Friday, 10 October 2008

Juan Melendez, Innocent Survivor of 18 year Death Row Incarceration to Speak in Lacey

Submitted by Bert on Wed, 09/24/2008 - 10:40pm.

Start: Sep 3 2008 - 4:00pm
End: Sep 3 2008 - 5:30pm

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.

Feedback "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 students." -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

"Phenomenal!" -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 p.m.-7:30 p.m. October 2: Talk at University of Washington School of Law at 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. October 2: Talk at University of Pudget Sound at 7:00 p.m. -8:30 p.m.

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