Things That Matter

Kim Kardashian Backs Melissa Lucio’s Lawyers in Requesting Clemency Days Before Her Execution

Whether or not you’ve heard about Texas-born death row inmate Melissa Lucio’s story in the past, new advancements in her case are sure to have an emotional impact on anyone who reads about her.

Lucio, a woman of Mexican descent, is now just 22 days away from her scheduled execution on April 27 by way of lethal injection — and many assert that she received a wrongful, unjust sentence. Now, her lawyers are giving Lucio’s case one last try by calling for clemency.

Lucio was convicted of capital murder of her 2-year-old daughter Mariah Alvarez, who died in 2007. In January, Lucio’s execution was officially scheduled — and if it proceeds, she will be the first Latina to be executed by the State of Texas.

So what happened? In February 2007, Lucio and her husband Robert Antonio Alvarez experienced a severe tragedy: their 2-year-old daughter Mariah fell down a flight of stairs. The youngest of 14 children, Mariah allegedly had an issue with her feet that made her often fall down. The parents chose not to take Mariah to the hospital until two days later. Mariah died in her sleep.

Mariah’s autopsy revealed signs of child abuse, such as bruises throughout her body, a head injury, a broken arm, bald spots on her head, and bite marks. The emergency room physician present at the time said it was “the ‘absolute worst’ case of child abuse that he had seen in his 30 years of practice.” However, this was allegedly committed by one of Mariah’s siblings — not her parents.

Once seeing the state of the child’s body, Lucio was called into questioning by police. That’s where things got even more complicated: throughout several hours of questioning, Lucio denied murdering her daughter more than 100 times. But through relentless pushing, the now 53-year-old finally said: “I guess I did it.”

As per Lucio’s lawyers, this supposed confession was the basis of her murder conviction, and led to evidence being gathered only to support that “guilty” conclusion.

The jury assigned to Lucio’s case never heard evidence about Mariah’s injuries caused days before, Lucio was not allowed to show evidence attached to coercion into confessing. 

Lucio’s lawyers say jurors never heard forensic evidence that would have explained that Mariah’s various injuries were actually caused by a fall days earlier. They also say Lucio wasn’t allowed to present evidence questioning the validity of her confession.

Even more, one juror Johnny Galvan Jr. wrote he feels he was misled during the trial and even felt “peer pressure” to change his vote from life in prison to giving Lucio the death penalty. 

Lucio also came from a lifetime of abuse, which would add even more evidence for a wrongful confession. As The Innocence Project explains, “research has shown that survivors of sexual abuse and violence, like Ms. Lucio, are more vulnerable to falsely confessing under such coercive conditions.” In fact, the death row inmate was first sexually abused at 6 years old, enduring constant abuse and marrying at 16 to escape. However, her first marriage was also abusive, and she soon resorted to substance abuse. After she and her five children were abandoned by her first husband, she married again — having nine more kids with her second partner, she endured abuse, was raped, and threatened. Lucio and her children were also homeless at times, and frequented food banks.

The inmate’s lawyers are now requesting clemency, citing that Lucio quit drugs and worked to support her children.

Last month, 83 Texas House members signed a letter saying that executing Lucio would be “a miscarriage of justice,” sending it to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and to Texas Governor Greg Abbott. State Representative Jeff Leach said, “I have never seen a more troubling case than the case of Melissa Lucio.”

With now even Kim Kardashian getting on board to plead with Abbott to grant clemency, and an ongoing petition to stop the execution, many hope that the paroles board and Governor respond with urgency.

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