"Rebuilding the Lives of the Wrongfully Convicted"

Juan Melendez


 voicesunited.juanbiophoto1 Convicted of: Murder and armed robbery
State: Florida
Served: 17 years
Released: 2002
Compensated by State: No
Current Status: Unemployed and unable to afford housing
Health Insurance: No

Then: On September 20, 1984, a jury found Juan Melendez guilty of murder and armed robbery, based primarily on false testimony that had been illegally coerced by the prosecution. There was no physical evidence implicating Juan, and the prosecution based their entire case on two key witnesses. One of these, David Falcon, admitted he was paid $5,000 from the police department for his cooperation and was never prosecuted for impersoanting an officer and illegally entering a married couple's house, threatening them, and firing bullets into their car. Juan was sentenced to death and sent to the Florida State Prison (now Union Correctional Institution) where he spent the next seventeen years. When a new investigator was assigned to Juan's case, she found large amounts of evidence which suggested Juan's innocence but had been withheld at the original trial. The evidence was eventually brought in front of a court and Juan was acquitted.

Now: When Juan was finally released, he went back to his mother and family in his hometown in Puerto Rico. His story had received considerable coverage and Juan returned to his hometown as a hero. Now he takes every opportunity he can to speak out against the death penalty. Although it's hard for Juan to remember, he believes it is important to give people the details. 

Hometown: Manunabo, Puerto Rico