“Final Week Tonight” host John Oliver turned his consideration to wrongful conviction on Sunday. The comic not solely highlighted among the main contributing elements to wrongful conviction, however painted an image of how troublesome overturning a wrongful conviction could be.
Mr. Oliver additionally spotlighted a number of circumstances, together with these of Midwest Innocence Project consumer Lamar Johnson, who has maintained his innocence for greater than 26 years, and Innocence Mission consumer Melissa Lucio, who’s going through execution in Texas.
Ms. Lucio and her household had been transferring properties in 2007 when Mariah, the youngest of her 12 kids on the time, fell down a flight of stairs. The two-year-old, whose foot was turned in, was vulnerable to falling on account of a bodily incapacity and had a historical past of unintended head trauma. The kid’s accidents didn’t seem life-threatening after her fall, however, two days later, she took a nap and didn’t get up.
That very same night time, police took Ms. Lucio in for questioning. Although Ms. Lucio, a Mexican American whose household lived in poverty, had no report of violence and 1000’s of pages of protecting service data and recorded interviews along with her kids confirmed that she had no historical past of abuse, police rushed to judgment. They assumed that the kid’s accidents had been the results of abuse, ignoring Mariah’s important medical historical past.
Over 5 hours, police intimidated Ms. Lucio, berated her, and used coercive ways to stress her to admit to abusing her baby. Exhausted, grieving the lack of her daughter, and pregnant with twins, Ms. Lucio, a life-long sufferer of sexual abuse and home violence, lastly instructed the officers, “I don’t know what you need me to say … I assume I did it.” They ended the interrogation at that time.
Ms. Lucio’s assertion, as Mr. Oliver pointed outon “Final Week Tonight,” was a “confession that wasn’t even a confession.” Regardless of this, the prosecution at Ms. Lucio’s trial misconstrued her phrases, which had been meant to appease officers, as a confession. Utilizing this assertion, and regardless of ample proof exhibiting that she had by no means abused any of her kids, Ms. Lucio was convicted of homicide and sentenced to loss of life. She now faces execution on April 27.
Sign the Petition: Stop the Execution of Melissa Lucio in Texas
Roughly 28% of exonerated ladies had been wrongly convicted of harming a toddler, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. When ladies are accused of harming kids, they are usually demonized. This gender disparity can play out in sentencing and wrongful conviction. Whereas Ms. Lucio was sentenced to loss of life for her baby’s tragic, unintended loss of life, the kid’s father was convicted of the lesser cost of endangering a toddler and sentenced to 4 years in jail.
A number of judges have since concluded that Ms. Lucio’s trial was unfair, as Mr. Oliver highlighted. Nevertheless, they’ve additionally concluded that they had been unable to offer aid as a result of Anti-Terrorism and Efficient Loss of life Penalty Act (AEDPA) — a regulation that created a damaging set of procedural deadlines and obstacles that finally act as an extremely troublesome barrier for wrongfully convicted folks to beat in in search of justice.
Ms. Lucio is one in every of these folks.
In its protection of Ms. Lucio’s case, “Final Week Tonight” featured a clip wherein former Cameron County Assistant District Lawyer Alfredo Padilla says Ms. Lucio has “no person responsible however herself” for the grave injustice she has skilled. Mr. Oliver rebutted the declare, saying that the fault is “not hers,” however fairly that of “the cops who badgered her, the Texans who voted for a governor who appears unwilling to intervene … and also you [Padilla] for prosecuting based mostly on a confession that wasn’t even a confession.”
Mr. Oliver ended the phase by calling for a extra simply prison authorized system, describing the present system as one wherein individuals are “basically responsible till confirmed wealthy or fortunate.”
He emphasised the necessity for change, including, “We can’t preserve letting probably the most susceptible be casualties of a system that cares extra about fast and remaining choices than really right ones.”