Juan Roberto Meléndez-Colón spent 17 years, eight months, and one day on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit, before being exonerated in 2002.
The crime in Juan’s case was particularly brutal. The victim was Delbert Baker, a white man, who was shot three times and his throat slashed, leaving the crime scene drenched in blood.
Juan, who could not afford an attorney, was convicted and sentenced to death within a week, even though there was no physical evidence against him. Had it not been for the fortuitous discovery of a transcript of the taped confession of the real killer 16 years after Juan was sentenced to death, he almost certainly would have been executed. Ultimately, it came to light that the prosecutor had systematically withheld exculpatory evidence.
Since his release from death row, Juan has shared his story with tens of thousands of people in the United States, Canada, and Europe. His story is featured in the internationally-acclaimed documentary, Juan Meléndez 6446.
When asked why he is tireless in his efforts to educate the public on the death penalty, Juan responds, “I have no choice. I left a lot of good people behind in there and they’re killing them. I owe it to them, and I will not stop until we have abolished the death penalty in every corner of this nation!” Juan lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his partner, Judi Caruso, a board member of Witness to Innocence.