A Texas Woman Is On Death Row For Killing Her Child- But Is She Innocent?
Melissa Lucio has sat on Texas Death Row for 15 years. She was tried and convicted for the death of her two-year-old daughter Mariah Alvarez, who prosecutors claimed was the victim of extreme child abuse. The description of the condition the child was in at the time of her death is absolutely heartbreaking, so be forewarned:
There were bruises in various stages of healing covering her body, there were bite marks on her back, one of her arms had been broken probably about two to seven weeks before her death, and she was missing portions of her hair where it had been pulled out by the roots. The emergency room physician (Vargas) testified that this was the "absolute worst" case of child abuse that he had seen in his 30 years of practice.
If that's all you were to hear about this case, it would be reasonable for you to shrug your shoulders and be either glad or indifferent that Lucio is on death row. But there is much more to this case for you to consider- facts that may lead you to think that Lucio is innocent, and facts that may make you think she deserves to be there after all.
Lucio, her husband, and her other children that were interviewed all had the same story as to what happened to baby Mariah. They all reported that she was the victim of an accident, and had either fallen or been pushed by another sibling down a set of steep stairs. Should the baby have been taken to the hospital immediately after that incident? Absolutely. But is that capital murder? No.
The chief forensic pathologist who examined Mariah stated she had died of blunt-force trauma to the head- either punched, hit with an object, or slammed, and that, "these injuries would not have been caused by falling down some stairs and that this was the most severe case of child abuse she had ever seen." However, after Lucio's conviction, another pathologist, Dr. Thomas Young, came to the conclusion that the injuries could have come from falling downstairs and that the previous examiner had jumped to conclusions. Even the "bite marks" have been called into question.
The jury was largely swayed to convict Lucio based on her "confession" which only came after several hours of Lucio repeating over 100 times that she did not kill her child. Lucio was interrogated for several hours with no lawyer present and received no food or water during that time. It would be reasonable to consider that Lucio may have finally crumpled under pressure in spite of what she felt to be the real truth. In fact, the jury never heard expert testimony as to why Lucio may have wilted- because she was the victim of prior abuse and had learned to give in to abusive situations with compliance.
Perhaps the biggest bombshell to come after Lucio's conviction was that the D.A. that brought the case against Lucio has since been found guilty of bribery and restoration and is now serving a 13-year prison sentence. It is believed he wanted to make an "example" of Lucio in order to appear tough on crime.
Lacking solid physical evidence, Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos presented Ms. Lucio’s conciliatory statement to the jury as a “confession” to homicide and sought the death penalty.
I believe Lucio confessed only to neglect and not murder. I also believe she is guilty of neglect, not murder. And neglect is not an offense punishable by the death penalty in Texas. Lucio was set to be executed in April of last year, but her execution was stayed and the court has been ordered to review the evidence and consider her innocence. Advocates are fighting for Lucio's release, and her case has been the subject of documentaries and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
For now, Lucio sits in the company of only 6 other Texas women, waiting to see if she'll die at the hands of the State.
The Killers Behind These 5 Texas Cold Cases Still Roam Free
These 12 Texas Boys Went Missing in March, Let's Bring Them Home
Here are 14 Ways to Illegally Name Your Baby in Texas