His case divides the United States. The execution of Melissa Lucio, a Mexican-American sentenced to death for the murder of her 2-year-old daughter, was suspended on Monday April 25, two days before the fateful date. The requests of his lawyers will be re-examined by a court.
“This is the best news ever,” Kim Kardashian tweeted.
Best news ever! Melissa Lucio has been on death row for over 14 years for her daughter’s death that was a tragic accident. She is getting a hearing on her claims for her case & has been granted a stay of execution by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. https://t.co/NuCv4vOgJl
—Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) April 26, 2022
Like many, the businesswoman came to the defense of Melissa Lucio, whose trial is very controversial.
Here is his story.
Murder or accident?
The case begins in 2007 when the body of 2-year-old Mariah is found lifeless and covered in bruises at her home. Her mother is immediately accused of having beaten her to death. Of Hispanic origin, Melissa Lucio was pregnant with twins at the time, and already lived with her twelve children in precarious conditions. She also suffered physical and sexual assault when she was younger.
In court, the mother admits to beating Mariah. She was sentenced to death in 2008 and imprisoned pending her execution, scheduled for April 27, 2022.
Only, according to defense lawyers, no murder took place. Mariah reportedly died after accidentally falling down the stairs. Melissa Lucio, who has claimed her innocence for fifteen years, would have confessed only under pressure from the police.
police pressure and trial failures
After the discovery of Mariah’s body, Melissa Lucio was interrogated for long hours. The police were aggressive, impatient, and extracted a “completely extorted” confession from him, according to Sabrina Van Tassel, director of the documentary “The State of Texas against Melissa”.
The trial itself has several flaws. Mariah’s disability, likely to explain her death, was not taken into account by the experts. The girl suffered from a blood circulation disorder according to the defense. Then, no child of Melissa Lucio was questioned by the court, even if some attended the fall of their sister. None accused Melissa Lucio of being violent.
Finally, the prosecutor was sentenced a few years later to a prison term for corruption and extortion, in a case unrelated to that of Melissa Lucio. Several jurors said that had they known of these new details, they would not have convicted the mother in 2008.
Melissa Lucio’s defense claims to have new evidence of her innocence. She also considers that false testimony led to her conviction. The suspension of his execution “does not mean that a new trial has been granted”, warns Vanessa Potkin, lawyer for the mother of the family. But it is “a first step”.
“I thank God for my life,” Melissa Lucio said. “I am grateful to the court for giving me the chance to live and prove my innocence (…) and to have more days to be a mother to my children and a grandmother to my grandchildren .”
In France, the American has notably received the support of Christiane Taubira, former Minister of Justice. She welcomed the decision on April 25: “The execution of Melissa Lucio in Texas will not take place. How to write it without drowning in tears. Of anguish and joy.”
Texas is the state that executes the most convicts. More than 500 people have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1974. Only 16 convicts have been pardoned.