Wrongfully accused Peekskill native graduates from law school following 16 years behind bars

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WHITE PLAINS -

A Peekskill native who spent years behind bars reached a major milestone Monday by graduating from law school.

Jeffrey Deskovic graduated from Pace University with a law degree Monday. But 29 years ago, the then-17-year-old was locked up for a murder he says he didn't commit.

Deskovic remained in prison for 16 years before DNA evidence proved who the real killer was.

Commencement speakers paid tribute to Deskovic and listed what his story can teach his fellow students.

MORE: Peekskill man turns wrongful conviction into protecting the innocent 

Since being released in 2006, Deskovic has helped exonerate seven people with his nonprofit, the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, he joins 257 others who have been freed in New York since 1989.

After taking the bar exam in July, Deskovic hopes to use his law license to represent the innocent as their attorney.

He says he couldn't have come this far if it wasn't for the many people who never lost faith in him.

"Don't give up on your dreams. They can still happen. Persistence overcomes resistance and maybe that wrongful conviction is a really, really big problem. We need everyone to help as much as they can," he says.

Deskovic says he's always wanted to be an attorney, but it was the unexpected, emotional roller coaster ride that inspired him to specialize in criminal justice.

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