Melissa Lucio: Efforts to Stop Texas Woman’s Execution


Nearly half of the jurors who sentenced a Texas woman to death for the death of one of her 14 children in 2007 have called for a halt to her upcoming execution and for her to appear in court for a new trial. .

Melissa Lucio, 52, will be executed Wednesday for the death of her 2-year-old daughter Mariah in Harlingen, a city of about 75,000 people in the extreme south of Texas.

Her attorneys say new evidence suggests Mariah’s injuries, including a blow to the head, were caused by a fall down a steep flight of stairs, and that many lawmakers and celebrities like Kim Kardashian, a criminal justice reform advocate, and Amanda Knox – an American convicted of murdering a British student in Italy and exposed – rallied to Lucio’s cause. However, prosecutors maintained that the girl was a victim of child abuse.

Lucio’s attorneys filed various legal appeals seeking to block her execution. She also has a clemency application before the Texas Board of Amnesty and Amnesty, which will review her case on Monday. Republican Governor Greg Abbott could also play a role in determining Lucio’s fate. If executed, Lucio would be the first Latina executed by Texas and the first woman the state has executed since 2014.

Here’s what to know as Lucio’s approach approaches:


Lucio’s attorneys say her original murder conviction was based on an unreliable and forced confession, the result of relentless questioning and a history of sexual, physical and emotional abuse her lasting feelings. They said that Lucio was not allowed to present evidence that questioned the validity of her confession.

Her attorneys also argued that unscientific and misleading evidence led jurors to believe Mariah’s injuries were likely caused only by physical abuse and not by medical complications from a severe fall. .

“I know that what I am accused of is not true. My children have always been my world and although my choices in life are not good, I will never hurt any of my children. own in such a way,” Lucio wrote in a letter. for Texas legislators.

Cameron District Attorney Luis Saenz, whose office prosecutes the case, said he disagreed with attorney Lucio’s claim that the new evidence would vindicate her. Prosecutors say Lucio has a history of drug abuse and has at times lost custody of some of his 14 children.

During the sometimes controversial Texas House committee hearing on Lucio’s case this month, Saenz initially denied a request to use his power to halt the execution, before saying he was. will intervene if the court does not act.

“I disagree with all the scrutiny this case is receiving. I welcome that,” Saenz said.

Armando Villalobos was the district attorney when Lucio was convicted in 2008, and Lucio’s attorneys allege that he pushed the verdict to help him get re-elected. In 2014, Villalobos was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison for a bribery conspiracy involving making favorable prosecution decisions.


More than half of the members of the Texas House of Representatives and Senate requested a halt to her execution. This month, a group of bipartisan Texas lawmakers went to Gatesville, where the state holds female death row inmates, and prayed with Lucio.

Five of the 12 jurors convicted Lucio, and a replacement juror questioned their decision and asked for a new trial. And Lucio’s cause also has the backing of faith leaders and was featured on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”

Lucio’s family and supporters have toured Texas and held rallies and screened the 2020 documentary about her case, “Texas State vs. Melissa.”


Appeals seeking to block Lucio’s execution are pending in state and federal courts.

The Texas Parole and Amnesty Board is considering a request to reduce her death sentence to life in prison or grant her a 120-day pardon.

Any decision by the parole board to reduce her sentence or grant pardon will require Abbott’s approval. The governor, who has pardoned only one death row inmate since taking office in 2015, could also unilaterally enact a 30-day execution period. Abbott reduced the death sentence to life without parole for Thomas “Bart” Whitaker, who was found guilty of shooting dead his mother and brother. Whitaker’s father was also shot but survived and led the effort to save his son’s life.


According to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit that opposes the death penalty in the United States, it is rare for a woman to be executed. Women make up just 3.6% of the more than 16,000 confirmed executions in the US dating back to colonial times in the 1600s, according to the group’s data.

Since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 17 women have been executed nationwide, according to figures. Texas has killed more women – six – than any other state. Oklahoma was followed by three, and Florida executed two.

The federal government has been executing a woman since 1976. Lisa Montgomery, of Kansas, was injected with the lethal drug in January 2021 after the Trump administration resumed executions in the federal system after 17 years. intermittent year. The Justice Department has halted executions again under Biden’s administration.

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