Saturday, July 14, 2007

Ex-death row inmate to speak at St. Mary's

Innocent man freed after spending 17 years behind bars

The Jackson Sun

A former Florida death row inmate will speak about his experiences at St. Mary's Catholic Church on Sunday. Juan Melendez also will join a coalition of Jackson faith leaders and the local NAACP for an afternoon press conference Sunday at Mother Liberty Church, according to a Friday press release.

Melendez was released from Florida's death row in 2002 after spending more than 17 years under a death sentence for a crime he did not commit, the release said.

He became the 99th death row inmate to be exonerated and freed in the modern death penalty era.

Since that time, Melendez has traveled across the country speaking about his experiences, the release said.

Melendez comes to Tennessee at a crucial time for death penalty reform as the state legislature recently passed a study commission bill to thoroughly examine the death penalty over the next year, the release said.

As a state, Tennessee is moving forward in death penalty reform, but some jurisdictions are not satisfied. Tennessee's two largest counties, Shelby and Davidson, both passed resolutions calling on Governor Bredesen to enact a moratorium while the study commission is in effect, the release said.

A coalition of religious leaders, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and concerned citizens has been formed to call on the Jackson City Council to enact a similar resolution.

Juan Melendez will offer remarks at the press conference, along with the NAACP Jackson chapter's president and faith leaders, at 3 p.m.

Melendez will be speaking at 6:00 p.m. at St. Mary's church about his experiences.

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