Melissa Elizabeth Bio – Melissa Elizabeth Wiki
Melissa Elizabeth Lucio is the first woman of Hispanic descent to be sentenced to death in Texas. She was convicted of capital murder after the death of her two-year-old daughter, Mariah, who was found to have scattered bruising in various stages of healing, as well as injuries to her head and contusions of the kidneys, lungs, and spinal cord. Prosecutors said that Mariah’s injuries were the result of physical abuse, while Lucio’s attorneys say that Mariah’s death was caused by a fall down the stairs two days before her death.
Melissa Elizabeth is 52 years old.
DETAIL OF INCIDENCE:
A Texas woman on death row after her controversial murder conviction in her daughter’s death was granted a stay of execution today, and a lower court was ordered to consider new evidence in her case, her attorneys with the Innocence Project announced. Melissa Lucio was convicted of murder in the 2007 death of her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah, and had been scheduled to be executed Wednesday. Prosecutors said Lucio beat the girl to death, pointing to bruising on Mariah’s body and a broken arm as evidence of abuse. But Lucio’s lawyers contend Mariah’s death was an accident caused by falling down the stairs and not a crime.
Prosecutors also have said Lucio confessed to hitting Mariah during her police interrogation. But many critics have said the confession, in which she merely admits spanking the child but not abusing her, was coerced after many hours of interrogation. Lucio’s lawyers have said her history as a survivor of repeated sexual abuse and domestic violence made her especially vulnerable to coercive tactics. Lucio has always maintained her innocence.
“I am grateful the court has given me the chance to live and prove my innocence,” she said in a statement released Monday by the Innocence Project.
The statement added: “Mariah is in my heart today and always. I am grateful to have more days to be a mother to my children and a grandmother to my grandchildren. I will use my time to help bring them to Christ. I am deeply grateful to everyone who prayed for me and spoke out on my behalf.”Lucio’s attorneys had filed for clemency last month, about a month before her scheduled execution date, reports Texas Public Radio. Monday’s ruling, by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, ordered a lower court in Cameron County to consider new evidence in the case.
Lucio’s lawyers say this new evidence shows Mariah’s injuries resulted from a fall down the stairs two days prior to her death, which Lucio herself had told police about immediately following the child’s death, reports The New York Times. Lucio’s lawyers with the Innocence Project have said Mariah “had a mild physical disability that made her unstable while walking and prone to tripping.”
If Lucio is put to death, she would become the first Latina woman in Texas history to be executed. Her cause has garnered widespread support: Among her advocates are Kim Kardashian, Amanda Knox, and even a bipartisan group of 80 Texas lawmakers — something especially notable in a state known for intense partisan divisions. The Times reports that during a hearing at the State Capitol in April, legislators urged Cameron County District Attorney Luis. V. Saenz, a Democrat, to withdraw the warrant for execution. But Saenz declined.
Lucio’s lawyers have said her flat affect during interrogation raised the suspicions of authorities, causing them to zero in on her. But her demeanor, they believe, can be explained by her history of trauma. Sandra Babcock, one of Ms. Lucio’s lawyers and the director of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide, told The Times, “Police targeted Melissa because she didn’t fit their image of how a grieving mother should behave.”Vanessa Potkin, director of special litigation at The Innocence Project, told CBS that Lucio asserted her innocence more than 100 times during the five-hour interrogation, but authorities “refused to listen to her, sending the clear message that this interrogation wasn’t going to stop until she told the officers what they wanted to hear.”
Among Lucio’s supporters are five of the jurors who convicted her in the first place. One of those jurors, Johnny Galvan, Jr., wrote in a recent op-ed in the Houston Chronicle, “I am now convinced that the jury got it wrong and I know that there is too much doubt to execute Lucio. If I could take back my vote, I would.”