Juan Catalan was getting ready for work one morning when the police stormed his house and arrested him for a murder he didn’t commit. This semester, Juan and his defense attorney, Todd Melnik, spoke to a standing-room only class of Public Safety Administration majors and other Woodbury students about the harrowing events that followed.
At the core of their presentation was a message about how poor police and prosecutorial work almost sent the wrong person to death row. They also discussed how Todd Melnik built a defense case that saved Juan Catalan’s life. The evening the crime was committed, Juan had been at a Dodger’s game with his daughter, but stadium footage was too grainy to identify him definitively. By a remarkable coincidence, Larry David was shooting an episode of his hit show Curb Your Enthusiasm that evening in the section of Dodger Stadium where Catalan and his daughter where sitting. Melnik was able to find cut material in the archive that captured Catalan’s image clearly. This, along with a few additional key pieces of evidence, helped prove Melnik’s case.
Public Safety Administration students had an opportunity to engage both Catalan and Melnik with questions about how to conduct in-depth research, the frequent unreliability of witness identifications, and the dangers of prosecutors more eager to win cases than learn the truth.