via email forwarded from local ai coordinator:
From: Juan Melendez
Subject: Please let ai members know that I will be sharing my story of
supreme injustice as innocent man who spent nearly 18 years on
Florida's death row in Seattle/Tacoma and Lacey, October 1-3:
Dear Amnesty International Coordinator:
Can you please help publicize the following events. I've included
below a little bit about my story and some testimonials to give folks
a sense of the powerfulness of my talk. I am also available to speak
at a middle or high-school in Seattle on Wednesday, October 1, so if
you know of any teachers or student ai groups which might be
interested in bringing me to speak at their school, please let them
know that I am available. A new book has just been published
containing my story as well as the stories of 4 other death row
exonerees. See Execution's Doorstep.
October 3: Talk at St. Martin's University, Lacey, Wa. at 4:00
p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
location update: It seems that Juan Melendez will be at the Worthington Center.
My name is Juan Roberto Melendez. I spent seventeen years, eight
months and one day on Florida's death row for a crime I did not
commit. (Voices United for Justice)
I was released on January 3, 2002 and at that time, I became
the 99th death row inmate in the United States to be exonerated and
released since 1973. At the moment, there are 127 of us. We can only
wonder how many of those who have already been executed in this
country did not have the pure luck that many of us had.
My story highlights many of the problems of the death penalty. In
particular, its high risk and inevitability of being imposed on the
innocent, its unfair and unequal application on the basis of race and
ethnicity and its almost exclusive imposition on our most vulnerable
members of society--the poor. Although my case was riddled with doubt,
and there was not one single shred of physical evidence against me, I
was convicted and sentenced to death within a week by a "death-
qualified" jury composed of 11 whites and 1 African-American, folks
who I believe presumed my guilt right from the start and who chose to
reject my airtight alibi witness and other witnesses, in favor of the
government's witnesses, including two key witnesses who stood to gain
substantially by testifying against me. Had it not been for the
extremely fortunate discovery of a taped confession of the real
killer, sixteen years after I had been sentenced to death, I almost
certainly would have been executed. At the time the taped confession
was discovered, the Supreme Court of Florida had already upheld my
conviction and death sentence three times on appeal. Had I been on
death row in Texas or Virginia, I would not be alive today.
Beyond the death penalty, my story is also one of survival, faith and
hope which seems to reach people from all walks of life at many
different levels. Since my release from death row, I have spoken to
hundreds of thousands of people throughout the United States and
abroad. I speak most often at high-schools, colleges, law schools,
juvenile detention centers and faith communities. I hope the feedback
I have included below will give you a sense of the impact of my story.
"Prior to hearing Mr. Melendez's speech, I was pro-death penalty. Now
I will fight to abolish it!!"
-Norma Francisco, Ph.D., member of the Church for the Fellowship of
All Peoples, San Francisco (August 13, 2006)
"He (Juan Melendez) is the best argument against the death penalty
that anyone could ever hear."
- Journalism student, University of New Mexico
"I have not attended a better speech in all my ten plus years in the
clinics! Or has one affected me so much as his speech! One student who
has always been for the death penalty changed his views that day . . .
He was awesome."
- Linda Herrera, Director of Legal Clinics at Southern Methodist University School of Law
"Your story is one that needs to be heard by everyone and your message
of hope is truly an inspiration."
-Dr. Judy Hendry, journalism professor, University of New Mexico
"Juan is a living testament to the injustice of capital punishment and
his talk is infinitely more effective than anything I could teach my
-Law professor Marjorie Cohn, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
"He is a brilliant speaker and a brilliant story teller . . . It is so
important that he share his story with the public because [he] is a
prime example of how one man's personal story can do more to inform
people about the death penalty than all of the cases, newspapers and
political rallies combined."
-Morgan Anderson, law student University of San Francisco School of Law
-Audience member, Catholic Religious Education Congress, Anaheim,
California, March 2007
"One of the most powerful and moving events we have had here-not just
the extraordinary story he had to tell, but the grace and skill with
which he told it."
-Simon Keyes, Director of St. Ethelburga's Ctr. for Peace and
Reconciliation, London, England
To read more feedback (high school students) and learn more about my story, please visit Voices United for Justice.
I am also available on
Tuesday, September 30 to speak in the evening. I arrive in
Seattle/Tacoma at 4:15 p.m.
October 1: Talk at University of Seattle School of Law at 6:00
October 2: Talk at University of Washington School of Law at 12:30
October 2: Talk at University of Pudget Sound at 7:00 p.m. -8:30 p.m.