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Texas lawmakers visit woman on death row

Houston – The seven Texas lawmakers who traveled hundreds of miles to inform death row inmate Melissa Lucio about their efforts to prevent her execution were also able to connect with her through prayer and hugs.

Democratic state representative Joe Moody He said that although they had initially been told that Wednesday’s visit would be without physical contact in accordance with the rules for death row inmates, they were eventually allowed to be in the same room with Lucio and were even able to hug her.

The 40-minute visit began with a group prayer led by Rep. Toni Rose. Moody said that she asked Lucio to lead the last sentence that ended the meeting. In a white room at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, the lawmakers and Lucio sat in chairs arranged in a circle, closed their eyes and bowed their heads. Lucio made reference in his prayer to the peace he has achieved between believing that he did not beat her 2-year-old daughter to death and accepting her possible execution.Moody said.

“And so our prayer encompassed that. Our prayer encouraged the people who have cared for her in prison. He encouraged those who are going to decide on his life and it felt very appropriate,” Moody said.

Lawmakers said they are concerned about Lucio’s case and believe his execution scheduled for April 27 should be stopped due to legitimate doubts about his guilt.. They also say their case could prompt a review of policies related to the death penalty, including rules on physical contact during visitation, and even a debate on abolishing the death penalty in Texas.

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Lucio was convicted of capital murder in the death of her daughter Mariah in the South Texas city of Harlingen in 2007.

The Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, which put Lucio on trial, has declined to comment on the eve of his execution. But prosecutors have said that Mariah was a victim of child abuse because of the bruises she had on her body. A medical examiner testified that Mariah’s death was caused by a blow to the head. Authorities say Lucio had a history of drug use and had at times lost custody of some of his 14 children.

However, Lucio’s attorneys say jurors never examined forensic evidence that would have explained that Mariah’s various injuries were actually caused by a fall down a ladder. They also say Lucio was not allowed to present evidence calling into question the validity of his confession, which they say he made under duress after hours of relentless interrogation. Several jurors at the trial also expressed doubts about the woman’s conviction.

Tivon Schardl, one of Lucio’s attorneys, said they were “very moved” by the lawmakers’ visit.

Republican state Rep. Jeff Leach said that during Wednesday’s visit, lawmakers held Lucio’s hand, prayed with her and listened as she read aloud a letter she had written.

In his letter, Lucio thanked Leach and other lawmakers for their efforts and reiterated his innocence.

“And if I thought for one second that my death could and would bring Mariah back, I wouldn’t think twice. What my death will do is leave my other children without a mother and it cannot be that justice is about that. Lucio wrote.

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Leach said he has been a supporter of the death penalty for the most egregious cases. But he pointed out that there are “deep, substantive and substantial” problems in the way the death penalty is carried out in the state and that Lucio’s case constitutes the “most shocking, most problematic” example of this.

“To say that I am dealing with the mere existence of the death penalty in Texas would be an understatement”Leach said.

Leach and Moody are part of a bipartisan group of more than 80 members of the Texas House of Representatives who have sent a letter to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Greg Abbott asking them to defer or commute the sentence. Pike.

Moody said he is confident that the emphasis on mercy that accompanies the celebration of the Holy Week next be considered by the board and by Abbott in its decision.

“And I’m hopeful that that plays into the situation that we’re seeing today because we may not deserve that mercy, but we get it, we get it, and I think Melissa should get it in this case,” Moody said.

Lucio, 53, could become the first Latina executed in Texas and the first woman to be put to death since 2014. Only 17 women have been executed in the United States since the Supreme Court lifted the ban on the death penalty. of death in 1976, the most recent case being in January 2021.

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