The Champion

May 2009 , Page 59 

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By Gail Chasey

The Whole World Is Celebrating With Us

Juan Roberto Melendez spent 17 years, eight months, and one day on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit. His case was upheld on appeal three times by the Florida Supreme Court. Only after the discovery of a taped confession of the real killer, 16 years after he had been sentenced to death, was Juan able to prove his innocence.

In New Mexico, with a population of just under two million, and with only two people currently on death row, we have four exonerees — more than the state of Texas, which has only three exonerees. Those four on New Mexico’s death row were at one time just nine days away from the gas chamber. Then, just as in Juan’s case many years later, the confession of the real killer — who incidentally had killed again while the four innocent men were on death row — saved their lives.

Only seven percent of death penalty cases filed in New Mexico actually result in a death sentence. Sixty-eight percent of those convictions are ov

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