HARLINGEN — With an execution date set for April 27, supporters of Melissa Lucio set up in the parking lot of a Harlingen barbecue spot late Wednesday afternoon hoping to win the attention of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Abbott was in the city to participate in a private political event at Smoke: Texas BBQ and Watering Hole on Harrison Avenue.

Lucio was convicted by a Cameron County jury of capital murder in 2008 in connection with the death of her daughter, Mariah Alvarez, who authorities said had been beaten.

But her family and supporters, including the Innocence Project, want the governor to grant Lucio clemency or be given a new trial. The prosecutor at her trial, Armando Villalobos, was later convicted in a bribery and extortion case and was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Lucio’s defenders point to a documentary film now airing on the Hulu network and Amazon Prime, “The State of Texas vs. Melissa,” which they say reveals new evidence in the case that should result in clemency or at least a new trial.

“We hope to get our message across, and our message is to please give my sister clemency,” said Sonya Alvarez on Wednesday at the rally. “Please watch the documentary, there’s a lot of doubts.

“We’re hoping for a new trial, we’re begging for a new trial, but we’re also begging for clemency,” Alvarez added. “We believe in my sister’s innocence. She was wrongfully convicted by Cameron County. The district attorney was Armando Villalobos, who served time for bribery, conspiracy and many other charges.”

This week Lucio’s attorneys filed a motion requesting that her execution date be withdrawn due to “innocence and other factors.” The motion was filed with the 138th state District Court in Cameron County seeking to have her execution date withdrawn or modified in order to schedule additional court hearings to present new evidence in the case.

Family and friends of Melissa Lucio wave banners at cars entering the venue Wednesday outside a campaign fundraiser for Governor Greg Abbott at SMOKE: Texas BBQ and Watering Hole in Harlingen. The Lucio family and friends gathered outside the event to urge the governor to watch the documentary “The State of Texas vs. Melissa” and halt Lucio’s execution set for April 27th. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Outside the restaurant in the parking lot, dozens of signs were erected in support of those attorneys’ efforts to obtain clemency from the governor or to be granted a new trial.

“Free Melissa Lucio,” one read, and on the back, “Watch the Film.”

“End the death penalty now” read another, along with “What if we got it wrong?”

Yet another sign read, “Do you trust the government?”

“We’re trying to have Greg Abbott take a deeper investigation into my mother’s case, and look at all the evidence that was left out,” said John Lucio. “There was an abundance of evidence left out. And that’s what these signs are for, they say watch the film. Because the film has a lot of the evidence that was left out … all of these are now documented.”

John Lucio urged the governor to act in time.

“He is the one that’s going to be the one to look into it and stop this death penalty, either by clemency or acquittal or what-not,” John Lucio added. “But we ask him to look deeper into this case of an innocent woman. She’s innocent. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing for her if she wasn’t innocent.”

Organizers plan a statewide public education tour this month featuring the director of the film on the case, Sabrina Van Tassel, who will travel with Melissa Lucio’s family members and supporters across the state.

Melissa Lucio’s supporters also are working with Death Penalty Action, which is helping them to raise awareness and has created a web page to allow people to sign a petition seeking clemency or a new trial at https://freemelissalucio.org

The Innocence Project also has launched its own petition at its website, https://innocenceproject.org

To see more photos of the rally, view Brownsville Herald photojournalist Denise Cathey’s full photo gallery here: 

Photo Gallery: Family, supporters of convicted mom rally in Harlingen