A bipartisan group of about 90 Texas lawmakers late Thursday afternoon were to hand over a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles requesting they give clemency to a Harlingen mom sitting on death row for killing her toddler daughter.
Six members of the House held a press conference in Austin Thursday morning to discuss their support for clemency or a reprieve for Melissa Lucio.
State Rep. Lacey Hull, R-Houston, said she and others who were able to attend the press conference and those who were unable, are fighting for Lucio’s life.
“This case is especially troublesome maybe the most questionable and concerning death penalty case Texas has seen in quite some time. As policy makers, we have an obligation to stand up and speak up, especially those of us who consider ourselves to be prolife, pro-woman and pro-law and order. And that is exactly what we are doing today,” Hull said.
Hull said no matter how awful Mariah’s death is “and how we all want justice for Mariah, the facts simply do not support any conclusion that Ms. Lucio committed capital murder and is deserving of the ultimate punishment by the state of Texas.”
Lucio’s execution date is scheduled for April 27, 2022.
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.
State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, said Lucio’s remaining children want to see their mother live and have all filed victim impact statements asking that their mother’s life be spared. “They are wanting to see their mother live.”
“The people who are alive to tell Mariah’s story and advocate for Mariah, all are saying do not kill Melissa and that is the most important thing,” Anchia said.
On the night of Mariah’s death on Feb. 17, 2007, Lucio told police and EMS personnel that her daughter had fallen down some stairs, according to federal court documents.
Later that night, during a videotaped interview with investigators, Lucio explained that she has 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, prosecutors said. Lucio’s appeal’s attorney says she was coerced to confess.
“The Criminal Justice System, ladies and gentlemen, is a human system and by definition is a fallible system and as a coequal branch of government, we stand here as legislators to talk to the executive, to talk to the legislative, to talk to the judicial and ensure that justice is done,” Anchia said. “It is our job, it is our roll, it is our calling.”
Others present at the press conference were Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, Joe Moody, D-El Paso, Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, and James White, R-Hillister.
Many religious leaders have also stepped in on Lucio’s behalf, even Bishop Daniel E. Flores, of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, asking that Lucio’s life be spared.
Abbott is believed the first Roman Catholic governor in the state of Texas.
Leach said he had spoken to Abbott’s office and voiced concerns about his reservations and concerns about Lucio’s case.
“I know the governor and I believe that the governor cares deeply about innocent life. The governor, may be more so than most Texans knows our system of justice in Texas, having served as a Supreme Court justice and then attorney general prosecuting these cases and now as our governor, and so I believe very strongly that the governor knows the right thing to do and in many cases the governor has done the right thing standing up for innocent life and it would be my hope that he will do the right thing here as well and I have no reason to believe that he won’t,” Leach said.
Lucio’s legal team Tuesday filed an application for clemency to Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
The attorneys are seeking that Lucio be granted clemency or a 120-day reprieve so additional information in her case can be presented.
According to attorneys representing Lucio, new evidence that the jury never heard showed that Lucio was a victim of sexual abuse and domestic violence and was wrongly convicted.
According to Tivon Schardl, assistant federal public defender with the Capital Habeas Unit, the Board of Pardons and Paroles usually won’t make a recommendation for or against clemency to the governor until a few days prior to the scheduled execution.
“In a case with this much new evidence of innocence it’s imperative that they act more quickly and that they recommend a reprieve or that the governor exercises his authority to grant a reprieve so that there can be a hearing and the evidence can be heard fully,” Schardl said.