August 19, 2022

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Why was Melissa Lucio’s execution delayed?

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 dying of her 2-year-old daughter Mariah in Harlingen, a metropolis of about 75,000 in Texas’ southern tip.

The Texas Courtroom of Prison Appeals intervened Monday, granting Lucio’s legal professionals’ request for a keep of execution so a decrease courtroom can assessment claims that new proof would present Mariah’s accidents, together with a blow to the pinnacle, have been attributable to a fall down a steep staircase.

Almost half of the jurors who sentenced her to die for the 2007 dying of one in all her 14 kids had referred to as for her execution to be halted and for her to get a brand new trial. Many lawmakers and celebrities reminiscent of Kim Kardashian, an advocate for prison justice reform, and Amanda Knox — an American whose homicide conviction within the dying of a British scholar 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 in search of to cease her execution. She additionally had a clemency utility earlier than the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which had been set to contemplate her case Monday. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott might have additionally performed a task this week in deciding Lucio’s destiny. If finally put to dying, Lucio can be the primary Latina executed by Texas since 1863, and the primary girl the state has put to dying since 2014.

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

WHAT ISSUES ARE BEING DEBATED?

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Lucio’s attorneys say her capital homicide conviction was based mostly 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.

Her legal professionals additionally contend that unscientific and false proof misled jurors into believing Mariah’s accidents solely might have been attributable to 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 selections in life weren’t good I’d have by no means harm any of my kids in such a manner,” Lucio wrote in a letter to Texas lawmakers.

Cameron County District Lawyer 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 occasions 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 legal professional 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.

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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 dying row inmates, and prayed with Lucio.

5 of the 12 jurors who sentenced Lucio and one alternate juror have questioned their determination 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 courtroom determination 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 contemplate a request to both commute her dying sentence to life imprisonment or grant her a 120-day execution reprieve, however that listening to was postpone by the appeals courtroom’s order. Lucio additionally had an attraction pending in federal courtroom to cease her execution. The federal attraction 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 courtroom would start reviewing her case. Tivon Schardl, one in all Lucio’s legal professionals, mentioned they hope to persuade the trial choose to advocate that the appeals courtroom 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 dying row inmate since taking workplace in 2015. Abbott commuted a dying sentence to life with out parole for Thomas “Bart” Whitaker, who was convicted of fatally capturing 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 accordance with the Washington-based Demise Penalty Info Middle, a nonprofit that takes no place on capital punishment however has criticized the best way states perform executions. Ladies have accounted for under 3.6% of the greater than 16,000 confirmed executions within the U.S. relationship again to the colonial interval within the 1600s, in accordance with the group’s information.

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

The federal authorities has executed one girl since 1976. Lisa Montgomery, of Kansas, acquired 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 below the Biden administration.

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