Attorneys want court to withdraw; modify Harlingen mom’s execution date

Attorneys representing a Harlingen mother scheduled to be executed on April 27 are requesting that her execution date be withdrawn due to “innocence and other factors.”

Melissa Lucio

The attorneys filed a motion on Tuesday with the 138th state District Court in Cameron County requesting a warrant issued Jan. 18, 2022, setting Melissa Lucio’s execution date to be withdrawn or modified in order to have additional court proceedings and to provide newly discovered evidence, her legal counsel said.

The warrant was requested by the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office on Jan. 13, 2022. It was signed by Judge Gabriela Gabby Garcia, of the 138th state District Court on Jan. 18.

A Cameron County jury in 2008 found her guilty on one count of capital murder for causing the death of Mariah Alvarez. The little girl had been beaten. Lucio denies killing her daughter.

(Read: Group asks DA to rescind execution as Saenz stands by verdict in Melissa Lucio case)

On the night of Mariah’s death on Feb. 17, 2007, Lucio told police and EMS personnel that Mariah had fallen down some stairs, according to federal court documents.

Later that night, during a videotaped interview with investigators, Lucio explained that she had caused the bruises on Mariah’s body by spanking Mariah “real hard”… and Lucio said “nobody else would hit her.”

During an interview with a Texas Ranger Lucio later admitted she was responsible for her daughter’s death, authorities say. Lucio’s appeal’s attorney says she was coerced to confess.

“ Police immediately jumped to the conclusion that Mariah had been murdered and never considered medical and scientific evidence that could have established Mariah died after an accidental fall,” said Vanessa Potkin, Director of Special Litigation at the Innocence Project, and one of Melissa’s attorneys in a statement. “While pregnant with twins, Melissa was subjected to a five-hour, late-night and aggressive interrogation until, physically and emotionally exhausted, she agreed to say, ‘I guess I did it.’ Melissa suffered a lifetime of sexual abuse — starting when she was only six years old — and domestic violence, which made her especially vulnerable to the police’s coercive interrogation tactics.”

The motion reads the “States motion and the date setting are ill-advised, premature and will inevitably lead to additional needless litigation that would not serve either the interests or justice of the judicial economy. Ms. Lucio respectfully requests that the order and death warrant be withdrawn or modified.”

The motion listed the following reasons why the court should withdraw the order:

>>Lucio’s counsel have been developing factual evidence in her innocence, innocence of the death penalty and the state’s use of false testimony during the trial

>>The COVID pandemic and current upsurge in cases and hospitalizations due to the Omnicron variant have created formidable obstacles to further proceedings

>>The setting of a date so close to the statutory minimum of 91 days after the entering of the order setting the execution date will not allow Lucio a fair chance to present her case for clemency

>>Since December 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States has been considering a petition alleging violations of Lucio’s human rights and a request for precautionary measures

>>Lucio is similarly situated to John Ramirez whose execution was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court so that it could consider whether the Texas Department of Criminal Justice violated his rights to religious liberty

“ Ms. Lucio files this motion respectfully requesting the Court summarily withdraw or modify the current execution date as she has not yet afforded an opportunity to present these arguments.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the court had not filed a response to the motion.

Lucio is the first Hispanic woman on death row in Texas. She remains in custody at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville.