More than 40 people gathered Friday night, January 14, 2011 at the Diabetes Empowerment Center to hear members of the Puerto Rico Coalition Against the Death Penalty speak on the struggle to abolish the death penalty, not in Puerto Rico, as would be expected, but against Puerto Ricans in the US. Carmelo Campos Cruz and Mariana Nogales, representatives of the Coalition, were introduced by Jan Susler, activist and attorney for Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar López Rivera. Juan Roberto Meléndez, who spent 17 years on Death Row in Florida before being exonerated in 2004 on the basis on a prior confession from another man, which had been ignored by the original prosecuting attorney also spoke.
Carmelo and Mariana spoke about the different facets of the Coalition’s work, telling the audience that the Death Penalty, per se, was illegal in Puerto Rico, as it was explicitly abolished in the Puerto Rican Constitution. Juan Melendez and Judy Caruso, an anti-death penalty activist and attorney spoke about his case and showed a documentary, “Juan Melendez- 6446″ and urged the audience to get involved in the current state legislation to abolish the death penalty.