One of the feature documentaries that premiered at the Telluride Film Festival was Werner Herzog’s “Into the Abyss.” In it, Herzog’s cold but curious lens looked at a capital murder case that took place in Texas in 2001. Three people were killed, one man faces 40 years in prison and another was executed. But he was guilty. Juan Melendez was not.
On Wednesday, September 28, noon – 1:30 p.m., Telluride’s Christ Presbyterian Church hosts a special event, a screening of “Juan Melendez 6446″ followed by a discussion led by Colorado Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Melendez was a Puerto Rican migrant farmer raised in New York City and accused of murder in the state of Florida. While claiming his innocence, he was sentenced in five days and put on death row for 17 years, 8 months and 1 day before his exoneration on January 3, 2002. The story is told by Melendez himself, his mother, lawyers and friends. After his pardon, Melendez returns for the first time to the largest prison in Puerto Rico, Oso Blanco (White Bear), now closed. There he recreated some of his most difficult moments in jail. During his last appeal, an investigator working for Melendez’s layer finds the original transcript of the confession of the real killer tucked away in a box, a piece of evidence the jury never examined. “Juan Melendez 6446″ is a story about the power of will over a miscarriage of justice. (It was commissioned by the Puerto Rico Civil Liberties Commission.)
To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to what Christ Church’s Pat Bailey has to say.