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Dieter Tejada

Other Connecticut exonerations
On September 6, 2023, the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Dieter Tejada a pardon based on innocence for an assault conviction when he was 17 years old in Westport, Connecticut.

The incident that led to his conviction occurred on March 8, 2008, in Westport when Tejada was a high school senior in neighboring Norwalk, Connecticut. As Tejada would later recount, he was drinking with friends when he got a cell phone call from the number of an ex-girlfriend. When he answered, the voice on the phone belonged to 17-year-old Nicholas Schwarz, who began threatening Tejada.

Tejada laughed at him and put the phone on speaker so everyone could listen. Tejada later said Schwarz threatened to come to where Tejada was and kill him. Tejeda responded that he would come to see Schwarz. Schwarz said he and others would be waiting with baseball bats.

So, Tejada and some of his friends went to the home where Schwarz was. There, he was confronted and assaulted by four individuals, including Schwarz. Tejada said Schwarz put a bat against his head. Tejada pushed it away. Schwarz then hit Tejada in the abdomen with the bat and knocked the wind out of Tejada. One of Tejada’s friends then punched Schwarz. Tejada then also punched Schwarz and grabbed the bat out of Schwarz’s hands. He then hit Schwarz in the legs and the back with the bat.

At this point, others who had been at the party with Tejada arrived and got into a fight with Schwarz. Tejada did not take part in that fight.

After the fight, Tejada and his friends went back to their party. It was, he later said, the first time in his life he had been in a fight. Schwarz wound up going to the hospital and asserting that Tejada had attacked him.

On April 14, 2008, police arrested Tejada on a charge of assaulting Schwarz. Tejada claimed he was acting in self-defense. Faced with a possible maximum prison sentence of 10 years, Tejada accepted a prosecution offer to plead guilty.

On June 4, 2009, Tejada pled guilty to assault in Fairfield County Superior Court. He was sentenced to nine months in the Bridgeport Correctional Center. He was released in October 2009. One of Tejada’s friends also was charged, also pled guilty, and was deported to El Salvador.

After he completed his probation, Tejada graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2013. He was accepted into Vanderbilt University law school. After graduating from law school in 2017, Tejada founded nonprofit organizations, such as the Justice Impact Alliance, dedicated to helping people who had been impacted by the justice system but who want to get involved in changing it.

In 2019, after Tejada had passed the bar exam, he was required to obtain the police reports for the state bar character and fitness examination. When he got the police report, it was 44 pages and included 23 pages of information that the prosecution had not disclosed at the time that Tejada pled guilty.

This new copy of the police report was significantly different from the police report that had originally been disclosed. At that time, the Deskovic Foundation, which was founded by Jeffrey Deskovic after being exonerated of a murder in New York, and represents and investigates wrongful convictions, began representing Tejada along with attorney Alexander Taubes.

Deskovic said the new copy of the report showed that the original version of the report that had been presented and relied upon as a “full and complete” police report was actually a “critically incomplete” document that had been strategically manipulated with multiple pages and sections removed. “As much as anything else in this case, the manipulation of the police report and the suppression of the exculpatory evidence it contained is a true but-for cause of Mr. Tejada’s wrongful conviction,” Deskovic said.

Key pieces of exculpatory evidence discovered within the pages and sections of the report obtained in 2019 showed that prior to the incident, Schwartz had been diagnosed with a violent conduct disorder. In addition, the new material showed that at the hospital, Schwartz had tested positive for barbiturates and alcohol, and was given antipsychotic medication.

Shortly after the discovery of the undisclosed portions of the police report, a witness for the prosecution was reinterviewed. In his original statement in 2008, the witness had claimed to have seen Tejada, after his initial confrontation with Schwarz, join in the subsequent fight during which other youths punched and kicked Schwarz. During the interview, the witness recanted and admitted that his original statement was false.

In February 2023, attorney Alex Taubes filed an application on behalf of Tejada seeking an absolute pardon on actual innocence grounds from the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Parole.

“Despite graduating from law school, passing the bar exam, and starting this organization, I have been unable to gain admission to the bar and practice law as an attorney,” Tejada declared. “The reason for my inability to get admitted is because the so-called ‘Character and Fitness’ portion of the bar admission process is a barrier for people who, like me, have criminal convictions in their past. By obtaining a pardon, I will be able to finally practice law as an attorney and help advance justice not only through my own work, but by continuing to inspire others who have had similar experiences to continue with their studies and eventually become lawyers as well.”

On September 6, 2023, the Board granted a “full, complete, absolute and unconditional pardon.”

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 1/25/2024
Last Updated: 1/25/2024
Most Serious Crime:Assault
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2008
Sentence:9 months
Age at the date of reported crime:17
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No