Shuttle efforts underway delaying mother’s scheduled execution
Texas Gov. Greg Abbot is being increasingly called upon to grant clemency to Melissa Lucio, who is to be executed later this month.
The 53-year-old domestic abuse victim and mother of 14 has been on death row since her trial for the death of her two-year-old daughter in 2007.
Her attorneys argue she “falsely” admitted to killing Mariah after hours of intense police questioning and that she died because she fell down a steep flight of stairs in front of her home in Harlingen, South Texas, and not because she was beaten may be.
Worn down by her grief and lifelong abuse during aggressive interrogation, Lucio eventually admitted to a crime she did not commit, her lawyers say.
On October 18, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to hear Lucio’s case, paving the way for the state of Texas to set a date for her execution — to be carried out on April 27 by lethal injection
In a bipartisan letter to Gov. Abbott, 83 members of the Texas House called it “a miscarriage of justice.” Kim Kardashian, who has campaigned on several high-profile death row cases, also joined the calls for a clemency.
Most persuasively in an editorial in The Houston Chronicle On April 3, Johnny Galvan Jr., a juror at her trial, wrote that he was misled about the facts of the case and gave in to “peer pressure” when he changed his sentence from life imprisonment to the death penalty. He now says he was wrong.
Reunion with the Julius Jones case
In November 2021, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt overturned the execution of Julius Jones, a death row black inmate who has long maintained his innocence in the 1999 murder that put him behind bars. The announcement came just hours before Jones was due to die by lethal injection.
“After careful consideration and review of the materials submitted by all sides of this case, I have decided to commute Julius Jones’ sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Gov. Stitt said in a statement.
The Jones family, along with supporters of the broader Justice for Julius movement, were at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in the city of McAlester when they heard the news, the culmination of a two-decade campaign to get Julius released.
Josh Marcus covered the case for The Independent.
Oliver O’ConnellApril 6, 2022 2:00 p.m
A lifetime of trauma led to a false confession
Lucio, 53, would be Texas’ first executed Latina and the first woman since 2014. Only 17 women have been executed in the US since the Supreme Court overturned its ban on the death penalty in 1976, most recently in January 2021.
In her clemency plea, Lucio’s attorneys say that although she had used drugs, which caused her to temporarily lose custody of her children, she was a loving mother who worked to stay drug-free and provide for her family. Lucio has 14 children and was pregnant with the youngest two when Mariah died.
Lucio and her children struggled through poverty. According to the petition, they were at times homeless and dependent on food banks for their meals. Child protection services were present in the family’s life, but according to Vanessa Potkin, one of Lucio’s attorneys who is with the Innocence Project, there have never been allegations of abuse by any of her children.
Lucio had been sexually assaulted and physically and emotionally abused by two husbands since he was six. Her lawyers say this lifelong trauma left her vulnerable to a false confession.
In the 2020 documentary Texas State vs. MelissaLucio said investigators kept pushing her to say she hurt Mariah.
“I didn’t want to admit that I caused her death because I wasn’t responsible,” Lucio said.
Oliver O’ConnellApril 6, 2022 12:30 p.m
“Wake up… to speak up for justice and stand up for life!”
Texas Representative Jeff Leach is urging faith leaders to speak out for Melissa Lucio as the bipartisan group of lawmakers calls for action in the case and for the state to stay the execution because of all the evidence pointing to her innocence to grant.
Oliver O’ConnellApril 6, 2022 11:00 am
What did Texas lawmakers say?
On March 25, 83 members of the Texas House signed a letter urging the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to either call off or commute Lucio’s pending execution.
Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, who describes himself as a conservative Republican and supporter of the death penalty, chaired a news conference in which he called Lucio’s trial a miscarriage of justice, reports Spectrum News 1.
“I have never seen a more disturbing case than the case of Melissa Lucio,” said Mr Leach, the chair of the Judiciary and Civil Affairs Committee. “The six of us, along with our House colleagues, are asking that the Paroles and Parolees Court spare her life and delay her execution, which is currently scheduled for about a month on April 27.”
Joining Mr. Leach were Representatives Joe Moody, D-El Paso; Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston; Lacey Hull, R-Houston; Rafael Anchia, D Dallas; and James White, R-Hillister.
“Typically, Republicans have been hesitant or reluctant to speak on the issue of the integrity of the death penalty, and I think that’s the wrong approach. I know that’s the wrong approach,” said Mr. Leach. “I encourage lawmakers to ask the tough questions and review the documents, the transcripts and the case record, call us or their attorneys and find out where you stand on this case one way or another.”
His colleague Mr Moody added: “Firing people like Melissa Lucio is easy. In fact, the system is set up so that we forget them and treat them as less than human. It’s been set up that way for years. For years on this board it has been easy to ignore issues affecting the justice system because we consider these people less than human and throw them away. No more.”
Oliver O’ConnellApril 6, 2022 9:30 am
What options are available to the Texas authorities?
Governor Greg Abbott can grant a one-time 30-day reprieve. He may grant clemency if the parole board majority recommends it.
The board plans to vote on Lucio’s clemency petition two days before the scheduled execution, Rachel Alderete, the board’s director of support operations, said in an email to the Associated Press. A spokesman for Gov. Abbott’s office did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Mr Abbott has only granted clemency to one death row inmate, Thomas Whitaker, since taking office in 2015. Whitaker was convicted of planning the deadly shootings of his mother and brother. His father, who survived, led the effort to rescue Whitaker and said he would be killed again if his son were executed.
Lucio’s supporters have said her clemency plea is similar in that her family would be traumatized again if she were executed.
“Please allow us to reconcile Mariah’s death and commemorate her without new pain, fear and sadness. Please spare our mother’s life,” Lucio’s children wrote in a letter to Governor Abbott and the board.
Oliver O’ConnellApril 6, 2022 8:00 am
Which US states still have the death penalty and who uses it most often?
Twenty-seven states across America still have the death penalty.
They are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky. Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Uta,h and Wyoming.
Oliver O’ConnellApril 6, 2022 6:00 am
Kim Kardashian is asking his followers to sign a petition
Kim Kardashian tweeted, “Please sign the petition to urge the governor @GregAbbott_TX stop their execution. https://bit.ly/3tDg8g4 It’s stories like Melissa’s that make me speak so loudly about the death penalty in general and why it should be banned when innocent people are suffering.”
Oliver O’ConnellApril 6, 2022 4:00 am
Why end the death penalty?
The Independent and the Nonprofit Corporate responsibility initiative for justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the United States. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 high-profile signatories to its Business Leaders’ Statement Against the Death Penalty – with The Independent being the latest on the list. We join high-profile leaders such as Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and commit to highlighting the injustices of the death penalty in our reporting.
Oliver O’ConnellApril 6, 2022 2:30 am
Kim Kardashian seeks clemency in Melissa Lucio case
Kim Kardashian has spoken out on criminal justice reform many times in recent years. She has urged Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to grant Lucio clemency after she “falsely pleaded guilty” after hours of questioning.
“I just recently read about the case of Melissa Lucio and wanted to share her story with you. She has been on death row for over 14 years because her daughter died in a tragic accident,” Ms. Kardashian said tweeted on Tuesday. “Their 2-year-old daughter Mariah fell down a flight of stairs and died two days later while she was napping. After calling for help, she was arrested by the police.”
“Melissa is an abuse and domestic violence survivor herself after hours of interrogation and a false plea of guilty. She wanted the interrogation to end, but the police turned her words into a confession. She is scheduled to be executed in Texas on April 27,” she added.
She urged her followers to sign a petition to “urge Governor Greg Abbott to stop her execution.”
“It’s stories like Melissa’s that make me speak so loudly about the death penalty in general and why it should be banned when innocent people are suffering,” Ms. Kardashian added.
Oliver O’ConnellApril 6, 2022 1:00 am
How being a “bad mother, bad wife, and bad wife” became a death sentence
Women vastly outnumber men on death row across America. However, experts say the small number of those sentenced to death usually breaks society’s expectations of a “good woman”. Melissa Lucio is one of them, as reported by Rachel Sharp.
Oliver O’ConnellApril 5, 2022 11:30 p.m