Exonerated death row inmate to share story of wrongful conviction

March 28, 2007

As the debate over capital punishment continues in the United States, there is one undeniable truth: innocent people have been convicted and sentenced to death row. Just how many, no one knows for certain. But since 1973, more than 120 people have been exonerated and freed from death row after proof of their innocence was uncovered by tenacious attorneys, innocence groups, activists or investigative journalists or as a result of previously untapped DNA evidence.

On Jan. 3, 2002, Juan Roberto Melendez became the 99th death row inmate in the country to be released because of innocence since 1973. Melendez will visit Penn State's Dickinson School of Law to share his story at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 28, in room 148 of the former Advantica Building, the law school's temporary home at 1170 Harrisburg Pike, Carlisle. The event is free to the public.

Melendez spent almost 18 years on Florida's death row after being wrongfully convicted in the murder of beauty shop owner Delbert Baker, in spite of repeated confessions to the murder by another man. Melendez will discuss the injustice of his case and share how he found the strength, hope and faith to survive his undeserved imprisonment while continuing to fight for his freedom.

"Penn State Dickinson's Latino Law Student Association (LLSA) sought to have Mr. Melendez speak at the law school in an effort to have him share his heroic story with our community as well as putting a human face on the plight of innocent individuals behind bars everywhere," explained LLSA president Jose Armando Fanjul.

Penn State Dickinson professors Thomas Place, an expert in criminal law and post-conviction procedure, Dermot Groome, a former senior trial attorney in the Slobodan Milosevic case at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and Gary Gildin, a civil and religious liberties expert and director of the school's Miller Center for Public Interest Advocacy, also will address the audience on issues of capital punishment. The audience may participate in a question-and-answer session following the presentations.

The event is being co-sponsored by the law schools LLSA, Amnesty International, American Civil Liberties Union, Black Law Student Association and Books to Prisoners student organizations. For information, call (717) 240-5217.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 22, 2015