Melissa Lucio - latest: Attorneys make last-ditch bid with DA to stop execution as parole board mulls clemency

·15 min read

Melissa Lucio’s legal team has made a last-ditch bid to Cameron County DA Luis Saenz to save her life, pointing to his own promise under oath that he would step in and stop her execution before it’s too late.

Lucio’s attorneys filed a supplement to a previous motion on Monday asking the DA to withdraw the order setting her execution date for Wednesday at 6pm CT.

The filing includes “overwhelming evidence” that her execution would be “a miscarriage of justice” as well as Mr Saenz’s sworn testimony to the Texas House Interim Study Committee on Criminal Justice Reform earlier this month.

Mr Saenz said that if Lucio “does not get a stay by a certain day, then I will do what I have to do and stop it”.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is also meeting to decide whether to recommend Lucio’s death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment or that she be granted a 120-day execution reprieve.

Lucio was sentenced to death for the 2007 murder of her two-year-old daughter Mariah.

Her lawyers say she was coerced into a false confession during an aggressive police interrogation and that scientific evidence shows she died from a fall.

Melissa Lucio’s attorneys make last-ditch bid asking DA to stop execution – using his own words against him

17:39 , Rachel Sharp

Melissa Lucio’s attorneys have made a last-ditch bid to Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz asking him to withdraw her execution date, pointing to his own promise under oath to save the Hispanic mother-of-14’s life.

On Monday morning, Lucio’s legal team filed an additional supplement to a previous motion asking the DA to withdraw the order setting the 53-year-old’s execution date.

Mr Saenz requested Lucio’s death warrant and execution date and so he also has the power to withdraw the date at any time.

Yet, he has given mixed messages about whether or not he will step in and stop the execution.

Last week, during a contentious hearing led by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers, Mr Saenz initially refused to take any action to stop Lucio’s execution.

But, later in the hearing, Mr Saenz relented saying that he believes the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will issue a stay and that, if it doesn’t, he will.

“If defendant Lucio does not get a stay by a certain day, then I will do what I have to do and stop it,” he said.

Republican State Rep. Jeff Leach warned that he would hold the prosecutor to his promise saying “we got it on tape”.

Now – just 48 hours until Lucio will be put to death – Mr Saenz is yet to take any action to halt the execution.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has the full story:

Melissa Lucio’s attorneys make last-ditch bid to DA to stop execution

The famous names who are fighting for Melissa Lucio’s life

16:48 , Rachel Sharp

With two days to go until Melissa Lucio will be executed in Texas for a crime she says she didn’t commit, a growing number of famous faces have joined the fight to save her life.

Kim Kardashian drew national – and even global – attention to Lucio’s plight in early April by tweeting about the case to her 72.1m followers.

On 7 April, she shared a “heartbreaking” letter signed by the Texan mother’s children begging for her life to be saved and told her followers that there are many “unresolved questions” around Lucio’s case.

Amanda Knox has also joined in calls to stop Lucio’s execution, comparing the conviction of the mother of 14 for the murder of her two-year-old daughter Mariah to her own wrongful conviction in Italy for the murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher.

Ms Knox shared a Medium post about Lucio’s case on 19 April – just one week away from the execution date – saying that she wishes she could “welcome her into our exoneree family”.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has the full story:

The famous names fighting for Melissa Lucio from Kim Kardashian to Amanda Knox

Son says he’s thankful for support

16:12 , Gino Spocchia

Speaking after a “Call to Action” day on Saturday for Melissa Lucio, one of her sons told News 4 he was overwhelmed by the support for his mother.

“It means a lot to me that people are supporting my mom, sharing her story and speaking out on this injustice,” said Bobby Alvarez. “Knowing her date is four days away is very emotional. Very hard to grasp knowing my moms days are limited.”

Reports suggested as many as 16 rallies were held for Ms Lucio and her appeal for clemency ahead of a Wednesday execution date on Saturday, with the rallies stretching from San Antonio to Boston.

White House voices opposition to death penalty

15:50 , Gino Spocchia

Asked about Melissa Lucio’s case by The Independent this month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there was “nothing to predict” regarding the 53-year-old and her appeals for clemency.

Pointing to US President Joe Biden’s public position on the death penalty, Ms Psaki said:“Well, you know the president’s position and view on the death penalty, and there’s an ongoing review at the Department of Justice, at a federal level, this is obviously at a state level. I don’t have anything to predict beyond that.”

The remarks came as campaigners and Texas lawmakers called on Texas’s governor Greg Abbott to step-in and grant Ms Lucio a reprieve or a commuted sentence. Her lawyers say she was unfairly tried in 2008 for the death of her two-year-old daughter.

The Independent raises Melissa Lucio death penalty case before the White House

Catholic nun among supporters of Lucio

15:25 , Gino Spocchia

Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun who has spent decades campaigning for the death penalty to be abolished, wrote on social media that “psychological pressure and coercion” led MS Lucio to “admit to things that never happened”.

The author of the book Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, tweeted that “Melissa Lucio was interrogated by investigators trained to extract confessions, not to find the truth”.

“When psychological pressure and coercion are applied with clinical precision, people buckle and admit to things that never happened,” she continued, in comments echoing the 53-year-old’s lawyers.

As Rachel Sharp writes, Sister Prejean has previously witnessed the executions of two death row inmates who she spiritually advised in the 1980s:

Nun who wrote ‘Dead Man Walking’ joins calls to save Melissa Lucio

Former prosecutor was later jailed

15:00 , Gino Spocchia

Among the reasons why lawyers for Melissa Lucio and campaigners have called for her sentence to be commuted is the trial that lead to her being put on death row more than a decade go.

Armando Villalobos, the district attorney when Ms Lucio was convicted in 2008, allegedly pushed for a conviction of the mother to help his reelection bid, her lawyers now say.

In 2014, Villalobos was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison for a bribery scheme related to offering favorable prosecutorial decisions, The Associated Press reported.

Ms Lucio’s lawyers say new evidence also shows that her two-year-old daughter did not die of abuse, as argued by prosecutors, but rather an injury. She was also not able to show evidence against her “unreliable and coerced” confession, according to her lawyers.

What district attorney has said...

14:40 , Gino Spocchia

Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz told a hearing earlier this month that Melissa Lucio could get a stay of execution, which would temporarily delay the sentence.

Mr Saenz, whose office prosecuted the case following Ms Lucio’s daughter’s death in 2007, also aid he believed the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals would stop the execution, saying: “If defendant Lucio does not get a stay by a certain day, then I will do what I have to do and stop it.”

On Monday, the Texas parole board is expected to decide whether or not it recommends governor Greg Abbott stops the execution planned for Wednesday.

Johanna Chisholm has more

Melissa Lucio execution to be paused, DA says

Vigils held across US and Texas for Lucio

14:18 , Gino Spocchia

The community of Brownsville, Texas, was among those across the US to hold a vigil in support of halting the execution of a Melissa Lucio, of Harlingen.

At a vigil in San Juan, Texas, on Friday – one woman holding a “free Melissa Lucio” sign told reporters she had travelled from Chicago to show her support for the 53-year-old and her family.

A sign at a vigil for Melissa Lucio (AP)
A sign at a vigil for Melissa Lucio (AP)

Kim Kardashian attacked death penalty

13:55 , Gino Spocchia

Kim Kardashian used Twitter this month to call Melissa Lucio’s daughter’s death a “tragic accident”, but one that shouldn’t result in another life being taken.

“It’s stories like Melissa’s that make me speak so loud about the death penalty in general and why it should be banned when innocent people are suffering,” Ms Kardashian told her millions of followers, as Josh Marcus reports:

Kim Kardashian and others are rallying to stop ‘tragic’ execution of Melissa Lucio

Documentary maker says conviction ‘wrongful’

13:22 , Gino Spocchia

Sabrina Van Tassel, the director of the acclaimed 2020 documentary The State of Texas vs Melissa, told The Independent this month: “Melissa would never be where she’s at if she wasn’t a poor Hispanic woman. That’s a fact”.

Her film sought to show the many red flags in the prosecution that were always in plain sight, and how a second chance can be a rare, radical change in the status quo, as Josh Marcus reports:

‘Melissa Lucio has become a symbol,’ documentary director says as execution nears

Rare for women to be executed in US

13:00 , Gino Spocchia

Despite the death penalty existing in more than 20 US states, it is rare for a woman to be executed, according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit that opposes capital punishment.

Women have accounted for only 3.6 per cent of the more than 16,000 confirmed executions dating back to the colonial period in the 1600s, according to the group’s data. There have been 17 women executed since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to the group’s data.

Texas has put more women to death — six — than any other state. Oklahoma is next, with three, and Florida has executed two. The federal government has executed one woman since 1976.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Celebrities voice support for Lucio

12:36 , Gino Spocchia

Kim Kardashian and Amanda Knox are among the most famous faces to have called for Texas state officials to stop Melissa Lucio’s execution on Wednesday.

Ms Kardashian, an advocate for criminal justice reform, recently shared a tweet in support of the 53-year-old who could become the first Latina and woman executed in Texas since 2014.

Ms Know, who was famously acquitted of murdering a British student in Italy, has also railed behind Texas law makers, death penalty opponents, and Ms Lucio’s friends and family.

Rachel Sharp has more

Amanda Knox joins calls to halt execution of Texas death row inmate Melissa Lucio

Lawmakers call for end to execution

12:04 , Gino Spocchia

More than half of Texas’s Senate have called on state officials to stop the controversial execution of Melissa Lucio, which is set for Wednesday. The Texas House has also called for the state to stop the execution of the first Latina woman in the state.

Writing in a letter sent to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles this month, the lawmakers said granting her clemency was “an opportunity to prevent a miscarriage of justice that would undermine public trust in our legal system” and that “Ms Lucio’s case is one that gives even proponents of the death penalty pause”.

The parole board can recommend governor Greg Abbott stop the execution. He is expected to consider the body’s decision later on Monday.

Josh Marcus reports

Texas Senators urge state to stop ‘miscarriage of justice’ Melissa Lucio execution

What Lucio’s lawyers say

11:51 , Gino Spocchia

Melissa Lucio’s lawyers say new evidence shows that injuries sustained by her two-year-old daughter in 2007, including a blow to the head, were allegedly caused by a fall down a steep staircase.“I knew that what I was accused of doing was not true,” Ms Lucio wrote in a recent letter to Texas lawmakers. “Children have always been my world and although my choices in life were not good I would have never hurt any of my children in such a way”.

Her lawyers also say her murder conviction was based on an unreliable and coerced confession and that jurors were mislead into believing her daughter’s injuries only could have been caused by physical abuse and not by medical complications from a severe fall.

Prosecutors in Texas’s Cameron County have largely maintained that the child was the victim of child abuse, however. District Attorney Luis Saenz recently suggested he welcomed a reevalutation of the case.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Family rely on faith for Lucio’s return home

11:28 , Gino Spocchia

Speaking at a vigil held on Friday for Melissa Lucio in San Juan, Texas, her sister Sonya Alvarez told KHOU-TV: “We’re so grateful. We couldn’t carry this alone... I have the faith that our sister is going to come home”.

Friends and family gathered at the Basilica Of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle National Shrine for the vigil, which is among many in support of Ms Lucio.

Esperanza “Hope” Trevino, the 77-year-old mother of Ms Lucio, was pictured at the vigil praying for her daughter, who would become the first Latina to be executed in Texas and the first women elected in the state since 2014 if a last minute appeal fails.

A vigil for Melissa Lucio (AP)
A vigil for Melissa Lucio (AP)

Texas board to consider Lucio’s case

11:03 , Gino Spocchia

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles will considering a request to either commute Melissa Lucio’s death sentence to life imprisonment or to grant her a 120-day execution reprieve. Any decision by the parole board will however need Texas governor Gregg Abbott’s approval. The Republican has only granted clemency to only one death row inmate since taking office in 2015.

Appeals seeking to stop Ms Lucio’s execution – currently scheduled for Wednesday – are pending in state and federal courts also.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Jurors and prosectors expressed concerns about case

10:36 , Gino Spocchia

Nearly half of the jurors who sentenced Melissa Lucio to death have since called for her execution to be halted and for a new trial for the 53-year-old.

The prosecutor in the case, Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz, also said earlier this month he did not “disagree with all the scrutiny this case is getting. I welcome that”.

During a recent Texas House committee hearing on Ms Lucio‘s case, Mr Saenz had initially pushed back on requests to use his power to stop the execution, before later saying he would intervene if the courts did not act.

Ms Lucio, whose lawyers say evidence shows she did not cause her two-year-old daughter’s death in 2007, is now subject to a clemency hearing on Monday.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

EU calls on Texas governor to grant Lucio clemency

09:40 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The European Union (EU) has called on Texas governor Greg Abbott to reverse his state’s death sentence of Melissa Lucio.

The French ambassador to the US, Philippe Etienne, and the EU’s Ambassador to the US, Stavros Lambrinidis, co-signed a statement on behalf of the EU asking Mr Abbott to grant Lucio clemency.

“As you know, the European Union and its Member States have abolished the use of capital punishment in all circumstances,” the letter states.

“We firmly believe that it is possible to offer staunch support to all victims of abuse and crime as well as their families by rigorously and effectively prosecuting and punishing perpetrators, outside the framework of the death penalty,” it read.

Johanna Chisholm has more.

Europe calls on Texas governor to grant Melissa Lucio clemency as execution looms

Supporters hold 'Free Melissa Lucio' rally

09:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Supporters took out rallies across the United States over the weekend urging Texas governor Greg Abbot to spare the life of Melissa Lucio, who is on death row after being convicted of murdering her two-year-old daughter Mariah in 2007.

During the rallies, organisers attempted to collect signatures for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Mr Abbott.

Rallies were planned in Houston, Atlanta, Austin and 13 other states. “Melissa was interrogated for almost seven hours, just minutes after being taken in after her daughter’s death,” rally organizer Cody Huffman told KSAT-TV.

“Nothing there proves that she physically did anything to commit the crime that she was convicted of. And, but there is plenty of evidence that shows she is innocent of the crime,” Mr Huffman added.

Melissa Lucio’s son begs Texas to halt her execution

08:13 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Bobby Alvarez has been running from pillar to post to get authorities in Texas to halt his mother Melissa Lucio’s execution scheduled for 27 April.

Lucio, the only Hispanic woman on death row in Texas, has always maintained that she was wrongly convicted of the 2007 murder of her two-year-old daughter Mariah.

“It was very difficult than being put in foster care … you feel so alone and that no one is there for you. I cried every night wanting to be back with her, for my parents to come for us. I knew they weren’t coming but there was always that hope,” he told The Independent.

The 53-year-old mother of 14, along with multiple medical experts not heard at her trial, says that the little girl actually died from injuries caused by an accidental fall down the stairs two days before her death.

Rachel Sharp reports.

Melissa Lucio’s son begs Texas to halt her execution set for next week

07:38 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Welcome to The Independent’s coverage of the clemency hearing over Texas mother Melissa Lucio’s impending execution, and the calls from her supporters to spare her life.