Yesterday I attended a talk at University of New Haven given by Juan Melendez, a man who was convicted of murder, sentenced to death, and spent 17 years on death row awaiting execution.
There was just one little problem...he was innocent.
After spending the better part of two decades waiting for the State of Florida to take his life, evidence of prosecural misconduct surfaced, causing a judge to reexamine the case.
Turns out the prosecutor received a taped confession from the real killer about a month before the trial, and he decided to suppress the evidence rather than risk his case. Prosecutors have immunity to misconduct charges in Florida.
Since his exoneration on Jan. 3, 2002, Mr. Meléndez-Colón has been sharing his incredible story about the injustices of the death penalty. He is on the boards of Witness to Innocence and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and his story has been the subject of the documentary called "Juan Melendez 6446."
Rep. Mike Lawlor (D-East Haven) is a professor of criminal justice at UNH, and he discussed the current state of the death penalty in Connecticut for a documentary on the topic that I'm involved with. Mike spoke about the reality of the current law, which is basically nobody is likely to be executed in this state unless they want to be executed. Only one person in Connecticut over the last 50 years has been executed, and that was Michael Ross, who fought for 10 years for the right to be executed. Had he fought against it, he'd probably still be alive.
And early next year, the issue will surely be addressed again by the legislature, which is expected to once again pass a repeal bill which will make its way to the new governor's desk. Dan Malloy has already said he'll sign it. Tom Foley stands on the side of the death penalty supporters.