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HomeNewsTexas Lawmakers Halt Melissa Lucio’s Execution After 16 Years of Being on...

Texas Lawmakers Halt Melissa Lucio’s Execution After 16 Years of Being on Death Row

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A picture of Melissa Lucio.
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In a new development, Texas lawmakers have prevented the execution of a death row inmate, Melissa Lucio. Lucio had spent 16 years on the state death row before her execution was put on hold two days before.

Melissa Lucio, 55, was sentenced to death on Monday, December 8, 2008, for the murder of her 2-year-old daughter. She was 40 at the time of her sentencing and is the first Hispanic woman to be sentenced to death in Texas.

Her sentence, which was supposed to be carried out on Monday, April 25, 2022, was issued two days earlier, on Saturday, April 23, 2022. Her story contains all the makings of a true crime story, except it is not over yet.

In April 2024, Judge Arturo Nelson requested a Court of Criminal Appeals review the case. Notably, Nelson was the judge in the original trial case in 2008. He recommended that the panel overturn her guilty verdict and sentence.

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Ironically, one of the main reasons for the initial stay of execution was the lobbyist action of a Texas senator, Jeff Leach. Notably, Leach is a staunch supporter of the death penalty, and he is a member of the Texas state legislature.

However, while the deed was noble, it was not entirely selfless. When asked for the reason behind his action, he said it was to ensure that anti-death penalty opponents do not use the case as a reference point. He further asserted his position as a believer in the death penalty in crimes he referred to as “violent.” 

Lucio’s case continues to highlight the flaws in the U.S. criminal system while igniting the discussion about the morality of the death penalty. Lucio’s ordeal began on Thursday, February 15, 2007, when her youngest child, Mariah, fell down the stairs, sustaining injuries. 

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Despite the intensity of the fall, neither Lucio nor her husband, Robert Antonio Alvarez, sought medical attention at the time of the incident. That decision set a precedent for the next 16 years of her life.

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Two days after the incident, on Saturday, February 17, 2007, Lucio called a medical emergency after Mariah did not wake from an afternoon sleep. The hospital declared Mariah dead. However, the situation was about to take a turn.

As they examined her corpse, they found indications that someone had abused her. This indication includes bite marks, bruises, a fractured arm, a wounded spinal cord, and hair loss in certain areas of her head. This subsequently led to the police accusing Lucio of child abuse. 

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During the questioning, she denied the child abuse and murder allegations over 100 times. However, after five hours of interrogation, in a moment of guilt, grief, and exhaustion, she said, “I guess I did it.”

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Prosecutors viewed Lucio’s remarks as a murder confession, not just admitting guilt for neglecting medical help after Mariah’s fall. Lucio’s past drug misuse and child welfare agency inquiries only made matters worse for her. The investigators gained the impression that she was a worn-out, overburdened mother.

During the trial, they interviewed several of her children. They all claimed that Lucio wasn’t abusive. Another of her children claimed to have witnessed Mariah fall. Something that prosecutors did not disclose during the original trial.

Lucio’s lawyers say the case will now return to a district court in Cameron County, Texas, to consider new evidence. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which had said it would announce its recommendation on clemency, also said it would not make a recommendation because of the court’s stay.

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