Newsroom Archive


More Than 3,300 Students– Ages 19 to 71 – Set to Shine at John Jay College of Criminal Justice Graduation on Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, Co-Founders of the Innocence Project, to Receive Honorary Degrees and Address the Graduating Class

More than 3,300 students will become the newest John Jay alumni on May 28 when they receive their degrees in dual Commencement ceremonies. The College’s 48th annual Commencement will be held once again at the Jacob Javits Convention Center North, at 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM.

“We know our graduates will make their mark as fierce advocates for justice,” said President Jeremy Travis. “For almost fifty years, John Jay students and alumni from across disciplines have made a difference nationally and abroad,” he added.

The 3,339 graduates include 1,967 females and 1,372 males, ranging in age from 19-year-old Leonela Ramos, who is receiving a B.A. in Criminal Justice, with double minors in Psychology and Criminology, to 71-year-old Silvia Mondejar, who is earning her M.A. in Forensic Psychology. There will be 2,642 bachelor’s degrees awarded, along with 624 master’s degrees, and 212 students will be graduating with honors.

The graduating class includes 141 military veterans, and represents 20 U.S. states and 87 countries. At the undergraduate level, Hispanic students represent the largest ethnic/racial group. The graduating class at both the undergraduate and graduate levels is predominantly female.

There will be six pairs of siblings graduating together, and one father-daughter pair: Ernest Morales III, who will be receiving his master’s degree in Protection Management, and his daughter, Justina Marie, who will receive a B.A. in Criminal Justice.

The Class of 2013 will be led by valedictorian Rizwan Ali Raja, who earned a perfect 4.00 grade-point average majoring in Political Science, with a minor in History. Salutatorian Elena Daniels is receiving her bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies, with a minor in Psychology, and also achieved a perfect 4.00 GPA.

Honorary doctorates will be presented this year to two towering figures in the law, who have proven themselves to be fierce advocates for justice: criminal defense attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, co-founders and co-directors of the Innocence Project. (See profiles below.) One graduate, Jeffrey Deskovic, was exonerated by the Innocence Project in 2006 after serving 16 years in prison on a wrongful conviction. He will receive a M.A. in Criminal Justice.

For complete information, visit the Commencement page on the John Jay Web site.

About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit

Profiles of Honorary Degree Recipients

Barry Scheck
Barry C. Scheck, who will be presented with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at John Jay’s 2013 Commencement, is co-founder and co-director of the Innocence Project, the nation’s foremost legal-advocacy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing.

Scheck began his lifelong involvement in criminal defense as a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society. In 1987, he won acclaim as the personal lawyer in the Hedda Nussbaum case, helping to get the charges against her dropped, while ensuring the arrest of Joel Steinberg in the case of fatal child abuse.

Scheck was a key member of the legal “Dream Team” that successfully defended O.J. Simpson against murder charges in 1995. He was also the lead lawyer who defended British au pair Louise Woodward in her 1997 murder trial, and represented the wrongly accused Duke University lacrosse player Reade Seligmann in a civil lawsuit filed against the City of Durham, North Carolina, and its former district attorney.

In 1988, Scheck and fellow criminal defense attorney Peter Neufeld began studying and litigating issues concerning the use of forensic DNA testing. Their work has shaped the course of case law across the country and led to important state and federal legislation setting standards for the forensic use of DNA testing. They both serve as members of the New York State Commission on Forensic Science.

Scheck has been a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law for more than 21 years, and is also Director of Clinical Education for the school’s Trial Advocacy Program and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Ethics. Scheck and Neufeld’s book, Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution, and Other Dispatches From the Wrongly Convicted, written with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jim Dwyer, was published in 2000 by Doubleday.

Along with Neufeld, Scheck was awarded the John Jay Medal for Justice in 2010.

Peter Neufeld
Peter J. Neufeld, the co-founder and co-director of the Innocence Project, has successfully tried cases and argued appeals in state and federal courts nationwide, obtaining numerous substantial verdicts and settlements on behalf of victims of police misconduct and wrongful convictions. His cases have led to important systemic reforms in the areas of criminal justice and police practices.

Like his law partner Barry Scheck, Neufeld’s law career took shape as a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society. He also taught trial advocacy for many years at Fordham University School of Law, and both lectures and publishes extensively on the intersection of science and law, including the proper use of expert witnesses.

A member of the legal defense team for O.J. Simpson’s murder trial in 1995, Neufeld also represented Abner Louima in his claim of having had his civil rights brutally violated by New York City police officers. In 2006, Neufeld won a $2.25-million judgment on behalf of Earl Washington, convincing a jury that a Virginia State Police investigator had fabricated the confession that caused Washington to be sentenced to death for a 1982 rape and murder.

Neufeld and Scheck’s extensive litigation and education efforts, much of it pro bono, have helped to redefine and expand the parameters of permissible defenses involving forensic psychiatry and laboratory science. Their cases often result in enhancing public awareness of systemic problems, improving the criminal justice system, and legislative reform.

He is co-author, along with Scheck and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jim Dwyer, of Actual Innocence: Five Days to Execution, and Other Dispatches From the Wrongly Convicted, (Doubleday, 2000), based on actual cases of the Innocence Project. His many honors and awards include the 2010 John Jay Medal for Justice, with Scheck.