Death Row appeal continues: Lucio’s family, supporters embark on statewide tour

HARLINGEN — Family members of Melissa Lucio and their allies announced a statewide tour Wednesday to reveal what they claim is the real story of the Death Row inmate’s trial and conviction just 10 weeks from her execution date.

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

But her family and supporters, including Death Penalty Action and The Innocence Project, want Gov. Greg Abbott 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.

Melissa Lucio’s son John is embraced by his grandmother Esperanza Treviño while live-streaming the media event to announce their state-wide education campaign about Lucio’s case Wednesday at Treviño’s home in Harlingen.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Abe Bonowitz of Death Penalty Action, a group that wants to ban executions across the board, was at the north side home of Lucio’s mother, Hope Trevino, at a press event to kick off the tour, which begins Thursday in Corpus Christi.

“Ten weeks from tonight, in just a couple of hours, if the lawyers are not successful, if there is no mercy shown, then Melissa Lucio may be executed, 10 weeks from right now,” Bonowitz said. “We’re beginning a 12-city tour all across Texas to talk about these issues, to make sure people know about the film so they can watch the film, and understand that the more you know the less you like the idea we’re going to execute this person.

“Just like the death penalty,” he added. ”The more you know about the death penalty, the less you like it.”

The documentary film is “The State of Texas vs. Melissa,” and is available on Amazon Prime ($2.99 to rent, $8.99 to buy) as well as the streaming site Hulu (subscription required).

The director of the film, French-American journalist Sabrina Van Tassel, said the evidence in the case which her investigation uncovered cast the entire judicial process in doubt.

Director and journalist Sabrina Van Tassel of the documentary “The State of Texas vs. Melissa” shares her misgivings about how Melissa Lucio’s trial was conducted with media Wednesday at Melissa Lucio’s mother’s home in Harlingen.The Lucio family announced their plan at the media event to embark on a state-wide education tour alongside Van Tassel to spread information about the case and halt Lucio’s execution set for April 27th.(Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

“I have some words for you: Reasonable doubt,” Van Tassel said. “Once you watch the film, once you study the case, there’s just so many questions marks in this case. So many things that went wrong. I often say that everything that could have gone wrong in Melissa’s case went wrong. Every single thing, and you are about to execute someone without any evidence really that she did it.

“I have decided to come here and be with the family because after three years of investigating her case, I just cannot believe that she got an execution date,” Van Tassell added. “This is just a nightmare. I know there are many Melissa Lucios out there, and we’re trying to make a difference, I’m trying to make a difference.”

Events are scheduled in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Houston, Wichita Falls, Dallas, Abilene, Odessa, San Angelo, Waco and Austin. Film screenings followed by talk-backs with the director and family members will take place in Dallas on Saturday and Austin on Feb. 22.

Details are available on the Free Melissa Lucio web page,, and social media sites.