For each of our exoneree interviews, we’re taking your questions that you want us to ask, and the answers will be able to be viewed in the online archive, which will contain the interviews in their entirety. However, we thought you might like to see the answers sooner than that, so we’re publishing them here on our blog after each one.

Juan Melendez spent 17 years, eight months, and one day on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit, before being exonerated in 2002. Here are his answers to your questions.

juancropFrom Terri Hunt: After the tape was discovered, were the real killers ever prosecuted?  

The person that committed the crime, in my opinion, was Vernon James. He was murdered, by a police officer – a police officer was charged for involuntary manslaughter – two years after I was convicted and sentenced to death. But I’m glad that Vernon James had a big mouth and confessed to so many people, and even left physical evidence behind, even was in possession of the jewelry that the victim owned. So I’m glad that he left so many evidence behind that later I was able to produce them and be free.

From Terri Hunt: Also, were any of the attorneys/prosecutors reprimanded for their misconduct?   Do you think prosecutors should be held accountable?

The only thing they did was this – the prosecutor was Mr. Harry Picker. When I got out they took him off the homicide section, they never gave him no more homicide cases. And I think he retired about 3 years ago.

They should all, everybody that’s involved in this injustice should be all held accountable for it. And that way we can stop them [from doing it to others]. That’s one thing, they should take the immunity away from them. When they know that they have an innocent man in their hands and they still process the crime, they should be held accountable for it, they should pay.

From Jim Misiano: Could you ask Juan how he knew so many of the details of the crime according to Luna’s testimony?

Luna Falcon all his talk, all he say about the crime was details that was already known to the general public, to the news media, to people talking, blah blah blah. Luna Falcon did not know nothing either. It was details that was already known to the general public. He know that the man was shot with a .38, all he had to do was to say well Juan told me he shot him with a .38. He know that the man was stripped of his jewelry, well Juan told me he stripped him of his jewelry, because all that was in the newspaper.

From The Injustice Archive: How was he able to keep up hope?

Pen pals help you a lot. Every time you get a letter….It helps a lot, it helps you to move on, because you feel like you not alone when they write. And the family support is very big. My mama and my aunts they play a big role in my survival. There’s a lot of times, I’m not going to lie to you, I came close to committing suicide. A lot of my friend committed suicide. I remember the time that I was very close to do it, a friend of mine, named Samuel Rivera, he just hanged himself. And it felt like an epidemic….And that’s what the demons used to tell me, said why you got to go through all this? You supposed to be a Puerto Rican man, a real macho, don’t satisfy them, satisfy yourself. You say you didn’t do it, you think they gonna believe you? They gonna kill you anyway.

So now when my friend killed himself , I nearly killed myself too. So I tell the runner, give me the garbage bag. So when the guard ain’t looking he swing that garbage bag inside my cell. I take that bag and I twist it all up. I made a rope, then I put a noose in it. Then I look at the bunk, and I look at the rope, and I say to myself, I better lay down and think about this a little bit more.

So I put the garbage bag under the bunk so when the guards come round doing their counting they don’t see it, and I laid down. When I laid down, amigo, I fall in a deep deep deep sleep. And I started dreaming that I’m a little kid again, doing the things I used to do when I was a little kid – the things that make me happy, the things that make me smile. I born in Brooklyn, New York, but I was raised in the island of Puerto Rico. They took me back when I was a just a little kid. And when I get up in the morning and I look to the east side, there’s a wonderful mountain, and if I walk 6 minutes towards the south, I find myself in the most beautiful beach in the world. At least to me.

So here I am, dreaming that I’m swimming in the beautiful Caribbean sea, the water’s warm, the sun is bright, the sky is blue. The palm trees look so good, it’s a beautiful day. Then, I get to see something that I never saw before. Four dolphins they coming my way, and then they pass me, and then they turn around. And a pair got on one side and a pair got on another side and they start flipping and jumping like dolphins do. I’m having a ball in there, I’m so happy.

Then, I look to the shore, and it’s a beautiful lady, waving at me, smiling at me. And she seems so happy. And I know in the dream why she is happy, She’s happy because I’m happy. That’s my dear mother. And I wake up, and when I wake up, the bunk smell like a beach.

So I got that rope that I was meant to take my life with and I walked straight to the toilet with it and I look at the toilet and I look at the rope and I say I don’t wanna die! And I flush it. It was lots and lots and lots of beautiful dreams. Every time I got depressed, every time I want out of there, every time suicide thoughts came to my mind, I would pray to God, send me a beautiful dream. And I was wise enough to grab all them dreams like a sign of hope that one day I would be out of there, I would be free.