A Death Row Exoneration.
Juan Melendez spent nearly 18 years on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit. Convicted of the brutal murder of Delbert Baker in 1984, Melendez was eventually exonerated in 2002.
But how does an innocent man get convicted of murder?
Barely able to understand English at the time of his arrest, Melendez unknowingly waived his rights. Even though Melendez had a strong alibi, more than 16 pieces of evidence proving his innocence were withheld by the prosecution during the trial. Less than a week after his trial began, Melendez was convicted and sentenced to death.
Additionally, Melendez’s conviction was bolstered by the testimony of two questionable witnesses: a police informant with a criminal record and a co-defendant who was threatened with execution, but received a deal for two years probation after testifying against Melendez.
Melendez’s exoneration was only possible after the discovery of a transcript of a taped confession from the real killer, which was found 16 years after Melendez was sentenced to death.
These errors can happen in any trial, but when the death penalty is involved, even one small mistake can put an innocent life at risk. Since 1978, 138 people nationwide have been exonerated because new evidence came to light after they were sentenced to die for crimes they did not commit. An execution cannot be undone. Replacing the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole is the only way to ensure that an innocent person is never at risk of being executed.