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Family Of Texas Mom On Death Row For Daughter's 2007 Killing Begs For Execution To Be Halted

“Please, please stop the execution,” John Lucio, Melissa Lucio’s son, during a virtual press conference Thursday shortly before going to visit his mother in prison.

By Dorian Geiger
Melissa Lucio Ap

A growing chorus of family members and criminal justice activists who say a Texas mother on death row was wrongly convicted in the slaying of her 2-year-old daughter more than 15 years ago are begging officials to call off her execution next week.

Melissa Lucio, who was found guilty of capital murder in the death of her daughter Mariah on Feb. 15, 2007, is set to be executed on April 27. She was first sentenced to death in 2008.

The Texas woman’s supporters, who have long-maintained she was coerced into confessing to her daughter's killing, have called for a “national day of action” on April 23.

“Please, please stop the execution,” an emotional John Lucio, her son, said at a virtual press conference Thursday ahead of visiting his mother behind bars, Law & Crime reported.

Earlier this month, Lucio’s attorneys filed an appeal with the Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing a swath of new evidence proves the 53-year-old mother didn’t kill her daughter. 

A police handout of Melissa Lucio

The eleventh hour effort to halt Lucio’s capital punishment rests on the shoulders of Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz or Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, neither of whom has signaled that they’d re-open her case or take any action to block the execution.

Despite the obstacles, John Lucio is still holding out hope that his mother’s life could still be spared. 

"It’s been very emotional. I don’t even know the words to tell it," he told KDFW. "We don’t come over here and show her pain, we don’t show her fear, and it’s really eating at us, has eaten me up a whole lot.”

During an hours-long police interrogation following Lucio’s 2007 arrest, she repeatedly denied — more than 100 times — that she’d beaten her young child to death.

Eventually, she gave in, according to the Innocence Project.

“Melissa was subjected to a five-hour, late-night, carefully orchestrated and aggressive interrogation until, physically and emotionally exhausted, she eventually said ‘I guess I did it,'” her lawyers wrote in court filings earlier this year.

Lucio’s attorneys also said she was a victim of physical and sexual abuse, that detectives unlawfully extracted her confession and that she caved under the pressure of their interrogation tactics. 

According to research, sexual abuse survivors such as Lucio are extremely vulnerable to coercion. 

“Because the trial court excluded Melissa’s proffered expert testimony, the jury would not hear that Melissa’s long history of sexual and physical abuse made her especially vulnerable to the aggressive, intimidating, and psychological interrogation tactics the male police officers deployed,” the filing said.

“When the interrogation began, Melissa had been awake for roughly 14 hours," they added. "She was also pregnant with twins. Interrogators provided her nothing to eat and allowed her no sleep.”

Her alleged confession played a major role at her trial, where prosecutors also blamed Lucio for abusing her daughter and accused her of being a drug-user.

"I think it’s time for D.A. Saenz to take a good look at this, because it’s coming down to a choice," activist Charles Keith said.

Lucio could become the first Latina woman to be executed in modern history in Texas, Axios reported.

Tivon Schardl, an attorney representing Lucio, wasn’t immediately available for comment on Friday afternoon when contacted by Oxygen.com.

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