Widespread Name for Clemency from Lots of of Texas Anti-Home Violence Teams, Baptists, Evangelicals and Catholics, Latino Organizations, and Exonerees; 5 Jurors File Declarations Expressing Assist for Reduction
(Austin, TX — March 22, 2022) At the moment, attorneys for Melissa Lucio submitted an utility for clemency to Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. New proof within the utility that the jury by no means heard reveals that Ms. Lucio, a sufferer of sexual abuse and home violence, was wrongly convicted and condemned to die for the unintended dying of her daughter, Mariah. Ms. Lucio is scheduled for execution on April 27, 2022.
The appliance consists of the declarations of seven nationally acknowledged specialists, together with scientists and forensic specialists, who’ve reviewed the proof and concluded that Ms. Lucio’s conviction was primarily based upon (1) an unreliable “confession” that’s primarily a mere “regurgitation” of information and phrases officers fed to her through the five-hour interrogation, and (2) unscientific, false proof that misled the jury into believing that Mariah should have been killed by bodily abuse, when the proof is definitely in keeping with a conclusion that Mariah died from medical problems after a fall. The appliance additionally paperwork that Ms. Lucioasserted her innocence greater than 100 occasions over 5 hours of the coercive interrogation.
“Mariah died from medical problems after an unintended fall. She was not murdered.”
Along with the brand new forensic analyses, in the present day’s utility consists of declarations from 4 jurors stating they’ve grave issues about proof withheld from them at Ms. Lucio’s capital trial and would assist aid. An extra juror, an alternate who heard the proof, however didn’t be part of deliberations, additionally submitted a declaration supporting aid for Ms. Lucio.
Lots of of Texas anti-domestic violence teams, Baptist, Evangelical and Catholic leaders, Latino organizations, exonerees of wrongful convictions, and Ms. Lucio’s kids additionally filed letters urging the Board and the Governor to grant Ms. Lucio clemency. (See Displays connected to utility.)
“Based mostly on a rush to judgement and a biased and insufficient dying investigation, the State extracted an unreliable ‘confession’ and used false scientific proof to convict Melissa Lucio of a criminal offense she didn’t commit and in reality by no means occurred. What we all know in the present day is that this: Mariah died from medical problems after an unintended fall. She was not murdered,” mentioned Vanessa Potkin, director of particular litigation on the Innocence Venture, and certainly one of Ms. Lucio’s attorneys.
Ms. Lucio’s Utility for the Commutation of Loss of life Sentence to a Lesser Penalty or, within the Different, a 120-Reprieve from Execution could be considered right here:
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A Rush to Judgement After a Tragedy
On February 15, 2007, as Ms. Lucio was shifting her household to a brand new dwelling, Mariah fell down a steep outside staircase resulting in their residence. After the autumn, Mariah’s accidents didn’t seem life-threatening, however two days later she fell asleep on her dad and mom’ mattress and didn’t get up. Mariah had bodily disabilities that made her strolling unstable and he or she had a historical past of falls, together with a latest fall at a preschool program the place she misplaced consciousness. On the time of her arrest, Ms. Lucio had no historical past of abusing her kids or violence of any form. (App. at pp. 2, 10-12.)
Two hours after Mariah’s dying, Ms. Lucio — grieving and in shock — was hauled into an interrogation room the place, for over 5 hours, armed, male cops stood over her, yelled at her, threatened her, berated her parenting, and repeatedly refused to just accept something lower than an admission to inflicting her daughter’s dying. Ms. Lucio was particularly susceptible to the aggressive, intimidating, and psychologically manipulative interrogation ways of the police and male authority figures resulting from her historical past of abuse, trauma, low IQ, and abnormally excessive ranges of suggestibility and compliance. (App. at pp. 15-17.)
After hours of steady interrogation, Ms. Lucio acquiesced, adopted their instructions, and gave in to their calls for. She was sleep-deprived — it was 3:00 within the morning by then — and pregnant with twins, emotionally and bodily exhausted by the threats and manipulation. (App. at pp. 15-17, 39.)
“I feel if I heard this proof I’ll have determined in another way.”
Two specialists on false confessions (together with police coach and interrogation skilled, David Thompson, and Dr. Gisli Gudjonsson, one of many world’s main specialists on false confessions) have analyzed Ms. Lucio’s interrogation and concluded that her admissions are “unreliable” and easily a “regurgitation” of the phrases and information that interrogators fed to her all through a extremely coercive interrogation course of. (App. at pp. 16, 39-42.)
Missing bodily proof or eyewitnesses connecting Ms. Lucio to Mariah’s dying, Cameron County District Legal professional Armando Villalobos — who’s now serving a 13-year federal sentence for bribery and extortion — characterised Ms. Lucio acquiescence through the interrogation as a “confession” to homicide. (App. at p. 19.)
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Mariah’s Loss of life Was Declared A Homicide Earlier than the Post-mortem Even Started
The appliance states: “[The State’s Medical Examiner] Dr. Farley, who was advised going into post-mortem that Ms. Lucio had ‘confessed’ to abusing Mariah, and who was accompanied within the post-mortem suite by two of the interrogating officers, assumed every thing she noticed was proof of abuse and ignored all proof on the contrary.” (App. at p. 20.)
At Ms. Lucio’s trial, the jury was advised that Mariah’s accidents might solely be defined by little one abuse and problems from an unintended fall had been unimaginable. That testimony was false. Dr. Farley failed in her obligation to rule out nonviolent medical explanations for Mariah’s situation earlier than speeding to agree with legislation enforcement’s judgment of abuse. (App. at pp. 19-20, 28.)
Seven specialists, together with nationally acknowledged medical and forensic scientists, have now reviewed the proof in Ms. Lucio’s case. Dr. Michael Laposata, the chairman of the Division of Pathology on the College of Texas Medical Department at Galveston, concluded that on the time of her dying Mariah had indications of Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC), a dysfunction that causes intensive bruising following a head trauma, just like the damage that Mariah suffered from her fall, or an an infection. (App. at p. 21.) As Dr. Laposata acknowledged in his declaration, DIC may cause profound bruising all through the physique with no trauma in any respect. “In sufferers with DIC, routine dealing with at dwelling or in a hospital setting may cause vital bruising. It isn’t potential to inform the distinction between a bruise from DIC and a bruise from abuse.” (Exhibit 6 at p. 2.)
“[Dr. Farley] didn’t assessment any of Mariah’s medical historical past to search for any clarification or contributing trigger to her accidents.”
Dr. Janice Ophoven, a pediatric forensic pathologist, concluded that Mariah’s post-mortem signifies she was in DIC on the time of her dying. Her information additionally present she had a persistent excessive fever, and was sufficiently dehydrated to expertise shock. The appliance states: “[S]teeped in extrinsic, biasing data, [Dr. Farley] didn’t assessment any of Mariah’s medical historical past to search for any clarification or contributing trigger to her accidents, conduct any primary laboratory exams to diagnose a coagulation dysfunction, and even carry out easy testing to substantiate the presence of an infection or sepsis.” (App. at p. 28.)
4 jurors who served on the jury that sentenced Ms. Lucio to die and one alternate juror have expressed grave issues in regards to the proof that they weren’t allowed to listen to. Juror Johnny Galvan acknowledged that “[t]he truth that you may’t pinpoint what brought about Mariah’s dying implies that [Melissa] shouldn’t be executed.” Juror Alejandro Saldivar acknowledged, “I feel if I heard this proof I’ll have determined in another way.” (App. at p. 3.)
Ms. Lucio’s Statements Have the Hallmarks of a False Confession
Over 5 hours, Ms. Lucio asserted her innocence 86 occasions verbally and 35 occasions non-verbally (shaking her head), however police refused to just accept any response that was not an act of contrition—suggesting to Ms. Lucio that the interrogation wouldn’t cease until she advised them what they needed to listen to. (App. at p. 15.) Whereas the overwhelming majority of interrogations final half-hour to as much as two hours, interrogations that elicit confessions later confirmed false final for much longer. “[T]he size of Melissa’s nighttime interrogation additional elevated the chance that she would falsely incriminate herself.” (App at pp. 16, 36-37.)
The interrogating officers used manipulative, psychological methods identified to trigger false confessions and disregarded Ms. Lucio’s a number of vulnerabilities, together with her shock and grief over her daughter’s dying hours earlier, bodily and emotional exhaustion, sleep deprivation, her excessive ranges of suggestibility and compliance, and low IQ. (App. at pp. 37-39.) Based on specialists, Ms. Lucio’s lifetime of sexual abuse, beginning at six years previous, and home violence by the hands of two companions, made her extraordinarily susceptible and vulnerable to falsely confessing throughout an interrogation by male cops, some armed, and one impliedly threatening to “beat [her] half to dying like that little little one was beat.” (App. at pp. 35, 42-47.)
“[T]he size of Melissa’s nighttime interrogation additional elevated the chance that she would falsely incriminate herself.”
Physician Gisli Gudjonsson, one of many world’s main specialists in false confessions, and David Thompson, an skilled from one of many nation’s prime interrogation coaching faculties, have reviewed the report of Ms. Lucio’s case and decided that Ms. Lucio “was relentlessly pressured and extensively manipulated” all through the various hours of interrogation and her statements bear the hallmarks of a coerced-compliant false confession. (App. at pp. 15-16.) Dr. Gudjonsson concluded that Melissa’s case presents a “very excessive” threat of false confession and in his “intensive forensic analysis of instances of disputed confessions internationally, the quantity, severity, and mixture of the chance components concerned through the prolonged interrogation are distinctive.” (App. at 16.) He additional defined Ms. Lucio’s “historical past of unfavorable/traumatic life occasions is related to elevated degree of suggestibility, compliance, and false confession . . . as a result of trauma considerably reduces the resilience of the trauma victims to deal with interrogative strain.” (App. at p. 37.)
Mr. Thompson famous, “Repetitive threats mixed with guarantees or strategies of leniency are identified to incentivize harmless topics to admit. These ways, alongside Ms. Lucio’s susceptibility and her way of thinking in a prolonged interrogation shortly after her daughter’s dying, are identified to have a considerable psychological influence on a topic’s decision-making” and located her statements are a results of fact-feeding or different ways utilized by investigators. (Exhibit 11 at pp. 5-6.)
False confessions elicited by guilt-presumptive police interrogations—just like the interrogation at concern right here—are a major explanation for wrongful conviction in the US. Of the 67 ladies listed on the Nationwide Registry of Exonerations who had been exonerated after a homicide conviction, over one quarter (17/67) concerned false confessions and practically one-third (20/67) concerned little one victims.
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Widespread Assist Throughout Texas for Clemency
Alarmed by the prospect of executing an harmless girl, who’s a lifelong survivor of sexual abuse and home violence, a large and numerous array of Texans are urging the Governor and the Board to grant Ms. Lucio clemency, together with:
- 225 anti-domestic violence/sexual assault organizations from Texas and throughout the nation;
- Over 130 Baptist, Evangelical and Catholic religion leaders in Texas, together with greater than 50 Baptist leaders, the Govt Director of the Hispanic Baptist Conference of Texas, and the Director of the Rio Grande Valley Baptist Affiliation;
- Greater than 30 teams that work on behalf of Latinos in Texas and throughout the U.S., together with the Nationwide Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL);
- Eighteen individuals wrongfully convicted of a criminal offense in a Texas state court docket, together with Hannah Overton and Michael Morton; and
- Twenty-six dying row exonerees, together with two from Texas.
Greater than 100,000 individuals, together with greater than 20,000 in Texas, have signed an Innocence Venture petition urging clemency for Ms. Lucio.
Ms. Lucio’s kids are additionally urging the Governor and the Board to not execute their mom. They’re Mariah’s brothers and sisters and Texas legislation requires that their needs be taken into consideration. (App. at pp. 1-2, 49-51.)
The religion leaders wrote to the Governor and the Board:
On this case, you have got a unprecedented alternative to indicate compassion for a lady and a household that has already suffered tremendously, first from the tragic dying of Mariah after which by the incarceration of Ms. Lucio. By the clemency course of, you alone can compensate for the rigidities of the judicial system, which has been unable to appropriate this injustice regardless of assist from quite a few federal judges. . . . In accordance with the shared values of our numerous non secular and religion traditions and within the title of mercy, we respectfully urge you to commute her dying sentence. (App. at p. 6.)
“In Melissa’s case, the authorized system’s failure to acknowledge the consequences of kid sexual abuse and home violence led on to the conviction and dying sentence of an harmless girl. In the meantime, her abusive companion is now a free man. Because of this Texans who’ve spent their lives serving to survivors of gender-based violence are pleading with the Board and the Governor to grant clemency to Melissa Lucio,” mentioned Professor Sandra Babock, director of the Cornell Middle on the Loss of life Penalty Worldwide, and certainly one of Ms. Lucio’s attorneys.