Good Old Fashion Investigative Work.
The Foundation seeks to exonerate the actually innocent, i.e., prisoners who have no connection to the crime for which they were convicted. Our team of investigators and lawyers comprehensively review court files, transcripts of prior testimony, and evidence introduced at trial to uncover uninvestigated leads, possible alternative suspects, exculpatory evidence, and similar crimes in the area.
In addition, we examine whether flaws in the trial process caused a wrongful conviction, such as the use of junk science or expert witnesses without proper credentials, prosecutorial misconduct such as withholding exculpatory evidence, laboratory errors, false confessions, misleading identification procedures, and the like.
Finally, we re-interview witnesses who previously testified and witnesses not yet heard from, and where appropriate, identify evidence for forensic testing or re-testing.
We've already made a difference.
Although the Foundation is relatively young, it already has made a difference in the lives of the actually innocent.
In 1989, two men entered a crack house in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, and killed drug dealer Elvirn Surria with a double-barreled shotgun. They left behind no murder weapon or forensic evidence.
William Lopez was convicted on the testimony of Daisy Flores and Janet Chapman. Flores, a crack house courier, said the shooter was a six foot, three inch “tall, dark, black man.” The very light skinned Mr. Lopez is more than half a foot shorter. In court, Flores could not identify him as the shooter even though Mr. Lopez was sitting but a few feet away from her at the defense table.
Chapman lived in the basement of the crack house. She had a $200-a-day habit and was on a drug binge when Surria was shot. She testified Mr. Lopez did it. Twenty-two years later, she admitted she “testified against him when I knew my every word was pure fabrication." Why? Because "The district attorney told me never to tell anyone that we cut a deal about my testimony in exchange for my freedom.”
The Foundation, working in collaboration with Lopez's pre-existing legal team of Richard Levitt and Yvonne Shivers, provided some critical investigative resources, turning up some additional evidence of innocence, as well as having a hand in the securing of testimony from a witness who had been deported to the Dominican Republic. In response, federal district judge Nicholas G. Garaufis set Mr. Lopez free in January of 2013. “The prosecution’s evidence was flimsy to begin with," he wrote, "and has since been reduced to rubble by facts arising after trial.”
The Foundation provided Mr. Lopez with housing and counseling after his release. He has selected counsel and now begins the long process of seeking compensation from those who put him behind bars for nearly twenty-four years for a murder he did not commit.
In the early morning on December 15, 1995, Tarajay Williams was murdered by shotgun blast to the chest in an alley in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Initially, Lorenzo Johnson was accused only of allegedly being near the alley where the murder took place. However, he was soon found guilty of first-degree murder at the age of 22. Johnson was convicted and sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment on the murder conviction, and concurrent five to ten years on a conspiracy conviction.
After years of appeals, the court found an absence of evidence, meaning that Johnson’s guilty verdicts were based on the jury’s speculative assumptions and unreasonable inferences, which “is Constitutionally insufficient to support a conviction.” Despite opposition from the PA Attorney General, there was a district court hearing on Johnson's request to be released, and on January 28, 2012, Lorenzo Johnson was a free man. However, one month later, the PA AG filed a petition to overturn the appeals court's decision. In March, the Supreme Court reversed this decision and reinstated Johnson's convictions. Johnson, who had corresponded towards the tale end of his incarceration with The Foundation, was assisted by the Foundation in reintegrating back into society, provided with emergency funding; clothes shopping; regular contact which he found stabilizing in a new world; advice dealing with the after-effects of wrongful incarceration, and camaraderie. The Foundation even found him a full time job, that he was scheduled to begin the day he received bad legal news. During his four months of freedom, he obtained a drivers license, an inexpensive car, rebuilt relations with his extended family, found a stable job, was a speaker at a variety of events, and met his fiancée.
On June 14, 2012, Lorenzo Johnson surrendered himself and was re-incarcerated. Jeffrey Deskovic drove Johnson back to prison, and the Foundation has provided unwavering support to Johnson throughout his fight for justice, mainly assisting him with the P.R. aspects of his case-keeping his case in the public eye, renting buses for rallies in Pennsylvania, connecting him with additional people to help him with various tasks which he can't do for himself, coordinating with his team, providing a life line to him for the outside via phone calls and visits, as well as monthly funds.
After Johnson's reincarceration, his team began investigating the police and prosecutorial misconduct that led to his wrongful conviction, uncovering mountainous evidence of his innocence. Johnson filed a Post-Conviction Relief Act in 2013 along with various supplemental filings with evidence of innocence. He is still awaiting a hearing, and the Foundation will stand behind Lorenzo until he is freed.
Check out his website here: http://freelorenzojohnson.org
3 Things You Can Do to End Police Killings and Fix the Criminal Justice System
December 10, 2014
Matthew Cooke and Adrian Grenier
We're doing a lot of talking. That's good. Now let's make them accountable.
Since the shooting of Mike Brown, more than 14 black teens have been killed by the police, including 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a boy in Cleveland, Ohio who was murdered less than two seconds after police arrived at a playground to answer a 911 call related to a black child carrying a pellet gun.
If you're a black teenager you're 21 times more likely to be shot by a police officer than if you're white. So we've been talking about racism.
Exonerated but not free: What do we owe the wrongfully convicted?
November 9, 2014 at 4:00 PM EST
The toll of the justice system on the wrongfully convicted
The toll of varied laws for compensation for the wrongfully convicted is examined.
In the US, state laws governing compensation for wrongfully convicted people vary significantly. While some states offer sizable packages for the exonerated, at least 20 offer nothing. And even for those that do, it may not be enough to make up for the emotional damage on those who've been wrongfully convicted. Hari Sreenivasan reports.
Chabad of the Shore
September 4, 2015
Chabad of the Shore, a Jewish community organization in Long Branch, NJ, hosted a dinner and invited Jeffrey Deskovic to be the guest speaker, followed by Q&A.
August 31, 2015
Jeffrey Deskovic was honored with being invited to speak at TEDxMartha's Vineyard along with other preeminent leaders, thinkers, and doers.
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, which now has given birth local, self-organized TEDx events on a global scale. TEDxMartha's Vineyard is a day of talks, performances, and community building on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts each August.