Texas death row mother Melissa Lucio to learn of fate today as parole board considers clemency

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is considering a request to have her death sentence commuted to life imprisonment or to grant a 120-day execution reprieve

Gino Spocchia
Monday 25 April 2022 16:31 BST
Melissa Lucio’s son says ‘I don’t want to see my mom die’
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The fate of Melissa Lucio is expected to be decided today as the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles will determine whether the state should move forward with her execution for a crime she says she didn’t commit.

The 53-year-old Hispanic mother-of-14 is currently scheduled to be executed on Wednesday in a case that has drawn an outcry from celebrities, human rights advocates and both Republican and Democratic state lawmakers.

On Monday – just 48 hours from her execution – the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is considering a request to have her death sentence commuted to life imprisonment or be granted a 120-day execution reprieve.

If the parole board makes such a recommendation, the power over Lucio’s life will then lie in the hands of Governor Greg Abbott who will then decide whether to sign off on the recommendation.

If the board does not recommend the execution be stopped, the Republican governor only has the power to issue a 30-day stay of execution.

Mr Abbott has only ever granted clemency to one person on death row since taking office back in 2015.

He suggested last week that he would wait for the parole board’s decision before announcing any action in the highly controversial case.

“With regard to the death penalty that could arise next week... I still have not received a report from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles,” he said.

“That’s a requirement for the governor to receive before any action is taken. And when I receive that, I’ll consider it and take whatever action I think is appropriate.”

A majority of lawmakers in both Texas’s House and Senate have called on the parole board and Mr Abbott to grant her clemency.

The parole board has until 1.30pm CT (7.30PM BST) on Monday to make its recommendation, while Mr Abbott has until 6pm CT (00:00 BST) on Wednesday to approve any recommendation to stop the execution.

There are a handful of other options to save Lucio’s life if the parole board and the governor do not grant her clemency.

Lucio’s legal team has filed an appeal with the Texas Texas Court of Criminal Appeals asking it to grant her a stay of execution.

If the court denies the appeal, Lucio’s attorney Sandra Babcock told The Independent they would take the case to the US Supreme Court.

Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz also has the power to withdraw her execution date at any time, after he requested the death warrant and date.

Family of Melissa Lucio pray during a vigil
Family of Melissa Lucio pray during a vigil (AP)

Last week, during a contentious hearing with state lawmakers, Mr Saenz initially refused to take any action to stop Lucio’s execution.

But, later in the hearing, Mr Saenz relented saying that he believes the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals would issue a stay and that, if it doesn’t, he will.

“If defendant Lucio does not get a stay by a certain day, then I will do what I have to do and stop it,” he said.

Despite the options, time is running out for Lucio with just 48 hours to go until she will become the first Latina to be executed in Texas and the first woman in nearly a decade.

Lucio was sentenced to death in 2008 over the 2007 alleged murder of her two-year-old daughter Mariah.

Prosecutors said at the time that the little girl died after being physically abused by her mother.

Lucio says that she died two days after an accidental fall down the stairs when they were moving home.

Lawyers for Lucio say the grieving mother was then “coerced” into making a false confession.

New evidence also supports her version of events of Mariah sustaining an injury during a fall down a flight of 14 steps, her attorneys argue.

Just 17 women have been executed since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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