Facing Execution in One Month, Innocent Mom Melissa Lucio Still Hopes She’ll Be Free One Day

Melissa Lucio has maintained her innocence for 15 years. Her fate lies in the hands of Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

Special Feature 03.22.22 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)

Mariah Alvarez on her birthday. (Image: Courtesy of the Lucio family)

“Mariah was my baby, I loved her,” Melissa Lucio said of her youngest daughter. Through the glass of the visitation room at Mountain View Unit, a Texas women’s prison, her anguish is visible. Ms. Lucio has never had a chance to truly grieve her baby, who died in 2007, because she’s spent the last 15 years incarcerated for a crime that never occurred: Mariah’s murder.

At 53, Ms. Lucio has survived a lifetime of unimaginable tragedies and trauma — the most devastating of all being her 2-year-old daughter’s death after an accidental fall. Yet, in less than 40 days, the State of Texas plans to execute Ms. Lucio, adding another layer of tragedy to what has already been the greatest one of Ms. Lucio’s life.

To date, 185 people have been exonerated from death row. These innocent people came dangerously close to being killed for crimes they did not commit, and Ms. Lucio faces the same fate. The power to stop her execution before it’s too late lies in the hands of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

So far, more than 100,000 people have signed a petition supporting Ms. Lucio and calling for her execution to be stopped.

“I want to tell my supporters that I’m very grateful for all the letters they have sent me, their words of encouragement, their support, and their belief in me,” Ms. Lucio said. “I’m just very excited that so many people have signed the petition, so many have believed in me and know that I was wrongfully convicted, I’m hoping that I will be set free from this place.”

Today, Ms. Lucio’s legal team filed a petition to the governor and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, asking them to grant Ms. Lucio clemency. The petition includes statements from many experts on the coercive tactics used against Ms. Lucio, the misleading evidence presented at her trial, and declarations from five jurors who served at her trial stating they have grave concerns about evidence that was withheld and would support relief in her case.

Editor’s note: The following contains difficult material relating to sexual abuse and domestic violence. If you have experienced sexual abuse and want to speak to someone, call the free and confidential National Sexual Assault hotline (1-800-656-HOPE or 1-800-656-4673). You can also receive help via online.rainn.org, which is available 24/7.