In 2008, Melissa Lucio was sentenced to demise in Texas for the homicide of her 2-year previous daughter Mariah, who died two days after a tragic fall down a flight of stairs. In shock and grieving the lack of her child — the youngest of her 12 youngsters on the time — Ms. Lucio was taken into police custody and instantly blamed for her daughter’s demise.
Final month, the State of Texas scheduled Ms. Lucio’s execution for April 27, for against the law that by no means occurred. On Feb. 8, attorneys for Ms. Lucio filed a motion to withdraw or modify her looming execution date, however Ms. Lucio’s life continues to be in jeopardy.
Learn and share these key info earlier than Texas makes the irreversible mistake of killing an harmless girl.
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1. Mariah’s demise was a tragic accident not a homicide.
Mariah fell down a flight of stairs whereas the household was transferring houses on Feb. 15, 2007. The toddler had a light bodily incapacity that made her unstable whereas strolling and liable to tripping. Two days later, she took a nap and didn’t get up.
As an alternative of taking the steps to find out about Mariah’s well being historical past and investigating the causes of her accidents, authorities instantly jumped to the conclusion that she had been murdered and, by a coercive interrogation, pressured Ms. Lucio to make a false assertion.
Almost 1 in 3 exonerated women had been wrongly convicted of harming youngsters or different family members of their care and almost 70% had been wrongly convicted of crimes that by no means occurred in any respect — occasions that had been accidents, deaths by suicide, or fabricated — in line with information from the National Registry of Exonerations.
2. Melissa has maintained her innocence for 14 years.
Ms. Lucio has maintained her innocence on demise row for greater than 14 years. Mariah had fallen earlier than this tragic accident and appeared unhurt after the autumn. Ms. Lucio repeatedly stated she didn’t hurt Mariah in the course of the interrogation till coerced by cops.
3. The state offered no proof that Melissa abused any of her youngsters.
1000’s of pages of Baby Protecting Companies data present that Ms. Lucio’s 12 youngsters by no means stated she was violent with them. No bodily proof confirmed in any other case.
“The State offered no bodily proof or witness testimony establishing that Lucio abused Mariah or any of her youngsters, not to mention killed Mariah,” Decide Catharina Haynes wrote on behalf of the seven dissenting judges from the U.S. Courtroom of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
“The jury was disadvantaged of key proof to weigh: that’s the level.”
Ms. Lucio struggled at instances to offer for her household, however was a caring mom, who did her greatest given her extremely tough circumstances.
4. Melissa is a survivor of a lifetime of sexual abuse and home violence.
Ms. Lucio is a survivor of life-long, repeated sexual assault and home violence. She was sexually abused by a member of the family starting on the age of 6.
Ms. Lucio endured abuse all through her childhood and into her teenage years. At 16, she grew to become a baby bride to flee. Nonetheless, Ms. Lucio’s husband perpetuated the cycle of abuse. Nonetheless a minor and unable to depart the abusive marriage, Ms. Lucio was trapped and developed a substance use drawback. Her husband later deserted her and their 5 youngsters.
Ms. Lucio had 9 youngsters, together with Mariah, along with her subsequent companion, who was additionally abusive, repeatedly raped her, and threatened to kill her.
5. Melissa was coerced by police the identical night time her daughter died.
Detectives jumped to judgment and simply two hours after Mariah died, took Ms. Lucio in for questioning. In the course of the interrogation, officers berated and intimidated Ms. Lucio, who was pregnant and in shock from the lack of her little one, for 5 hours. Analysis has proven that survivors of sexual abuse and violence, like Ms. Lucio, are extra susceptible to falsely confessing underneath such coercive situations.
Ms. Lucio repeatedly maintained her innocence in the course of the interrogation. However officers continued to interrogate and intimidate her, solely stopping when she gave in to their calls for saying, “I suppose I did it,” at 3 a.m. to get them to finish the interrogation.
6. The jury didn’t hear Melissa’s protection.
The jury by no means discovered in regards to the extent of Ms. Lucio’s historical past of kid sexual abuse and home violence and the way it formed her reactions instantly following her daughter’s demise. The trial courtroom prohibited this testimony however allowed the Texas Ranger who coerced Ms. Lucio’s incriminating assertion to testify for the prosecution that Ms. Lucio’s slumped posture, passivity, and failure to make eye contact instructed him that she was responsible.
With out that context, the jury convicted Ms. Lucio’s of capital homicide based mostly on her assertion and the Texas Ranger’s testimony about her distant conduct in the course of the interrogation.
The omission of this significant proof was notably damaging as a result of the prosecution had a weak case for capital homicide, and a fair weaker case for a demise sentence. Ms. Lucio had no prior document of violence.
7. Cameron County D.A. Armando Villalobos was operating for re-election and looking for a “win.” He’s now serving a 13-year federal jail sentence for bribery and extortion.
Missing strong bodily proof, Cameron County District Lawyer Armando Villalobos offered Ms. Lucio’s conciliatory assertion to the jury as a “confession” to murder and sought the demise penalty, a “win” he thought would assist him get re-elected. Immediately, the previous district lawyer is serving a 13-year federal jail sentence for bribery and extortion.
8. Melissa’s wrongful conviction has torn her household aside.
Ms. Lucio, who has 14 youngsters, has suffered a grave injustice. Her youngsters, who ranged from 2 to fifteen on the time of her arrest, had been nonetheless within the treasured moments of rising up when the demise of their sister and their mom’s wrongful incarceration devastated them. Ms. Lucio gave start to her youngest youngsters — twin boys — whereas in jail and needed to give them up for adoption attributable to her wrongful incarceration. The remainder of her youngsters had been break up up and despatched to dwell with family or positioned within the custody of the state.
“Texas tore this household aside by the cruelty and injustice of Ms. Lucio’s wrongful conviction. Her youngsters, mom, and siblings have been traumatized by Ms. Lucio’s arrest, prosecution, and demise sentence,” stated Tivon Schardl, chief of the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Defender for the Western District of Texas, and one in every of Ms. Lucio’s attorneys.
The prison authorized system failed her and her household, and if it executes her, it should proceed to take action.
9. Communicate out earlier than Texas makes an irreversible mistake — time is operating out.
The Cameron County’s new district lawyer, the courts, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, and Gov. Abbott should undertake a significant assessment of Ms. Lucio’s innocence declare, the coercive ways utilized in her interrogation, and the tragic circumstances of Mariah’s unintentional demise, earlier than an irreversible injustice happens.
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You probably have skilled sexual abuse and wish to communicate to somebody, name the free and confidential Nationwide Sexual Assault hotline (1-800-656-HOPE or 1-800-656-4673). You may also obtain assist by way of on-line.rainn.org, which is accessible 24/7.