Future police officers, prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges get a lesson in avoiding wrongful convictions at their graduation ceremony. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
From prison to a master's degree. Jeffrey Deskovic said he's determined to keep changing lives.
"The goal is to take the education from John Jay and acquire some changes in the law to prevent other people from experiencing wrongfully convictions," Deskovic said.
It was an emotional moment for Deskovic, accepting his degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. At 17, he was wrongfully convicted of murder and rape. He spent 16 years behind bars until being exonerated of all charges in 2006.
Deskovic said he wants others to know there are innocent people in prison.
"I co-wrote a wrongful conviction course syllabus, which was taught at Fairleigh Dickinson College," he said. "And so, we are going to go around to different schools this summer and try to get other colleges, including John Jay, to offer a wrongful conviction course."
He also started his own foundation, and was instrumental in getting William Lopez freed this year after he spent spent 23 years behind bars for a murder he said he didn't commit.
Deskovic said he's helping like the Innocence Project helped him.
"It's an impressive achievement, and we're all very proud of him," said Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project.
John Jay awarded Scheck and Peter Neufeld honorary doctorates for starting the Innocence Project. It's helped free more than 300 falsely convicted prisoners, including Deskovic.
Scheck said it's key that Tuesday's criminal justice graduates represent 87 different countries.
"It's mind-blowing, frankly, when you look at the diversity in this class, and you just think back 20, 30 years ago," he said. "It's a different world, and it's a good thing."
Overall more than 3,300 people graduated from John Jay this semester, the largest graduating class ever for the college. The graduates are between 19 to 71 years old.
"The criminal justice system is important, but it's not perfect, so we need people like our John Jay students who will go out there and make sure that it can work more efficiently, more effectively, but fairly," said Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College.