Jeffrey Deskovic, Esq., MA, is an internationally recognized wrongful conviction expert and Founder of The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, which has freed 11 wrongfully convicted people and helped pass 3 laws aimed at preventing wrongful conviction. An advisory board member of the coalition group It Could Happen To You which has passed 6 laws, Jeff also serves on the Global Advisory Council for Restorative Justice International. His motivation is that he served 16 years in prison-from age 17-32 for murder and rape before he was exonerated by DNA Testing.
INCLUDED IN THIS EPISODE (But not limited to):
· Details On The Wrongful Conviction Of Jeffrey Deskovic
· How Police Manipulate Children
· Mental Health Implications Of Life Behind Bars
· Being Abandoned By Blood Family While Incarcerated
· Missing Out On Life While In Jail
· Food In Prison – The First Meal After You Get Out
· Degenerate Healthcare In Prison
· How The Innocence Project Used DNA Testing To Free Jeffrey
· Adjusting To Life After Incarceration
· Jeffery’s Non Profit & Humanitarian Work
CONNECT WITH JEFFREY:
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Special Article: https://bit.ly/2VuMyK3
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You’re listening to the sex drugs and Jesus podcast, where we discuss whatever the fuck we want to! And yes, we can put sex and drugs and Jesus all in the same bed and still be all right at the end of the day. My name is De’Vannon and I’ll be interviewing guests from every corner of this world as we dig into topics that are too risqué for the morning show, as we strive to help you understand what’s really going on in your life.
There is nothing off the table and we’ve got a lot to talk about. So let’s dive right into this episode.
De’Vannon: Jeffrey Deskovic was wrongfully convicted for the murder and rape of classmate Angela Correa back in 1989 when Jeffrey was only 17 years old. The man was finally released from prison 16 whole years later after DNA testing proved his innocence due to work done by the Innocence Project. Now I’ve been locked.
Several times that I can’t imagine 16 fucking [00:01:00] years y’all let alone for some shit I did not do. In this episode, Jeffrey’s gonna get real and raw with us about how this wrongful conviction altered the course of his life.
Took away his youth in childhood.
Rob him of coming of age experiences and continues to impact him to this day. Please listen.
Jeffrey Desco, Esquire cause he’s a fabulous attorney is an internationally recognized wrongful conviction expert and founder of the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, which has freed as of today, 11 wrongfully convicted people and help pass three laws aimed at preventing wrongful conviction.
An advisory board member of the coalition group, It could happen to you, which has passed six laws. Jeff also serves on the Global [00:02:00] Advisory Council for Restorative Justice International. His motivation is that he serves 16 years in prison from the age se, from age 17 to 32. For wrong, for, for murder and rape before he was exonerated by DNA testing.
Jeffrey, how are you
Jeffrey: today? I’m wonderful. I’m I feel great. Thanks for having me on here. D.
De’Vannon: Absolutely. Absolutely. And so I learned about Jeffrey from Sean Murphy, who is the host of the Above the Bar podcast. And Sean is also a fellow military veteran just like I am. And so when I heard about what had happened, Jeffrey, me, having been , been to jail a bunch of time for shit, I actually did do
Jeffrey: were rightfully convicted. You were rightfully convicted then. Well,
De’Vannon: one time, no one the other, other three times maybe. Just depends on how you wanna look at it. . So, but, but I had a, [00:03:00] we were gonna talk about some of that, but mainly you. But, you know, going through the, the criminal justice system is, is an eyeopening experience, whether you’re right or wrong or kind of in between.
And so you learn a whole lot. No documentary, no no amount of watching law in order. And cops and murder she wrote or anything like that is the same as when you have those damn handcuffs on you and they put, and they slam that damn door, and then you don’t come outside into the sun or the light or the wind or the moon or nothing for however time.
Okay? Nothing, nothing can take the place of that feeling. It’s just terrible and treacherous. So an individual by the name, I hope I’m saying this right, Jia Wertz,
Jeffrey: a Jia Wertz. Yes.
De’Vannon: Gia words created a documentary, which the link will be included in the showing notes as everything always is about, about Jeffreys experience and it’s called Conviction.
And this came out in 2020. I watched it on Amazon. And I [00:04:00] will conclude the Amazon link in in the show notes. So, so many of us know somebody who’s gone to jail. Or a lot of us have been to jail. Sometimes we’ve done the shit, sometimes we haven’t done the shit. In your own words, Jeffrey, tell us who you are and, and again, just whatever you’d like to say about yourself.
Jeffrey: Well, I, I’m, I’m an attorney who’s an advocate whose life is dedicated to freeing people that are wrongfully imprisoned in the same position, which I was. And with a, with a equal concern at, at preventing what happened to me from other, having other people, hence doing the policy work. But as you mentioned, you know, my motivation is that I did spend 16 years in prison from, you know, being arrested at 16, turning 17 by the time the trial rolled around and being wrongfully in prison from age 17 to 30.
So the, the year is 1990. We’re in peak skill, which is in Westchester County, New York. So it’s the suburbs population is [00:05:00] approximately 25,000 people. Murders were pretty rare there. So when this murder happened, it created this atmosphere of fear, of rumor, paranoia. Parents were concerned with their own safety and safety of their children.
I was quiet into myself in high school. Some of the kids told the police they might wanna speak to me, cuz I guess their thought was whoever’s quiet to themselves commit ous crimes. And so that’s how I got on a police radar. And from there reinforcing factors, I was a sensitive teenager. I had an emotional reaction to the death of a classmate.
And the cops thought that that was suspicious also. And then they got a psychological profile from the N Y P D, which claimed to have the psychological characteristics of the actual perpetrator. So, reinforcing factor, So for about six weeks, the police play this cat and mouse game with me, in which half the time they talk to me like I’m a suspect.
And when they push you hard and I become frightened and I want to get away from them [00:06:00]they switch it up. And Jeff is this junior detective helper theme was developed. And so kids won’t talk freely around us, but they will around you. Let us know if you hear anything stop in from time to time that it asked me opinion questions and congratulate and my opinion was correct.
I be, I began to look at the officer who was pretending to be my friend as like a father figure. And then plus when I, the, before I was a teenager, the career I fantasized about having was to be a cop when I grew up and. I think somehow or another the cops learned that and that was how they developed that whole theme.
So eventually they got me to agree to take a lie detector test. So I went to the police station for the test on a school day. So my mother and grandmother thought I was in school. They didn’t call around looking for me. They drove me across county lines 40 minutes away from taking me from peak skill to Brewster, which is in Putin County.
Now I’m dependent on the police. I have no idea of where I [00:07:00] am or no independent way of getting back. I don’t understand this four page brochure that they’ve explained about how the polygraph works, but I figure, well, I’m there to help the police. So what does it matter? Let’s just get on with it from there.
The polygraph is who was a Putnam County Sheriff’s investigator, but he’s dressed like a civilian. He never identifies himself as a law enforcement. He never raised my mind rights. He gives me con, countless cups of coffee to get me nervous, and then he launches into his third degree tactics. So he raises his voice at me.
He. Conveyed my personal space. He kept asking me same questions over and over again. And he kept that up for six and a half to seven hours. And eventually he said, What do you mean you didn’t do it? You just told me through the test that you did. We just want you to verbally confirm it. And when he said that to me that really shot my fear through the roof.
And then the cop pretended to be my friend, comes in the room and says, Look, they’re gonna harm you. I’ve been holding them off. I can’t do that any longer. You have to help yourself look, just tell them what they [00:08:00] wanna hear. You go home, you’re not gonna be arrested. So being young, naive, frightened, 16 years old, not thinking about the long term, I was only concerned about my own safety in the moment.
So I, and I was desperate to get outta there. So I made up a story based on the information they gave me, the course, the interrogation that day and six weeks run up to it. By the time it was said and done, I had collapsed on the floor in the fetal position, crying uncontrollably. Obviously I was arrested.
So that was, that was that part of it. I mean, the DNA didn’t match me before the trial. But then the prosecutor got the medical examiner commit fraud and he claimed that he remembered that he forgot to show to, to document medical evidence, which he said showed the victim was promiscuous. So that allowed the prosecutor to argue, well, that’s how the DNA doesn’t match you, but yet you’re still guilty.
He mentioned someone by name that he claimed that slept with the victim. He never had a DNA test result from that person. He never called [00:09:00] him as a witness. He just made the unsupported argument to the jury, and my lawyer essentially didn’t defend me. Now, he didn’t call my alibi. He didn’t question the medical examiner.
He didn’t explain the jury what the DNA not matching me, man. He didn’t use that to cha to challenge the confess. And he should have never represented me because the first, the other youth that the prosecutor was falsely saying and lept with the victim was represented by another member of the Legal Aid Society.
So that prevented us from asking him for a test for us, from calling him as a witness. And the end result was, I was found guilty. I was given a 15 a life sentence. And you know, I, I ultimately served 16 years in prison. I lost seven appeals. I got turned down for parole cuz I maintained my innocence rather than expressing remorse and take and responsibility.
And ultimately I was exonerated, like you said, due further DNA testing through the data bank, which identified the actual perpetrator whose DNA was [00:10:00] there because he killed a second victim three and a half years later. So my charges were dismissed on actual innocence grounds and he was arrested and convicted.
And so that’s the, that’s the story. I mean, I kind of found a purpose in life doing this work so, Okay.
De’Vannon: Thank you for that breakdown. I’m sorry you went through all of that, but I’m happy that you’re, that you’ve taken what happened to you and now you’re using it to help other people. So, so I’m gonna go back and walk back through some of this.
So the so this is in peak skill. Tell us like what state this is so we can get like a geographical frame of reference.
Jeffrey: It’s New York State, and it’s the suburbs. It’s about maybe 50 minutes from Manhattan
De’Vannon: North. All right. And so, so like Jeffrey said, this is 19 90. The, the, the, the victim in question, her name was Angela Ko Korea.
Mm-hmm. . And and she was laying on November 15th, [00:11:00] 1989. And then, so do you, do you think that your attorney, that the one who really sucked was maybe bought off or somehow in on this plot to get you convicted for
Jeffrey: this? Yeah. You know, I, I think, but can’t prove that, you know, I, I think that he, he was cooperating with them.
I mean, at that time a lot of people were going back and forth from the DA’s office to Legal aid and from legal aid to the DA’s office. So he might, he might have been angling for that. Sure. I, I, that thought has crossed my mind because I’ve met a lot of lawyers since I’ve been home and they all, they all wondered like, you know, who represented me at the trial and when I mentioned, you know, his name, they were all rather surprised cuz he has a, you know, reputation of being a good lawyer.
They’ve tried cases against them and they can’t believe he turned in that performance. Mm-hmm. .
De’Vannon: Yeah, I agree with you. I think it’s really like fucked up the way that the police like zone in on people like that and, and at that point their jobs go from [00:12:00] being professional to. For the better of society. And it’s like they get so personal, you know, it’s like they take it personal, what they believe that you have done.
So to to, to, to hone in on a teenager like that, you know, clearly they were under pressure from society to find somebody to arrest. Okay. It’s super fucked up that they thought you, I guess like an email kid. Like most teenagers are fairly emotional and maybe you had some anxiety or whatever going on. And we understand a lot more about mental health now than we did back then, but the rottenness that prevails inside police departments hasn’t changed.
They, I think they take their power for granted. And and I mean, the way that they handled you like that they lied . Right. You know, and it, it never seems to amaze me the way police feel like any kind of ends can. The means, the means ends are gonna justify the means with them. It doesn’t [00:13:00]matter if they lie.
Tell the truth finagle this or that, or whatever. My first arrest when I, I had like this eight ball of crystal meth, like in my underwear. They used like some, some informant to set up like the drug deal, but then the cops followed me. I took like a right at a light up to the side of elementary school, and they like, literally took my pants and underwear down and dug around under my nu sack to find this dope in the middle of the day.
Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost. You know, everybody. So come on. And now we’re on the side of an elementary school in the middle of the day when the kids are out playing. Now, now the, and on the police report, they lied and said, I took a left turn at the right and the, I think they found the eight ball, like, I don’t know, in the car, like it was laying on the dashboard.
Not true. You know, and, and somehow the grand jury was able to put two and two together and figure that [00:14:00] they had lied and it was thrown out , you know, But cops do not mind it going one way and then saying whatever the fuck they want to on those police reports.
Jeffrey: Right. Exactly. That’s, We’ll see, you know, you know, piggybacking and building off of that point, that, that’s what happened to me though, because in their police reports regarding the confession, cuz this was not videotaped, it wasn’t audio taped.
There’s no signed confession. It’s just a cop’s word. Oh boy. So you already, you see where I’m about to go with this? Right. You see where I’m about to go with this? In their police report, they le they left the threat and false promise outta their report and, and obviously outta their testimony in, in, in the.
De’Vannon: See, that’s some bullshit right there. Their word only. Mm-hmm. They set you up and they just needed a fall guy. And they, and they, and it’s so fucked up because the person who actually did this is black. Your c your chuckles, [00:15:00] like y’all couldn’t look more different. if you
Jeffrey: wanted to. Right, right. But plus, plus the age and building off that, the age, at the time of the prime, the actual perpetrator was 29.
I’m like 16 and the victim’s 15. So it’s not just different race, but like the, the age disparity is, is huge as well.
De’Vannon: Laws, scandals, and deceptions, you know. I have no, my God, I used to want to be a cop too. Like, like you said, you, you wanted to be a cop. There was a time I had p applied for the Houston Police Department and I was going through the fitness exams and everything.
And the only reason I didn’t go down that path was because the city council that year had voted to decrease the cop’s salary from like 50 K down to 30 k that I was already making that where I was. So I was like, why go risk getting shot up for like the same, if not less money. And now I would never, ever wanna be a police officer.
I’m so thankful [00:16:00] I didn’t become one. And and so I wonder how, how did this experience with the police change your desire to be a police, to be a cop?
Jeffrey: Well, in my teenage years, I, I had went from being wanting, before I was arrested, I went from being, wanting to be a cop to wanting to be an attorney. Cuz my mother, my mother had a personal injury lawyer and I met him a couple times and he, he was He was well dressed, you know, the whole suit, Aachi case thing, and, and you know, he appeared to be well respected and well compensated.
So I mean, I changed that I, I idea before this experience, but in terms of how I view the police now, like, you know, look, I don’t, I don’t go with a broad brush. I don’t think all the cops are bad, but I also don’t think they’re all good. Okay. And I categorically reject the. From apologies or even some police themselves.
I categorically reject the idea that it’s just a few [00:17:00] bad apples. No, it’s a hell of a lot more than that because if it, if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have more than, more than 3000 exonerations across the country from 1989 forward. We wouldn’t have the police brutality, we wouldn’t have the unjustifiable deadly police shootings and more, almost more importantly, we wouldn’t have everybody looking the other way.
So, no, it’s not a few bad apples. It’s a hell of a lot more than that. At the same time, it’s not, It’s not all of them either. I mean, I don’t, I don’t think there’s anything sacred about being an officer in the sense that I don’t think that anyone in the career is automatically a good person. I think there’s good and bad in the profession.
I mean, I think, I think, I think it takes one hell of a set to be a cop, cuz it is a, it is a very, it is a very dangerous job. They do risk a lot to protect us, but at the same time, too many abuse and too many look the other way, I, I, I wish the honest cops. You know this phrase if you see something, say something.
I wish youngest cops would blow the whistle and say something and force the corrupt ones outta their [00:18:00] profession. But, you know, it hasn’t happened to this point, I don’t think. I don’t think it’s ever gonna happen, but I’m not gonna quit calling for it either. I
De’Vannon: don’t blame you, man. Just, you know, no, nobody’s in every profession for the right reasons.
I mean, you have priests fucking alter boys. You’ve got, you know, cops doing the sort of shit they did to you. I mean, I don’t know if people even enter their professions with like the best intentions all the time. Some people, I think start with the right intentions and they get corrupt along the way, you know, you know, it’s all over the place.
But I mean, for those police, they do what they did to you to look in your face and lie. I, I read in, in the article that you sent me, which is also gonna go in the show notes, how, I think there was three weeks for this girl and you attended all of them. And you were emotional at all of them. And, and the, and the cops thought that because you were emotional, that that was a sign of guilt, which is what you stated earlier, But a teenager, any teenager at a, at a [00:19:00] funeral for a classmate, if they’re not crying or, or if they are crying, everybody expresses their emotions differently.
But the fact that they were willing to like, follow you around, like this is just like, and then look in your face and lie like they, like, you have to have like a dark soul or none at all to look at a, a 15 year old kid and lie , you know, for as long as they did to you. Cuz this was a few months that they were toying, toing around with you.
And so when police get on in the news or read these articles these days when they’re crying about how their power is being taken from them, like so now they can be arrested, now they can be, you know, when they go out and kill people and stuff, they can actually get in trouble or in certain cities and states they, they cannot arrest people for a simple drug possession.
And, you know, and they’re crying cuz their power’s being taken from them. I’m like, well you’ve abused it . You know, so you don’t get to keep it. Right, right. [00:20:00] So I wanna talk about,
let me see, I took quite a bit of notes on this one here. So when you got to, when you got to prison, your, your reputation you found like, had already been like tarnished in a way. How, Talk to me about that.
Jeffrey: Yeah, there’s a vigilante mentality in prison towards people who have been convicted of sex offenses.
So, you know, unfortunately there was a rape along with the murder. And so, you know, I had this bullseye on my back. I had this target on my back and, you know, I was always, I was always in fear that people would discover what I was incarcerated for. That that could lead to other problems, you know? And there was several times in the course of my incarceration, I was beat up one time by.
I nearly lost my I lost my life. So that was, that was that aspect of it. But you know, that, that animosity wasn’t limited just to the prisoners. I mean, even, even some of the guards also, you know, [00:21:00] adopted that. So, you know, it was, it was, it was there and was a dangerous place. I mean, I don’t wanna it, I mean, to the extent that you even can, I mean, it’s not like every, every other day I was, you know, getting my rear end kicked.
It wasn’t frequent that way, but in the course of 16 years, it was maybe like seven or eight times. So, you know, it’s your world D however, if you wanna consider that a lot or, or not, you know, I guess it’s up to the lister,
De’Vannon: but how do you, how do you think they, I mean, this, this probably was highly televised, but do you think any of the ruining of your reputation was intentional by anybody?
Jeffrey: You mean in, in the prison? You’re saying even just being arrested during the case on the street or folks, what do you like The fact
De’Vannon: that the fact that by the time you got there shortly after arriving mm-hmm. , many people knew the, the interpretation.
Jeffrey: Yeah. Right. Well, I think that, well it was, it was a highly publicized case for sure, and every time I went, made a [00:22:00] court appearance, it was a major media movement, you know, with the coverage being like guilt, presumptive orientated.
So, I mean, I think, I mean, I think that was in, that was intentional, but that’s like, you know, the media tried to make something salacious. I mean, I don’t think I was ever really afforded a presumption of innocence in terms of the court of the public opinion. Not really so much how the actual court worked either.
I mean, they claim it’s the other way around, but it’s, it’s really not. But I definitely think that the publicity of the case preceded me into the, into the prison. And there were people that facilitated that, whether, whether on the guard and the correctional officers or even other prisoners spreading it.
I mean, certainly that all that stuff took place.
De’Vannon: Okay. So you tried to appeal this for I think around like five years And a name, a name came up. It was like Janine [00:23:00] Shapiro.
Jeffrey: Jeanine Piro. Yeah. Well, I, the, well, I, I did the appeal were like 11 years. I lost 11 appeals. So Janine Piro was the district attorney of Westchester.
So she was not the DA when I was convicted, and she always points that out, but she was the DA before my first appeal was decided. So it was her office that fought me in seven appeals. It was her office who blocked me from getting further DNA testing several times it was her office that got me thrown out of federal court.
My attorney was given the wrong information on the filing procedure from the court clerk. And so that resulted in my legal documents being filed four days too late. And it was Janine Perros office that burs the court, Look, he’s late, just get rid of his case that way. And that’s what they did. And then I challenged that ruling, had three more appeals unsuccessfully.
And so so she plays a [00:24:00] moral role there. You know even though she would rather not, but you know, she does a lot of commentary on, on Fox and Just had a few judge shows. And to hear her tell it now, I mean, you know, she’s all about due process and presumption of innocence and Well, where, where was all of that when you were the DA and I was wrongfully imprisoned.
I mean, that was, that was the time we needed you to say and do everything then. But, you know, so I experienced something different and she’s never apologized for her role either.
De’Vannon: What a kind. So, And I read I read where, where were Cause I, I’d seen that face on television before and when I came across that name, I was like, Oh wow, this is, you know, that, that really brought home to me just how, just how huge, like, like your case was.
But it was like she wouldn’t rerun the DNA was what I read.
Jeffrey: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah, exactly. I
De’Vannon: [00:25:00] mean, what would it have hurt to just. Tested, You know, something like that makes it seem like she was polarized against you. You know, they’re already spending all kinds of money. They have a budget, so it’s not like they’re, they can say, Well, it would’ve cost too much
You know, so. Right, right, right, right. What’s the damn reason for, for not just checking again?
Jeffrey: Yeah. She never, they never articulated any kind of explanation on that, that made any sense. I mean, I remember I got a piece of correspondence once from her office on that issue, and they said that the DNA issue was already in front of the jury, which convicted you and the front of the appellate court, which affirmed a conviction, which really wasn’t an answer because when I was asking for the DNA to be rerun, this was in 90 19, 97, 98, the DNA database had been created and it hadn’t been created before.
So the DNA technology, at the time, my trial was. [00:26:00] R F L P technology. So they would just compare a particular item to a suspect, like a one to one testing. The database would allow you to take one article and run it through the database and see if it matches anyone else on file. So the technology was improved, so they should have just run it again as, as you said.
De’Vannon: Okay. Now speak. I want you to really make us feel, do your best to make us feel how you felt. So this is, so you’re a sophomore in high school when this is happening. So, you know, there’s no prom, you know, for you, you know, I don’t know. You know, the, looking forward to, I don’t like to use the term losing your virginity because I don’t feel like it’s a loss.
I feel like it’s a transition into adulthood, but, you know, the normal stuff, teenagers think about, you know, when am I gonna have sex for the first time? When am I gonna go to college? [00:27:00] Prom, senior trip, You know, all of that, You know? At what point did you realize for sure, when you were behind Boers, This ain’t gonna happen for me.
I’m not gonna be able to, to to live in my twenties out, you know, to do all of this. Speak to us about that dark day.
Jeffrey: Well, it was only at the end, I mean, throughout the whole incarceration period. I, I, I thought I was just doing a year or two to the next court proceeding. The next appeal would be decided, which I was sure I was gonna win because I was innocent and I still naively believed in the. And every time I would lose, I would just refocus on the next appeal.
So it was only 15 years in where my appeals were over after 11 years. Then I wrote letters for four years looking for someone to take my case for free because I didn’t, they don’t give you a lawyer anymore. Once your, your appeals are over, and the only way back in the court when the appeals are over is if you can find some [00:28:00] new evidence that would’ve made a difference.
So after all the appeals were over, then I wrote letters for four years and really got responses. And then I went to the parole board, and then they said no, also. So now I got 15 years in, and by, by that point I’m like 32. So that’s when I started thinking, Well, I, I, I guess I’m gonna die in here. I’m gonna die, as, you know, in prison for a crime I didn’t commit.
De’Vannon: While you were in there, you know, when you were, you know, still in your teens, did you think about those things like. And not graduating high school and missing prom and all of that. How was that emotion for you?
Jeffrey: Yeah, I did think about that. That was all very difficult emotionally. Just to crystallize, like you said, I didn’t graduate high school.
I didn’t go to LA Prom, you know, I missed births, deaths, weddings holidays, very even various rights of passage from, you know, not getting a driver’s license to, you know, not having your own first, first place [00:29:00] or, you know, going shopping or writing, writing a check, you know, finishing my education at a more traditional age and being well into a career, possibly on the way to you know, financial freedom.
All that stuff dawned on me, and it was hard emotionally. I mean, I had to keep fighting off feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, things of feelings of one thinking about giving up suicidal ideation. So all of those things were, were things I had to fight off too.
De’Vannon: Did people come to visit you?
Jeffrey: So for most intent and purposes, I did. I did the time by myself. My mother used to come, but then the last six years, like I saw her like once every six months if I was lucky. I had a couple sets of aunts and uncles that would come, but then they would visit and then disappear for three years and visit and disappear for three years and just have that continue.
My brother came three times in [00:30:00] 16 years, but not at all on the last decade. And that was it. On the family end of it. On the I mean, one friend came up one time and another person came up four or five times and I lost track of them after five years, and that was it. So, so while not literally I, for most intents and purposes, I did the time on my own and that made it more difficult.
De’Vannon: Did, did they put money on your books? Did they write letters?
Jeffrey: My mother used to put money on the books, but not but again, not, not in, in the last, in the last five or six years rarely did she put anything. And, you know, certainly none of the other people were putting, were putting money on the books either.
So in the last five or six years, I kind of had to like, live off the land. I mean, I went to work in Ms. Hall and, you know, I was hustling there. You know, people want different items and so you steal different items and you, you sell it and you’ll give, gimme a deodorant, I’ll take a [00:31:00] toothpaste for this and you know, but that, but that is a really good point cuz I mean, the food in prison was terrible.
I mean, sometimes it was burned, other times it wasn’t fully cooked. I mean, I remember the same food items would make their way on the menu three or four times a week before its grand finale on Sunday. In a soup where they would just dump everything that had been already used like four times, whatever’s left over into this big container.
And they just would dump water on it and, and heat it up. And that was the soup. So the, you know that I remember they said there was that, but I remember also, not to bug down on too many of these details, but I remember it was two pieces of bologna. One piece of change on a cheese, on a old hot dog bun with a small 25 cent bag of chips that was mostly full of air, you know, And there would be like a, a quarter of a slice of peach and, and, and that, that was Sunday dinner.
We, we’ll put air quotes around that. [00:32:00] No, I’m so, the food was terrible, man.
De’Vannon: I’m here for all the details. I appreciate it. Okay.
When I was in jail, like, like jails are not known for, You know, it’s not like they got five stars, you know, on the, on the food and everything. It’s all pretty much like slop. Yeah.
Jeffrey: Right. No, it is, it is. And look, and just to be clear, right, I’m not, I’m not advocating or complaining that this wasn’t gourmet food, but what I’m saying is the food was, was, was terrible.
And it just, it to me, it didn’t meet bare minimum standards of human decency. That’s the, that’s the main point I’m trying to make in terms of that. My grandmother used to come to see me all the time with my mother, but unfortunately she, she she passed away in, in 1996, so that would’ve been five years in, five or six years in.
So she stopped coming to see me as a result of not being alive.
De’Vannon: [00:33:00] Well, she had good reason. Right,
Jeffrey: Right. Clearly.
De’Vannon: So do you think your family believed that you were guilty?
Jeffrey: So I had a, I had a uncle that was actually in law enforcement in, in Yonkers, which was elsewhere in Westchester County, New York.
So he was a marshal, a law enforcement position. So he, he, he thought I was guilty. He went and talked to the cops and they, they, I guess they, you know, convinced him, cop to cop that I was guilty. And his daughter who was extremely, who was extremely conservative, so he convinced her. So those two thought I was guilty, but everybody else thought that everyone else thought I was innocent.
But the thing is that their belief in my innocence did not translate into them maintaining contact with me. And, you know, there was several times my mother made rounds amongst the family. And look, we gotta get a lawyer. And, you know, maybe everybody can do, could do a [00:34:00] manageable amount, you know, But, but nobody, nobody wanted to throw in anything.
So their belief in my innocence never translated into anybody helping me. And so you know, when I have periodically saw, visited and see people, my extended family during my 16 years of freedom now they’re, you know, they’re, at one time or another, most people have, you know, expressed an apology and there’s, you know some feelings of guilt there, you know, on their, on their end of it.
De’Vannon: Shit. I’ll tell you man, like from, from my experience going to jail, your blood family, they, they’re, they’re gonna be the last ones to show up. Like, like my, like, right? Like my friends came first, not my blood family . Right, Right. But being arrested in high school, like your, your friends, whatever friends you had, were like, just in high school, it’s not like they could have really financially done much, you know?
Right. Of [00:35:00] course. For you. So you didn’t have that. But I don’t know what it is, but I, I, I feel like it’s a sense of. Of judgment that comes from the blood family when we get arrested. I just, I really, really do. At least that was my experience. But in the case of arrest, y’all don’t wait on your blood family.
You better have, you better have that money saved up with your friends somewhere cuz they’re gonna be the ones that come first. Right. So you spoke a lot, spoke a lot in the documentary about how the healthcare behind bars and, and in particularly you had a, you compared to this whole like hospice situation to like a mobs you like, you’re like leaving people that are die, not letting them out.
cuz they were already gonna die so they were on hospice and you’re not letting them out anyway. So talk to me about how the healthcare situation and, and this whole hospice and the compassionate release being delayed.
Jeffrey: Right. So the, the health, the healthcare in prison was terrible [00:36:00] in general. I mean, I remember in, in El El Meira, which is where I spent 13 and a half to 16 years.
So it would be like a month, sometimes several. Before you could see a doctor, you would always see a, a nurse and the nurses answer to everything was, you know, give you a couple of Tylenols and come back tomorrow if you still don’t feel well. And it would take a month or sometimes several to see a, to see a doctor.
So that was the gen. And, and a lot of these doctors couldn’t, couldn’t have been employed as a doctor on the, in the free world either. So that’s the general lay of the land. But in terms of the compassionate release, so there were prisoners there that were determined to be terminally ill by doctors that were working for Department of Correction.
So there was a process referred to as compassionate releasing, which any prisoner that was deemed to be terminally ill could, could apply. To be released early with the theory being that you could die with a little bit of dignity around your family and your friends in a normal [00:37:00] environment rather than like in a prison visiting room someplace.
So the system took so long, often to process those, but sometimes by the time they decided, the person already passed away. I mean, that happened a few times where decisions came to the prison a couple days after somebody had passed away, or sometimes they took so long that by the time they did they were granted and they were released then, you know, the person died like a day or two after that, and they just, it was just so uncaring.
It was just, it was just, you know, brutal. You know, It was just, it was just brutal. So I remember, I remember, you know, you said, you, you said you’re here for all the details. So I have a gastly detail for you. I remember there was a guy named Choco, which of course is Spanish for chocolate. That was his real name.
That was his PR moniker. His last name was Sanchez. I don’t don’t remember what his first name was, but the point being, I passed him by on [00:38:00] the first floor. And so it was called The Flats, right? It was the bottom floor on the cell gallery. So I passed him by and he was walking very labor asleep, very, very slowly.
And I could see the sweat coming down lightly from his brow. And I stopped and he was breathing heavy and I, I stopped and I asked them, Yo, you okay? You gotta, you know, No, I’m not, my, my, my, my, my chest hurts. And, you know, and, and I said, Yo, you gotta, you gotta go to sick hall, bro. You gotta go and get medical help.
And he said, Oh, I just came from there. You know, they told me I’m okay. They gave me a couple of Tylenols, but you know, I feel like I’m dying. And he actually was dying. So that night in his cell, he passed away of a heart attack.
De’Vannon: And then I may not supposedly didn’t say anything in the prison. They just come and picked the bodies up and put another person.
Jeffrey: Yeah. And somebody, Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. I think, I think his daughter was notified [00:39:00] and, you know, came and made arrangements for the body. But that was, I don’t think anything ever came of that though.
I mean, that, you know, beyond just being medical, I mean, I, I feel like somebody should have been locked up for that. Somebody should have faced, you know, professional consequences beyond, in addition to being locked up. And I don’t, I don’t think that ever happened. Well,
De’Vannon: people might escape that sort of justice in this life, but, but God is not mocked as it, as it is said for whatever we, so we reap and so You mentioned earlier that you had considered suicide at one point.
Was it like a one time thing or that you have this happening on and off throughout the whole time you were behind bars?
Jeffrey: The thought occurred to me, the whole, you know, on and off throughout the whole time I was beyond bars. Yeah, cuz prison is a very, very depressing place.
De’Vannon: Is there any mental health available?
I’m assuming [00:40:00] if the physical health associated, they probably didn’t have a psychologist worth the damn either, but, Well,
Jeffrey: they, they, well they, they, they had some people working there, but again, it was bottom of the barrel. And, and I, I felt like the people, I mean, I did go see ’em a couple times and never really felt like I was anything other than a number and they never felt like caring and, you know but you know, one of the psychologists, you know, told me and, and you know, and I didn’t, I didn’t tell them, Hey, I’m thinking of suicide.
Okay. Just to be clear, I didn’t say that cuz I knew that. That would’ve resulted in bad things. But I did tell them I was struggling with depression and, you know, and, and you know, related symptoms like that. But they told me that, look, they already have their caseloads already way too big, and they’re not, you know, they’re not able to deal with anyone other than people that are you know, that are, that are psychotic or that are, you know, having hallucinations or delusions that they had to pick and choose.
And I was just kind of like too low on their [00:41:00] totem pole.
De’Vannon: Well, you said bad things would’ve happened if you would’ve just flat out said you were suicidal. What do you mean what bad things?
Jeffrey: Well, they could have put me in a cell and it could have taken my clothes and put me in the cell and just gave me this, see through paper mache, and then had a guard sitting outside of my cell the whole time while I had nothing in the cell.
I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s what I mean, you know, that
De’Vannon: that would. As like a type of confinement, solitary confinement maybe,
Jeffrey: or, Yeah. It, it is a type of solitary confinement, but the main, that’s considered to be constant observation. I mean, the main thing is, you know, I don’t see how taking somebody’s clothes and property from them, you know, how that, how that’s helpful to someone that’s suicidal.
If you’re already gonna have a staff person sitting outside the cell monitoring them the whole time anyway. I don’t think you need to do that in order to make sure that they don’t, that they don’t hurt themselves. I mean, I think that that’s making a situation go from bad to [00:42:00] worse.
De’Vannon: Right. Cause you’re taking away some of the basic staples that people need in order to feel human.
So it’s izing, It’s very dehumanizing. That’s right. Yeah. In the way they’re treating suicidal people in prison and jail itself are totally dehumanizing. So, which you get to go outside, like in, in the documentary I heard you come mention a few times, like How you missed, like, the feel of the wind on your face or like the sun and things like that.
And from my time in jail, I, I remember that as well. I, you know, I wasn’t allowed to go outside at all, so there was no wind, no rain, no sun no moon. And that, that was the most depressing thing for me. So were you allowed to go outside at all? Or how, how did that work?
Jeffrey: So they let you go outside for recreation?
Some, not, not all, but like in, in Elmira. I mean, I feel like they didn’t, we, we didn’t get a lot of outside. I wouldn’t say there was none at all, But it was, it was more, it [00:43:00] was more limited. But the other thing in the documentary though, I mean, you know, when they had a system of maintaining water in a prison called Keylock, which involves sanctions being put on the prisoners that they were found guilty of breaking a prison rule.
So they would. Keep you in the cell 23 when that. So if you were found guilty of breaking a prison rule, then they would apply this to you. And, you know, there were times where my breaking a prison rule was that I was defending myself while somebody was attacking me. And therefore, as the prison saw it, I was fighting.
So they would keep me in the cell like 23 hours a day, add a 24 they would send less food. Sometimes the food would be three or four days old. You could take two showers one week, three the next, rather than being able to shower daily as the rest of the population. And they would, their idea of giving you the one hour a day minimum recreation consists of putting the prisoners in a small caged area by yourself of maybe a pullup bar in it, if you were lucky.[00:44:00]
But one time I did went to isolation. The special housing unit, when they put you outside, you couldn’t see the outside. I mean, it was totally roofed off, so you couldn’t even see the sky.
De’Vannon: Well, shit. Yeah, you know, you,
Why do you, why, why do you think people, you know, prison guards and things like that, you know, fill the need to step on people who are already broken and pretty much powerless. Why? Because it’s not like you really could hurt them. Why? Why, why do
Jeffrey: you think? I think they didn’t quite look at us as human being.
Some of them, I think some of them were frustrated with their own personal life. You know, maybe some of them were a kid that was picked on and we perceived that, you know, some of them were cop wanna bees who couldn’t, couldn’t quite make it. [00:45:00] So this was their chance to just like strike. . So that was, as to the ones, you know, that were like that look, there also were, there also were guards that were, that were professionals.
And some of them I enjoyed speaking to here and there, and I even thought that there were some of them that I could have been friends with had I met them under different circumstances. But the thing that bothered and still bothers me the most was like none of the professional guards never, or the prison, the, you know, the people in different authority, sergeants, capitals, lieutenants, superintendent, you know, the hierarchy was supposed to be there, the over oversight.
They never like tried to reel anybody in, like even the good officers, if they saw the other ones, you know, back in the fool or abusing their authority, they would never like step in or say anything or have them pull back anything. They just would let them continue on with that. Not, not, not unlike, you know, honest cops [00:46:00] who.
See their, you know, the other people in their profession, you know whether it’s planning evidence or test the lying or writing false reports. I mean, they, they look the other way. So it, it’s kind of a similar dynamic.
De’Vannon: Mm-hmm. . Okay. So, Enter the Innocence Project. So you a lady shows up one day, you’re not getting many visitors as we’ve established, and you come bouncing up there, I’m taking some creative license here.
You come bouncing up there. And that’s what it was like though.
Jeffrey: That was, it was like, you’re completely on point. Continue on . So little pants of mine as well, huh? Right. .
De’Vannon: You know, so
Jeffrey: we don’t laugh about this crazy stuff, Dee, I’m gonna like die. I’m gonna die from it being, you know, we have to do dark humor and release, so please continue up
De’Vannon: ab the fucking Absolutely.
And so, so the guards like, Yeah, you gotta visitor. And you’re like, Yeah, who, who would be coming to see me? You Right? And for a moment, the guard, [00:47:00] the guard asks you, do you know this person? And then you realize that if you don. Then they would cut, they would cancel the visit. And so you, so you get into, you snap, you snap two and you’re like, Oh yeah, I know them.
And then so you go over and this lady introduces herself. She’s like, I’m your new attorney. And she begins to tell you how they ran the dna. You’re gonna get out. What I’m, what I’m curious about you, you went until like a three and a half hour I believe. It was like a mentality where you didn’t actually believe it And this woman’s trying to tell you, Yeah, you’re actually, it’s for real this time, not for fakes.
It’s for reals. So talk to me about this experience.
Jeffrey: Yeah, exactly. So by sell cracks open and as a general rule, whenever they open your cell, you’re supposed to like find out, well what is this for? So the guard yells down, you know, visit. So I go down, Hey, why don’t you like double check that? Because you know, like you said, like who the hell is gonna come see me?
So they called up there and confirm, yeah, you gotta visit Stu. Sprint down to my cell. We got like a [00:48:00] routine, you know, you pair of like a little visit shirt cause that’s the one time you’re. Kind of, sort of quasi in public, right? The visiting room where there’s the intersection point between the inmates and the, and the, the, So I got got this, you know, visit shirt and I’m hurrying up down there and I’m thinking to myself as I’m running, you know who the, who the hell came to see me.
And it’s quite a distance actually from cell to the visiting room. And I gotta get there before a certain amount of time before the count happens because otherwise I’m gonna be stuck outside the visiting room for the next two and a half hours while the visitor waits, while they count cuz they’re slow.
And so I’m running. And then when I, when I finally get there, this lady’s waving at me and you know, I wave back when I’m thinking like, she’s mistaken. Who’s this? And you know, maybe she, you know, I think she thinks I’m someone else, or maybe she remembers me from a different prison. But I asked the guy who came to see me who don’t, you know.
And I, like you said, I say yes cause I want the damn thing to be canceled. So I go over there and she [00:49:00] says, Hey I’m ne Hi, I’m Nina Morrison. She’s my attorney at the at at, at the, at the Innocence Project. And you know, and she says the items have been te now my, my ears are alert. I’m looking for like, anything to be off or out of the ordinary cuz that, that normally spells disaster.
And so she says the items have been tested. So, so right there, what would you mean? They’re not supposed to be tested for another month. And she says, Yeah, they’re actually they were tested. The DA pulled some strings and got the items tested and the results matched the actual perpetrator and you’re going home tomorrow.
And I said, No, I’m not. And she said, Yeah, you are. And I said, No, I’m not. And she said, Yeah, you are. And I said, No, I’m not. And for the next three and a half hours I had this spino paralysis, he was sitting, literally sitting there holding my hand. My head is spinning, all these thoughts are running through my head.
One thought has nothing to do with the next, and none of them have anything to do with. Me going home [00:50:00] and I’m articulated all this random stuff and she’s not responding. She’s just taking it all in, holding my hand. And every now and then she breaks in and says, Are, are, are you ready to talk about tomorrow?
I’m like, No, no, no, no, no. Get away from me. We’re not talking about tomorrow. Don’t play with me like that. I, I’m not, I’m not going home. Okay? So that went on for three and a half hours. And finally what made it real is she said, Look visit hours are almost over. There’s a ton of work to do between now and tomorrow as far as the media.
I need to get your clothing and shoe sizes. We gotta get a suit for you. And that, that made it real. And then I felt better for about five minutes and , and then a different concern came in my head, which was, I thought that something was gonna happen between that day and the next, and that the DA was gonna change your mind.
And they would do what they always do, which is fight me and win.
De’Vannon: [00:51:00] Not this time. Not this time. .
Jeffrey: Thank, thank God. Not this time. No, but that was, that was my concern for sure. So
De’Vannon: were you in the same prison that whole 16 years? No.
Jeffrey: Okay. No, I was not, no. I was in El Meira from 1991 in 95, and I got transferred to Eastern Correctional Facility, which is in Napa, New York.
So Ulcer County, much, much closer to towards the city. But I was only there for three weeks. Then they sent me back to, they sent me to Fishkill, which was a reception center, and then they sent me back to Aira for 10 months and then they sent me to Shang Gun, which is in Dus County. And I was there for a year and a half.
And that’s where I had the incident where a guy tried to kill me with the weight plate. And went to the solitary confinement and from there they sent me back to Myra for a decade, and then I got transferred. To sing, Sing for the last 28 days. And then I went [00:52:00] to court from there and from court to home.
De’Vannon: Sing sing’s like supposed to be amongst the, one of the worst places you can go, right? Yeah. That’s,
Jeffrey: that’s true. Yes it is. Yeah. And you might, you might, you know the expression, you know, you’re going up the River is a reference. There’s a reference to Sing Sing because it’s located, you know, Near Hu the Hudson River.
De’Vannon: Yeah, I, I know about Sing Sing You, you a Bad Son of a Bitch if you, you’ve made it in Sing Sings Mad cra yo bam
So tell me about the first time you walked out of prison as a free man. Was it in your new pimp suit to talk to the media or, Cause when I got jail, when I gotta jail, they just let, they just let all us motherfuckers out at midnight on the side of the road, like some roaches, curring about there is no sunlight.
They just like, okay, go do you, No one’s calling an Uber or taxi. No shit like that. So, but I wasn’t complaining. I’m all like, fuck it, I’m free run . So.
Jeffrey: Right, right,
De’Vannon: [00:53:00] right. So tell me about, you’re walking out with the wind, you’ve got the Yeah, yeah, yeah. What’s going on, ? So I got
Jeffrey: this, I got the suit on, and I stepped out and I, I stepped outside of the courtroom and I remember the sky was blue.
There wasn’t, there wasn’t the cloud to be found. I felt the sun and air on my face and everybody was clapping, you know, from the Innocence Project and the students from Cardozo Law School, which provided interns to them. And, and then I stepped over to the press conference and, you know, my, my first, there’s all these cameras and everything, and when it was my turn to speak, I, I, the first thing I said was is this really, is this really happening?
Like, I, it was a legitimate question in my head. Like, Okay, I thought, I think I. Finally gone ahead and done it. I, I, I, I think I’ve managed to lose my mind here, you know, But and it was disorienting as they were asking questions, but then I, but then I said, Look I’d like you to do it like I [00:54:00] saw on tv, just venture your name and what station, you know, like from seeing White House Press conference on the, And so that kind of made, made sense of it a little bit.
So yeah, I gave this off the cuff presentation where everything I ever wanted to say in 16 years came out. And so I held everybody there for two, two and a half hours.
De’Vannon: Hell yeah, man. So, so, so now you’re out. Just, can you tell me anything about the after effects? So not like you’re out, I’m sure. So
Jeffrey: we had, Yeah, we had a nice, we had a nice luncheon lunch at Italian Food Place.
I, I had muscles from the envelope with a side of big cd. And, you know, and, and the fact there was a media person there. So when I’m eating, there was a thing about with the ice cream and I’m like this and they’re taking pictures for, so for a half a second I kind of sort of felt like you know, pop, I’m a famous person with a paparazzi.
But then we went to my aunt’s house and that’s what kind of the [00:55:00] rubber hit the road. And I was remember just sitting at a table and my mother was there and my aunt was there. Another family member came over that hadn’t been present. They were just drinking coffee, talking about everything. But I remember just feeling isolated and unable to relate to people and just feeling at a place.
So I went outside and sat down outside. My uncle had a, had like a bench and I just wanted to sit outside while it was dark. Cuz they would always make you go inside in, in the prison yard when we get dark.
De’Vannon: Y’all heard how he remembers exactly what he had to eat that first time after he got outta jail, down to the de down to the detail that, that, that first meal goes a long fucking way. I heard you brother. I heard you . Right? You know, we know when we’re out here in the streets, we can eat what we want. You can walk over, get a Sprite outta the refrigerator, glass champagne.
You can have a towel, you can have Mexican, you can have Ethiopian food. Whatever the fuck [00:56:00] you want, you can go and get, but not so when you’re in jail, you eat what they give you to eat and you’ve already heard how terrible it is. Those basic freedoms that we just have every day are stripped from you. It was that way in basic military training when I was there was that way when I was locked up in jail.
Speak to me about the emotions of you know, trying to date. You know, so much time has passed. You went in when you were. You know, 17 teenager, now you are, now you are a grown ass man, but you don’t have real world experiences. So did you feel like you were starting back over from 17 or, you know? Yes.
Jeffrey: Yeah, I did. I, I felt I was released when I was 32, but as you correctly point out, I did feel, I did feel like I was still 17. Cuz that was the, that was the year, that was how old I was when I was last free. But dating was difficult because you, I really didn’t understand approach dynamics or how to determine if somebody is, you know, attracted or [00:57:00] you are interested in you versus they’re just being friendly cuz they’re just being friendly or has to do more with the story.
So it was very hard plus my background, you know? Well, you know, what do you, how do you you know, how do you. Had, how, how do you, how did you get into doing this advocacy work? So it’s a short three questions. It’s a short three questions before my background gets on the story. And then, then I, then I then from there, it’s like I’ve just went from being a candidate or somebody possible to, you know, I’m someone that feels sorry for, but you know, Elvis has just left the building.
You know, like, I’m not a possibility anymore. I’m just the sum total of what happened to me and that, you know, that that would frustrate me, that would make me that would make me feel bad. You know? And people have said, Well, if they’re like that, that’s really the, it’s their loss. It’s not yours.
They’re not the right person for you. Yeah. Okay. And on one level that makes sense, but at the end of the day it’s still, it’s still me [00:58:00] that’s missing out. I’m still the one that’s thinking about, well, what. So it’s not a good, it’s not a good feeling. So in that aspect of it, I feel like, you know, in, in many ways I, I still, I’m still paying for the wrongful conviction, you know, But the other thing to the stigma level, you were in prison for 16 years, wrongfully.
Yes. But you were there for 16 years. How much of that rubbed off on you? Is it safe to be alone someplace with you?
De’Vannon: And people carry a negative connotation towards those of us who have been arrested, which I know not everybody runs around trying to act like a Christian or nothing like that. But, you know, be it, you know, you know, you know, Jesus did tell us to, you know, to visit and to care for people who are behind prison walls and the stuff like that.
And, and, and the Lord would not judge somebody, you know, on that level. You know, you know, in a [00:59:00] negative way like that, in order to to view somebody who’s been incarcerated as though they’re less than, You know, this is a challenge, I believe, you know, to the world to love people. And I think God challenges the world to love people through the problems We’ve had people like me who’ve been strong out on every kind of damn drug and have been homeless and been to jail and stuff like that.
You know, people didn’t wanna be my friend , you know, because of those things. I’m like, You can’t go to church on Sunday. It’d be like hallelu. But then when you’re actually presented with an opportunity to show love to somebody who fucking needs it, somebody who’s been to jail for 16 years, you know, then you gonna run
You know, it’s easy to love somebody who you think is the, the upper part of society or like, you know, you know, you’re fucking uppity ass or whatever. But the true, you know, true love is given when people need it. So yeah, you’re gonna have some mental effects and some emotional effects, but it’s a grand opportunity.
You know, the people who you were, who you were trying to be around, I [01:00:00] agree with whoever told you that they weren’t, they weren’t the person for you and they weren’t strong enough or they didn’t have enough love, you know, for you. You need somebody better. And that’s how, that’s how I began to look at it after being constantly rejected, you know, being employers or people I was trying to date, I was like, you know what?
Eventually when God is ready, the right person who’s strong enough will come along and they won’t care about my background. Did you ever find anybody like that?
Jeffrey: That didn’t care about my background? Yeah, I did. I did. I did find somebody that didn’t care about my background, but then, but then after but then that, that ended up not working out on other
Okay, I’m here for there not working out on other grounds because there’s all, there’s all kinds of reasons why relationship may work, may not work out, but, but it shouldn’t be automatically disqualify the chance based on what had happened. , you know, back then, So, Right. So I’m, I’m cool with that. I can accept that.
Mm-hmm. . [01:01:00] So, okay, so, so you started your nonprofit and the website for that is gonna go into the show notes, but can you tell us about your nonprofit? So, so, so he did get, Jeffrey did get some amount of settlement money. You could tell us how much or not some of it’s available on the internet, but from what I read or came across as, I think you may have sued three different cities or something like that, or three different Well, I’ll,
Jeffrey: I’ll explain.
Yeah, yeah. I’ll explain. So in New York state, you can, you can seek compensation under state law, and I did. And they settled with me for 1.85. And then you’re able, also able to bring a federal civil rights lawsuit. And the difference between that and the state is that the theory under the state law, that’s like a no fault.
So you don’t have to prove that there was misconduct. You just have to prove that you were in prison wrongfully. And that’s also like what the state’s secondary responsibility is in everything. And then in a federal yacht, [01:02:00] you have to prove that there was a malicious violation of a constitutional right.
And that that is what led to your wrongful Im president. So I did bring a federal civil rights lawsuit. The defendants were. Westchester County, cuz it was their medical examiner committed fraud. They settled with me for 6.5. Another defendant was Westchester County Legal Aid, so I’m not, I’m not allowed to disclose that amount, so I won’t.
But I also, another, a third defendant was peak skill. So they settled for 5.3 and I went to trial with Putnam County. That was their polygraphs. And I, the purpose of the trial was to determine if they would have to pay the higher figure, which was 10 or the lower figure, which is six and a half.
So they were afraid I was gonna bankrupt them, so they didn’t wanna just have it all up for grabs. They wanted me to guarantee them a ceiling, which I was willing to do in exchange [01:03:00] for her floor. So I won. So they had to pay the higher amount. But remember I keep saying paid, not, not received. Okay. So you, every time you settle, you have to pay the legal expenses associated with that.
And then the lawyers take a third. So in reality, you keep 55 to 60% of what, what they, what they pay.
De’Vannon: Okay. And he’s talking about, like when he says 1.5, 6.5, he means like million. Yes. To clarify, so then you were able to use this to start your nonprofit.
Jeffrey: Yep. I used some of it to start the nonprofit. So up until that point, I had been an individual advocate.
So I was speaking across the country. I was doing media interviews, basically treating privacy for increased awareness. I was a columnist for a weekly paper and I was also regularly meeting with elected officials. So I did that for about five years, but I wanted to get involved in freeing people.
Because up to that point I was only able to do the policy and [01:04:00] educational part and kind of nibble on the edges in terms of freeing people. So it will be limited to that, like lawyers representing other innocent people trying to exonerate them. Why don’t you come to the court? So if the judge recognizes you, it’ll be that visual and maybe they’ll say, Well wait desk.
If it’s here, that means you’re supporting this case. Let me pay attention to this one just a little bit more, you know, or grassroots tactics, you know, help get other people to the courtroom and maybe even use my name in a press release to get additional media. So that was done too. But all of that is just ki and I wrote about some of the cases also on my capacity as a columnist, but that was all kind of like nibbling on the edges.
You know, I wanted to be more directly involved. So I used some of the money to start the Jeffrey Desc Foundation for Justice, which would continue all that work, but would have the. Exonerated component. So ultimately we were able to get 11 people home that were wrongfully imprisoned. We were able to help pass three laws, [01:05:00] wrongful conviction prevention, so specifically videotaping interrogations better procedures in terms of lineups DNA database expansion.
Then there was a statewide coalition call that could happen to you, which was started. And so my foundation was joined that coalition and I became an advisory board member of it, and we helped pass six additional laws. So our signature piece of legislation was the commission on prosecutor conduct, so independent oversight board for prosecutor, so the first one in the country.
So we did that and we helped pass discovery reform, which pertains to sharing information automatically between the defense and the, and the prosecution instead of them turning over evidence on the eve of a hearing, on the eve of a trial where it’s, you know, not enough time to work with it. So, That was historically in terms of now we have, we have, I got, Well, first of all, let me say that to be a more effective advocate, I continued with my education.
So I had gotten the g [01:06:00] e d and Associates in prison in a year towards the bachelor’s. Then they cut the funding of college education for prisoners. So when I was released and got a scholarship for Mercy College, finish the bachelor’s degree, have a master’s degree from John Jay College. My thesis is our wrongful Conviction Causes and Reform.
And I did that, both of those because I thought that that would make me more effective advocate. And at some point I got tired of sitting in the front row of the courtroom. I wanted to be able to sit at the defense table and represent some of the clients and make some of the arguments. So I went to law school and I became an attorney.
So at present, we have 11 cases that are active. I’ve entered some of those cases, Coco, I’m, I’m the lead attorney and a couple and the others are not involved in at all other than just to occasionally check in with the lawyers to get an update. Terms of policy stuff, we working on some pieces of legislation in New York now.
So there’s a Youth interrogation act, which would, there’s a, is a law, [01:07:00] which if pass would require anyone 16 or 17 to SP has to speak to a lawyer to have their rights explained to them before they can waive their rights and speak to the police. Recognizing that most people that age don’t understand their rights.
There’s a police deception bill, which would prohibit the cops from lying. And another thing is that June law was passed mandating that the police videotape interrogations. It came out like Swiss cheese. They made exceptions for sex offenses, drug cases, and homicides. And that’s really the cases where we need it the most.
Right. So trying to get rid of those. Right, right. There, there’s a bill, a challenge in Wrongful Convictions Act, which would provide attorneys for people. So that’s a bill. And then some parole reform stuff that would require the parole board to not, they would have to cite an additional reason beyond nature of the crime and denying parole.
And it’s an elder parole bill, which is a proposition if you’re, if you’re 55 and of served 15 years, you would be [01:08:00] guaranteed a parole board appearance, not, not a release. So doing that in New York, but in nearby Pennsylvania. So the foundation, again, working through the Pennsylvania chapter, that could happen to you.
We’re working on ExOne compensation, so Pennsylvania doesn’t compensate people. So we’re working on that. And in California, we’re trying to bring the commission on prosecutor conduct out there. So we’re very involved. In policy work and in working on cases. And didn’t
De’Vannon: you have to do with the like I think like capital punishment being removed from a state?
Jeffrey: yes, that’s right. Yes. So, yes. So I worked in collaboration with New Yorkers against the death penalty. That was in 2006, 2007. There was a serious movement in, in trying to bring reinstate capital, punish me after the court had struck you down as being unconstitutional. So I happened to have been exonerated at the right moment.
So there were [01:09:00] three different state troopers that had been killed. And so that was like the force that the pro death penalty people were using. But I was the world counterweight, I was the innocence argument. So we fought off attempts to reinstating it. But then in 2009 I, I worked in collaboration with Connecticut Network against the death penalty.
We were able to legislatively abolish the death penalty. So Connecticut is a border state to New York, and they would like parachute me into certain battleground districts to do presentations and do media interviews. And a couple of times I went to the Connecticut State legislature and told them a thing or two and alter.
Ultimately we got rid of the death. Ultimately, we got, we got rid of the death penalty legislatively in Connecticut. And I’m, I’m really happy about those accomplishments because, you know, obviously the death penalty amongst the host of other objections. O obviously the death penalty definitely risks the execution of [01:10:00] innocent people for.
De’Vannon: Yeah. I’m so happy that you were able to live long enough to be exonerated, so,
Jeffrey: Right. Well, that’s right. Well see if they had been a death penalty and I was a couple years older, I mean, I was, I mean, the elements for what make a case a capital case as opposed to not, were present. I mean, it’s, if you’re convicted of a rape, of rape along with that murder, that’s, you know, that’s, and that’s often an aggravating circumstance.
There’s community outrage. That’s an aggravating circumstance. So both of those elements were present. You know, my appeals ran out in 2011. I wasn’t exonerated to, to five years after that, So I wouldn’t have been, I wouldn’t have been alive to have been exonerated if there was a death penalty. I think about that issue a lot.
De’Vannon: Mm-hmm. you think about a lot. A lot. But not only do you think you do and so Right. That, that’s what I’m here for. So y’all, the website is the dys foundation.org. [01:11:00] There’s a patron that you can link through there too if you wanna support that way. I donated to your calls before we got on this interview.
Jeffrey: I saw that. Thank you very much. Thank you. Every bit helps.
De’Vannon: No problem. Yes, a little bit goes a long way. So I encourage everyone else in the world to check out his website and if you feel so inclined. To donate as well. As we proved through this interview, Jeffrey’s been involved with tangible work that has had to do with setting wrongfully convicted people, free repealing hurtful laws and things like that.
And his work continues today. But if there’s any other kind of way that I can assist your foundation or the work that you’re doing, then send me a message and let me know. Because, you know, having been through the, the ringer of the quote unquote justice system that we have here in the United States ourself, I understand what a fucking content really is in.
And so whatever I can do, just think about it and let me know. So Any thing you wanna say as we begin to wrap up here? [01:12:00] Any, you know, closing words?
Jeffrey: Yeah, definitely. Look, I mean, look in terms of if anyone’s listening, that could help out. So if you have your own podcast or blog talk radio, you write a blog or whatever, I mean, you know, have message, we will travel metaphorically.
So I don’t, I don’t refuse to go on any show no matter how small the audience, you never know who’s listening. That could help out in one kind of way or another. If you work at a corporation and they do corporate philanthropy put a bug in their ear to consider us that would certainly be helpful.
If, you know, people that are more traditional media suggest they do, they do an interview you know, we’re always looking for donors, whether it’s large, intermediate, even small on the Patreon website. My crazy dream is what if there were 25,000 people. We’re willing to part with three to $5 a month on a recurring monthly basis.
I mean, that would give us a lot of money and we could, we could work on freeing even more. People help pass even more laws that aimed [01:13:00] at preventing this. So those are always people. Those are always, people can help but think about careers in this, whether that’s and being an attorney, an investigator, a paralegal within the context of a nonprofit organization doing this work, there’s room on public relations, writing grants, fundraising.
On the reintegrated side, there’s careers in social work in psychology, you know, in terms of helping people reintegrate. So many ways on the documentary level, you know, that’s some, some documentaries or even docu, you know, a series. I mean, that’s brought attention to some cases and that’s helped facilitate people getting justice.
So, lots of ways to get involved. Don’t you dare try to get out of jury duty. All right? When that happens, we just get terrible people in the jury that are really not gonna scrutinize the prosecution’s case. So that’s that’s, that’s very important. Vote. Okay. Vote. Did I mention vote? It’s important to [01:14:00] insert wrongful conviction and criminal justice reform issues into elections so that the issue gets furthered.
Whether the candidate you want to win ultimately wins or not. I do believe it makes. I do think, I do agree with John McCain that elections have consequences. So it is important who we get in office, so we should vote for people that are for justice reform. So I wanna mention those things and, you know, I wanna say that this could happen to anybody.
I mean, yes, it more often happens to minorities, no question about it, several times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder if, if you’re black or you’re three and a half times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of a sex offense if you’re black. So no question that there’s race in it, but beyond that, it does cut across race.
I mean, I’m pretty much as white as you can get. And it, and it, and it, and it happens to me. So it does does cross that people think it could never happen to me, but yeah, it could, it could actually happen to you. I never had, I didn’t have a record, [01:15:00] so I was in, you know, I was actually on my way to school when I was initially and accepted by the police.
So, yes, it, it happened to me and it could happen to you, but I think I wanna close. Just on an inspirational, instructive note which is, you know, I have my generic formula, and this could apply whether it’s wrongful conviction, whether it’s you’re trying to overcome surviving a family member being, being, being killed.
Whether you, you’ve been sexually tracked trafficked, whether you’ve been sexually assaulted, if you’ve suffered discrimination, if you’ve if you’ve faced racism or you know, any, anything else you want, you wanna throw, throw in there. So, my generic formula and I’ve seen people in these different walks of life do this, by the way something similar to what I’ve done.
So you wanna have a goal, you wanna have a realistic plan. You should be able to look at it three or four [01:16:00] ways and say to yourself, Yeah, I could see how that would work. Cause who wants to carry out a plan that you don’t think could be successful? Be flexible. Remember? The, the goal is the goal, the plan, the plan’s, not the goal.
So if, if a different door opens for you and it moving you towards that goal, don’t be afraid to walk through. Roll up your sleeves. Do a lot of hard work. You know, I believe you have to put yourself in position for a miracle to happen rather than just thinking you could do nothing and it’s gonna drop into your lap.
You know, Just leave, leave, leave it all out, you know, Never give up, man. You know, leave it all. It’s excuse to bring in a sports analogy. Leave it all out on the field. No excuses. Maybe there’s reasons why something is more, is more difficult. Why? It’s more of a challenge, but no reason why you can’t accomplish.
You just have to want it enough. You have to work for it enough. And then when you’ve made it and you’ve crossed over, [01:17:00] you know, you gotta reach back for people in that same position that, that you are in. You’ll find it meaningful, healing, cathartic, It’ll. Help make the world better and it’ll allow you to take a silver lining.
It’ll make your suffering count for something.
De’Vannon: Well, damn, that was very beautifully stated, and meaningful and heartfelt. You know, he meant every syllable of what he just said, y’all. So the social media and everything will go in the show, knows what they are on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and I encourage everyone to check it out. And y’all just be prayerful and be mindful of how you’re dealing with people from all walks of life.
Thank you, Jeffrey, for coming on the show. Thank you for that beautiful closing, and I will be talking to you soon
Jeffrey: looking forward. Thanks a lot.
De’Vannon: Thank you all so much for taking time to listen to the Sex, [01:18:00] Drugs & Jesus podcast. It really means everything to me. Look, if you love the show, you can find more information and resources at Sex Drugs in jesus.com or wherever you listen to your podcast. Feel free to reach out to me directly at DeVannon@SexDrugsAndJesus.com and on Twitter and Facebook as well.
My name is De’Vannon, and it’s been wonderful being your host today. And just remember that everything is gonna be right.