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"MSN" featured Pace 2019 Law School graduate in "Exonerated of murder, Jeffrey Deskovic graduates from law school"

05/14/2019 News Release Image

"MSN" featured Pace 2019 Law School graduate in "Exonerated of murder, Jeffrey Deskovic graduates from law school"

It seems both improbable and inevitable that Jeffrey Deskovic would be among the 2019 graduates of Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law. 

The legal system destroyed Deskovic's life. At 17, he was found guilty of the rape and murder of a classmate, crimes he didn't commit.

Then lawyers saved him. After years of rejections, the Innocence Project won a recheck of DNA evidence that was matched to the real killer. 

On Monday, May 13, Deskovic is expected to receive his juris doctor at age 45. He acknowledges that he still has to pass the bar, but Deskovic is ready for his new chapter.

"Law school increases opportunities for advocacy," Deskovic said.

Since his release in September 2006, Deskovic has finished a bachelor's degree, earned a master's degree in criminal justice and started the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation For Justice, which has helped exonerate seven people and successfully advocated for justice reforms. 

The student has also frequently been the educator: He has spoken about his own case and wrongful conviction in general at various venues, including to judges; and he has advocated for various legal reforms through legislation.

With the law degree, Deskovic said, he can do even more.

"I was tired of sitting in the front row" of the courtroom gallery, Deskovic said. "It wasn't enough anymore." 

Pace University Professor Bennett Gershman, a national expert on prosecutorial misconduct, advocated for Deskovic to attend law school there.

"Jeff's brought incredible value to our students and faculty," Gershman said in his third-floor office at Pace. "How can you not see this young man as a hero?"

Robin Frankel, a Legal Aid Society lawyer and Pace adjunct professor, expressed similar admiration. She first met Deskovic when he was a first-year student.

"I couldn't believe how lucky the school was to have him," Frankel said.

She later led continuing legal education courses for lawyers and judges with Deskovic, which they called Tips for Lawyers from an Exonerated Man in Law School.

"I have gotten so much feedback from so many people that it was one of the best CLEs," she said of the mandatory courses that most attorneys grouse about.

When Deskovic recalls his story in a class, during a TEDx talk, or in casual conversation, he offers a nearly dispassionate recitation of what he faced. But the facts alone can leave the listener transfixed. 

The real criminal

The case of Jeffrey Deskovic spread injustice to everyone it touched.

Angela Correa, a Peekskill 15-year-old, was slain on Nov. 15, 1989. 

Deskovic, a classmate at Peekskill High School, was 16. And police quickly took notice of him.

He was an awkward kid. Police found it suspicious that Deskovic had attended all three wakes for Correa and was observed crying and distraught over her death, according to a report ordered by the Westchester District Attorney after Deskovic's exoneration.

Officers picked him up and interrogated him for hours. He wasn't offered food, or legal representation. They administered a lie detector test and told him it proved his guilt. Then they told him to admit it and he could go free. 

That false confession, from a terrified teen, became the centerpiece of the trial.

An alibi witness wasn't called. Deskovic, on the advice of his lawyer, didn't take the stand in his own defense. Prosecutorial explanations for why Deskovic's DNA didn't match what was found on the victim went unchallenged.  

"My defense attorney was terrible," Deskovic recalled. 

A jury convicted Deskovic, then 17, of rape and murder in 1990. He was subsequently sentenced to 16 years to life. At that point, he was still a sophomore in high school.

Deskovic maintained his innocence at every step. He tried several avenues to challenge, and was turned down at various turns.

Finally, Innocence Project took up his cause, but it took the intake worker three tries to get the nonprofit to fight for him. That intake worker, Maggie Taylor, is now graduating from Columbia Law School and the two are holding a joint graduation party Monday in White Plains. 

At the Innocence Project's behest, Janet DiFiore, who was the Westchester distirct attorney at the time, approved running DNA in 2006 from the Correa case through the state databank. The true perpetrator was discovered: Steven Cunningham, an inmate in Eastern Correctional Facility in Ulster County.

Then came the worst revelation: Cunningham had killed again. He was doing time for the slaying of Peekskill teacher Patricia Morrison in April 1993.

Deskovic said he has met with both the Correa and Morrison families, but he believes it is too hard for them to see him and be reminded of the loss and injustice. 

Angela Correa is buried at Assumption Cemetery in Cortlandt. So is Deskovic's grandmother. Each time he visits his grandmother's grave, Deskovic said, he pays his respects to Angela.

"So many victims in this case," he reflected as he walked down East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx on a cloudy day. "The worst happened to her."

Pirro, Sotomayor roles

Deskovic remembers those who let him down, including Jeanine Pirro, the former district attorney who repeatedly declined to re-run DNA that led to Deskovic's exoneration.

Pirro is now the star of "Justice With Judge Jeanine" on Fox News.

"It bothers me to see Jeanine Pirro on television touting herself as a champion of justice who believes in due process," Deskovic said. "Where was she and where is she still on wrongful convictions?" 

A request for comment from Pirro garnered no response.  

Deskovic also was sidelined by a 1997 federal Court of Appeals ruling after his filing was four days late, due to bad information supplied by the court. One of the two judges to reject his appeal was Sonia Sotomayor, now a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Deskovic said he lacks confidence that Sotomayor will step in to ensure such cases like his get a hearing on the high court, the last chance for many to prove their evidence. Sotomayor did not respond to a request for comment.

Even DiFiore, who ordered the testing that led to the exoneration and a full review of his case, does not escape criticism. She's now chief judge of the Court of Appeals and the State of New York, the top spot in the state justice system.

"Judge DiFiore did the right thing for me," Deskovic said. But, "her body of work on wrongful convictions begins and ends with my case."

DiFiore's office wished Deskovic well "as he will now sit for the bar exam and then on to a legal career of high purpose." 

Restoring foundation

Deskovic hopes his law credentials will add credibility to his foundation, which he formed in 2013.

The Deskovic Foundation was set up with a portion of settlement funds he received from Peekskill, and Westchester and Putnam counties for their roles in his wrongful conviction.

Deskovic admits he didn't know what went into running a nonprofit. "I thought because my name was on the door, nobody could question our authenticity," Deskovic said. "Donors would write checks and it would be great."

That didn't happen. Even though the foundation is scaled back — it's now operating out of a second-floor room in a Bronx building — "we had an impact," Deskovic said.

Deskovic and the foundation advocated for recent successful legislation that includes discovery reform, which demands the prosecution turn over information early on to the defense; mandatory video of interrogation for certain crimes; the establishment of a Commission on Prosecutorial Misconduct

And prisoners seeking exoneration continue to contact them. There are now 600 "raw" cases in files waiting to be screened. Then there is a "waiting-waiting" list of prisoners who want to send their file for review.

The foundation continues to review cases, albeit slowly. If he and the volunteers find a case in which they believe a person is innocent — and they see a way to prove it — they find a lawyer who will take the case pro bono. The foundation has 11 active cases.

Deskovic is clearly uncomfortable with the wait, but he's not ready to say no to all. "I know what it's like to be on the other side of waiting." 

The plan now, Deskovic said, is to restructure the foundation with a strong fundraising infrastructure and professional staff then relaunch it. Reflecting on the successes of the foundation, he added, "if we can get these kind of results with a shoestring budget, imagine what we could do." 

Deskovic, though, is no sucker for a sob story.

"We try to be even keeled," he said. "There are plenty of cases we say no to because we think they're guilty." 

He met plenty in prison. "Were there people inside who I would never want to see out? Yeah, of course."

But he's also seen redemption.

"I've met people in prison who were different than what they were," he said. "Model prisoners."

He doesn't believe there is anything to be gained by keeping people in prison forever.

Meanwhile, Deskovic knows that raising his own profile will pay off with support for his advocacy work and foundation. He is thinking about a book, or movie or maybe a docu-series that recounts his story: "As goes my name, as goes the cause," he said.

Read the article.

 

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06/11/19

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Press Release: Pace University’s Wirchansky Selected by Brewers in 2019 MLB Draft

06/10/19

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"The Record" featured Seidenberg's Assistant Professor Darren Hayes in "Quest Diagnostics breach: What to do if you may have been affected"

06/10/19

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"River Journal" featured School of Education's Professor Christine Clayton in "Sleepy Hollow High School Teacher Presents and Implements New Science Curriculum"

06/10/19

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"Marshall News Messenger" featured Jeffrey Deskovic, 2019 Pace Law graduate in "Michelle Malkin: From convicted murderer to exoneree to law grad"

06/10/19

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"Valley News" featured Pace student-athlete 2019 Graduate Danny Wirchansky in "Nighthawks notebook: Feeling a draft, MLB-style"

06/07/19

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"Minot Daily News" featured Pace Law graduate Jeffrey Deskovic in "From convicted murderer to exonerate to law grad"

06/07/19

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"News Busters" featured Pace 2019 Law School graduate Jeffrey Deskovic in "From Convicted Murderer to Exoneree to Law Grad"

06/07/19

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"Forbes" featured President Marvin Krislov's latest piece "What I Learned By Graduating From College Without a Job"

06/06/19

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"Bankrate" featured Pace Law School Professor Jill Gross in "SEC’s new Regulation Best Interest broker rule may help industry, but it hurts investors"

06/06/19

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"Channel 24" featured Pace Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Harvey Weinstein reaches $44m settlement with accusers"

06/06/19

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"The Journal News" featured President Marvin Krislov in "First-gen college seekers, lacking money and power, get some help to reach campus"

06/06/19

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"WWL News" featured Pace Law Professor Linda Fentiman in "What does the law around vaccines and vaccine exemptions say? Pt. 2"

06/06/19

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"National Review" featured Pace 2019 graduate Jeffrey Deskovic in "From Convicted Murderer to Exoneree to Law Grad"

06/06/19

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"Daily Voice" featured Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems Professor Darren Hayes in "Quest Diagnostics Says Nearly 12M May Have Had Financial, Personal Info Exposed In Data Breach"

06/04/19

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"The Record" featured Seidenberg's Professor Darren Hayes in "Quest Diagnostics breach: Nearly 12M customers' data may have been compromised"

06/04/19

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"Patch" featured Professor Maria Luskay and students in the Media, Communications and Visual Arts department in "Pace Students Film Aftermath Of Hawaii Volcano Eruption"

06/04/19

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"Channel 24" featured Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Harvey Weinstein reaches $44m settlement with accusers"

06/03/19

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"FRANCE 24" featured Law Professor Bennett Gershman in "Weinstein accusers poised to see first compensation as trial looms"

06/03/19

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"Nature.com" featured College of Health Professions Professor Joshua Mendelsohn in "The hunt for the lesser-known funding source"

06/03/19

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"AccuWeather" featured Dyson Professor Monica Palta in "Manhattanhenge Returns to New York City"

06/03/19

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Press Release: Pace University Media Class Premieres Documentary on Hawaii Volcano Aftermath at the Jacob Burns Film Center

05/31/19

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"Xinhua" featured Dyson Clinical Associate Professor and director of the Pace University Press Manuela Soares in "Book on Chinese entrepreneur debuts at New York Book Expo"

05/30/19

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"MD Linx" featured College of Health Professions Christen Cooper in "10 nutritious herbs you should add to your diet now"

05/30/19

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"Climate Liability News" featured Pace environmental law professor Katrina Fischer Kuh in "Cutting-Edge CO2 Tracking Technology Could Boost Climate Liability Claims"

05/30/19

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"Crain's" featured President Marvin Krislov's piece "Opportunity zones should deliver more than profit and tax breaks"

05/29/19

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"Times Union" featured the executive director of the Pace University Law School Energy and Climate Center, Karl R. Rábago's piece "Commentary: Remove state barrier to clean energy"

05/29/19

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"NBC Connecticut" featured Karl Rabago, the executive director of the Pace University Law School Energy and Climate Center in "Activists Push Back Against Utilities to Brighten Solar Energy's Prospects"

05/29/19

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"Ooh Today" featured Pace student Taliah Stanley in the largest-ever banner overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge in "Largest-Ever Banner Overlooking The Brooklyn Bridge"

05/29/19

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"Fox5NY' featured James Hickey in "Pace U. graduate overcomes multiple challenges to get his diploma"

05/28/19

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"United Press International" featured Pace's New York City undergraduate commencement in "Pace University commencement ceremonies at Radio City"

05/28/19

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"Patch" featured Pace's Commencement in "NY Sect. of State Addresses Pace Graduation"

05/28/19

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"Aleteia " featured Pace University's James Hickey in "The incredible story of an orphan whose friends made it possible for him to graduate"

05/28/19

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"The Journal News" featured the Westchester Commencement ceremony in "Pace University Graduation 2019"

05/28/19

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"The Examiner News" featured Lisdy Contreras Giron, Jordan DiPaolo and James Hickey in "Trio of Pace Grads Overcome Adversity to Earn Their Degrees"

05/28/19

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"Broadway World" featured Pace University in "Photo Flash: Actors Studio Drama School Closes Its 2019 Repertory Season"

05/28/19

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Press Release: NYS Secretary of State Addresses Pace University Undergrads at Pleasantville Campus Commencement

05/28/19

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"The Journal News" featured Pace University's Pleasantville Graduation in "Ready for the Next Chapter"

05/28/19

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"The New York Times" featured former Pace Law Prof. Adele Bernhard in "‘No One Would Listen’: Cleared of Murder, After 33 Years in Prison"

05/24/19

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""WCBS 880" featured Pace University student Mia Stella in "New York State Legislators Propose Banning Texting While Walking"

05/21/19

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"Patheos" featured Bridget J. Crawford and Emily Gold Waldman of the Pace University School of Law in "Tax-Free Housing for Religious Leaders May Be Legal, But It’s Still Problematic"

05/21/19

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"Community Health Magazine" featured Pace's registered dietitian and clinical coordinator in nutrition and dietetics Jessica Tosto in "Our favorite summer smoothies for a healthy breakfast or day at the pool"

05/21/19

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"U.S. News & World Report" featured Bruce Bachenheimer, a clinical professor of management at Pace's Lubin School of Business in "Is an MBA Worth It? How to Decide"

05/21/19

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"Daily News" featured Pace Law school 2019 graduate Jeffrey Deskovic in "Now friends for life, exonerated accused killer Jeffrey Deskovic and his Innocence Project angel celebrate earning their law degrees"

05/21/19

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"MSN" featured Pace 2019 Lubin School graduate in "James Hickey’s Long Road to Pace Graduation"

05/21/19

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"FiOS1 News" featured three graduating seniors from Pace University in "Graduates Who Overcame the Odds"

05/21/19

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"The Journal News" featured Pace University's James Hickey in "He lost his parents and home, but not his drive to succeed"

05/21/19

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"CNN" featured Pace President Marvin Krislov in "Here's what you need to know about the College Board's new SAT score"

05/20/19

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"PBS" featured Pace President Marvin Krislov in "To account for hardship, College Board adds ‘adversity’ score to SAT tests"

05/17/19

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"River Journal" featured Pace President Marvin Krislov in "Teatown Dedicates New Environmental Science Center"

05/17/19

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"Sun Journal" featured professor and director of Peace and Justice Studies Emily Welty in "Nobel-recognized professor: Banning nuclear weapons is possible"

05/17/19

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"Patch" featured President Marvin Krislov and Pace University in "Teatown Dedicates New Environmental Science Center "

05/17/19

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"Westchester County Business Journal" featured President Marvin Krislov's piece "Keeping Pace: Job readiness is Pace University’s mission"

05/17/19

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"MDNews" featured the College of Health Professions new Master of Science in Occupational Therapy in "Local News"

05/17/19

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"Daily News" featured the director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center Karl R. Rábago's piece "Getting out of the gas fix we’re in: We need more energy but we can’t just keep burning fossil fuels"

05/17/19

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"Inside Higher Ed" featured President Marvin Krislov in "New SAT Score: Adversity"

05/17/19

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"Daily Voice Plus" featured Pace University's President Marvin Krislov's piece "Keeping Pace: Job readiness is Pace University’s mission"

05/16/19

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Press Release: Statement from Pace President Marvin Krislov on College Board’s New ‘Adversity Score’

05/16/19

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"Fios1" featured Pace University's President Marvin Krislov in "New Environmental Science Center"

05/16/19

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"The Broadsheet" featured Pace Lubin School of Business Arts and Entertainment Management student Taliah Stanley in "Who's That Girl? The Face of Pace"

05/16/19

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Press Release: Pace Student Makes History with Largest Banner Overlooking Brooklyn Bridge ____New Banner Tells New York City: “You have the drive. We have the Path.”

05/15/19

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"Oklahoma's News 4" featured Pace Law student Jeffrey Deskovic in "Wrongfully convicted man earns law degree to help prevent cases like his"

05/15/19

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"Fox 40" featured Pace University's Law School graduate Jeffrey Deskovic in "Wrongfully Convicted Man Earns Law Degree to Help Prevent Cases Like His"

05/15/19

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"Parentology" featured Pace University's Assistant Professor of Psychology Brenna Hassinger-Das in "The Smartest Way to Read E-Books to Your Kids"

05/15/19

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"U.S. News & World Report" featured Pace's executive director of career services Phyllis Mooney and international student Rounak Agarwal in "Learn About Internships for International Students"

05/15/19

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"News12" featured Pace Law 2019 graduate Jeffrey Deskovic in "Wrongfully accused Peekskill native graduates from law school following 16 years behind bars"

05/14/19

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"FiOS1 News" featured 2019 Pace Law graduate Jeffrey Deskovic in "Exonerated man receives law degree – White Plains"

05/14/19

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"MSN" featured Pace 2019 Law School graduate in "Exonerated of murder, Jeffrey Deskovic graduates from law school"

05/14/19

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"CBS" featured Pace Law School class of 2019 graduate Jeffrey Deskovic in "Wrongly Convicted Man Graduates With Law Degree, Plans To Keep Helping Others The Justice System Failed"

05/14/19

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"WHNT" featured Jeffrey Deskovic walking in the Pace University Law School graduation in "Wrongfully convicted man earns law degree to help prevent cases like his"

05/14/19

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"PIX11" featured Pace Law graduate Jeffrey Deskovic in "Man who’d been wrongfully convicted and incarcerated gets law degree to help prevent more cases like his"

05/14/19

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"NBC" featured Law School graduate Jeffrey Deskovic in "Wrongly Convicted Man Graduates From Law School"

05/14/19

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Press Release: Pace University Computer Science Professor Receives Fulbright Award to Conduct Research and Teach in Senegal

05/14/19

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"News12" featured Law student Jeffrey Deskovic in "Peekskill man turns wrongful conviction into protecting the innocent"

05/14/19

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"Wallet Hub" featured Professor Edmund H. Mantell's piece about international credit cards in "Ask the Experts"

05/14/19

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"Daily Voice" featured Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems in "Pace University Students Help Elmsford Fourth-Graders Learn STEM Skills"

05/10/19

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"MDJOnline.com" featured Pace University law student Jeffrey Deskovic in "Man who was exonerated of murder after 16 years in prison will soon be a lawyer"

05/10/19

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"Broadway World" featured The Schimmel Center at Pace University in "Battery Dance Presents the 38th Annual BATTERY DANCE FESTIVAL"

05/10/19

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"Big Island Now" featured Students from Pace University's Media, Communications and Visual Arts in "VIDEO: ‘Hawai‘i: Living on the Edge In Paradise?’"

05/10/19

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"The Journal News" featured Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law 2019 graduate in "Exonerated of murder after 16 years in prison, Jeffrey Deskovic will soon be a lawyer"

05/10/19