In an op-ed published today in the
Innocence Project exoneree
writes about Adam Sirois, the man drawing national media attention for being the sole juror to vote against convicting Pedro Hernandez, the man on trial for the 1979 murder of Etan Patz. Deskovic writes that Sirois should be applauded for standing his ground and not convicting a man who he wasn’t convinced was guilty.
Deskovic draws parallels between the ongoing Etan Patz case and his own wrongful conviction case in 1990. Deskovic was convicted based on a false confession of the 1989 rape and murder of one of his high school classmates. In 2006, Deskovic was finally exonerated with the help of the Innocence Project, which used advanced DNA testing to prove his innocence.
Deskovic, now the executive director of the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice in New York, writes that the strongest evidence against Hernandez is a long, detailed confession that he gave police, but the confession alone was not enough evidence to move Sirois to convict—a decision that Deskovic says was the safe and reasonable thing to do:
“Why would someone tell police he committed a crime when in fact he did not? Experts tell us that although normal adults are sometimes prone to make false confessions, vulnerable populations — especially youth or people like Hernandez with mental health issues — are far likelier to do so. Any case built on a confession from either of these populations must be evaluated with extreme caution.”
Deskovic goes on to say that although Sirois’ decision may be unpopular with those who believe Hernandez is guilty, bringing true justice to any case is about much more than speculation; it’s about proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Without corroborating evidence in Hernandez’s case, Deskovic notes that there are still many questions left unanswered—questions that in Deskovic’s case, may have prevented his wrongful conviction had they been fully probed at his trial. Deskovic writes:
“Trials are not simply about whether a jury believes a defendant is guilty or innocent. They are about whether or not the prosecution has proven it. If they haven’t, then the only way for a juror to properly carry out his or her duty is to vote not guilty. Here in America, we do not take away someone’s freedom based upon speculation.”