For High-Profile Inmate on Death Row, Time Is Short

Melissa Lucio to be executed Wednesday despite big push for new trial
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 25, 2022 11:30 AM CDT
For High-Profile Inmate on Death Row, Time Is Short
In this April 6 photo provided by Texas state Rep. Jeff Leach, Leach stands next to death row inmate Melissa Lucio during a visit by a group of seven lawmakers to the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas.   (Texas state Rep. Jeff Leach via AP)

Nearly half of the jurors who sentenced a Texas woman to die for the 2007 death of one of her 14 children have called for her upcoming execution to be halted and for her to get a new trial. Melissa Lucio, 52, is set to be executed Wednesday for the death of her 2-year-old daughter Mariah in Harlingen, a city of about 75,000 on Texas' southern tip. The AP provides a look at the broad issues:

  • Her lawyers say new evidence shows that Mariah's injuries, including a blow to the head, were caused by a fall down a steep staircase, and many lawmakers and celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, an advocate for criminal justice reform, and Amanda Knox—an American whose murder conviction in the death of a British student in Italy was overturned—have rallied to Lucio's cause.
  • Her lawyers have filed various legal appeals seeking to stop her execution. She also has a clemency application before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which is set to consider her case Monday. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott could play a role in deciding Lucio's fate.
  • If put to death, Lucio would be the first Latina ever executed by Texas and the first woman the state has put to death since 2014.
  • Prosecutors continue to maintain that the girl was the victim of child abuse. Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz, whose office prosecuted the case, has said he disagrees with Lucio's lawyers' claims that new evidence would exonerate her. Prosecutors say Lucio had a history of drug abuse and at times had lost custody of some of her 14 children.

  • More than half the members of the Texas Legislature have asked that her execution be halted. A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers traveled this month to Gatesville, where the state houses female death-row inmates, and prayed with Lucio.
  • Five of the 12 jurors who sentenced Lucio and one alternate juror have questioned their decision and requested she get a new trial.
(More death row stories.)

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