Because the pandemic fades, states with lively capital punishment legal guidelines are resuming executions of their worst murderers. Over the approaching weeks as condemned murderers in Missouri, Arizona and Texas are scheduled for execution, dying penalty opponents have resumed their insistence that harmless individuals are going through execution. The most recent “wrongly convicted” posterboy is definitely a lady named Melissa Lucio. Lucio was convicted in 2007 for the homicide of her two-year-old daughter Mariah. ABC, CNN, CBS, Yahoo Information, Time and a number of other different information retailers are regurgitating the press releases from the Innocence Venture and different anti-death penalty teams which assert that Lucio was pressured to admit by police, and that medical proof proves that she didn’t commit the homicide. An instance is a story by Ed Pilkington within the April 21 problem of The Guardian, “Texas mom set for execution – but proof suggests she didn’t kill her baby.”
Pilkington tells us a tragic story of an abused, pregnant mom of 9 who’s daughter died after falling down stairs two days earlier. She was relentlessly interrogated by 5 police detectives till, after almost six hours, she broke down and commenced to “repeat the (incriminating) phrases that the investigators had successfully coached her to say….That coerced confession was the core proof offered at Lucio’s subsequent trial. It was essential to the jury’s responsible verdict, and to the dying sentence that adopted.”
The ways of anti-death penalty organizations had been effectively documented by the article. “A whole lot of spiritual our bodies, together with girls’s and home violence advocacy teams, have joined celebrities equivalent to Kim Kardashian to plead with Republican governor Greg Abbot and the state’s board of pardons to intervene. A documentary concerning the case, The State of Texas v. Melissa, was launched in 2020.”
Any person contacted and coordinated all these spiritual and advocacy teams and recruited the celebrities. Any person paid for the documentary and offered it to Hulu. Any person referred to as and harangued jurors with claims about new proof that exonerated Lucio, convincing 5 of them to assist a reprieve. The brand new proof consisted of discrediting the testimony of one of many detectives at Lucio’s interview who stated that primarily based on his lengthy expertise, her physique language prompt that she was mendacity when she initially denied guilt; a declare that the protection legal professional did not current proof supporting a mind harm when the toddler allegedly fell down stairs two days earlier than her dying; a declare that the jury was not allowed to listen to testimony from specialists concerning the propensity of victims of home violence to make a false confession; a problem to the presentation by the federal government pathologist concerning of bruises and chunk mark proof on the little woman’s physique ; and the post-conviction assertion of a pediatric forensic pathologist that the investigation into the kid’s dying seems to have been considerably prejudiced, making a threat of a miscarriage of justice.
If one didn’t know something past what the article offered, it could appear clear that Lucio’s conviction and dying sentence are a gross injustice.
Final yr the Fifth Circuit U.S. Courtroom of Appeals reviewed each declare raised by Lucio’s three authorities and 5 non-public attorneys. It needs to be famous that all the so-called new proof had been offered on a number of events in decrease state and federal courts over the previous fourteen years. On February 9, 2021 a divided courtroom rejected Lucio’s claims and upheld her conviction and sentence.
Right here’s an excerpt from the courtroom’s majority opinion:
On the evening of February 17, 2007, paramedics responded to a name on the residence shared by Lucio and her husband Robert Alvarez. The decision involved the couple’s younger daughter, Mariah. When the EMTs arrived, they discovered Mariah on the living-room ground. Nobody was close to her. Her physique was lined with bruises in varied levels of therapeutic, her arm had been damaged for a number of weeks, she had a chunk mark on her again, and a few of her hair had been pulled out. She was not respiratory. She had no pulse. The EMTs tried to resuscitate Mariah and rushed her to the hospital. Within the emergency room, a health care provider additionally tried to revive Mariah. These efforts had been unsuccessful. Mariah was pronounced lifeless. She was two years previous.
On the evening of Mariah’s dying, Lucio instructed the EMTs and the police that Mariah fell down the steps. Later that evening, throughout a videotaped interview with investigators, Lucio defined that she had induced the bruises on Mariah’s physique by spanking Mariah “actual laborious” and by pinching her vagina. Lucio stated “no one else would hit her.” As for the bitemark on Mariah, Lucio defined that two weeks earlier than Mariah’s dying, whereas Lucio combed Mariah’s hair, Lucio grew annoyed together with her different “youngsters leaping round.” Though Mariah had carried out nothing incorrect, Lucio “positioned [her] mouth over [Mariah’s] again and bit her.” In the course of the interrogation, Lucio denied ever punching Mariah, inflicting the scratches on Mariah’s face, hitting Mariah on the top, or killing Mariah. However she additionally instructed investigators, “I’m accountable for it.” Following the interrogation, Lucio made a cellphone name. A police officer who had been current with Lucio through the cellphone name testified that Lucio had instructed her sister, “Don’t blame Robert. This was me. I did it. So don’t blame Robert.”
The State of Texas charged Lucio with capital homicide. On the trial, Lucio’s sister took the stand and testified concerning the cellphone name. She denied that Lucio stated, “This was me. I did it.” Fairly, Lucio’s sister stated that they solely mentioned spanking, and that Lucio stated, “I might spank the youngsters.” Lucio’s sister additionally denied that Lucio spanked Mariah. Within the sister’s account, Lucio “by no means disciplined her kids.” The jury additionally heard testimony regarding Mariah’s accidents. The forensic pathologist who carried out Mariah’s post-mortem testified that her accidents weren’t the results of a fall: “[T]his is a baby that’s been overwhelmed. It is a battered baby.” Within the pathologist’s professional opinion, Mariah died from blunt-force trauma to the top. At trial, the emergency-room physician who tried to revive Mariah testified that this was the “absolute worst” case of kid abuse he’d seen in his thirty-year profession. To rebut this proof, Lucio’s medical professional opined that Mariah was bodily abused. However he additionally acknowledged that her dying may’ve been attributable to both a fall or being “[h]it by a robust pressure.”
The Pilkington article means that after experiencing years of home violence, “by no means instructed to the jury,” Lucio was “singularly susceptible to creating a false confession in the midst of a coercive interrogation.” He’s referring to a psychologist and a social employee Lucio’s protection legal professional wished to have testify on the trial. Each submitted statements to the protection legal professional about what they meant to current through the trial. Because the Fifth Circuit famous, neither prompt that their testimony would infer that Lucio made a false confession to the police. The choose denied their testimony on the trial, however allowed their testimony on the sentencing listening to.
Lastly, the Fifth Circuit documented a number of interventions of Texas Baby Protecting Providers starting in 1995, involving Lucio’s use of medication, the presence of medication in her new child kids, together with Mariah, a number of incidents of neglect, using medicine by her kids, and a two-year interval the place her kids had been put in foster properties on account of Lucio’s drug use and neglect. With out query, Baby Protecting Providers did not take the suitable motion to guard Lucio’s kids from her, however this doesn’t excuse her conduct. She was not mentally incompetent.
At trial, proof about Lucio’s troublesome life, together with proof of Lucio’s abusive childhood, abuse by the hands of her two husbands, and her psychological, emotional and drug issues was offered to the jury. Jurors voted unanimously to convict her of aggravated homicide and, after a separate sentencing trial, voted unanimously for the dying sentence.
That is, with out query, a troublesome case. However the suggestion that the police, the medical doctors, the prosecutors and the judges had been prejudiced towards Lucio, and that her conviction was unjust and dying sentence undeserved is insulting. If prosecutors had offered video of this lady beating her two-year-old daughter to dying with a baseball bat, Mr. Pilkington, Kym Kardashian and many of the others featured in his article would nonetheless be opposing her dying sentence.
My guess is Lucio’s sentence might be commuted.