Texas woman’s imminent execution has even some former jurors rallying to try and stop it | CBC News


Practically half of the jurors who sentenced a Texas girl to die for the 2007 demise of one among her 14 kids have known as for her upcoming execution to be halted and for her to get a brand new trial.

Melissa Lucio, 52, is ready to be executed Wednesday for the demise of her two-year-old daughter Mariah in Harlingen, a metropolis of about 75,000 in Texas’s southern tip.

Her attorneys say new proof reveals that Mariah’s accidents, together with a blow to the top, have been attributable to a fall down a steep staircase, and plenty of lawmakers and celebrities equivalent to Kim Kardashian, an advocate for felony justice reform, and Amanda Knox — an American whose homicide conviction within the demise of a British pupil in Italy was overturned — have rallied to Lucio’s trigger. Prosecutors, although, keep that the woman was the sufferer of kid abuse.

Lucio’s attorneys have filed varied authorized appeals in search of to cease her execution. She additionally has a clemency software earlier than the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which is ready to think about her case Monday. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott might play a task in deciding Lucio’s destiny.

What are the problems?

Lucio’s attorneys say her capital homicide conviction was primarily based on an unreliable and coerced confession that was the results of relentless questioning over a interval of hours, throughout which she asserted her innocence dozens of instances. They are saying Lucio wasn’t allowed to current proof questioning the validity of her confession.

Her attorneys additionally contend that unscientific and false proof misled jurors into believing Mariah’s accidents solely might have been attributable to bodily abuse and never by medical problems from a extreme fall.

“I knew that what I used to be accused of doing was not true. My kids have all the time been my world and though my selections in life weren’t good I’d have by no means harm any of my kids in such a means,” Lucio wrote in a letter to Texas lawmakers.

Rachelle Zoca of Chicago holds an indication throughout a vigil for Lucio on the Basilica Of Our Girl of San Juan del Valle Nationwide Shrine on Friday in San Juan, Texas. Lucio is the primary girl of Hispanic descent in Texas to be sentenced to demise. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor/The Related Press)

Cameron County District Lawyer Luis Saenz, whose workplace prosecuted the case, has stated he disagrees with Lucio’s attorneys’ claims that new proof would exonerate her. Prosecutors say Lucio had a historical past of drug abuse and at instances had misplaced custody of a few of her 14 kids.

Throughout a generally contentious Texas Home committee listening to on Lucio’s case this month, Saenz initially pushed again on requests to make use of his energy to cease the execution, earlier than later saying he would intervene if the courts did not act.

“I do not disagree with all of the scrutiny this case is getting. I welcome that,” Saenz stated.

Armando Villalobos was the county’s district legal professional when Lucio was convicted in 2008, and Lucio’s attorneys allege that he pushed for a conviction to assist his re-election bid. In 2014, Villalobos was sentenced to 13 years in federal jail for a bribery scheme associated to providing beneficial prosecutorial choices.

Her attorneys additionally say Lucio’s sentence was disproportionate to what her husband and Mariah’s father, Robert Alvarez, acquired. He acquired a four-year sentence for inflicting harm to a toddler by omission although he additionally was liable for Mariah’s care, Lucio’s attorneys argue.

Who’s rallying on her behalf?

Greater than half the members of the Texas legislature have requested that her execution be halted. A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers travelled this month to Gatesville, the place the state homes feminine demise row inmates, and prayed with Lucio.

“Simply figuring out that Ms. Lucio’s case is on the market is sufficient to trigger me to lose numerous sleep,” Republican consultant Jeff Leach instructed a Dallas tv station final week.

“We must not be in any respect afraid to ask questions and ensure we’re not doubtlessly executing an harmless fellow Texan.”

Republican Jeff Leach is proven within the legislature in Austin, Texas, on April 12. He’s amongst a gaggle of lawmakers who’ve visited Lucio and are calling for clemency within the case. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman/The Related Press)

5 of the 12 jurors who sentenced Lucio and one alternate juror have questioned their choice and requested she get a brand new trial.

“She was not evil. She was simply struggling.… If we had heard passionately from the defence defending her indirectly, we would have reached a special choice,” juror Johnny Galvan wrote in an affidavit expressing doubts about her conviction.

Lucio’s trigger additionally has the backing of religion leaders equivalent to Sister Helen Prejean, the activist who’s lobbied for many years for the abolition of the demise penalty, and the case was featured on HBO’s Final Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Lucio’s household and supporters have been travelling all through Texas and holding rallies and screenings of a 2020 documentary about her case, The State of Texas vs. Melissa, which has streamed on Hulu within the U.S. and been broadcast on SuperChannel in Canada.

What may delay or cease the execution

Appeals in search of to cease Lucio’s execution are pending in state and federal courts.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is contemplating a request to both commute her demise sentence to life imprisonment or grant her a 120-day execution reprieve.

A call might finally fall to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has beforehand commuted a demise penalty sentence to life imprisonment in one other case. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman/The Related Press)

Any choice by the board to commute her sentence or grant the reprieve would want Abbott’s approval. The governor, who has granted clemency to just one demise row inmate since taking workplace in 2015, might additionally unilaterally challenge a 30-day execution keep. Abbott commuted a demise sentence to life with out parole for Thomas (Bart) Whitaker, who was convicted of fatally taking pictures his mom and brother. Whitaker’s father was additionally shot however survived and led the trouble to spare his son’s life.

Girls offenders are not often executed

Girls have accounted for under 3.6 per cent of the greater than 16,000 confirmed executions within the U.S. courting again to the colonial interval within the 1600s, in response to information from the Washington-based Dying Penalty Data Middle, a nonprofit that opposes capital punishment.

For the reason that U.S. Supreme Courtroom reinstated the demise penalty in 1976, 17 girls have been executed all through the nation, in response to the info. Texas has put extra girls to demise — six — than every other state, although not since 2014. Oklahoma is subsequent, with three, and Florida has executed two.

The federal authorities has executed one girl since 1976. Lisa Montgomery, of Kansas, acquired a deadly injection in January 2021 after the Trump administration resumed executions within the federal system following a 17-year hiatus. The Justice Division has halted executions once more below the Biden administration.


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