A bipartisan group of Texas legislators, comprising more than half of the state Senate, called on Texas officials to stop the controversial execution of Melissa Lucio, which is set for 27 April.
“This is an opportunity to prevent a miscarraige of justice that would undermine public trust in our legal system,” they wrote in a letter sent to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Wednesday, a body which could recommend Governor Greg Abbott stop the execution. “Ms Lucio’s case is one that gives even proponents of the death penalty pause,” they added.
The letter follows a similar message to state officials from the Texas House, where 83 lawmakers, another majority, said in late March the execution should stop.
“The system literally failed Melissa Lucio at every single turn,” state representative Jeff Leach said at the time. “As a conservative Republican myself, who has long been a supporter of the death penalty in the most heinous cases, I have never seen a more troubling case.”
The Independent has reached out to the board and the governor for comment.
Melissa Lucio was arrested in 2007, after her daughter Mariah was found motionless on the floor of the crowded apartment where the family lived. The child showed signs of a broken arm untreated for weeks, a head injury, bite marks on her back, and bruises across her body. The official who carried out an autopsy on Mariah said it was one of the worst examples of child abuse she had ever seen.
But advocates argue the prosecution was more focused on securing a headline-grabbing verdict than finding the truth.
Lucio was subject to a coercive interrogation while she was pregnant that some experts say prompted a false confession, and a poor defence at trial failed to call her family as witnesses, even though they said she wasn’t responsible for Mariah’s injuries. There was no physical or bystander evidence linking her to the death, but she was given a death sentence anyway, while her husband got a four-year jail term. If the execution goes forward, she will be the first Latina woman executed in the modern history of capital punishment in the US.
Since then, a growing movement of people, ranging from documentary filmmakers, to Kim Kardashian, to former jurors in the case, have now all spoken out and tried to stop the impending execution, arguing that the courts never got the full story.
In an unlikely twist, law enforcement officials in Texas, the state that has executed the most people in modern US history, have also rallied against the case.
Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz has said he will stop the execution.
“If defendant Lucio does not get a stay by a certain day, then I will do what I have to do and stop it,” he announced this week.
The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty - with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.