UPDATE: Melissa Lucio Granted Stay Of Execution
“If they go through with it, they'll be killing an innocent woman,” Bobby Alvarez says of his mother.
On April 25, 2022, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution for Melissa Lucio, halting her execution scheduled for April 27.
“I thank God for my life. I have always trusted in Him,” Lucio said in a statement shared by her legal team, CNN reported. “I am grateful the Court has given me the chance to live and prove my innocence. Mariah is in my heart today and always.”
Lucio's case is now being sent back to the trial court to review new evidence.
Melissa Lucio Faces Execution For Her Baby's Death, Her Supporters Say She's Innocent
A Texas mother of 14 is scheduled to be executed on April 27 for killing her 2-year-old daughter 15 years ago — but she and her supporters insist it’s a crime she never committed.
On Feb. 17, 2007, police in Harlingen responded to a call about a toddler who never woke up from a nap.
The little girl’s mother, Melissa Lucio, claimed her daughter, Mariah Alvarez, had abrasions on her back and was covered in bruises because of a fall down a steep set of 14 steps two days earlier outside the family’s new apartment. At the time, Lucio said, the toddler didn’t appear to be hurt, ABC News reported, citing court records.
An autopsy determined Mariah’s cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, and the state arrested and charged Lucio with murder.
In a clemency petition filed with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on March 22, Lucio’s lawyers pointed out the child had fallen in the past, including when she lost consciousness after taking a tumble at day care in 2006, the year before she died.
“There are several potential causes and contributions to Mariah’s injuries and death that have nothing to do with intentional force,” pediatric forensic pathologist Dr. Janice Ophoven wrote in a declaration for the petition.
The discovery the child had disseminated intravascular coagulation, also known as DIC, was among the forensic evidence allegedly not examined in the case, Ophoven claimed. The blood-clotting disorder can cause considerable bruising to the body.
In the petition, Lucio’s attorneys alleged cops coerced a false confession from their client — key evidence that contributed to her conviction — by using aggressive interrogation techniques over the course of five hours, according to the Independent.
During questioning, Lucio, now 53, admitted to detectives she—at times—spanked her daughter, which may have caused some of the bruising, but she never confessed to using deadly force, her lawyers wrote.
“Over 100 times, she asserted her innocence. They refused to listen to her, sending the clear message that this interrogation wasn't going to stop until she told the officers what they wanted to hear,” Vanessa Potkin, director of special litigation at the Innocence Project and one of Lucio’s legal representatives, told CBS News.
Potkin continued, “Her so-called confession was the result of highly coercive interrogation tactics, some of which are so coercive that they're no longer used today.”
In the petition, Lucio’s attorneys claimed that detectives “manipulated” the mother, who was reportedly susceptible to the tactics because she was a survivor of sexual and physical abuse.
In 2008, a jury found Lucio guilty of murder, and she was sentenced to die by lethal injection.
Lucio “ended up on death row through a horrific combination of investigative missteps and a prosecution unhinged from the truth,” the petition reads, according to The Intercept.
Calls to delay or stop Lucio’s execution or grant her a new trial are increasing as the days tick by, including from multiple jurors who handed down the guilty verdict. In a segment dedicated to wrongful convictions, John Oliver covered Lucio’s ordeal on his show, Last Week Tonight, and he has continued to speak out about her case on Twitter.
And a bipartisan group totaling over half the members of the Texas House of Representatives recently wrote a letter to the state’s governor, Greg Abbott, and asked him to intervene.
“The system literally failed Lucio at every single turn,” said Republican Texas State Representative Jeff Leach, who has noted he’s “a supporter of the death penalty in the most heinous cases.”
Leach added, “And I am going to do everything that I possibly can in the coming days, in every way possible, legal, constitutional — and maybe in some ways we haven’t thought of yet — to delay and to prevent Ms. Lucio’s execution.”
Amanda Knox, the Seattle woman accused and ultimately cleared of murdering her 21-year-old British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italy, in 2007, recently discussed Lucio’s case.
“Merely refraining from killing Melissa Lucio will not be justice,” Knox, 34, wrote on Medium. “Justice, at the least the beginning of justice, would be an exoneration and immediate release from custody.”
Citing her experience in Italy, Knox recalled how the “more vulnerable [the accused] are, the easier it is for police” to elicit a false confession.
“After five hours of psychological abuse, Melissa Lucio did what many people do in that situation: she said whatever they wanted her to say to get out of that room,” Knox explained.
Bobby Alvarez, who was seven when his baby sister died, told CBS News of his mother’s impending execution: “If they go through with it, they'll be killing an innocent woman.”