Jerry Palace Retired New York City Police Detective Jerry Palace: Law Enforcement Specialist
“Jerry Palace is a retired New York City Police Detective. Starting as a beat cop in New York’s notorious South Bronx, he then climbed the ranks to the anti-crime unit, and soon became a crime scene investigator. From there enjoying his career as a seasoned cop, Jerry moved into the Narcotics Division responsible for putting away his fair share of major drug dealers.
Never being one to turn down a challenge Jerry took his street expertise, and moved on to The Bronx Robbery Squad, investigating robbery, and murder cases that included the arrest, and convictions of New York’s most brazen crime figures. Jerry’s career has touched all areas of modern crime fighting along with a solid street wise investigative skill. Throughout his career as a New York City Police Detective, Jerry has received his share of Police Commendations.” (www.JerryPalace.com)
Mr. Palace has gone on to work as a private investigator, began CHECK A MATE, the first investigation service of its kind, and established THE DEFENSE TEAM, an organization that focuses on reversing the convictions of those he’s proven innocent.
I found Mr. Palace to be fascinating to speak with…a truly remarkable individual who’s making a difference once innocent man at a time.
Q: You’ve done so many things within law enforcement…where did it all start for you?
Jerry: With being a detective in the South Bronx, New York. It was a great learning experience and le me to where I am today.
Q: How did the other jobs evolve?
I had to reestablish myself after retirement and moved into security and investigation—I found a niche in business for CHECK A MATE—domestic investigations—and it proved pretty lucrative. From that, I received a lot of exposure in media, television, radio, newspapers and a producer saw me. Apparently he liked what he saw and brough me in to discuss an idea I had for a new show. That show became THE WRONG MAN, which focuses on individuals wrongly convicted of murder. As a result of that show, I started THE DEFENSE TEAM, an expansion of THE WRONG MAN. The main case I’ve worked on since is that of Richard DiGuglielmo, a policeman who was serving time for murder in New York (in what was clearly a case of self-defense).
After three years (and after Richie served 10 years and 99 days), he was finally released in September 2008. I had the extreme honor of picking him up at the prison the day of his release and drove him home.
Q: That’s a journey for you, having started out putting men behind bars to helping them get out.
Jerry: Absolutely and it’s given a new perspective on law enforcement. Don’t get me wrong. Once a cop, always a cop, but I’ve come to realize that the justice system is all about money. Take OJ or the Duke LaCross Case or even Richard Madoff—they all have money to raise a good defense; otherwise you’re going to jail.
In a recent case, a man in Ohio was tried 4 times for murder—how does someone without means fight that? Instances like hat have made me realize a number of people are in jail who shouldn’t be there and they’re there for no other reason than they don’t have the money to fight. Lawyers don’t work for nothing, at least most of them don’t. It’s a real rarity to find a lawyer willing to take on a pro-bono case in any instance, let alone when the case is stacked against you.
And keep in mind, there’s always two sides to the story. And then there’s the truth. That’s where I come in.
Q: Do you oversee each business yourself or do you have reliable management?
I pretty much oversee everything—I decide what we do and I can micromanage at this point—keep my hands on everything. After all, it’s my name on the door. Everything goes through me.
Q: On your website you list a number of interviews you’ve given from Oprah to Larry King…are there some cases we’ve heard of that you’ve consulted on or been involved with?
Not necessarily—it’s more on my expertise—I have years of on the job experience with the narcotics and homicide divisions— and yes, while it’s all about putting the bad guys behind bars, it’s become about getting the innocent and wrongly convicted out.
Q: It sounds as if Richie’s case really affected you.
Without a doubt. I remember when I was driving him home after nearly 12 years in prison and he asked me to pull the car over—almost desperately. He got out and stood there, looking around and when I asked if he was okay, he said it was the first time in years that he hadn’t been shackled in a car; that he needed to be able to get out of the car because he could. You don’t forget things like that. Moments like that become a part of you.
Q: For THE DEFENSE TEAM…how do you decide which cases you’ll take? What’s the process?
I’m usually approached by people who believe in someone’s innocence. I listen and learn as much as I can about the people, the case, and most importantly, the person asking for help. We ask them to take a lie detector test (we arrange for it, we don’t administer it ourselves). Not because it will prove or disprove anything, but it’s one more thing to add to the information—it’s a tool to use to put with everything else to put with the evidence at the end and see where we are. Usually their advocate, the person who approached us, points us in the right direction—who they think needs to be talked to. And I won’t lie—it takes money. We have a budget. I wish we could do this pro-bono and my greatest wish is for someone, someday to begin a national program that goes beyond what the Innocence Project does (their work is DNA based). Proving someone innocent is not a cheap process, but again, there are two sides to the story, then the truth. That’s all I’m ever after.
Q: Have there been cases you’ve said no to?
Without naming cases, sure, and for various reasons. Sometimes I’m morally opposed, other times there’s just something off, something that doesn’t feel right. I will say we don’t take child molester cases or predator cases. They’re too difficult to work on. In a strange way, murder and capital cases are easier—I don’t see predators and molesters as victims; they’re just tough sells.
And it’s important to note, that I will not make stuff up. I told Richie’s mother when I took the case that I would follow the evidence wherever it led. In his case, it led to proving his innocence, but we’ve had cases where we’ve found guilt where we’d hoped to find innocence. After all, most every convicted criminal claims innocence; it all comes down to what we can prove.
Q: How do you feel about CHECK A MATE being implemented by so many other companies all over the country?
Honestly, it irritates me—and I shut down one of them when it first happened, but it took too much money and time and more just popped up. When we started CHECK A MATE, no one wanted to do this kind of investigation—who wanted to prove to people their spouse was cheating on them? Yes, it’s still irritating that so many business rode my coattails in, but that’s what trademarks are for. We’re the original, and the standards we set are still in place today. All the client wants is confirmation on what they already suspect…and that’s what we give them. The truth.
Q: For the Palace Guards…is this a world wide service?
No. Mainly we provide protection in the New York and east coast region. With the economy the way it is, people want security. We’ve seen it before. When things get tough, robberies go through the roof and that’s what’s happening now. People want to protect what’s theirs (their family, their homes, their businesses). That’s why they call us.
Palace Guards is actually a small part of the business, thought. If I could, I’d devote all my time to THE DEFENSE TEAM; I prefer to get people out of jail, to see them walk out of prison. I tell you, there’s nothing better than watching both prisoners and prison guards waving and cheering as someone walks out of prison because they don’t belong there. Hearing Richie say “this is the first time I’ve heard crickets in 12 years” the first night he was home…that’s what it’s all about. When he said, “I owe you my life”, that made everything worth it.
Q: What’s the worst thing about your job?
Not being able to take all the cases we want—there isn’t enough of us to go around. I wish we had more people to take care of the people who shouldn’t be in prison. There are too many of them and not enough of us.
Q: What’s the best?
Getting people like Richie out of prison. Making the justice system work the way it should. It shouldn’t be about politics and money and conviction rates. It should be about the truth. Always.