Juror who sentenced Melissa Lucio to death for daughter’s murder calls for retrial: ‘I was wrong’

Melissa Lucio is scheduled for execution on April 27 for beating her daughter to death

Justin Vallejo
New York
Tuesday 05 April 2022 15:37 BST
Efforts underway to commute, delay mother's scheduled execution
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One of the jurors who sentenced Melissa Lucio to death has written a newspaper editorial claiming he was misled and pressured during the mother’s trial for murdering her two-year-old daughter.

Johnny Galvan Jr wrote in The Houston Chronicle that he was wrong to succumb to "peer pressure" and change his vote from a life sentence to the death penalty, or they’d "be there all day" if he didn’t.

Lucio, 53, was sentenced to death for the February 2007 homicide of her daughter Mariah, who the court found died from injuries caused by her mother’s abuse.

"But there were so many other details that went unmentioned. It wasn’t until after the trial was over that troubling information was brought to light," Mr Galvan wrote.

"If I had known all of this information, or even part of it, I would have stood by my vote for life no matter what anyone else on the jury said."

Lucio has vacillated between claiming innocence on arrest, confessing responsibility during interrogation, and claiming innocence during the trial and on death row.

Lawyers hope that Lucio’s 100 protestations of innocence before admitting "I guess I did it" in response to some of Mariah’s injuries will show a tainted investigation that failed to consider witness statements the child fell down the stairs.

Melissa Lucio in mugshot following her arrest on suspicion of killing her two-year-old daughter Mariah
Melissa Lucio in mugshot following her arrest on suspicion of killing her two-year-old daughter Mariah ( Texas Department of Criminal Justice)

Mr Galvan, who says he was the last hold out against the death penalty before changing his vote, wrote his op-ed amid a campaign for clemency from Texas governor Greg Abbot ahead of Lucio’s execution on 27 April.

Less than a month away from her planned execution, Mr Galvan says he feels "deep regret" and that hearing accounts from witnesses, that defence attorneys did not call to testify, about how the two-year-old fell downstairs "would have mattered".

"I did not know that her long history of physical and sexual abuse made her vulnerable to falsely confess when subjected to aggressive interrogation tactics on the night of her daughter’s death," he said.

"No one took us through the interrogation to show us how many times she asserted her innocence (over 100) or how she repeated the same words the interrogators fed to her. No evidence was presented of that and it would have mattered to me.

"I was led to believe that the medical examiner had scientific proof of abuse. We jurors did not know there was another medical explanation for the baby’s bruises, that experts couldn’t say for sure she had a bite mark on her back, or that she could have broken her arm in a fall or roughhousing with her brothers and sisters."

Texas Execution
Texas Execution (the family of Melissa Lucio)

He continued with insight from within the deliberation room, saying their initial vote was evenly divided between sentencing her to a life sentence or the death penalty.

On the second vote, he says he was the "lone holdout" for a life sentence.

"The other jurors looked at me and I felt the peer pressure to change my vote. I remember one saying we would be there all day if I didn’t, " he wrote.

"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," he added.

The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty - with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.

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