Sunday, October 26, 2014

Man awarded $40M in wrongful conviction case

Reported here:

A federal jury awarded exoneree Jeffrey Deskovic $40 million on Thursday after finding that ex-Putnam Sheriff's Investigator Daniel Stephens fabricated evidence and coerced Deskovic's false confession to the 1989 murder of a Peekskill High School classmate.

Lawyers on both sides said they believed it was the largest jury award ever in a wrongful conviction case. Putnam County will only have to pay $10 million because of a pretrial settlement that limited damages.

"I feel elated. The jury obviously saw that Daniel Stephens' testimony was not truthful," said Deskovic, who turns 41 next week. "I feel like I finally got the fair trial I never got before."

Deskovic was convicted in 1990 for the rape and murder of 15-year-old Angela Correa, based solely on a false confession he gave Peekskill detectives after a polygraph examination administered by Stephens.

At the 1990 criminal trial, jurors knew Deskovic's DNA did not match semen found on the victim. But they relied on Assistant District Attorney George Bolen's spin that the victim could have had consensual sex with someone else before the killer raped her. Bolen was able to do that because Stephens claimed Deskovic told him that the killer may not have ejaculated.

Deskovic maintained that he never made that statement and that Stephens came up with it only after Deskovic's arrest, when authorities learned the DNA did not match.

He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison and served nearly 16 years before being exonerated in September 2006 after new DNA testing identified the actual killer, Stephen Cunningham.