Meet the Exonerees

Jeffrey Deskovic

State: New York
Date of Birth: 1974
Incident Date: 11/15/1989
Age at Arrest: 16
Conviction Date: 1990
Age When Exonerated: 33
Exonerated Date: 10/02/2006
Time Served: 16
Conviction: Rape and murder
False Confession: Yes
Implicated by Another Youth: No

Case Details

The police tactics in dealing with Deskovic did not take adequate account of his youth, naïveté, inexperience with the justice system and psychological vulnerabilities.” So read the Westchester County District Attorney’s Report after Jeffrey Deskovic was exonerated by DNA evidence nearly sixteen years after he was first accused of murder. Deskovic falsely confessed at age sixteen after undergoing several aggressive police interviews and interrogations; by the end of his final interrogation, he was lying beneath the interrogation room table in the fetal position, weeping. Even though DNA evidence excluded him as the perpetrator, Jeffrey was convicted based on his confession. He was exonerated after his attorneys compared the DNA evidence against a new state DNA database and matched it to a convicted murderer, Steven Cunningham, who upon questioning confessed to the crime. 0 18 Pacek Jerry 38 10/17/58 13 04/19/59 35 1991 10 Murder 2 3 After thirteen-year-old Jerry Pacek discovered the body of Lillian Stevick on November 17, 1958, he immediately became the prime suspect in her murder. Detectives interrogated Pacek for seventeen hours, without any adult supervision, until he finally confessed. Pacek later recanted, but based on his confession, he was convicted and sentenced to twenty years. After his release, FBI agent Jim Fisher reopened the case. Fisher used witness testimonies and crime scene reports to prove Pacek's innocence, and in 1991, Pacek was pardoned by the governor of Pennsylvania. He was never compensated for his wrongful conviction. 0 19 Jeffers John 14 03/01/75 17 0 0 murder and rape 2 1 Seventeen-year-old John Jeffers confessed to abducting, raping, and killing Sherry Lee Gibson in an adolescent effort to gain notoriety. His initial confession was inconsistent with the facts of the case and self-contradictory. Jeffers also implicated another teenager, who at that time was serving in the U.S. military. Nine months later, Jeffers recanted his testimony of the other youth's involvement, and the charges against him were dropped. Jeffers restated his guilty plea, which was accepted, and he was sent to prison for thirty-four years. He died in prison after serving five years. In 2001, nineteen years after Jeffers's death, Ella Mae Dicks admitted that she and her husband, Wayne Gulley, were the true assailants and confirmed that John Jeffers had nothing to do with Gibson's murder. Jeffers's brother hypothesized that Jeffers's confession was motivated by an impulse to seek attention. 0 20 Kezer Joshua 25 1994 17 1994 34 02/17/09 15 Murder 3 3 Seventeen-year-old Joshua Kezer was convicted of the murder of Angela Mischelle Lawless, a student at Southeast Missouri State University, based on the testimony of three jailhouse snitches who claimed Joshua confessed to them. The three snitches later admitted they falsely implicated Joshua because they hoped to receive favorable treatment in their own cases in exchange for their testimony against him. Key pieces of exculpatory evidence were also withheld by the prosecution. Joshua spent seventeen years in prison before he was released in February 2009. Circuit Judge Richard Callahan said: The criminal justice system failed in the investigative and charging stage, it failed at trial, it failed at post-trial review and it failed during the appellate process."