Juan Melendez, who spent 17 years, 8 months and 1 day on Florida's death row for a crime he did not commit, will speak at the caucus meeting of "Democrats Against the Death Penalty" at the Texas Democratic Party State Convention in Corpus Christi on Friday, June 25, 2010 in Room 225D-E at the American Bank Center.
Also speaking will be State Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Democrat from Houston who filed HB 682 in the 2009 Texas legislative session to repeal the death penalty.
The anti-death penalty caucus was first formed at the 2004 TDP State Convention. The Texas Democratic Party has endorsed a moratorium on executions in its party platform at each state convention since 2004. Melendez was exonerated and released from death row on January 3, 2002 after a transcript of a taped confession by the real killer came to light sixteen years after he had been sentenced to death. At that time, the Supreme Court of Florida had upheld Melendez's case three times on appeal even though there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime and his conviction rested solely on the testimony of two questionable witnesses: a police informant and a co-defendant who was threatened with the electric chair but who ultimately received a sentence of two years probation after testifying against Melendez. The actual killer who confessed to more than sixteen people was also a police informant. Melendez's story is featured in the internationally acclaimed documentary “Juan Melendez 6446.” Melendez has been described as “a living testament to the injustice of capital punishment” because his case highlights the myriad of problems that plague the death penalty system and in particular, the high risk and inevitability of executing the innocent. While his story is unique, the circumstance of being innocent and on death row is shamefully anything but unique. Since 1973, 138 people, including 11 in Texas, have been released from death row with evidence of innocence. Melendez will speak at the Texas Democratic Party State Convention at a critical time in Texas when serious questions have been raised about the likely innocence of Todd Willingham, Ruben Cantu and Carlos De Luna, all of whom were executed by the State of Texas. Melendez's evocative testimony will underscore the need for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty and a comprehensive examination of the system to determine how, if at all, the system can be reformed to safeguard against executing the innocent and to protect the public from the actual perpetrators who elude punishment each time the system gets it wrong. Texas State Democratic Party State Convention event information: What:"Democrats Against the Death Penalty" Caucus Date:Friday, June 25 Time:1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m. Where:Room 225D-E, American Bank Center, Corpus Christi. Juan Melendez is available for interviews at any time during the convention. He speaks English and Spanish. To schedule an interview, contact Judi Caruso at 505-362-1784.