News 03.31.22

83 Texas State Representatives Urge Board of Pardons & Paroles: Spare Melissa Lucio

A bipartisan group of lawmakers urged the Pardons and Parole Board to recommend granting clemency.

Melissa Lucio poses for a portrait behind glass at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas. (Image: Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Innocence Project)

A bipartisan group, comprising the majority of members in the Texas House of Representatives, have come forward, united, in support of clemency for Melissa Lucio, who is scheduled to be executed for a crime that never occurred on April 27, 2022. Eighty-three Texas representatives signed a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles asking to grant Ms. Lucio clemency. Last week, they held a press conference to further voice the urgent need to stop this irreversible injustice.

At the press conference on March 24, state representative Jeff Leach (R-Plano), co-chair of the House’s bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Caucus, stated, “The system literally failed Melissa Lucio at every single turn. As a conservative Republican myself, who has long been a supporter of the death penalty in the most heinous cases, I have never seen a more troubling case.”

Read the press release issued by the coalition of lawmakers below.

83 Texas State Representatives Urge Board of Pardons & Paroles: Spare Melissa Lucio

(March 28, 2022 — Austin, TX) A bipartisan group of Texas legislators led by Representatives Jeff Leach (R–Plano) and Joe Moody (D–El Paso) held a press conference on March 24, 2022, at the Capitol urging clemency or a reprieve for Melissa Lucio, who is scheduled for execution on April 27, 2022. Leach and Moody co-chair the Criminal Justice Reform Caucus and were recently appointed chair and vice chair of the Interim Study Committee on Criminal Justice Reform by Speaker Dade Phelan.

“There’s simply too much doubt about whether Melissa Lucio is guilty, or even whether a crime occurred in the first place,” Leach said. “She was convicted based on discredited forensics and the testimony of a medical examiner who didn’t follow protocol and put another innocent person in prison just two months after Melissa.”

Moody highlighted Lucio’s religious conversion. “It’s always important to balance justice with mercy. As a practicing Catholic, I know how powerful a turn to faith can be, and whoever Melissa was when she entered our system, her devotion and ministry make it clear that she’s now a different person who’s earned a measure of grace.”

“We can’t have any confidence in how this investigation unfolded,” said Texas House Dean Senfronia Thompson (D–Houston), “Melissa’s so-called confession came after more than five hours of brutal interrogation of a woman whose history shows she’s vulnerable to giving the kinds of false confessions we see in a third of all wrongful convictions.”

“We should be listening to the family of the deceased here,” Rafael Anchía (D–Dallas) argued. “This was a tragedy, but those people who the State of Texas is supposed to be seeking justice for are all telling us that executing Melissa will just further traumatize them.”

James White (R–Hillister) focused on the poor representation Lucio received. “Everyone has a right to a competent defense in our state. Melissa didn’t get that. When you have lawyers handling a capital murder who haven’t even tried a criminal case before, that’s a problem, so it’s no surprise that many of our Fifth Circuit’s judges found she didn’t get a fair trial.”

“I think the whole system failed Melissa every step of the way,” said Lacey Hull (R–Houston). “CPS didn’t adequately intervene after numerous reports Melissa was being abused by her husband, a corrupt DA who’s now in prison pushed this prosecution for pollical reasons, and Melissa’s husband, who had a violent history, got only four years in prison while she got a death sentence. What happened here is wrong.”

Each of these House members were among the 83 Texas legislators who signed on to a letter last week urging the Board of Pardons and Paroles to act. The initial recommendation for clemency will be in the hands of the board but must then be approved by the governor.

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