Melissa Lucio, sentenced to death for the murder of her 2-year-old daughter, was granted a reprieve on Monday two days before the scheduled date of her execution. His lawyers are asking for a new trial.
Melissa Lucio, an American mother sentenced to death for the murder of her daughter after a controversial trial and who is the subject of an international campaign of support, saw her execution suspended on Monday by a Texas appeals court, two days before the scheduled date.
Calls for clemency from personalities like Kim Kardashian had multiplied in favor of this mother of 14 children of Hispanic origin, the interest in her case going beyond the American borders. Another Texas court will now have to consider the motions of its lawyers, according to court documents.
“This is a first step towards obtaining a new trial, but it does not mean that a new trial has been granted”, several steps remain to be taken, explained during a press conference Vanessa Potkin, American lawyer. Despite this decision, she remains on death row for the time being.
“I thank God for my life”
His defense claims in particular that new scientific evidence exonerates him, and that false testimony led to his conviction. According to her supporters, the death of Melissa Lucio’s daughter, Mariah, was an accident, not murder.
“I thank God for my life,” said Melissa Lucio, who has maintained her innocence for 15 years, saying she is “grateful to the court for giving me the chance to live and prove my innocence” and “to have more days to be a mother to my children and a grandmother to my grandchildren”. She “cried and was speechless” upon hearing the news, according to her lawyers. Her loved ones are now waiting for “Melissa to come home,” her sister Sonya Valencia said.
In 2007, her 2-year-old daughter Mariah was found dead in her home, covered in bruises, days after falling down stairs. Melissa Lucio, with a life marked by both physical and sexual assault, drug addiction and precarious conditions, was immediately suspected of having hit her.
Prosecutor sentenced for bribery and extortion
After a long interrogation, the mother of the family had made a “completely extorted” confession, according to Sabrina Van Tassel, director of the hit documentary “The State of Texas against Melissa” (2020 in the United States, 2021 in France) and support of the American. “I guess I did,” replied Melissa Lucio, questioned about the presence of hematomas, to the investigators.
After a controversial trial, she was sentenced to death. But the handicaps of the girl, likely to explain her fall, had not been taken into account by the experts, according to her defense, which ensures that the bruises could have been caused by a blood circulation disorder. None of the Texan’s children had accused her of being violent. As for the prosecutor, he was later sentenced to prison for bribery and extortion, in a case unrelated to that of Melissa Lucio.
The campaign to support Melissa Lucio had brought together many local Republican elected officials, traditionally more inclined to defend capital punishment. One of the jurors in her trial also expressed his “deep regret” for having sentenced her to death.
In France, the American had received the support of Christiane Taubira, former Minister of Justice and ex-presidential candidate of 2022. On Monday, she immediately welcomed the decision on Twitter: “The execution of Melissa Lucio in Texas n It won’t happen. How to write it without drowning in tears. Of anguish and joy.”
“It would have been a historic injustice for her to be executed for a crime she did not commit, a crime which, in fact, never took place,” Burke Butler, director, told AFP. of the Texas Defender Service Association.
It is rare for women to be executed in the United States. Only 17 have been since 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Texas is both the state that executes the most and the one that has executed the largest number of convicted women, with 6 put to death. Melissa Lucio was reportedly the first Hispanic woman to be put to death in that state.
“The example of the mobilization in Texas, in the United States and in the world in favor of Melissa Lucio must serve to reflect on the death penalty in general, for all those who are not saved”, reacted Raphaël Chenuil -Hazan, executive director of the French association Together Against the Death Penalty.