Wednesday, March 11, 2009

“Presumed Guilty” the story of ex-death row inmate Juan Melendez


February 10, 2009

CONTACT: Arturo Sandoval, VOCES, Inc. 505.247.2729
Kim Snitker, NM Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty 505.450.7948

Gripping story of innocent New Mexico resident on death row for 18 years to premiere as theater piece this week. Play will star ex-death row inmate Juan Melendez

Albuquerque, NM—“Presumed Guilty” the story of ex-death row inmate Juan Melendez, will premiere in Albuquerque on Saturday, March 14, at 7 PM at the Highland High School Theater, located at 400 Jackson, SE, just west of the Highland Pool. Admission is free but donations to Voices United for Justice and Witness to Innocence are welcome.

Juan Roberto Melendez-Colón spent 17 years, eight months and one day on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit. There was no physical evidence ever linking Mr. Melendez to the crime and his conviction and death sentence hinged on the testimony of two questionable witnesses. At the time of his trial, Mr. Melendez spoke only Spanish, but the entire trial was held in English with no translator provided to him.

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. Shortly after his release he moved to New Mexico, where he has lived ever since.

Despite his innocence, Mr. Melendez’ conviction and death sentence were upheld on appeal three times by the Florida Supreme Court.

In September, 2000, 16 years after Mr. Melendez’ conviction, 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 Mr. Melendez was not involved.

The show is being sponsored by the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty, just as the New Mexico State Senate is set to vote on repealing the death penalty in favor of life without the possibility of parole this week. If the bill passes the Senate, advocates hope Gov. Bill Richardson will sign the bill into law. #####

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