Melissa Lucio, a mother convicted of killing her two-year-old daughter more than a decade ago, is set to be executed in less than a week, reports the New York Times. The execution would be the first of a Hispanic woman in Texas. The case has drawn widespread media attention because of new evidence and expert testimony casting doubt about her guilt. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have decried the planned execution and called for clemency or a reprieve. “It will be a historic, irreversible blunder on the part of the State of Texas if we go forward with this,” said State Rep. Jeff Leach. “I’ve never seen a more troubling case than the case of Melissa Lucio.” Five jurors from her trial have come out in favor of clemency, citing new evidence. “I voted to sentence Melissa Lucio to death. I was wrong,” one wrote in the Houston Chronicle. Lucio gave a confession after many hours of interrogation, scientific evidence used to convict her has been called into question, and many have called her defense inadequate. “Police targeted Melissa because she didn’t fit their image of how a grieving mother should behave” after her daughter’s death, said Sandra Babcock, one of her lawyers.
Lucio claims that her daughter Mariah died after taking a nap that she did not wake up from and that, two days earlier, she had fallen down a flight of stairs. An autopsy said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head. Lucio had a history of drug abuse, but she had never been accused of abusing her children before Mariah died. One issue her lawyers are raising is the legal provision — unique to Texas — under which prosecutors must prove a person’s “future dangerousness” to secure a death sentence. Prosecutors relied heavily on disciplinary records from her time behind bars after her arrest. Her lawyers have argued that the prosecution misrepresented those records and that she had not engaged in significant misconduct. Despite the support for Lucio, no formal action has been taken to halt or delay her execution, which is scheduled for Wednesday. The case is before the highest criminal court in Texas, and a request for clemency is being considered by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.