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Jurors, Legislators Urge Clemency in Texas Woman's Death Penalty Case

Melissa Lucio was convicted in Texas of beating and killing her daughter and sentenced to death, but a large contingent of supporters, including legislators and some of the jurors who convicted her now believe she is innocent, the Associated Press reports. The case against her began during an interrogation in which she was repeatedly asked if she had beat her two-year-old daughter, Mariah, to death. According to Lucio's attorneys, she denied killing her daughter over 100 times, but then was asked whether she was responsible for some of her daughter's injuries. To this, she said "I guess I did it." The state seized on this statement and interpreted it as a confession, though Lucio and her attorneys say Lucio's daughter died as a result of falling down a steep staircase outside the family's apartment. Using the supposed confession, the Cameron County District Attorney's Office won a conviction and death sentence for Lucio. Her execution is scheduled for April 27.

Three jurors who found Lucio guilty say her counsel was never able to present evidence questioning the validity of her confession and that they never heard any forensic evidence to justify the defense's theory of the case. Juror Johnny Galvan said, “She was not evil. She was just struggling. ... If we had heard passionately from the defense ... in some way, we might have reached a different decision." The Texas Attorney General's Office has rebutted these concerns by maintaining that the emergency room doctor who treated Mariah called her injuries the "absolute worst" case of child abuse in 30 years of medical practice. The attorney general said "Lucio still advances no evidence that is reliable and supportive of her acquittal.” However, 83 members of the Texas House of Representatives, including some conservatives, told the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Greg Abbott that executing Lucio would be a "miscarriage of justice." Abbott can grant Lucio clemency if the majority of the pardon board recommends it on April 25. Abbott has granted clemency only once in seven years. Lucio could become the first Latina to be executed by Texas and the first woman since 2014. Since 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, only 17 women have been executed.


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