Letter: Bipartisan Group of 80+ TX State Reps Urging Clemency for Melissa Lucio

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Death row inmate Melissa Lucio appears in this image from the film “The State of Texas vs. Melissa.” (Courtesy: Sabrina Van Tassel)

On Saturday, a bipartisan group of more than 80 members of the Texas House of Representatives sent the attached letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles urging clemency for Melissa Lucio.

The legislators cite serious doubts about the reliability of Ms. Lucio’s conviction, the disparity in her sentencing, and her deep Catholic faith. Ms. Lucio is scheduled for execution on April 27, 2022.

To: Texas Board of Pardons & Paroles

We, the undersigned members of the Texas House of Representatives, write to urge you to cancel Melissa Lucio’s execution, currently scheduled for April 27, 2022, by either commuting her sentence or granting her a reprieve.

We appreciate how seriously you take your unique responsibility by approaching every execution with the utmost care and caution so that Texas never executes someone for a crime they did not commit. That is why we are confident that you will come to the same conclusion we have: that the State of Texas cannot, in good faith, execute Ms. Lucio next month.

We ask that you pay particular attention to the new scientific evidence that has emerged since the time of Ms. Lucio’s trial showing that her daughter, Mariah, died after a tragic accident rather than an intentional capital murder. In other words, Ms. Lucio was sentenced for a murder that, simply put, did not take place, and no eyewitness account exists saying otherwise. Ms. Lucio’s case is one that gives even the strongest death penalty proponents among us pause. Of course, we understand that some of these issues must be litigated, and a commutation or reprieve would give Ms. Lucio’s lawyers the time they need to further develop evidence of Melissa’s innocence. We should not rush something that cannot be undone.

Beyond those doubts, the dramatic sentencing disparity between Ms. Lucio and her husband, who was also responsible for Mariah’s care, is inescapable. Unlike Ms. Lucio, who had no documented history of violence towards her children, her husband had a history of assaultive behavior but is now a free man after serving a four-year sentence for child endangerment. You now have a unique and powerful opportunity to show Texas women that our system of justice is evenhanded.

Ms. Lucio has strong sources of support in her family and the people around her. She also has her faith as a practicing Catholic who regularly attends mass. She has even formed and led a Bible study group on death row and brought other inmates to salvation in Jesus Christ.

Executing her will not achieve justice for Mariah. Instead, it will cause more suffering for Mariah’s siblings, her grandmother, her father, and her aunts and uncles, who all lost Mariah 14 years ago and are desperate not to lose her mother. A commutation or, at a minimum, a reprieve, would prevent further harm to a family that has already experienced tremendous loss.

We have been encouraged by the thoughtful decisions you have made in recent years in cases like Bobby Moore and Thomas Whitaker, which presented similar issues of evidentiary doubt, disparate sentences, and supportive families outside. While we understand the gravity of the issue before you, we also believe Ms. Lucio’s case presents the same opportunity to prevent a miscarriage of justice and strengthen public trust in our legal system.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration and your leadership on this issue.

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