Growing outrage over imminent execution of Melissa Lucio

The state of Texas is scheduled to execute Melissa Lucio on April 27 in the face of clear evidence of her innocence and mass opposition to the execution.

Lucio, 53, and a mother of 14 children, was tried and sentenced to death in 2007 for the murder of her two-year-old daughter. As a result, she has spent 14 years languishing on death row under conditions that basically amount to torture, being kept isolated from any social contact and limited to one hour of gardening outside her cell, twice a week.

Lucio’s trial was a travesty of justice. The principal piece of evidence was a confession coerced by the Texas Rangers, the state equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In the trial, evidence that could have proven Lucio’s innocence was omitted, such as that her child suffered a physical disability that made her walk unsteadily, which pointed to an accidental death by falling down the stairs.

A psychologist and mitigation specialist were barred by the trial court from testifying that Lucio was susceptible to making false testimony because of domestic abuse inflicted on her in the past. The prosecutor was later arrested on corruption charges, while her defense attorney went on to work for Cameron County, the same county that prosecuted her.

Melissa Lucio poses for a portrait behind glass at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas, March 21, 2022. (Credit: Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Innocence Project)

The evidence of her innocence was documented in a documentary, The State of Texas vs. Melissa, available on Hulu. An interview with the filmmaker is available here.

Nearly half of the jurors who sentenced her to death have since called for her execution to be halted and for a new trial to be held.

Should the execution proceed, it would be the 574th execution in Texas since 1982 and the first execution of a woman since 2014. Her execution is scheduled just six days after the execution of 78-year-old Carl Wayne Buntion, the oldest inmate on the Texas death row, by lethal injection Thursday.

The political establishment is noticeably nervous about the mass anger over the Lucio case, with a bipartisan majority of the Texas House and Senate calling for the Texas governor to delay the execution. Their well-placed fear is that the execution may discredit the death penalty, which both the Republicans and Democrats support. It is possible that some sort of delay will take place.

Texas Governor Gregg Abbott has not indicated that he will call for a 30-day delay of the execution or clemency, nor has the Biden administration called on Abbott to take either action.

Hundreds protested across the US against the execution calling for clemency in at least 16 cities.

Speaking of the Saturday protests, one of Lucio’s sons, Bobby Alvarez, told a local MSNBC outlet, “It means a lot to me that people are supporting my mom, sharing her story and speaking out on this injustice. Knowing her date is four days away is very emotional. Very hard to grasp knowing my mom’s days are limited.”

A petition calling for the case to be reinvestigated and for Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz to withdraw Lucio’s death warrant gathered more than 340,000 signatures. Another petition calling for the rescinding of the execution warrant garnered over 82,000 signatures.

On Twitter, hundreds of tweets in support of Lucio were made under the hashtag #FreeMelissaLucio, with many calling for the end of the death penalty.

The Socialist Equality Party issued a statement on Saturday calling for workers to demand that the execution be stopped and Lucio be freed. WSWS readers around the United States and internationally submitted statements supporting these demands, including from the United Kingdom, Australia, Norway, Italy. Some of them are reproduced here, edited for brevity.

Janice from Illinois stated, “You will have blood on your hands if you execute Melissa. The Texas judiciary wants to kill people. Her children have testified that she is a caring mother. Her poverty, and needing to live in a rental home are what convicted her.

“Her daughter had a walking disability, but the court wanted not to hear this. The child fell down outdoor stairs. That is what killed her. If we had universal healthcare, as every other wealthy democracy has, her daughter could have been examined. But our government is at fault there, not Melissa.

“Release her to her children who desperately need her. The state is denying them their mother.”

Josh from the UK wrote, “The lady Melissa Lucio must not be on death row. Her trial should follow due process based on scientific evidence. Justice can never be rightly done by death penalty. This process prevents society from learning the lessons of crime.

“It is my belief that the lady Melissa Lucio should be granted a stay of execution and a fair, evidence-based trial should be made available to her and all those concerned.

“Exonerate her, pay her for false arrest and false conviction. Set Melissa free.”

Mikel Parkhurst from Texas wrote, “This is ridiculous! Melissa Lucio is innocent and not guilty of the crime of murdering her daughter. It's so very obvious the system railroaded her to the death chamber: the Texas Rangers, the prosecutor, the judge, and unintentionally, the jurors. If this isn't resolved to the satisfaction of the free life for Melissa Lucio, I don't see how I can live in this country without shame any longer.”

James, from Ontario, Canada, wrote:  “Capital punishment is barbaric and often applied mistakenly! Abolish it!”

Derek from the US wrote: “There seems to be ample evidence that her conviction was based on a brutal interrogation and flawed investigation. She deserves a new trial.”

Susan from Arizona said, “Melissa’s case is an egregious miscarriage of justice, which must be redeemed through clemency. The very fact of her appeal for clemency to other flawed human beings clearly illustrates the base immorality of a legal system that would even permit—never mind, support—capital punishment. Her sanctioned state murder must be stopped, and capital punishment must be abolished, forevermore!”

Menelik from Massachusetts wrote, “For what it's worth I hope this comment can contribute to a stay of execution and eventual release from prison for Melissa Lucio. It is beyond cruel to execute someone who has suffered so much tragedy and compound it by blaming them for the death of their own child. Melissa Lucio is one of many who drew the short stick in being executed by the state. Everyone except the rich and those in power are vulnerable to this miscarriage of justice.”

Add your name to the growing calls to save Melissa Lucio’s life! Submit your statement using the form below.