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Last NameFirst NamePictureDC NumberAgencyCase Summary
MelendezJuan 046466 Case Summary

Last Action

DateCourtCase NumberLast Action
1/3/2002  Released

Current Attorney


Last Updated

2008-01-09 11:43:13.0

Case Summary
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DC#    046466

DOB: 05/24/51


Tenth Judicial Circuit, Polk County, Case # 84-1016

Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Edward R. Threadgill

Trial Attorney: Roger Alcott, Esq.

Direct Appeal Attorney: Marshall G. Slaughter, Esq.

Collateral Appeals Attorney: Martin J. McClain, CCRC-N


Date of Offense:         09/13/83

Date of Sentence:       09/21/84


Circumstances of Offense:


On the evening of 09/13/83, the body of Delbert Baker wasfound in the back room of his cosmetology school in Auburndale, Florida.  Mr. Baker’s throat was slashed and he had been shot in the head and shoulders. His jewelry (four diamond rings, watch, and gold bracelet) and $50 in pettycash were missing, but the business receipts from the day were found in hisbriefcase. 


Juan Melendez was arrested and charged with First-DegreeMurder and Armed Robbery on the basis of an allegation by an acquaintance ofMelendez, David Falcon, who alleged that Melendez confessed to the crime whilethe two were doing cocaine together. 


Falcon testified at trial that Melendez claimed that he andan accomplice went to Baker’s cosmetology school with the intent of robbinghim.  According to Falcon, Melendez’s accomplice slashed Baker’s throat,Melendez shot Baker, and the two cleaned up any fingerprints and took thejewelry and money. 


John Barrien testified at trial that he, his cousin GeorgeBarrien, and Melendez drove to Auburndale on 09/13/83 so that Melendez couldget his hair done and pick up some money.  John Barrien dropped Melendez andGeorge Barrien off at Baker’s cosmetology school and picked them up two hourslater.  Neither Melendez nor George Barrien had any blood on them or theirclothes when they were picked up.  According to John Barrien, on the next day,he took George Barrien to the train station, so that George could take a trainto Wilmington, Delaware to visit his children.  While at the train station,Melendez gave two rings and a watch to George and asked him to sell them in Wilmington. 


George Barrien testified at the trial, during which hedenied riding in the car with Melendez and said he had seen Melendez only oncebefore at John Barrien’s house. 

Melendez’s girlfriend, Dorothy Rivera, testified at trialthat Falcon told her that he was going to falsely testify against Melendez. She also testified that she was with Melendez on the night of the murder, whichwas corroborated by her sister’s testimony. 


A prisoner named Roger Mims testified at trial that hiscellmate, Vernon James, told him that he [James], his partner, and another manrobbed and killed Baker.


Prior to trial, Vernon James, who was incarcerated on othercharges, was interviewed by Melendez’s attorney, Roger Alcott.  In a tapedstatement, James admitted that he was sexually involved with Baker and had beenat Baker’s cosmetology school when he and his two accomplices killed Baker.  AnFDLE agent interviewed James, and he again admitted his presence at the killingof Baker.  A State Attorney investigator also interviewed James and, again,James admitted his involvement in the murder, although this interview was neverdisclosed to the defense.  At trial, James invoked his Fifth Amendment rightsand refused to testify.  The judge ruled that the testimony of the FDLE agentthat James had confessed to was inadmissible hearsay evidence.  The defensecounsel failed to offer his taped interview of James as evidence. 



Trial Summary:


09/20/84          Juryreturned guilty verdicts on the following charges:

                                    CountI            First-Degree Murder

                                    CountII          Armed Robbery

09/21/84          Sentencedas follows:

                                    CountI            Death

                                    CountII          Life Imprisonment


Codefendant Information:


John Barrien wasarrested, but pled no contest to charges of Accessory After the Fact, inexchange for testifying against Melendez, and was sentenced to two years probation.


George Barrien was nevercharged.


Additional Information:


On 03/25/75, Melendez wassentenced to 10 years imprisonment for an Armed Robbery conviction and wasreleased on 07/01/82.


Appeals Summary:


Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal

FSC# 66,244

498 So.2d 1258


11/30/84          Appealfiled

12/11/86          FSCaffirmed convictions and sentences


Trial Court – 3.850 Motion

Case# 84-1016


01/16/89          Motionfiled

07/12/89          Trialcourt denied Motion


Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Motion Appeal

FSC# 75,081

612 So.2d 1366


11/30/89          Appealfiled

11/12/92          FSCaffirmed denial of 3.850 Motion

02/18/93          Rehearingdenied and Mandate issued


U.S. District Court, Middle District – Petitionfor Writ of Habeas Corpus

USDC# 93-662


04/19/93          Petitionfiled

01/04/02          USDCadministratively closed case


U.S. Supreme Court – Petition for Writ ofCertiorari

USSC# 93-5528

510 U.S. 934


08/06/93          Petitionfiled

10/18/93          USSCdenied Petition


Florida Supreme Court – Petition for Writ ofHabeas Corpus

FSC# 82,570

644 So.2d 983


10/18/93          Petitionfiled

09/08/94          FSCdenied Petition

11/16/94          Rehearingdenied


Trial Court – 3.850 Motion

Case# 84-1016


09/22/94          Motionfiled

07/17/96          Trialcourt denied Motion


Florida Supreme Court – 3.850 Motion Appeal

FSC# 88,961

718 So.2d 746


09/16/96          Appealfiled

06/11/98          FSCaffirmed denial of 3.850 Motion

09/15/98          Rehearingdenied

10/15/98          Mandateissued


Trial Court – 3.850 Motion

Case# 84-1016


10/19/00          Motionfiled

12/06/01          Trialcourt granted Motion and ordered a new trial


Clemency Hearing:


02/10/88          Clemencyhearing held (denied)


Case Information:


Melendez filed a DirectAppeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 11/30/84, citing errors in policeevidence-gathering, the trial court’s failure to grant a mistrial when twodefense witnesses refused to appear in court to testify, and aggravatingfactors that were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  The FSC affirmed theconvictions and sentences on 12/11/86.


Melendez filed a 3.850Motion with the Trial Court on 01/16/89, citing issues involving ineffectiveassistance of counsel and the fundamental fairness of the trial.  The TrialCourt denied the Motion, without an evidentiary hearing, on 07/12/89.


Melendez filed a 3.850Motion Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 11/30/89. The FSC affirmed the denialof the 3.850 Motion on 11/12/92.


Melendez filed a Petitionfor Writ of Habeas Corpus with the U.S. District Court, Middle District, on04/19/93 that was administratively closed on 01/04/02.


Melendez filed a Petitionfor Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on 08/06/93 that was deniedon 10/18/93. 


Melendez filed a Petitionfor Writ of Habeas Corpus with the Florida Supreme Court on 10/18/93, allegingineffective assistance of counsel.  On 09/08/94, the FSC denied the Petition,finding it to be without merit.


Melendez filed a 3.850Motion with the Trial Court on 09/22/94, seeking to present newly discoveredevidence that another man, Vernon James, killed Baker.  At an evidentiaryhearing held on May 23rd and 24th  of 1996, Melendezcalled five witnesses, all of which testified as to James’ involvement in themurder, yet the court found that the witness testimony fell short of thestandard required to grant a retrial.  The Trial Court denied the Motion on07/17/96.   


Melendez filed a 3.850Motion Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 09/16/96, citing issues ofnewly discovered evidence, the State’s failure to disclose exculpatory evidenceregarding John Barrien’s statements to police, and ineffective assistance ofcounsel.  The FSC affirmed the denial of the 3.850 Motion on 06/11/98. 


Melendez filed a 3.850Motion with the Trial Court on 10/19/00, citing newly discovered evidence, theState’s failure to disclose exculpatory evidence, and ineffective assistance ofcounsel.  Melendez’s newly discovered evidence consisted of the transcript ofthe taped interview of Vernon James by Melendez’s original trial attorney,notes from State Attorney files relating to interviews that the State held withJames, and new witnesses who claimed that James implicated himself in the Bakermurder.  The ineffective assistance of counsel claim focused on the defensecounsel’s failure to investigate an interview that James had given to JohnBarrien’s trial counsel, implicating himself in the murder of Baker.  On12/06/01, the Trial Court granted the 3.850 Motion and ordered a retrial. 


On 01/03/02, the Statedecided to drop the charges after one witness, John Barrien, recanted much ofhis testimony and another witness, David Falcon, had died in the late 1980’s. 


Law Enforcement/Prosecution Statements:


The following statement was taken from Hardy Pickard,Assistant State Attorney for the Tenth Judicial Circuit:


According to Mr. Pickard, Juan Melendez was released fromdeath row due to the fact that “given the current state of the facts, the Statedid not believe that it could prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.” Further, Mr. Pickard stated that if the State went to trial against Melendez,he would be found not guilty. 


Mr. Pickard noted that both the recanted testimony ofBarrien and the death of Falcon, the only witnesses against Melendez, led tothe decision of the State to not continue the prosecution against Melendez,thus leading to his release from death row. 


Defense Statement:


The following statement was taken from Martin McClain,collateral defense counsel for Juan Melendez:


Mr. McClain noted two prominent problems that led to therelease of Juan Melendez from death row:  serious Brady violations coupled withineffective assistance of counsel. 


The Brady violations came from the State withholdingevidence of another person’s confession to the crime, and after indictment,taking sworn statements from both state and defense witnesses without thedefense counsel being present and not disclosing this evidence to the defense. Mr. McClain noted that this practice was contrary to Florida case law, and healso expressed a concern that this practice of taking post-indictmentstatements was perhaps a systemic problem, indicating that the same stateattorney had done this in the past, or that other state attorneys had alsoparticipated in this behavior. 


McClain indicated that the ineffective assistance of counselwas an issue due to the failure of the original trial defense counsel topresent the tape-recorded confession of Vernon James as evidence in theoriginal trial.  James confessed to a number of state agents, although thetrial jury never heard any of the testimony. 


Another issue in the Melendez case that Mr. McClainmentioned as problematic was the fact that the jury foreman lied during voirdire, hiding the fact that both he and his wife knew the victim of the crime. Also, Mr. McClain noted that in an interview with a local newspaper, theforeman admitted to convincing the last holdout to convict by using a pictureof Melendez and saying that “someone with that haircut [afro] had to havecommitted the crime.”  What was most troublesome to McClain about the behaviorof the jury foreman was that Florida Bar Rules prevent the defense counsel frominterviewing jurors about improprieties that occurred during deliberationsunless given court permission.  The only way this information was exposed wasthrough the admission of the jury foreman. 


Current Status:


Melendez was releasedfrom Union Correctional Institution on 01/03/02. 


Alternate Suspect:


Vernon James was murderedin 1986. 



Report Date:   06/19/02          JFL

Approved:       08/14/02          WS

Updated:         08/14/02          JFL