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Bethlehem, Pa., March 27, 2008— Juan Melendez and The Reverend Walter Everett will share their personal experiences and perspectives regarding the death penalty during a talk, “Voices of Hope, Agents of Change,” on Tuesday, April 1, 4 p.m., at Moravian College. The program is sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and the Pennsylvania Moratorium Coalition, and Moravian’s Amnesty International Club, the Pre-Law Club, and the Sociology Club. The program will be held in Prosser Auditorium in the Haupert Union Building on Moravian College’s Main Campus. It is open to the public and admission is free of charge.
Melendez spent 17 years, eight months, and one day on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit. Upon his exoneration and release from death row on January 3, 2002, he became the 99th death row prisoner in the country to be exonerated and released since 1973. Since his release, Melendez has traveled throughout the United States and Europe, speaking to audiences about his story of supreme injustice. He has presented at numerous colleges, law schools and conferences and touches audiences deeply with his incredibly personal approach.
When he is not speaking to groups, Melendez works in Puerto Rico in a plantain field where he counsels troubled youth who work alongside him. He is a board member of Witness to Innocence, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and an international spokesperson for the Canadian non-profit organization, Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted.
Reverend Walter Everett’s 24-year-old son Scott was shot and killed during an altercation in his apartment building. After hearing his expression of remorse in court, Everett began corresponding and eventually visiting with the man convicted of the murder, and three years later, testified in support of his being released on parole.
Everett has been active in several restorative justice organizations, including the Restorative Justice Task Force of the Christian Conference of Connecticut (for which he has served as chair) and the Hartford-based Board of Community Partners in Action. He has spoken before legislative committees in Connecticut and California. He currently serves on the board of Pennsylvania Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty.
The talk is part of a tour which began traveling Pennsylvania to spread awareness of the death penalty through the stories of victims and family members and to stop the injustice that plagues the criminal justice system, especially since Pennsylvania has one of the largest death row populations in the country.