Lawyers for a Texas girl who is denied she fatally beat her 2-yr-vintage daughter are hopeful new proof will forestall her execution
HOUSTON — During hours of relentless wondering, Melissa Lucio extra than one hundred instances had denied fatally beating her 2-yr-vintage daughter.
But worn down from a life-time of abuse and the grief of dropping her daughter Mariah, her legal professionals say, the Texas girl sooner or later acquiesced to investigators. “I bet I did it,” Lucio spoke back while requested if she became chargeable for a number of Mariah’s accidents.
Her legal professionals say that announcement became wrongly interpreted through prosecutors as a homicide confession — tainting the relaxation of the research into Mariah’s 2007 dying, with proof amassed handiest to show that conclusion, and assisting cause her capital homicide conviction. They contend Mariah died from accidents from a collapse the 14 steps of a steep staircase out of doors the own circle of relatives’s condo withinside the South Texas town of Harlingen.
As her April 27 execution date nears, Lucio’s legal professionals are hopeful that new proof, at the side of developing public aid — consisting of from jurors who now doubt the conviction and from extra than 1/2 of the Texas House of Representatives — will convince the nation’s Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Greg Abbott to furnish an execution reprieve or go back and forth her sentence.
“Mariah’s dying became a tragedy now no longer a homicide. … It could be an actually devastating message for this execution to head forward. It could ship a message that innocence doesn’t matter,” stated Vanessa Potkin, one in every of Lucio’s lawyers who’s with the Innocence Project.
Lucio’s legal professionals say jurors in no way heard forensic proof that might have defined that Mariah’s numerous accidents have been honestly due to a fall days earlier. They additionally say Lucio wasn’t allowed to provide proof wondering the validity of her confession.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office keeps proof suggests Mariah suffered the “absolute worst” case of infant abuse her emergency room medical doctor had visible in 30 years.
“Lucio nonetheless advances no proof this is dependable and supportive of her acquittal,” the workplace wrote in courtroom docket files closing month.
The Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted Lucio, declined to comment.
Lucio, 53, will be the first Latina finished through Texas and the primary girl seeing that 2014. Only 17 ladies had been finished withinside the U.S. for the reason that Supreme Court lifted its ban at the dying penalty in 1976, maximum these days in January 2021.
In their clemency petition, Lucio’s legal professionals say that even as she had used drugs, main her to briefly lose custody of her youngsters, she became a loving mom who labored to stay drug-loose and offer for her own circle of relatives. Lucio has 14 youngsters and became pregnant with the youngest while Mariah died.
Lucio and her youngsters struggled via poverty. At instances, they have been homeless and trusted meals banks for meals, in keeping with the petition. Child Protective Services became gift withinside the own circle of relatives’s existence, however there has been in no way an accusation of abuse through any of her youngsters, Potkin stated.
Lucio were sexually assaulted more than one instances, beginning at age 6, and were bodily and emotionally abused through husbands. Her legal professionals say this lifelong trauma made her liable to giving a fake confession.
In the 2020 documentary “The State of Texas vs. Melissa,” Lucio stated investigators saved pushing her to mention she had harm Mariah.
“I became now no longer gonna admit to inflicting her dying due to the fact I wasn’t responsible,” Lucio stated.
Her legal professionals say Lucio’s sentence became disproportionate to what her husband and Mariah’s father, Robert Alvarez, received. He were given a four-yr sentence for inflicting harm to a infant through omission despite the fact that he additionally became chargeable for Mariah’s care, Lucio’s legal professionals argue.
In 2019, a three-decide panel of the fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Lucio’s conviction, ruling she became disadvantaged of “her constitutional proper to provide a significant protection.” However, the entire courtroom docket in 2021 stated the conviction needed to be upheld for procedural reasons, “no matter the tough difficulty of the exclusion of testimony that would have solid doubt at the credibility of Lucio’s confession.”
Three jurors and one exchange in Lucio’s trial have signed affidavits expressing doubts approximately her conviction.
“She became now no longer evil. She became simply struggling. … If we had heard passionately from the protection protecting her in a few way, we’d have reached a unique decision,” juror Johnny Galvan wrote in an affidavit.
In a letter closing month to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and to Abbott, eighty three Texas House individuals stated executing Lucio could be “a miscarriage of justice.”
“As a conservative Republican myself, who has lengthy been a supporter of the dying penalty withinside the maximum heinous cases … I even have in no way visible a extra troubling case than the case of Melissa Lucio,” stated nation Rep. Jeff Leach, who signed the letter.
Abbott can furnish a one-time, 30-day reprieve. He can furnish clemency if a majority of the paroles board recommends it.
The board plans to vote on Lucio’s clemency petition days earlier than the scheduled execution, Rachel Alderete, the board’s director of aid operations, stated in an e-mail. A spokeswoman for Abbott’s workplace did now no longer go back an e-mail looking for comment.
Abbott has granted clemency to handiest one dying row inmate, Thomas Whitaker, seeing that taking workplace in 2015. Whitaker became convicted of masterminding the deadly shootings of his mom and brother. His father, who survived, led the attempt to store Whitaker, announcing he could be victimized once more if his son became finished.
Lucio’s supporters have stated her clemency request is comparable in that her own circle of relatives could be retraumatized if she’s finished.
“Please permit us to reconcile with Mariah’s dying and recollect her with out sparkling pain, agony and grief. Please spare the existence of our mom,” Lucio’s youngsters wrote in a letter to Abbott and the board.