Melissa Lucio sobs as she learns her life has been saved
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Melissa Lucio a stay of execution on Monday and ordered a court to consider new evidence in her case, just 48 hours before she was scheduled to be put to death.
Lucio was told the news in an emotional phone call with Texas Rep Jeff Leach where the Hispanic mother-of-14 sobbed and gasped, asking “are you serious?”
In a statement, the 53-year-old thanked God for saving her life and paid tribute to her late daughter Mariah who “is in my heart today and always”.
Lucio’s attorneys and supporters also celebrated the ruling including Kim Kardashian who called it the “best news ever”.
The last-minute stay came minutes before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was to recommend whether or not Lucio’s death sentence should be commuted to life imprisonment or if she should be granted a 120-day execution reprieve. The parole board said it would not recommend clemency after the stay was announced.
Lucio was sentenced to death for the 2007 murder of her two-year-old daughter Mariah.
Her lawyers say she was coerced into a false confession during an aggressive police interrogation and that scientific evidence shows Mariah died from a fall.
Mariah’s tragic death
On 15 February 2007, Lucio was preparing to move the family from their second-storey apartment to a new home, according to her clemency application.
At some point, Mariah – who had struggled with her mobility since birth due to a turned-in foot as well as other illnesses – managed to open the unlocked screen door leading to the outside stairs of the home and Lucio found the two-year-old at the bottom of the flight of stairs crying, the document states.
At the time, Mariah did not appear to be seriously injured.
But, according to Lucio’s clemency application, Mariah had actually suffered severe internal injuries that would ultimately lead to her death.
Over the next two days, her health worsened and, by 17 February, she was sleeping heavily and refusing to eat.
Lucio put Mariah down for a nap and she didn’t wake up again.
Just hours after her daughter’s death, Lucio – pregnant with twins – was subjected to a five-hour interrogation by armed, male police officers who accused her of beating her child to death.
They berated her and “extensively manipulated her” refusing to believe her version of events, according to her clemency application. They even showed her photos of her dead baby.
During the interrogation, Lucio insisted more than 100 times that she hadn’t abused her daughter but, because of her history as a victim of sexual abuse and domestic violence, she finally caved and admitted that she sometimes spanked Mariah.
“I guess I did it,” she said – five words that were then taken as a confession that she had murdered her daughter.
At her trial, jurors were prevented from hearing from two experts for the defence – a psychologist and a social worker – to testify that her behaviour in the presence of the male authority figure was typical of a battered woman who had suffered years of abuse.
Meanwhile, the medical examiner announced to the court that Mariah was “a battered child”, that her injuries must have occurred within 24 hours of her death, were caused by being abused and could not have come from a fall, and that there were bite marks on her body – testimony that Lucio’s attorneys say is now proven to be false.
The jury also didn’t hear that Lucio’s children had given the same account as their mother to police of their sister’s fall and deterioration of health.
In 2008, Lucio was convicted of Mariah’s murder and given the death penalty.
She has spent the last 14 years on death row in Texas, where she has been fighting for her freedom – and her life – ever since.
Rachel Sharp26 April 2022 05:20
Melissa Lucio’s son describes toll his mother’s death sentence took on his childhood
Bobby Alvarez “cried every night wanting my momma back” when the state of Texas took him from her care and accused her of murdering his baby sister.
As a self-proclaimed “momma’s boy”, he remembers how he clung to his mother in early childhood, wanting to be with her at all times.
“Growing up I was always a momma’s boy so I was always wanting to be around her. I enjoyed her company. I remember she always played with me and made me laugh,” he told The Independent last week, as his mother was just days away from her scheduled execution.
The 22-year-old spoke out about the toll his mother’s death sentence had taken on his childhood and why he has never doubted her innocence.
The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has the full story:
EXCLUSIVE: In just six days, Melissa Lucio will be strapped to a gurney and injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs that will kill her for a murder that she not only says she didn’t commit – but that experts say didn’t even occur. Her son Bobby Alvarez tells Rachel Sharp he has never doubted her innocence and has spent the last 15 years just ‘wanting my momma back’
Rachel Sharp26 April 2022 04:40
Melissa Lucio’s attorneys seek to have judge and DA removed from case
Melissa Lucio’s attorneys are seeking to have a judge and DA removed from her case because two key members of her original defence team are now working for them.
Her legal team filed the motions back in February to remove Judge Gabriela Garcia and Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz from the case including the upcoming evidentiary hearing.
Judge Garcia is assigned to Lucio’s case while DA Saenz requested Lucio’s execution date.
The DA also had the power to withdraw the request – something he gave mixed messages around doing in sworn testimony earlier this month.
While the motions were filed two months ago, they have yet to be ruled on.
With the appeals court now ordering the trial court to review the evidence in Lucio’s case, her attorneys explained that once a judge is assigned the case, they will decide whether to disqualify the DA.
Rachel Sharp26 April 2022 04:00
Exonerated mother draws parallels between her case and Melissa Lucio’s
A woman who was saved from death row and exonerated for killing her child has drawn parallels between her case and the conviction and death sentence of Melissa Lucio.
In 1989, Sabrina Butler-Smith rushed to a Mississippi hospital, after her infant son Walter stopped breathing and she couldn’t resuscitate him with CPR.
Police arrested Ms Butler-Smith, who is Black, the same day Walter died, believing bruises on his chest from the CPR were the result of child abuse.
Ms Butler-Smith was a teenager at the time, in total shock, and the prosecutor said she must’ve been guilty because she wasn’t openly emotional in court during her trial the following year.
After she got a new trial, where new evidence came to light, Ms Butler-Smith was finally exonerated in 1995 becoming the first woman ever to be freed from death row in the US.
She spoke to The Independent prior to Lucio’s stay of execution, recalling how she told Lucio “to hold her head up” because “we’re all fighting for her”.
The Independent’s Josh Marcus has the full story:
Rachel Sharp26 April 2022 03:20
Democratic state representative says stay proves Lucio ‘shouldn’t be on death row’
Democratic state Rep Joe Moody has said that the stay of execution proves that Melissa Lucio “shouldn’t be on death row”.
“A stay confirms what we’ve said all along: #MelissaLucio shouldn’t be on death row,” he tweeted on Monday, after the Texas appeals court granted her a stay.
“15 years after trial & only 2 days before execution, the CCA has said, ‘she may actually be innocent.’ That timeline and that result is shocking. I’m just so relieved for her. #txlege”
The Democrat is among a group of 83 state representatives who have been calling to halt Lucio’s execution in recent weeks.
Rep Moody has been leading the crusade together with Republican state Rep Jeff Leach and they were among seven state lawmakers who visited Lucio on death row to pray with her and draw attention to her case earlier this month.
Rachel Sharp26 April 2022 02:40
Emotional moment Melissa Lucio learns her life is saved
Melissa Lucio learned that her life had been spared in an emotional phone call with state Rep Jeff Leach shortly after the Texas appeals court announced it was granting her a stay of execution.
In an audio clip shared online, the 53-year-old is heard gasping, sobbing and laughing all at once as she is overcome with emotion on hearing the news.
“You haven’t heard the news yet?” asks Rep Leach at the start of the audio.
“No, what happened?” Lucio responds.
The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has the full story:
Rachel Sharp26 April 2022 02:00
Melissa Lucio’s attorney says there is still ‘long way to go’
Melissa Lucio’s attorneys have said there is still “a long way to go” before the mother-of-14 has her freedom back.
“There’s still a long way to go in Melissa’s case, and there’s much more that stands in the way of Melissa and an exoneration,” said The Innocence Project’s Vanessa Potkin, who is a member of Lucio’s legal team.
“But today’s stay and remand to have hearings on new evidence of her innocence really opens the door to the potential of a new trial in her case and ultimately, complete vindication.”
The stay of execution does not mean Lucio is now free.
She will remain on death row as proceedings continue.
The next step will invole the trial court in Brownsville holding an evidentiary hearing where Lucio’s attorneys will present new evidence in the case that they say shows her innocence.
There, the legal team will request a new trial for Lucio.
This will ultimately be decided upon by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Rachel Sharp26 April 2022 01:20
Melissa Lucio’s children look forward to spending Mother’s Day with her
Melissa Lucio’s children have said they are now looking forward to spending Mother’s Day with their mother after a court’s ruling means she will now live to see the 8 May celebration.
Bobby Alvarez told reporters that his mother “wants a lot of cards” this year after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted her a stay of execution and stopped the 27 April death sentence from being carried out.
The 22-year-old spoke at a press conference together with his brother John on Monday evening in Gatesville, Texas as they celebrated the news.
He said he was in “shock” when he heard about the 11th-hour stay of execution.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I immediately started crying,” he said.
He said they were now speaking about “what to do about Mother’s Day” – something that hours ago was not a reality.
Mr Alvarez was just seven years old when his mother was charged over his sister’s death and sent to death row.
He said he had spent his childhood “waiting for my mother to come out so we can start that future together”.
“Right away I never had a mindset that it was my mom [who killed Mariah],” he says.
“I knew my mom couldn’t have done it.”
Rachel Sharp26 April 2022 00:40
Melissa Lucio’s son says ‘it’s been 15 long years’
Melissa Lucio’s son said “it’s been 15 long years” as his mother has been held on death row awaiting execution for the death of his baby sister.
John Lucio, 32, spoke at a press conference on Monday evening in Gatesville, Texas, after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted her a stay of execution.
“It’s been 15 long years,” he said, adding that “there are no more excuses”.
Rachel Sharp26 April 2022 00:00
Melissa Lucio’s mother thanks her daughter’s supporters and God ‘for the miracle’
Melissa Lucio’s mother has thanked all the people who supported her daughter in her plight and thanked God “for the miracle” of her stay of execution.
“Thank you for supporting Melissa and thank you to everybody and to God,” she said in a virtual press conference with members of Lucio’s legal team on Monday afternoon.
“Thank God for the miracle.”
Rachel Sharp25 April 2022 23:20