Nearly half the jury members who sentenced a Texas woman to death for the murder of her young child in 2007 are asking for her execution to be halted and for her to receive a new trial.
Five of the 12 jurors who sentenced 52-year-old Melissa Lucio of Cameron county to death for killing her two-year-old daughter, along with one alternate jury member, have questioned their original decision and asked for a new trial, reports the Associated Press.
Lucio is scheduled to be executed on 27 April for the death of her daughter, Mariah, on 17 February 2007. But Lucio’s lawyers have argued that significant evidence suggests that Lucio did not commit the crime and that her previous confession, one of the main pieces of evidence used in the trial, was coerced.
“I knew that what I was accused of doing was not true,” Lucio wrote in a letter to Texas lawmakers, according to the AP. “My children have always been my world and although my choices in life were not good I would have never hurt any of my children in such a way.”
Lucio’s lawyers say that new evidence shows Mariah’s injuries, such as a blow sustained to the head, were caused by the toddler falling down the stairs.
Her lawyers also claim that prosecutors misled jurors hearing Lucio’s case by suggesting that Mariah’s injuries could only have been caused by physical abuse.
Lucio’s lawyers also maintain that prosecutors got Lucio to confess under duress by using the controversial “Reid technique,” an interrogation method that has led to previous wrongful convictions in the US.
Using the Reid method, officers got extremely close to Lucio’s face and berated her for hours, before switching to a softer tone and saying that Lucio could “put this to rest” if she confessed to killing her daughter.
After almost six hours of late night interrogation, in which Lucio said she was innocent more than 100 times, Lucio finally said: “I don’t know what you want me to say,” she told them. “I’m responsible for it … I guess I did it.”
Her attorneys also contend that the previous Cameron county district attorney who prosecuted Lucio’s case, Armando Villalobos, might have pushed Lucio’s conviction to support his own re-election campaign.
According to the AP, Villalobos was convicted in 2014 of accepting bribes in exchange for favorable prosecutorial decisions, including minimizing sentences and dismissing cases. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
The county’s current district attorney, Luis Saenz, has said that he disagrees with claims that new evidence will acquit Lucio. But after initially refusing to push to stop the execution under any circumstances, he said last month that he would intervene if needed.
“I don’t disagree with all the scrutiny this case is getting,” Saenz said. “I welcome that.”
Lucio’s attorneys have submitted several legal appeals to stop her execution. An application for her clemency is also set to be considered on Monday by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Calls to stay Lucio’s execution have received rare bipartisan support from Texas state officials, with more than half the members in the Texas house and senate asking for her execution to be halted.
Nationwide, protests have demanded clemency for Lucio, including a large show of support throughout Texas. Public figures including Kim Kardashian have also shared their support for Lucio via social media. Talkshow host John Oliver spotlighted Lucio’s case in an episode about wrongful convictions last month.
Any decision to commute Lucio’s execution would require the approval of Texas governor Greg Abbott, who has granted clemency for only one person on death row since taking office in 2015, according to AP.
Texas has executed more women than any other state, since the US supreme court brought back the death penalty in 1976, reported AP. Of the 17 women who have been executed nationwide, six have been put to death in Texas.
Lucio would be the first Hispanic woman ever executed in Texas and the first woman since 2014.
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( Information from theguardian.com was used in this report. To Read More, click here )