Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Exonerated Man off Death Row

Speaker shares compelling story

October 1, 2008

Ann Wallace The Leaf-Chronicle Clarksville, TN

He spent more than 17 years behind bars on death row in a Florida prison for a crime he did not commit.

He is Juan Melendez who will be the featured speaker at two community forums scheduled at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Oct. 7 that free and open to the public.

Melendez was exonerated and released in 2002.

“He is very passionate about that not happening to someone else,” said the Rev. Jodi McCullah, director of the Wesley Foundation, the United Methodist Student Center adjacent to Austin Peay State University campus.

McCullah said the forums will be held in the Gentry Auditorium located in the Kimbrough Building on campus.

“We wanted to provide a thought provoking educational program on campus and this issue is something that I feel strongly about,” said McCullah.

Melendez has a compelling story to share.

“He spent 17 years, eight months and one day on death row for a crime that he did not do. His story is particularly interesting,” said McCullah who advocated a life without parole option instead of capital punishment.

The number of people released from death row across the country when evidence of their innocence emerged now stands at 130, according to McCullah.

Stacy Rector, executive director of the educational advocacy organization Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing, said 2007 data indicates Tennessee has 90 people currently on death row status which includes two women.

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