RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — There are currently 197 inmates on Texas’ Death Row, six are women, including Melissa Lucio who would be the first Latina put to death in the state.
Lucio was arrested in February 2007 and then later convicted of capital murder in 2008 after the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah.
According to the Innocence Project, Mariah had a mild physical disability that made her unstable while walking and prone to tripping. Two days later, she took a nap and didn’t wake up.
ValleyCentral reported that Lucio was found guilty of beating the two-year-old to death. On the night of the incident, Lucio and the child’s father had contacted paramedics to their Harlingen home in reference to their daughter. Mariah was found with bruises, bite marks and a broken arm.
Lucio had told police that her daughter fell down the stairs. Lucio also stated that she was responsible for the bite mark and bruise marks on her body. She told investigators that she was not angry at Mariah, but frustrated with her other 13 children when the bite incident occurred.
During the trial, a pathologist testified that the child’s autopsy revealed she did not die from falling downstairs and instead her injuries were consistent with a death from blunt-force trauma. Court documents state the emergency room doctor that attempted to revive the child stated it was the worst case of child abuse he had ever seen.
Since then, Lucio has been on death row for 15 years. On average, Texas inmates will have spent 11.22 years on death row, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
A month ago, Lucio was scheduled for lethal injection on April 27, 2022.
Sabrina Van Tassel, the Director of The State of Texas vs. Melissa told ValleyCentral after conducting her own investigation into Lucio’s case, there is a multitude of question marks, conflict of interest, and errors.
“I wanna make sure there’s not going to be an innocent person executed,” said Van Tassel. “I mean, she’s a mother. She’s a sister. She’s a daughter. There’s a family hurting here.”
Since 1973, at least 186 people have been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death but were cleared after years of sitting on death row.
To receive the death penalty varies depending on the jurisdiction in which the individual is charged. In most cases, it’s because of murder, terrorism, or other serious crimes against another person.
Once someone is found guilty and sentenced to death, they’re transferred to a death row facility. Lucio is currently at the facility in Gatesville, Texas.
The death penalty is currently allowed in 27 states with Texas leading the nation in executions.
The state of Texas has executed 573 people since 1982. Of these, 279 occurred during the administration of Texas Governor Rick Perry (2001-2014), more than any other governor in U.S. history.
Death penalty sentence dates can be pushed back to a later date though for a variety of reasons including an appeal upheld by one of the courts. “It could be the appeals court of Texas or perhaps it went to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans or perhaps it was even something that went to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Robert Hurst, the Public Information Officer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Hurst added since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, execution dates have also been moved back because of the pandemic.
Van Tassel and Lucio’s family are currently on a 12-day tour across Texas to “educate the community on Lucio’s story” with the hope of putting a stop to the execution.
The tour began at Lucio’s home in Harlingen on Feb. 16 before driving to other locations across the state.
“We’re not going away until we free my mom,” said John Lucio, one of Lucio’s sons in a press release.
The cities in which the tour plans on stopping include Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Houston, Wichita Falls, Dallas, Abilene, Odessa, San Angelo, Waco, and Austin. Their tour stops on Feb. 22 in Austin.
As of Feb. 8, Lucio’s attorneys have filed to withdraw or modify her April 27 execution date.
The film will be available on the FreeMelissaLucio.org web page for cost-free online streaming on March 7 & 8 as part of International Women’s Day activities.