HOUSTON (AP) — Throughout several hours of relentless questioning, Melissa Lucio a lot more than 100 instances experienced denied fatally beating her 2-yr-previous daughter.
But worn down from a lifetime of abuse and the grief of dropping her daughter Mariah, her legal professionals say, the Texas woman eventually acquiesced to investigators. “I guess I did it,” Lucio responded when requested if she was liable for some of Mariah’s injuries.
Her attorneys say that assertion was wrongly interpreted by prosecutors as a murder confession — tainting the rest of the investigation into Mariah’s 2007 loss of life, with evidence gathered only to establish that summary, and assisting lead to her cash murder conviction. They contend Mariah died from injuries from a drop down the 14 steps of a steep staircase exterior the family’s apartment in the South Texas city of Harlingen.
As her April 27 execution day nears, Lucio’s lawyers are hopeful that new evidence, alongside with escalating community support — such as from jurors who now doubt the conviction and from more than half the Texas Dwelling of Reps — will persuade the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Greg Abbott to grant an execution reprieve or commute her sentence.
“Mariah’s death was a tragedy not a murder. … It would be an totally devastating concept for this execution to go ahead. It would ship a information that innocence does not issue,” explained Vanessa Potkin, one particular of Lucio’s lawyers who is with the Innocence Job.
Lucio’s attorneys say jurors never listened to forensic evidence that would have discussed that Mariah’s a variety of injuries had been truly induced by a tumble times before. They also say Lucio was not allowed to existing evidence questioning the validity of her confession.
The Texas Legal professional General’s Business office maintains proof reveals Mariah experienced the “absolute worst” situation of baby abuse her unexpected emergency home health care provider had witnessed in 30 a long time.
“Lucio even now advances no proof that is trustworthy and supportive of her acquittal,” the office environment wrote in court docket paperwork last thirty day period.
The Cameron County District Attorney’s Office environment, which prosecuted Lucio, declined to remark.
Lucio, 53, would be the 1st Latina executed by Texas and the very first lady since 2014. Only 17 females have been executed in the U.S. given that the Supreme Courtroom lifted its ban on the death penalty in 1976, most just lately in January 2021.
In their clemency petition, Lucio’s legal professionals say that although she had employed prescription drugs, primary her to temporarily reduce custody of her little ones, she was a loving mother who worked to keep on being drug-cost-free and give for her family members. Lucio has 14 little ones and was pregnant with the youngest two when Mariah died.
Lucio and her little ones struggled as a result of poverty. At moments, they have been homeless and relied on food banks for meals, in accordance to the petition. Boy or girl Protective Solutions was current in the family’s life, but there was hardly ever an accusation of abuse by any of her small children, Potkin explained.
Lucio experienced been sexually assaulted several occasions, beginning at age 6, and had been physically and emotionally abused by two husbands. Her legal professionals say this lifelong trauma made her vulnerable to providing a false confession.
In the 2020 documentary “The Point out of Texas vs. Melissa,” Lucio explained investigators kept pushing her to say she had damage Mariah.
“I was not gonna confess to resulting in her demise mainly because I wasn’t responsible,” Lucio stated.
Her lawyers say Lucio’s sentence was disproportionate to what her husband and Mariah’s father, Robert Alvarez, been given. He bought a 4-calendar year sentence for producing injury to a child by omission even though he also was responsible for Mariah’s care, Lucio’s attorneys argue.
In 2019, a a few-choose panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court docket of Appeals overturned Lucio’s conviction, ruling she was deprived of “her constitutional ideal to existing a significant defense.” Having said that, the entire court docket in 2021 mentioned the conviction experienced to be upheld for procedural motives, “despite the tricky situation of the exclusion of testimony that may have cast question on the credibility of Lucio’s confession.”
3 jurors and one particular alternate in Lucio’s trial have signed affidavits expressing uncertainties about her conviction.
“She was not evil. She was just having difficulties. … If we experienced listened to passionately from the protection defending her in some way, we could possibly have arrived at a diverse determination,” juror Johnny Galvan wrote in an affidavit.
In a letter previous month to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and to Abbott, 83 Texas Property associates claimed executing Lucio would be “a miscarriage of justice.”
“As a conservative Republican myself, who has extended been a supporter of the demise penalty in the most heinous scenarios … I have in no way observed a much more troubling circumstance than the case of Melissa Lucio,” reported condition Rep. Jeff Leach, who signed the letter.
Abbott can grant a 1-time, 30-day reprieve. He can grant clemency if a majority of the paroles board recommends it.
The board plans to vote on Lucio’s clemency petition two days prior to the scheduled execution, Rachel Alderete, the board’s director of aid operations, stated in an e mail. A spokeswoman for Abbott’s office environment did not return an electronic mail looking for comment.
Abbott has granted clemency to only a person death row inmate, Thomas Whitaker, given that getting business in 2015. Whitaker was convicted of masterminding the lethal shootings of his mom and brother. His father, who survived, led the energy to help save Whitaker, expressing he would be victimized all over again if his son was executed.
Lucio’s supporters have mentioned her clemency request is very similar in that her relatives would be retraumatized if she’s executed.
“Please allow us to reconcile with Mariah’s loss of life and try to remember her with out refreshing discomfort, anguish and grief. Make sure you spare the existence of our mother,” Lucio’s youngsters wrote in a letter to Abbott and the board.
Comply with Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70