texas death row

Family of Texas Woman on Death Row Fights to Spare Her Life

As the execution for Melissa Lucio nears, her family is on a statewide campaign to increase awareness about her case

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The family of Melissa Lucio planned a rally outside Dallas City Hall on Thursday, part of a statewide campaign to draw attention to Lucio's case and collect petition signatures urging Texas Governor Greg Abbott to spare her life.

"She's everything to us," John Lucio said of his mother. "I really think she's already served her time for being a neglectful mother, for the drug abuser that she was. I mean, I don't think any drug abuser or neglectful mother deserved death."

In 2008, Melissa Lucio was convicted of murder in her 2-year-old daughter Mariah's death. She's been on death row at Mountain View Unite Prison in Gatesville for 14 years. The family said Lucio was coerced into a false confession after repeatedly telling police the toddler accidentally fell down the stairs at the family's Harlingen, Texas apartment.

While prosecutors say there is no evidence that would acquit Lucio of her daughter’s death, her lawyers say jurors never heard forensic evidence that would have explained Mariah’s various injuries were actually caused by a fall days before her death. They also say Lucio wasn’t allowed to present evidence questioning the validity of her confession, which they allege was not actually a confession and was given under duress after hours of relentless questioning.

"The night everything happened I just remember seeing paramedics, Justice of the Peace, and I seen my sister getting placed in a bag," Lucio said. "The injustice, I mean, from that moment, from that night, my mother was 'guilty' automatically. She was 'so guilty' after repeatedly saying 'no' she did not hurt my sister."

Among those who have doubts about Lucio’s guilt are a bipartisan group of 83 Texas House members. They sent the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Greg Abbott a letter last month asking them to grant an execution reprieve or commute her sentence.

A spokeswoman for Abbott’s office did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

"Melissa Lucio was sexually and physically abused all her life and was coerced to confess to a crime that did not occur," organizers of the rally said in a statement.

State Rep. Victoria Neave Criado (D-Dallas, District 107), the vice-chair of the Texas House Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, and six other state legislators recently met with Lucio at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, where the state houses women on death row. Following the visit, Neave Criado released the following statement:

"Against the cold facade of Texas death row, Melissa Lucio sat with us, glowing and filled with hope, love for her family, and a profound faith that she will walk free one day. She stated that every day is a struggle, but it is through God's grace that she is here, and she will not stop fighting for justice. In that room, hand in hand with Melissa Lucio, we were not Republicans or Democrats, we were citizens of humanity inspired to urgent action to help prevent an irreversible injustice. I am grateful for the opportunity to have met with Melissa Lucio today alongside my colleagues of the Texas House of Representatives: Rep. Jeff Leach, Rep. Joe Moody, Rep. Rafael Anchia, Rep. Toni Rose, Rep. James White, and Rep. Lacey Hull."

Neave Criado, in partnership with Somos Tejas, will join other Dallas leaders in a rally at 6 p.m. Thursday outside Dallas City Hall. The event will include Melissa Lucio's family members as well as community leaders who are asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant Melissa Lucio a reprieve from execution.

If Lucio is executed later this month, she'd be the first Latina executed in Texas.

Melissa Lucio's case is highlighted on the Innocence Project website, which points out there was no evidence of abuse in the family.

"I'm very thankful for them considering my mother's case and believing in her innocence," Lucio said.

Lucio said he writes and visits his mother in prison often. Melissa Lucio's execution date is set for April 27.

"Please don't execute my mother," Lucio said. "I just ask that they take a deeper look into it, because they're not only executing my mother, they're executing many of us."

NBC 5 News and the Associated Press
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