'That's my mother. I know she's innocent.' Calls for mercy grow days before Melissa Lucio is set to be executed
Updated 8:05 AM ET, Mon April 25, 2022
(CNN)The family and advocates of the only Hispanic woman on Texas' death row are fighting to stop her looming execution, arguing she was wrongfully convicted of the murder of her 2-year-old daughter in 2007.
"We don't want our mother executed," Melissa Lucio's oldest son, John, told CNN. "We already lost our sister. And now to lose our mother for an accident is just horrible."
Lucio's attorneys are seeking clemency, calling on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott either a commutation of her sentence before her scheduled execution on Wednesday or a reprieve for at least 120 days to review evidence they say will show her innocence. Her attorneys, among them lawyers for the Innocence Project, are also arguing her case before the courts.
Calls for mercy have grown louder in recent days, including from Texas legislators on both sides of the aisle, and celebrities like Kim Kardashian. Even some jurors in Lucio's state case now say her execution should be stopped or she should get a new trial based on evidence they did not hear.
At trial, prosecutors argued Lucio was an abusive mother who likely caused the injuries that resulted in her daughter Mariah's death. But Lucio's clemency petition says those were the result of an accidental fall down the stairs outside the family's second-story apartment and authorities, plagued by a crucial misunderstanding about the fall, assumed Mariah's injuries stemmed from abuse and discounted or ignored evidence that could have proven Lucio's innocence.
Lucio, now 53, was convicted in large part, her attorneys argue, on the basis of a coerced "confession" she gave authorities in an "aggressive" late night interrogation the same night her daughter died. Lucio was particularly susceptible to coercion by authorities because of her history as a lifelong survivor of sexual abuse and domestic violence, they say, citing medical experts who reviewed her case.
For Lucio's surviving children like John, the prospect of losing their mother is hard to accept. He's the first to admit his mother had "imperfections," pointing to her struggles with drug addiction.
"But she's a great mother," he told CNN, who "never laid a hand on any of us."