‘I Was Wrong’ Says Juror Who Voted to Sentence Melissa Lucio to Death

Johnny Galvan Jr. said he feels ‘deep regret’ since learning further case details not presented at trial.

04.06.22 By Daniele Selby

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

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

Latest case update from April 12, 2024: The judge who presided over Melissa Lucio’s original trial, Judge Arturo Nelson recommended that that Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturn Ms. Lucio’s conviction and death sentence. That recommendation is now before the Court of Criminal Appeals, which in Texas, is the only court that can overturn a criminal conviction.

The article below was written in 2022:

Just weeks ahead of Melissa Lucio’s scheduled execution, one juror who voted to sentence Ms. Lucio to death in 2008, wrote that he feels “deep regret” in an op-ed published by the Houston Chronicle on Sunday.

Johnny Galvan Jr. said that at the time of Ms. Lucio’s trial, he did not want to sentence her to death because he felt that Ms. Lucio’s defense lawyers “were hardly making a case for her life.” When jurors took their first vote on Ms. Lucio’s sentence, they were evenly divided, Mr. Galvan recalled. After a second vote, he was the “lone holdout” advocating for a life sentence; however, he felt pressured by his fellow jurors and ultimately voted for a death sentence alongside the others.

“… I wish I had never done so,” he wrote in the op-ed.

Ms. Lucio has spent the last 14 years on death row in Texas, convicted of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, who died two days after an accidental fall down stairs. The State of Texas plans to execute Ms. Lucio on April 27, 2022. Her legal team filed a clemency petition on March 22, citing new expert evidence that supports Ms. Lucio’s innocence to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Greg Abbott.

“There are so many problems in this case that I believe she must not be executed.”

Mr. Galvan said the majority of the prosecution’s argument at trial rested on Ms. Lucio’s “confession,” but that the jury was not told about the aggressive tactics used in the interrogation, nor Ms. Lucio’s history as a survivor of abuse, which made her vulnerable to falsely confessing when faced with such tactics. He added that the jury was never told that Ms. Lucio asserted her innocence more than 100 times during the five-hour interrogation. 

“No evidence was presented of that and it would have mattered to me,” he wrote. “Since learning about all the things we jurors were never told when we held Lucio’s life in our hands, I see her as a woman who had a hard life and many struggles, who could have been anyone in my community.”

Melissa Lucio holds Mariah and looks on at her daughter Adriana. (Image: Courtesy of the Lucio family)

Mr. Galvan said he was led to believe that the medical examiner had scientific proof of abuse, and that he and his fellow jurors were not aware there were other medical explanations for the child’s bruises, which the medical examiner claimed with certainty could only have been caused by 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. We were told it was clear that Lucio did those things,” he wrote.

The fact that District Attorney Armando Villalobos who prosecuted Ms. Lucio’s case is now serving a 13-year federal prison sentence for bribery and extortion “only adds to my belief that our decision in Lucio’s case was wrong,” Mr. Galvan said.

“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. But it seems some of my fellow jurors would also have voted differently if they knew all the information about Lucio’s life, her interrogation and the facts surrounding the child’s death that the lawyers should have told us,” he wrote.

In recent months, four jurors — including Mr. Galvan — have given statements saying they would support relief for Ms. Lucio, due to their grave concerns about evidence that was withheld from them at Ms. Lucio’s capital trial. These statements were included in the clemency petition filed by Ms. Lucio’s legal team.

Last month, 83 members of the Texas House of Representatives — the majority of its members — spoke out in support of clemency for Ms. Lucio. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle signed a letter asking Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant Ms. Lucio clemency. Some 225 anti-domestic violence and anti-sexual assault organizations and 130 Texas faith leaders have also called for clemency for Ms. Lucio, who is a devout Catholic.

Twenty-six death row exonerees, including Sabrina Butler-Smith, who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of her child in Mississippi, have advocated for clemency, too.

Mr. Galvan said he wishes he had known the truth when he sat on Ms. Lucio’s jury, writing, “The idea that my decision to take another person’s life was not based on complete and accurate information in a fair trial is horrifying.” 

He hopes that Gov. Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles will hear his plea: “There are so many problems in this case that I believe she must not be executed.”

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Patricia Donnellan April 14, 2022 at 8:16 pm Reply   

I do not believe in the death penalty period. I certainly do not believe that executing an innocent person right. This woman deserves another trial where all of the evidence should be allowed to be submitted. AND she should have legal counsel that at least tries to defend her. I know what having someone incarcerated for a long time does to a family. The father of my children was wrongly incarcerated for over 37 years. He was finally released only to die one year later from medical complications that he suffered because he was not properly treated while incarcerated. This woman may not have made all of the right decisions in her life or lived the way “society” thinks she should have – but that does not make it right that she should be executed. Governor Abbott – do the right thing. Be the Christian man that you claim to be.

Carol Smaldino April 14, 2022 at 7:04 pm Reply   

This is terrible, awful, where nobody should be sentenced to death, certainly not someone who is innocent.
It is crucial that we come out on the side of empathy, dignity and compassion for all.

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