deputy medical examiner who testified that Deskovic could have killed Correa after she had sex with someone else. The lead assistant district attorney in the case, George Bolen, who highlighted Roh's testimony for the jury, was dismissed from the lawsuit in 2009 based on prosecutorial immunity — a ruling that still rankles Deskovic. "Bolen was in a position to hand the case back to police and say, 'Go out there and get me some real evidence," Deskovic said. "Instead, he used Roh's fabrications to try to win no matter what." The portion of Deskovic's lawsuit against Peekskill and Putnam County police involved in his arrest is pending. In addition to the city and county, it names Peekskill police Chief Eugene Tumolo; former city Detectives Thomas McIntyre, David Levine and Walter Brovarski; and former Putnam County Sheriff's Investigator Daniel Stephens, who gave Deskovic a lie detector test hours before his false confession. A lawyer for the Peekskill defendants, Brian Sokoloff, said the county's settlement showed Westchester acknowledged its major role in the wrongful conviction. "But what the police did was minimal in bringing that conviction," Sokoloff said. "They listened when he confessed." Deskovic declined to comment on the settlement, citing the continuing lawsuit. But he said he felt he was "achieving progress" in speaking out about changes needed in the criminal justice system. "I'm being recognized as someone who is using his experience as motivation as opposed to being someone this happened to," he said. He advocates daily — for the wrongfully convicted, against the death penalty and on behalf of political candidates he thinks will help reform deficiencies in the criminal justice system.

Meanwhile, he's completing his master's degree at John Jay College and directs the fledgling Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice. The work on the heels of his prison ordeal saddles him with a one-dimensional reputation, he said, but he has no intention of giving it up. "If I was to disappear into society, walk away from all this, I would be wasting a tremendous opportunity to help make things more accurate," he said. Deskovic does extensive research and writes weekly about cases around the country. His thesis on wrongful convictions supports more than just traditional reforms, like police recording full interviews and not just confessions. He wants pre-trial hearings to establish that confessions are truthful rather than just voluntary and the criminalization of prosecutorial misconduct. With the death penalty, he focuses on the possibility of executing the innocent but also that "killing people who kill to show (that) killing is wrong" makes no sense. He networks regularly and has numerous friends on social media sites. But socializing has been difficult and dating particularly frustrating. "My background is still a hindrance," he said. "Some wonder how much of my experience in prison has rubbed off on me, that maybe I carry too much baggage from that." Deskovic knew that a payday was likely but spent his first few years of freedom "literally watching every dollar." He said he always worried about covering his rent, first in an apartment in Tarrytown and later in the Bronx, and paying for food and clothing. His finances began turning around last year when he settled a lawsuit with the state over his wrongful imprisonment for $1.85 million. "With things not as bleak, I could relax a little and focus on the advocacy and not have to worry about basic needs," he said. Deskovic will get $4 million from the county this year and $2.5 million next year. His dream is to spend years as executive director of his foundation, traveling the country, challenging and speaking out against wrongful convictions. He doesn't expect his new wealth to change who he is or what he wants to accomplish. "I'm still frugal," he said. "I just know I can pay my car insurance every month."


Horrified said...

I can understand the concept of judicial and prosecutorial immunity but this is a fine example of what happens when outcomes are set in place at the beginning of an investigation or court case. Westchester is notorious for being corrupt and, in fact I believe Westchester invented the term, THE FIX IS IN, which means a telephone call has been made to fix an arrest or a civil or criminal case. Pretty disgusting. GOD BLESS JEFF DESKOWICH!

Anonymous said...

Holy crap. The lawyers, prosecutors and the cops should go to jail for 16 years. I can't believe this story.

Anonymous said...

Can someone answer just one question:

Exactly what NY law gives judges immunity?

I can't find it, and it certainly isn't in the State Constitution.

Someone? Anyone have the answer.

Anonymous said...

Where can I sign up to join the riots against this corruption!?!

pirro fan club member said...

I too was a victim of Jeanine Pirro. Why isn't she in jail herself?

Anonymous said...

there is no sign up
solo riots are encouraged
god speed

the devil said...

I don't care if these idiots go to jail or not. There's a very special place waiting for them- ETERNAL HELL.

Anonymous said...

To "the devil" at 5:15pm, JAIL is better. They must feel the PAIL while they are alive.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Jeanine Piranha (stage/pole name)is even more cross-eyed now with this decision following her around at her 'cocktail' events.
(Shhhhhh-my boat's listening)

Hell's Journal said...

To 1:19 Judicial and DA immunity are their own self-creations in NY. The Duke rape DA was removed with a one day sentence and is facing civil penalties. NY loves its DA's and judges so much, that it forgives all. Both can be prosecuted at State level with #195 Official Misconduct which is a misdemeanor and at federal level with felonies, but NY at state and in 2nd Circuit federal court has an enduring loving forgiveness for its lawyers and judges temporarily lured by the dark side. Jail now and Hell after.

Anonymous said...

The "concepts" of judicial and prosecutorial immunity are ok, conceptually, if Narrowly Interpreted and tailored.

However, it is the Judicial Application of the Docrines which have gone So Far Afield as to create a pockmark on the nose of the Judiciary itself and bring disrepute to the notion of the Judiciary as a revered and respected branch of government.

The "judge made" doctrine of Judicial Immunity has been routinely Abused, Perverted, Distorted by both the Federal and State Judiciary making "Legal" for the Brothers and Sisters of the Black Robes ( or as Chief Judge Lippman recently described as the "Judicial Family" of NY ) what is Clearly Illegal and Against the Law for anyone else.

Judicial Immunity is routinely applied in cases where it has no belonging and typically applied prior to determination of any facts.

One would ordinarily think that acts which are Against or in Violation of the Oath of Office and Oaths as an Attorney ( intentionally failing to uphold the US and State Constitutions, as one example ) would also not be protected by judicial immunity.

The present application of the judicial immunity doctrine by both federal and state courts has created a most wretched form of public corruption almost worse than traditional notions of organized crime.


just me said...

If there was more openness in court proceedings then there would be little need for immunity.

Anonymous said...

Where are the feds!?!?!?!?!

Anonymous said...

One should contemplate: is it corruption, or is it anger that payment went to the highest bidder?

Anonymous said...

"Judicial Immunity" is another one of those 'let's just make something up' and pretend that it really exists 'laws'.

We are a nation of laws, and it is the job of a judge to apply the law. Judges are not on the bench to apply concepts. If they want a job where they can pursue theories, they can be teachers or writers.

Do they teach creative writing in law school? If you read a lot of decisions, that is what they look like.

Maybe the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice can call them on this and have them explain exactly where in the laws of NY give them this immunity.

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey Deskovic got screwed plain and simple. The bastards that did it and those that covered it up should pay, big time! Lock them up and see how they survive ... and take their pensions from them. By the way, Jeffrey Deskovic writes an article every week for the Westchester Guardian newspaper (weekly) that was not mentioned in the article.

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey was exonerated on DNA evidence that was first ignored at his trial. It was time before DNA took on the compelling evidence that it is now.

The fact still remains that the DNA evidence back then was IGNORED by the jury, and more importantly, ignored by "Judge" Pirro. In fact, Pirro pretty much told Jeffrey to go F-- himself when he pleaded with her to revisit the DNA evidence now that the science has been more sophisticated.

Yes, Jeffrey made a few million. BUT, he wouldn't have gotten the money unless the state and county agreed to give it to him. One can win in court, but the state or other jurisdiction is rarely forced to pay.

Immunity? Bullshit. If a cop gets caught lying they can be charged and placed in jail. Many times a cop skates free because he is in a conspiracy with the prosecutor. Who is going to prosecute the cop, the same DA that willingly accepts and encourages the lies to obtain a conviction? The judges aren't much better. They hear outrageous lies and do nothing about it for fear that they will upset a prosecutor that can influence their careers.

Anonymous said...

to the person who says, "where are the feds"?

that is one of the best questions going. this blog has over 100,000 "tips" to serve as Proof that the Feds are Part of the Problem in NY for permitting the pervasive corruption for decades.

multiple people have been mislead being told the "feds" will contact them, goes on for years, people Never hear from any of the feds etc etc.

it would be a joke if the issues at stake were not so serious. Governor Cuomo and the "Leaders" do not even recognize judicial corruption as a problem while debating Ethics in Albany.

so don't hold your breath. One day perhaps a few decades from now while your children are feeding you in a Nursing home, the feds may show up but thats about it for what anyone can expect of the feds in new york. Decades of wait while being mislead and more.

Anonymous said...

Back in about 1987, a Suffolk County, NY judge by the name of Stuart Namm got fed up with the outrageous lies spewed in his court by police officers and prosecutors. Judge Namm wrote a letter to then-Gov Mario Cuomo requesting an independent investigation by NYS regarding prosecutorial and police misconduct in Suffolk County.

Gov.Cuomo made the 'mistake' of appointing an honest man to conduct the investigation - David Trager, and the NYS SIC ran a two year long investigation that turned out to be a classic in corruption cases exposed.

I said 'mistake' because I believe Cuomo never intended to see this investigation through. Like most politicians, Cuomo realized he had to do something because a sitting judge told him that corruption was out of control. I have to believe he never thought he couldn't control Trager to keep the damage to minimum.

There are people named in that case that are still around to this day. The SIC investigation was nothing more than a road bump in their path of corruption. If anything, they have been emboldened to continue and expand their corruption.

Judge Namm didn't receive his own party's nomination when he came up for re-election. The GOP Party leader at the time was his former law partner, Dominick Baranello. All Judge Namm wanted was a reasonable effort to set things right. He lost his job, and his assassins are now in office, bigger and worse than they have ever been.

Anonymous said...

This same corruption is going on withe the financial mess. Last night on AC 360, there was a discussion on the report from Sen. Carl Levin's committee.

Spitzer was there to speak about the corruption on Wall Street and what he did, and the threats he had received. He said that there should be a criminal investigation by Holder, but wasn't optimistic. That if Holder didn't investigate, he should resign. Basically, he indicated that the same that that goes on with the corruption in this state, goes on whenever the connected are in power.

Anonymous said...

Both can be prosecuted at State level with #195 Official Misconduct which is a misdemeanor and at federal level with felonies

dam, who do you report these bastards to to have them charged....Hello Department of Justice please pick up the phone!

We the Honest Citizens want The Fix to Be In!

Anonymous said...

Both can be prosecuted at State level with #195 Official Misconduct which is a misdemeanor and at federal level with felonies

dam, who do you report these bastards to to have them charged....Hello Department of Justice please pick up the phone!

We the Honest Citizens want The Fix to Be In!

Anonymous said...

I couldn’t help not laughing about the mention of Spitzer. Just because he has a few hundred million doesn’t mean he isn’t a crook. One thing many of these rich people don’t like to do is to spend money when they don’t have to. Sir Eliot is no exception.

There are a couple of guys that went crying to their respective friends that they lost money with someone they invested money with. Eliot is one friend, and Pataki is the other friend.

Eliot’s friend wants to get his money back. Whether or not he is entitled to it is of no matter. He wants his money back. AG Eliot tells him to make a claim with the Attorney’s Fund. It doesn’t matter that the person he made the investment with was not acting as a lawyer representing him, but was engaging in his primary role as that of an investor. The poor fellow files a claim for a certain amount and even states in his application that AG Eliot suggested he do so. He was awarded $350,000.00.

Shortly, thereafter, there are 2 campaign donations made to Eliot’s campaign for governor by this fellow. One donation is in the sum of $100K and the other one of about 10K. No big deal because what are friends for?

The poor fellow that allegedly swindled these fellows gets indicted, convicted, and sent to prison by Eliot Spitzer. The law means nothing to Eliot as he had no jurisdiction to prosecute this case. The referral documents that need to be filed (NYS EXEC LAW 63 (3) ) a referral letter requesting an investigation by the OAG seems to have been forged and placed in the files of the OAG several years after the conviction. That information became known to the ‘victim’ in this case after he FOILED the Banking Department to produce such a letter, as required by law. The person that FOILED the letter (he is in a nys prison) received three responses to his three FOILS, stating that no such letter existed, nor was there anything in the files that even an investigation existed. Suddenly, or after the 4th FOIL submission does such a letter is able to be produced. IMO, it is a forgery that is ‘found’ in an box left by the former Banking Superintendent after she resigned in 2003.

Anonymous said...

nothing gives judges immunity, they just falisfy all the paperwork, have the lawyers hold onto the cases forever, denying your rights to due process past the time see the CJC will not do anything, the FEDS do not do anything, it will only cost you more money for another lawyer that will only cover up for the last lawyer and you will be in court forever .......
that is immunity!

Anonymous said...

To this very day the former Banking Superintendent refuses to authenticate her signature and the circumstances in which it was produced. She did say that she had no knowledge of the petitioner being under investigation by her agency, and she continues to refuse ot authenticate her signature by saying it is a ’copy of a copy’. The original letter can’t be produced because it doesn’t exist and has never existed. It is required by law that such a letter be maintained by the agency concerned and when there is no longer a need for it that it be sent to the NYS Archives to be held until such time it is deemed it is no longer necessary to keep it. It must then be documented as being destroyed.

That letter or a record of it being destroyed does not exist with the Banking Department, The OAG, or the NYS Archives. And Putnam County Judge James Rooney could care less about producing it, if only to shut this guy up once and for all.

Now this other character in this case. He is the neighbor of former Governor George Pataki. He made a complaint as well. In one of his deals he had more than $700,000.00 in Escrow. I am told that several hundred thousand dollars has never been accounted for. Coincidentally, at about the same time former -Governor Pataki paid off a mortgage of more than $325,000.00 to Chemical Bank, and the sources of that payment, according to my source has never been identified.

The common denominator is this matter is the former disgraced NYS Trooper/Dep.Sup. Daniel Weise. It was said that Weise is such a crafty fellow that he was able to be a confidant of both Pataki and Spitzer at the same time.

Spitzer’s improper prosecutions continued throughout his reign of terror while Attorney General, and continued by his successor, Andrew Cuomo. Both used their office to gain the Office of Governor, and I suspect AG Schneirman will do the same unless and until someone stops him on his road to the Governor’s Mansion.

I am a strong advocate that the OAG’s role in criminal matters should be enhanced, but not by breaking the law, but by changing the law.

Anonymous said...

that is a wonderful story about Namm trying to stop the corruption, the problem is our DA, they never ask the person what is going on, they allow the cretins who use the system behind the targets back to continue their terror and harm many in their paths until it becomes a mountain

so now the DA, the judges and the police have to cover up their dirty deeds or put the fix in to cover up their dirty deeds!

Anonymous said...

by the way Bohlen you are a bastard and may you ROT IN HELL for what you did to that man and his family!

Anonymous said...

I work for OCA. I am waiting for my pick slip. I am hoping that His Highness Jonathan Lippman uses the letterhead that includes: State of New York, Unified Court System, $23Million Dollar Judge Hotel, Albany, New York. Lippman and Pfau, and their crew, have ruined a court system and ruined many peoples' lives. Everyone I know is ready to speak out against the corruption that has been written about- it's all true.

Anonymous said...

to 1:37;

Time to start collecting evidence.

Anonymous said...

TIME TO START SHOOTING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Judge Namm was not known as a bleeding heart judge. He was actually one of the favored judges of the cops and district attorney. He was commonly known as a ‘hanging judge.’ But even a judge that is willing to play ball with the prosecutors have their limits.

The lies just got bigger and bolder as time went on. Det.James McCready, now well known for his role in the Tankleff railroad job testified at a murder trial that three witnesses identified a suspect from a photo they saw in a newspaper. That would make the identification acceptable to be offered into evidence. The problem with it was it wasn’t true, there was no such photo printed in any newspaper. McCready’s partner testified that the suspect told him he cleaned off the knife he used to kill the victim and threw it in the backyard. The detective found such a knife and offered it into evidence. The only problem with that was the knife was found months later by the estranged husband of the victim behind a refrigerator, with her blood on it no more than 15’ from where the body lain.

Then there were two detectives that got a jail house statement from a 17 year old that was in jail with the suspect. The only problem with that story was the 17 year old Joey Pistone said it never happened. He was given the information to tell by two detectives that visited him. Pistone testified to that make believe testimony at the NYS SIC hearings investigating Police and Prosecutor Misconduct in Suffolk County.

There were two other cases that Judge Namm wrote about to Governor Mario Cuomo that were equally as spectacular with lies as the case cited above.

In 1992, Judge Namm acquitted a man of burglary because then-Police Officer James Hickey tortured a man for a confession. He rear cuffed him and suspended him in the air, causing permanent nerve damage to his arms. He then hit him in the mouth with a blackjack and knocked his teeth out of his mouth. That man settled for $85,000.00 in damages. Hickey would not be punished or even investigated by the SCPD.

When I went to court for the case I was viewing, court officers told me that this is a very bad guy that has been rumored to take suspects to open grave sites and stick a gun in their mouth promising them if they didn’t confess he would shoot them dead, throw him in the open grave and throw dirt on him so the next days scheduled burial would not see him and cover his body with the coffin.

The last I heard, Hickey is now the Lieutenant in SCPD Criminal Intel Bureau.

Tom Spota, after successfully framing three young men for a murder they didn’t commit would go into private practice, take on the house counsel for the PBA, and lead the charge to get rid of Judge Namm, the once much loved and revered hanging judge.

Anonymous said...

and where is judge namm now

Anonymous said...

The judge is hitting tennis balls in either S.C. or No.Carolina. I think he has a small movie production company. He was an Army Ranger back in the day and I think one of his productions had something to do with that.

He has also printed a video of the Marty Tankleff story.

He wrote a piece in Tankleff's defense on a website dedicated to freeing Tankleff for a crime he didn't commit.

fish around for the judge's comments on the case.

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