LUBBOCK, Texas — The Innocence Project (IP) and the Innocence of Texas took up the cause of a woman who was born in Lubbock and who was set for execution on April 27. Many others, including a bipartisan group of lawmakers, took up the cause of Melissa Elizabeth Lucio, 52, to get her off death row.
The Innocence Project said, “Melissa faces execution on April 27 for a crime that never occurred.” IP also said Lucio’s daughter died after accidentally falling down a steep flight of stairs.
A summary of the case from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said, “On February 17, 2007, paramedics were dispatched to a residence where they found an unresponsive two-year-old child who subsequently died.”
TDCJ also said, “Evidence of abuse led to the arrest and conviction of Lucio, the child’s mother.”
IP challenged the validity of the conviction, saying in part, the prosecutor was corrupt and used a coerced statement from Lucio as a confession. A death penalty “win,” IP said, would help him get reelected.
“Today, the former district attorney is serving a 13-year federal prison sentence for bribery and extortion,” IP said.
EverythingLubbock.com reached out to Lucio’s family by phone on Friday. Lucio was born in 1969 (not 1968, as has been listed by official sources), according to her sister. Her dad was from Lubbock, and her mom came from the Rio Grande Valley. Her dad died when she just a baby, and her family moved back to the valley.
Lucio lived for three years in Lubbock, four at the most. The family came back to Lubbock occasionally to visit.
Court records said Lucio was the target of sexual abuse at age 6. She married at age 16 and would go on to have 12 children by two husbands.
The Marshal Project, a nonprofit journalism platform, reported, “A social worker learned that an older daughter had taken responsibility for the little girl’s fall down the stairs.”
The Marshall Project also reported bite marks on the little girl’s body might not be bite marks at all – but instead physical trauma from falling down a flight of stairs.
The Innocence Project added, “Thousands of pages of Child Protective Services records show that Ms. Lucio’s 12 children never said she was violent with them. No physical evidence showed otherwise.”
A recent court filing accused prosecutors of withholding exculpatory evidence.
“But for the State’s withholding of evidence, Ms. Lucio would not have been forced to seek a stay,” a court document filed on April 20 said. At several points, Lucio’s legal team said of the original prosecution, “That testimony was false.”
In recent court records, the defense wrote, “Ms. Lucio has not only put forth a claim of constitutional violation but has also demonstrated her actual innocence.”
The State of Texas on Thursday filed a response, reminding the appeals court, “She [Mariah] was dehydrated with multiple bruises all over her body that were in various stages of healing.”
“The emergency room physician testified that this was the ‘absolute worst’ case of child abuse that he had seen in his 30 years of practice,” Texas also claimed. “Mariah’s body was covered with bruises, abrasions, and contusions scattered all over her back, arms, elbows, buttocks, side, and face. There was a bite mark on Mariah’s back, and the bruises covering her body were in various stages of healing.”
In her first appeals case (2016) to the Fifth Circuit, dissenting judges wrote, “The State presented no physical evidence or witness testimony establishing that Lucio abused Mariah or any of her children, let alone killed Mariah.”
The dissenting judges in 2021, roughly five years after the case was first filed on appeal, said there was testimony excluded at trial that Lucio would take the blame for things other people in the family did.
The dissent also said, “The State contended that Lucio must have killed Mariah because she abused her. The only evidence it cited in closing to establish that Lucio abused her was Lucio’s ‘confession.’”
The voluntariness of the confession was challenged by the dissenting judges in the 2016 appeals case. If the confession was not voluntary, then it was not valid.
IP asked anyone who wished to oppose the execution of Melissa Lucio, scheduled for April 27, to contact the office of Governor Greg Abbott. Click here for information.
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