One Precious Life
Juan Roberto Melendez-Colon spent over 17 years on Florida ’s death row for a crime he did not commit. Upon his exoneration and release from prison in 2002, he became the 99th death row inmate in the US to be exonerated and released since the Death Penalty was reinstated in 1973. There was no physical evidence ever linking Juan Melendez to the crime and his conviction and death sentence hinged on the testimony of two questionable witnesses. Despite his innocence, Juan Melendez’s conviction and death sentence were upheld on appeal three times by the Florida Supreme Court.
In September of 2000, 16 years after Juan Melendez was convicted, a long-forgotten transcript of a taped confession by the real killer, was fortuitously discovered. Ultimately, it came to light that the real killer made statements to no less than 16 individuals either directly confessing to the murder or stating that Juan Melendez was not involved.
In a 72 page opinion, in which she overturned Juan Melendez’s conviction and death sentence and ordered a new trial, Judge Barbara Fleischer went to tremendous lengths to underscore the injustices that had been bestowed upon Juan Melendez and to show that an innocent man was on death row. Without admitting any wrongdoing, the State of Florida declined to pursue a new trial against Juan Melendez because one of its key witnesses had recanted and the other had died.
Here, Juan Melendez tells his own personal story, as he has now done to audiences around the world. When not speaking on the death penalty issue, he works at home in Puerto Rico in a plantain field where he counsels troubled youth who work alongside him.