The Guilty Verdict
Editor’s note: Jeffrey Deskovic was charged and subsequently convicted at age 17 for a rape and murder he’d not committed. The NCCJR blog is proud to serialize Mr. Deskovic’s account of his horrifying journey through the depths of injustice to eventual exoneration, sixteen years later. What follows appeared previously in The Westchester Guardian and with permission is appears here in slightly edited form. It is but the first installment.
I was stunned when the jury returned the verdict of, “Guilty.” The courtroom began spinning and time stood still, and I felt, that I was in Fantasyland. As my lawyer went with Assistant District Attorney George Bolen and Judge Colabella into his chambers, my family, seated directly behind me, wanted me to sit with them, doubtless to provide support, comfort, and to help me deal with the shock and disbelief that was on my face. One of the court officers asked Judge Colabella if it was all right for me to sit a mere four steps from where I was seated. Giving short shrift to the question, and looking annoyed at even having been asked, he said, “No” without even considering it and continued to his chambers.
Given that there were court officers all around who had sidearms, I don’t see what there was to fear from such a request being allowed. Shortly afterward, when the Judge and the attorneys re-entered, I scarcely heard the words from Colabella, “The defendant is remanded to the County Jail for sentencing,” even though I am sure he spoke in a normal tone. I was escorted into a room with a brown door with bars, not much bigger than a closet, with only a bench.
I sat in shock and disbelief. A court officer walked by and sensed that I was going through something mentally. Yet, there was nothing he could do. He paused as he walked by, unsure of what to do, or even what his superiors would allow. I asked him, “What will happen to me now?” He told me that I would be taken downstairs and searched because it was a different department. He wanted to know if there was anything that I wanted to give to my family. I quickly decided that I wanted my family to have my wallet, tie clip, and watch, as mementos to remember me by. I was silently bidding them farewell, unsure if I would ever see them again.
Next time: “The County Jail.”