AUSTIN (KXAN) — A group of Texas lawmakers from both sides of the aisle signed a letter Wednesday calling for the execution of a woman convicted 15 years ago of murdering her child to be canceled.
Melissa Lucio’s execution is less than two weeks away, scheduled for April 27. She’s maintained her innocence, and her lawyers filed for a retrial last week. They said she may have been coerced into a confession the day her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah, died.
The letter from 20 Texas State Senators was sent to David Gutierrez, chair of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. In the letter, the lawmakers asked Gutierrez to recommend to Gov. Greg Abbott that he “cancel [Lucio’s] execution by either commuting her sentence or granting her a reprieve.”
“New evidence that has emerged since Ms. Lucio’s trial points to the fact that her daughter, Mariah, died after a tragic accident and not by her mother’s hands,” the letter goes on to say. “A commutation or a reprieve would give her lawyers the time they need to develop all the evidence that could prove Ms. Lucio’s innocence.”
Senators said there are eyewitness accounts of Mariah’s accidental fall, but no accounts that would point to murder. They also stated doctors who recently reviewed the autopsy found the jury heard false testimony about whether Mariah was abused.
The senators also said Lucio was given “ineffective assistance from counsel” during her trail and appeal and also mentioned claims of misconduct on behalf of the prosecution were being investigated.
The lawmakers in the letter also pointed out “the dramatic sentencing disparity” between Lucio and her husband, which they said “casts doubt on the fairness and equity of the proceedings against her.” According to the senators, Lucio’s husband served a four-year sentence for child endangerment, even though he’s “had a history of assaultive behavior.”
Earlier this week, the interim Texas House Committee on Criminal Justice Reform held a hearing at the Capitol to review the circumstances around Lucio’s upcoming execution. Since the trial, five of the 12 jurors have come forward saying details they’ve learned since then would have changed the way they voted.
Lawmakers at the hearing asked Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz to revoke the warrant for Lucio’s execution. However, Saenz said, “I don’t intend to do that,” adding he believes the court will step in before the execution date.
KXAN previously reported the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles could recommend reprieving Lucio’s execution or commuting her sentence to life in prison — which is what lawmakers are requesting in this new letter. But that recommendation typically doesn’t happen until 48 hours before the execution. Then, Abbott could choose to deny or accept.
Abbott could also delay Lucio’s execution by a maximum of 30 days by granting a stay.