Advocates rallied Thursday in Dallas seeking clemency for a woman who is facing execution later this month after being convicted for allegedly killing her 2-year-old daughter more than a decade ago.
Attorneys for Melissa Lucio, who is on death row, submitted an application for clemency to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, according to a statement from the Innocence Project, which represents Lucio.
“We are here to prevent an irreversible injustice, the government execution of Melissa Lucio because if we don’t – if the state executes her despite all of the overwhelming evidence pointing to her innocence, her execution will be a stain on our state’s morality,” said Democratic state Rep. Victoria Neave Criado, who attended the rally at Dallas City Hall.
Lucio, now 53, received the death penalty after a jury convicted her of capital murder in the February 2007 death of her daughter, Mariah. She is scheduled to be executed on April 27.
According to authorities, first responders arrived at a home and found the child was unresponsive and later died.
However, according to clemency petition, investigators “fixated on Melissa as a suspect” when Mariah stopped breathing on the evening of February 17, 2007, “days after falling down a steep set of stairs.”
“Convinced that Mariah’s injuries must have resulted from abuse, not an accident, they set out for evidence to confirm their assumptions and discounted evidence that corroborated witness accounts of Mariah’s fall and declining health in the following days,” the documents say.
Lucio’s attorneys argue that investigators were convinced a crime had occurred and “focused on Melissa as the purported abuser.”
Criado and six other state representatives visited Lucio on Wednesday at the Mountainview Women’s Prison Unit in Gatesville, Texas.
“Waiting, there is mother, a Latina, a tejana (Texan) - Melissa Lucio, dressed in white, praying and hoping and waiting for word that she will not be executed on April 27, 2022,” Criado said.
Republican State Rep. Jeff Leach echoed Criado’s advocacy, saying he was “honored” to support Lucio’s clemency through bipartisanship with other state elected officials and that there’s still time to “ensure justice is served.”
“Amidst the darkness of death row and her own impending execution, Melissa radiated a deep and sincere joy and an unspeakable hope,” Leach said in a statement to CNN. “Without question, Melissa’s case is the most troubling and shocking death penalty case I’ve ever seen. The system literally failed her at every turn.”
Lucio’s attorney, Vanessa Potkin, said the bipartisan support is encouraging.
“The new evidence of innocence in Ms. Lucio’s case has never been examined by any court or judge and our hope is that Governor Abbott or a court will intervene to stop what would be an irreversible injustice if the execution moved forward,” Potkin told CNN in a statement.
According to attorneys, new evidence shows that Lucio, a victim of sexual abuse and domestic violence, was wrongly convicted for the accidental death of her daughter and that her confession was coerced.
The clemency application seeks the commutation of Lucio’s death sentence to a lesser penalty or a 120-day reprieve from her execution.
Lucio’s case has gained national attention in recent years and was the subject of a documentary, “The State of Texas vs. Melissa,” which was streamed on Hulu.
CNN reached out to Abbott’s office, the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for comment.