‘I don’t want to see my mom die’: Melissa Lucio’s son hopes for clemency as execution date nears

‘I go to sleep thinking about it. I wake up thinking about it,’ says John Lucio as his mother’s execution nears

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Friday 08 April 2022 15:54 BST
Jon Lucio, son of Melissa Lucio, is campaigning for clemency for his mother as her execution date approaches
Jon Lucio, son of Melissa Lucio, is campaigning for clemency for his mother as her execution date approaches (WFAA)

Melissa Lucio’s eldest son says his mother is not a monster, as he and the rest of the family fight for her life with the clock ticking down to her scheduled execution date.

They know they face an uphill battle fighting for clemency but have gained the support of members of the jury from her trial, nearly 90 Texas lawmakers, and reality star and death row campaigner Kim Kardashian.

“My main fight right now is to stop April 27 from arriving,” John Lucio told WFAA. “I go to sleep thinking about it. I wake up thinking about it.”

As her most vocal supporter, Mr Lucio has held rallies across Texas to get people’s attention about his mother’s case in the hope of getting her exonerated or her death sentence commuted.

Lucio, a mother of 14 and victim of domestic violence, was convicted of killing her two-year-old daughter in 2007.

Her lawyers argue she “falsely” admitted to killing Mariah after hours of intense police questioning and that she died from falling down a steep staircase outside their apartment in Harlingen, South Texas, and not from being beaten.

Lucio was worn down by her grief and being abused throughout her life during the aggressive interrogation and finally admitted to a crime she didn’t commit, her lawyers say.

Prosecutors say Mariah was the victim of child abuse and there is no evidence that would acquit Lucio of her daughter’s death.

But Lucio’s lawyers say jurors never heard forensic evidence that would have explained Mariah’s various injuries were actually caused by a fall days before her death. They also say Lucio wasn’t allowed to present evidence questioning the validity of her confession, which they allege was not actually a confession and was given under duress after hours of relentless questioning.

Writing for The Independent, an expert in false confessions says Texas is executing an innocent woman in one of the most tragic cases they have seen in their career.

Tivon Schardl, who is with the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Public Defenders Office, told WFAA: “In terms of a miscarriage of justice, this is probably the worst case I’ve seen.”

He adds: “The scales have always been tilted against Melissa Lucio. We’re trying to right those scales now.”

Mr Lucio says: “The picture they had of my mom was that she was a monster, not the mother.”

Lucio will be the first Latina put to death by the state of Texas if the execution goes ahead. Only the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Greg Abbott can step in to save her from death by lethal injection.

With just two weeks to go, the campaign to grant clemency has gone into overdrive and garnered bipartisan support in the state legislature, with seven lawmakers visiting Lucio on Wednesday.

They toured the prison for about two hours before meeting privately with Lucio for about 40 minutes, even praying with her.

The lawmakers encouraged Lucio and talked with her about their efforts to stop her execution, Republican Representative Jeff Leach said.

“It was just a sweet, sweet time together, very powerful,” he added.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Democrat Joe Moody tweeted: “She prayed with us & hugged us; today might be the last genuine human contact she has before the state kills her.”

Speaking to the Associated Press, Mr Leach said: “We are blessed to have the opportunity to meet with Melissa, to pray with her, to spend time with her and we’re more resolute and committed than ever to fighting over the next three weeks to save her life.”

Mr Lucio and five other family members plan to be there should the bid for clemency fail. He emotionally told WFAA: “I don’t wanna see my mom die. But if I have to see it... I would like to see her last breath.”

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