Former death-row inmate to speak at WestConn about his “17 Years to Freedom”

DANBURY, CONN. — Juan Melendez spent more than 17 years on Florida’s death row for a crime he didn’t commit. In 2002, he was exonerated and released after a judge found there was no evidence linking him to the crime. And a real killer had surfaced years before.

Now Melendez travels throughout the country and Europe telling his incredible story of injustice, courage, faith and hope. At 7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 18, Melendez will talk about his “17 Years to Freedom” in Room 127 at WestConn’s Westside Classroom Building, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury.

In 1984, Melendez was charged with killing Delbert Baker, who was found dead in his Florida beauty school. Baker had been shot three times and his throat was cut. He also had been robbed of his gold jewelry. There was no physical evidence presented at trial, yet Melendez was found guilty of first-degree murder and armed robbery. He was sentenced to death.

In 2001 and after numerous unsuccessful appeals, Melendez was granted a new trial in which evidence presented included numerous confessions and statements made by the real killer — eventually proving Melendez’s innocence. Now 58-year-old Melendez, born in New York City and raised in Puerto Rico where he currently lives, has hopes of seeing the death penalty abolished.

A documentary of Melendez’s life, “Juan Melendez 6446,” has screened at four international film festivals. He is a board member of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Witness to Innocence, a steering committee member of the New Mexico Coalition to Repeal the Death Penalty, and international spokesperson for the Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted.

For more information, call (203) 837-8514.


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