August 14, 2022

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‘I don’t want that on any mum or dad’ – Tyre Sampson’s mom explains why she filed wrongful demise lawsuit

By JUAN A. LOZANO

HOUSTON (AP) — The execution of Melissa Lucio is off. At the least for now.

Lucio, 52, had been set to be executed by deadly injection Wednesday for the demise of her 2-year-old daughter Mariah in Harlingen, a metropolis of about 75,000 in Texas’ southern tip.

The Texas Courtroom of Legal Appeals intervened Monday, granting Lucio’s legal professionals’ request for a keep of execution so a decrease court docket can overview claims that new proof would present Mariah’s accidents, together with a blow to the top, had been brought on by a fall down a steep staircase.

Almost half of the jurors who sentenced her to die for the 2007 demise of one among her 14 kids had known as for her execution to be halted and for her to get a brand new trial. Many lawmakers and celebrities resembling Kim Kardashian, an advocate for legal justice reform, and Amanda Knox — an American whose homicide conviction within the demise of a British pupil in Italy was overturned — have rallied to Lucio’s trigger. Prosecutors, although, preserve that the woman was the sufferer of kid abuse.

Lucio’s legal professionals had filed varied authorized appeals searching for to cease her execution. She additionally had a clemency utility earlier than the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which had been set to think about her case Monday. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott might have additionally performed a job this week in deciding Lucio’s destiny. If finally put to demise, Lucio can be the primary Latina executed by Texas since 1863, and the primary lady the state has put to demise since 2014.

Right here’s what to know in regards to the case:

WHAT ISSUES ARE BEING DEBATED?

Lucio’s attorneys say her capital homicide conviction was primarily based on an unreliable and coerced confession that was the results of relentless questioning and her lengthy historical past of sexual, bodily and emotional abuse. They are saying Lucio wasn’t allowed to current proof questioning the validity of her confession.

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Her legal professionals additionally contend that unscientific and false proof misled jurors into believing Mariah’s accidents solely might have been brought on by bodily abuse and never by medical issues from a extreme fall.

“I knew that what I used to be accused of doing was not true. My kids have at all times been my world and though my decisions in life weren’t good I’d have by no means damage any of my kids in such a manner,” Lucio wrote in a letter to Texas lawmakers.

Cameron County District Legal professional Luis Saenz, whose workplace prosecuted the case, has mentioned he disagrees with Lucio’s legal professionals’ claims that new proof would exonerate her. Prosecutors say Lucio had a historical past of drug abuse and at instances had misplaced custody of a few of her 14 kids.

Throughout a typically contentious Texas Home committee listening to on Lucio’s case this month, Saenz initially pushed again on requests to make use of his energy to cease the execution, earlier than later saying he would intervene if the courts didn’t act.

“I don’t disagree with all of the scrutiny this case is getting. I welcome that,” Saenz mentioned.

Armando Villalobos was the county’s district lawyer when Lucio was convicted in 2008, and Lucio’s legal professionals allege that he pushed for a conviction to assist his reelection bid. In 2014, Villalobos was sentenced to 13 years in federal jail for a bribery scheme associated to providing favorable prosecutorial choices.

WHO IS CALLING FOR LUCIO’S EXECUTION TO BE STOPPED?

Greater than half the members of the Texas Legislature have requested that her execution be halted. A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers traveled this month to Gatesville, the place the state homes feminine demise row inmates, and prayed with Lucio.

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5 of the 12 jurors who sentenced Lucio and one alternate juror have questioned their choice and requested she get a brand new trial.

Lucio’s trigger additionally has the backing of religion leaders and was featured on HBO’s “Final Week Tonight with John Oliver.”

Lucio’s household and supporters have been touring all through Texas and holding rallies and screenings of a 2020 documentary about her case, “The State of Texas vs. Melissa.”

Earlier than the court docket choice Monday, Lucio’s supporters held a prayer vigil contained in the state Capitol in Austin as they waited for phrase from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on her clemency utility. On Saturday, supporters held rallies in 16 U.S. cities, together with Houston, Boston, and Columbus, Ohio.

WHERE DO EFFORTS TO HALT HER EXECUTION STAND?

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles had been set Monday to think about a request to both commute her demise sentence to life imprisonment or grant her a 120-day execution reprieve, however that listening to was postpone by the appeals court docket’s order. Lucio additionally had an enchantment pending in federal court docket to cease her execution. The federal enchantment and the clemency petition at the moment are put apart because the case returns to the trial choose in Brownsville.

It was not instantly identified when the decrease court docket would start reviewing her case. Tivon Schardl, one among Lucio’s legal professionals, mentioned they hope to persuade the trial choose to advocate that the appeals court docket grant her a brand new trial.

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If the board had taken up her case and determined to advocate commutation of her sentence or a reprieve, that may have wanted Abbott’s approval. The governor has granted clemency to just one demise row inmate since taking workplace in 2015. Abbott commuted a demise sentence to life with out parole for Thomas “Bart” Whitaker, who was convicted of fatally taking pictures his mom and brother. Whitaker’s father was additionally shot however survived and led the hassle to spare his son’s life.

HOW FREQUENTLY ARE WOMEN EXECUTED?

It’s uncommon within the U.S., in line with the Washington-based Loss of life Penalty Data Middle, a nonprofit that takes no place on capital punishment however has criticized the best way states perform executions. Girls have accounted for less than 3.6% of the greater than 16,000 confirmed executions within the U.S. courting again to the colonial interval within the 1600s, in line with the group’s information.

For the reason that U.S. Supreme Courtroom reinstated the demise penalty in 1976, 17 ladies have been executed all through the nation, in line with the info. Texas has put extra ladies to demise — six — than every other state. Oklahoma is subsequent, with three, and Florida has executed two.

The federal authorities has executed one lady since 1976. Lisa Montgomery, of Kansas, obtained a deadly injection in January 2021 after the Trump administration resumed executions within the federal system following a 17-year hiatus. The Justice Division has halted executions once more beneath the Biden administration.

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Observe Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: