See the New York Times article on Female Veterans living on the street, click on link below:
Man freed after 23 years in jail for a crime he didn’t do can thank another exonerated man for freedom
By Dareh Gregorian / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Monday, February 4, 2013, 7:04 PM
William Lopez, surrounded by attorneys, family and friends, walked out of court a free man on Jan. 23 after spending 23 years in jail for a crime he did not commit.
A Brooklyn man whose murder conviction was thrown out by a federal judge has another wrongfully convicted man to thank for his freedom.
Jeff Deskovic, who spent 15 years behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit, worked behind the scenes to help exonerate William Lopez — and is now helping him to adjust to life on the outside, the Daily News has learned.
Deskovic had sued the feds and the state for his wrongful conviction, and used $1.5 million of his $8 million in settlement money to set up the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice to help other wronged prisoners last year (see www.thejeffreydeskovicfoundationforjustice.org).
“I wanted to make what happened to me count for something,” Deskovic said.
Lopez, 54, a married dad, was released from prison on Jan. 23 by Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who angrily derided the original evidence as “rotten from day one.”
“The result is that a likely innocent man has been in prison for over 23 years. He should be released with the state’s apology,” the judge wrote.
Lopez had always maintained he was innocent of the shotgun killing of a Elvirn Surria in a Brighton Beach crackhouse on Aug. 31, 1989.
His appeals lawyers at Levitt & Kaiser worked get him out, citing a failure to call alibi witnesses in the original case and the testimony of a drug-addled witness who recanted his original fingering of Lopez as the triggerman.
But perhaps their biggest break came when they learned an eyewitness to the shooting was in the Dominican Republic. The firm turned to Deskovic’s foundation and another called the Exoneration Project to help track down the witness.
The witness, Carlos Diaz, later testified that he saw the person who killed Surria — and it wasn’t Lopez.
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office said it would appeal the decision.
In the meantime, Deskovic’s foundation has provided Lopez with temporary housing in Manhattan, and is trying to help reintegrate him into society.
“It’s going be a long, difficult road,” Deskovic said. “He has lots of things he has to do, especially re-establishing ties with his family.”
His daughter Crystal was just 14 months old when Lopez went to prison.
“She grew up without him,” Deskovic said.
The following is from the February 4, 2013 Sports Illustrated article (Point After) by Jeff Deskovic:
There was a lot of pain in my life from 1990 to 2006. But when I think about those years, I have happy memories of the Super Bowls. I remember the blowouts and the nail biters.Tom Brady outgunning Jake Delhomme. John Elway scrambling every which way and finally winning the big prize. Brett Favre and Kurt Warner and all those Dallas Cowboys.
One of my clearest recollections is of Super Bowl XXV. I’m a Giants fan, and I was surrounded that day by other Big Blue supporters. We watched Scott Norwood line up that last-second field goal for the Bills. I still see it now: Marv Levy, the Buffalo coach, holding the hand of James Lofton, the team’s veteran receiver,anticipating a championship. The kick is up. Ever so slightly, they begin to lift their arms. Then the kick sails wide right. Giants win. A group of us yelled and hugged one another and did little dances. And then we went back to our jail cells and banged on the bars in celebration.
From 17 to 33 I was an inmate in the New York State prison system, wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of a classmate at Peekskill High. My conviction was based on a coerced false confession, extracted when I was 16. Though my case was filled with prosecutorial misconduct and fraudulent testimony, I lost all of my appeals and was refused parole. Then, my Hail Mary touchdown: In 2006 I was cleared and released when the Innocence Project, a New York City-based nonprofit dedicated to overturning mistaken convictions, used DNA evidence to turn up the actual perpetrator-a career criminal who had murdered another woman three years after I went to prison for his crime.
It’s been more than six years since my release and full exoneration, but I still think often of my time in prison. It’s no exaggeration to say that sports sustained me during my incarceration, just as they do countless others in the criminal justice system. Sports are recreation. Sports are diversion. Sports are fun. But they are more than that. For many of the nearly two million Americans currently imprisoned-the vast majority of them men-sports are crucial to survival.
I served most of my sentence at a maximum security facility in Elmira,N.Y. The inmates were of every age, background and temperament you can imagine. But sports were a point of commonality. At meals, in the yard, in the cell block, we’d argue about favorite teams and athletes. We’d have the same conversations-Who belongs in the Hall of Fame? Is LeBron better than Kobe?-that our peers on the outside were having in bars and barbershops. Sports talk was also a way to build relationships with the guards. We’d even place bets and run our version of office pools, wagering cigarettes and stamps and items from the commissary. When there’s a few cans of tuna fish riding on a game, you sweat it out.
As in most facilities, inmates in Elmira don’t have access to the Internet. Starting in 1998, though, we were allowed to have small TVs in our cells, and some of us followed sports that way. Just about all of us also listened to sports talk radio. (One definition of frustrating: disagreeing with the hosts when you don’t have the option of calling in.) Newspaper sports sections were gold. There was one SPORTS ILLUSTRATED subscription; we’d read the issues and then pass them around.
Sports meant the most to me when I was in the yard or in the gym. When we played basketball which was often- I envisioned myself as Michael Jordan. I don’t mean like Michael Jordan. I was Michael Jordan. I convinced myself that the games were being broadcast on television: When we played in the gym, it was a Bulls road game; in the yard, it was a home game. The inmates waiting for the next game were the audience. I’d call timeouts. I’d think of my teammates as Luc Longley or Will Perdue and scold them for not playing the passing lanes. Toward the end of games I’d think about what I’d say to the media in the interview session.
Now I realize that was an elaborate bit of self-delusion, a coping mechanism. But at the time, it enabled me to leave the prison for a while, if only in my mind. I was in another place, where I wasn’t weighed down by the constant struggle to establish my innocence.
I’m struck by something else about those basketball games: There was no fighting, no cheap shots, not even much trash talk. There was a sense of honor, an unwritten code. Knock a guy down and you help him up. Winners stay, losers walk. Respect the call. Some players had committed chilling crimes, but everyone followed the rules of sports.
On Sunday I’ll be watching the Ravens play the 49ers. Of course I will. They say that the game might be the most-watched program in the history of American television. Trust me when I say that many of the viewers will be on the inside. For them, the game will mean everything. For those few hours, nothing else will matter. For those few hours, they will feel free.
The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice is a not jor-profit organization that seeks to exonerate the wrongfully convicted, lobby for reform legislation and help reintegrate exonerees as well as parolees. Visit www.thejeffreydeskovicfoundationforjustice.org.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED I FEBRUARY 4. 2013