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About This Event

Summary

Speaker: Juan Melendez

Time: 12:30 - 1:30 p.m.

Location: Conour Atrium

Contact: Andrea Ciobanu at andreacioban@yahoo.com

Juan Roberto Melendez-Colon spent seventeen years, eight months and one day on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit. He will speak about his experience at the law school on January 12th (12:30 p.m. in the Conour Atrium). The documentary about his time on death row, Juan Melendez 6446, will be shown in the atrium at 4:30 p.m. that same day (in the Conour Atrium). The event is free and open to the public.

Upon his exoneration and release from death row on January 3, 2002, he became the 99th death row inmate in the country to be exonerated and released since 1973. There was no physical evidence ever linking Juan to the crime. His conviction and death sentence hinged on the testimony of two questionable witnesses. Despite his innocence, Juan's conviction and death sentence were upheld on appeal three times by the Florida Supreme Court. In September of 2000, sixteen years after Juan was convicted and sentenced to death, a long-forgotten transcript of a taped confession of the real killer, was fortuitously discovered. Ultimately, it came to light that the real killer made statements to no less than sixteen individuals either directly confessing to the murder or stating that Juan was not involved. In a seventy-two page opinion in which she overturned Juan's conviction and death sentence and ordered a new trial, Judge Barbara Fleischer went to tremendous lengths to show that an innocent man was on death row. She reprimanded the prosecutor for withholding “crucial” evidence pertaining to the credibility of the State’s two critical witnesses and she set forth in meticulous detail the “newly discovered evidence,” including numerous confessions and incriminating statements made by the real killer to family, friends, law enforcement officers, investigators and attorneys that substantiated the defense theory that Juan was innocent. Without admitting any wrongdoing, the State of Florida declined to pursue a new trial against Juan, not because it recognized Juan was innocent, but because it no longer had any evidence to support a conviction: one of its key witnesses had recanted and the other had died. Upon his release from death row, the State of Florida sent Juan on his way with $100, a pair of pants and a T-shirt.

Since his release from death row, without bitterness, anger or hatred towards those responsible for wrongfully convicting and sentencing him to death, Juan has traveled throughout the United States, Canada and Europe sharing his story of supreme injustice, courage, faith and hope.

Juan has spoken at numerous conventions, conferences and symposia, including the Second World Congress Against the Death Penalty, in Montreal, Canada, October 2004, the national LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) convention in San Antonio, Texas, July 2004, Capital Defense Seminar, Monterey, California, March 2004, Amnesty International national conferences, New York, 2004 and Atlanta, 2003 (keynote speaker), and NCADP (National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty) national conferences in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January, 2008, San Jose, California, January 2007, Washington D.C., October, 2004 (keynote speaker) Nashville, Tennessee, October 2003 and Chicago, Illinois, October 2002 (keynote speaker). On December 10, 2008, a documentary depicting Juan's story, "Juan Melendez 6446," debuted in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The documentary has since been screened at the New York Latino International Film Festival, the Montreal World Film Festival, the Document 7 International Human Rights Film Festival in Glasgow, Scotland, a select Television Film Festival in Madrid, Spain, and most recently at an International Film Festival in La Habana, Cuba. Juan has appeared on the Cristina and Don Francisco Presenta talk shows and frequently participates in media interviews (English and Spanish).

Juan Melendez is a board member of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Witness to Innocence, a steering committee member of the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty, and international spokesperson for the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted.

Mr. Melendez’ attorney, Judi Caruso, will also be present at the event. She is a criminal defense lawyer and human rights activist, originally from Belfast, N. Ireland. In 1993, she graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law and received the Friedman, Boyd and Daniels award for excellence in criminal law. Upon graduation, she clerked for United States District Judge Martha Vazquez. In 1997, after attending a presentation by Texas death row exoneree Randal Dale Adams, Judi became intensively involved in the New Mexico death penalty abolition movement in a volunteer capacity. Since 1998 she has served on the steering and government committees of the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty. Between 2000-2004 she was outreach coordinator for Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation-NM, an organization of murder victims' families in New Mexico who oppose the death penalty. In this capacity, Judi coordinated numerous educational outreach activities as part of the state-wide grassroots campaign and coordinated the legislative testimonies of murder victims' families opposed to the death penalty. In 2004, Judi, together with death row exoneree Juan Melendez, founded Juan Melendez Voices United for Justice. Judi has been the Director of this organization since 2004 during which time she has coordinated hundreds of speaking events and media interviews for Mr. Melendez and has participated with Mr. Melendez in numerous speaking engagements throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Judi was elected to the Board of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in 2004 and served on the board until 2008. Between 2005-2009, Judi worked closely in an advisory capacity with New Mexico Representative Gail Chasey who tirelessly sponsored the New Mexico death penalty repeal bill since 1999. Between 2002 and 2009, Judi engaged in an ongoing series of dialogues on the death penalty with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson who ultimately signed the repeal bill into law in March, 2009. As a fluent Spanish and French speaker, Judi is frequently called upon by Spanish and French-language media to address death penalty issues.

This event is sponsored by the IU School of Law – Indianapolis’ Students Against Capital Punishment.

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