The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles will by Monday afternoon issue a recommendation to Gov. Greg Abbott in the case of Melissa Lucio, the mother facing execution for the accidental death of her 2-year-old baby, Mariah. As Houston-based KHOU notes, time is running out for Lucio: She is set to be killed by the state on Wednesday.
Supporters held more than a dozen rallies over the weekend urging officials halt her execution. KHOU reports that one of Lucio’s children, 22-year-old Robert Alvarez, was among attendees at the Austin rally. He told the outlet he was heartened by the public support for his mother.
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Melissa Lucio’s execution has been halted. “Today, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a stay of execution for Melissa Lucio and ordered the 138th Judicial District Court of Cameron Country to consider new evidence of her innocence in the death of her daughter, Mariah,” Innocence Project said.
“I thank God for my life,” Lucio said in the statement. “I have always trusted in Him. I am grateful the court has given me the chance to live and prove my innocence. Mariah is in my heart today and always. I am grateful to have more days to be a mother to my children and a grandmother to my grandchildren. I will use my time to help bring them to Christ. I am deeply grateful to everyone who prayed for me and spoke out on my behalf.”
"I just think that’s so amazing,” he told KHOU. He was just 7 when his mom was convicted for Mariah’s 2007 death. “The fact that people are just there, to support my mom and help her with anything that she needs.” He told the outlet he has tried to not think of the worst. “I’ve been thinking the best possible.” He told the outlet he planned to spend Monday with her, when she’s set to hear the decision from the board.
Innocence Project and other advocates have escalated calls to the governor’s office as Lucio’s execution date has approached. San Antonio-based KSAT reports that when Abbott was asked about Lucio’s case last week, he said he was waiting for the board’s recommendation. “That’s a requirement for the governor to receive that before any action is taken,” he said. “When I receive that, I’ll consider it and take whatever action I think is appropriate.” But ultimately, the fact is he can intervene.
Lucio’s advocates in recent days have also made an urgent plea to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, presenting ”new scientific and expert evidence showing that Melissa’s conviction was based on an unreliable, coerced ‘confession’ and unscientific false evidence that misled the jury.” Lucio, a childhood sexual abuse and domestic abuse survivor, was berated by detectives for hours on the night Mariah died.
“The police officers used the Reid method, a controversial interrogation technique that manipulates a suspect’s emotions by abruptly switching tones—yelling at them to raise their anxiety, and then gently reassuring them that their discomfort can end if they simply take responsibility for the crime,” Mother Jones reported. The petition to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals noted this harsh technique has contributed “to nearly one-third of all known wrongful convictions underlying the nation’s DNA exonerations.”
Lucio has received support from a number of other women who were also wrongly convicted for their children’s deaths. “Melissa experienced a mother’s worst nightmare,” the “Moms for Melissa” video states. “Now, time is running out.”
The Free Melissa Lucio campaign shared a message from the mother on Monday. “I am at peace,” she wrote. “Either way I will get my freedom soon. I will go home to my family or go to heaven. If I get a new trial, I am ready for the fight. I am not the same person I was in that interrogation room. I would stand up for my rights today. I want other survivors of domestic violence and assault to stand up for their rights too.”
At least 90 state House members and at least 20 state senators have also urged a halt to Lucio’s execution. KSAT reports that the Death Penalty Action Group plans a prayer vigil outside the state capitol on Monday, as advocates including Innocence Project urge the public to continue calls to Abbott’s office. “Melissa Lucio is still scheduled to be executed in two days,” the organization tweeted. “This is an all out sprint to save her life.”
Call Texas Gov. Greg Abbott today at (956) 446-2866 and urge him to spare Melissa Lucio’s life and prevent an irreversible injustice.