Kim Kardashian has urged Texas Governor Greg Abbott to spare the life of a domestic violence victim who is due to be executed in 22 days after she ‘falsely’ pleaded guilty to beating her two-year-old daughter to death following hours of police interrogation.
Melissa Lucio, 53, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on April 27 in Texas for the murder of her daughter Mariah in 2007.
Lucio maintains she is innocent and her lawyers contend Mariah died from injuries from a fall down the 14 steps of a steep staircase outside the family’s apartment in the South Texas city of Harlingen.
During hours of relentless questioning, Lucio more than 100 times denied fatally beating the toddler to death. But worn down from a lifetime of abuse and the grief of losing her daughter, her lawyers say, the Texas woman finally acquiesced to investigators.
‘I guess I did it,’ Lucio said when asked by police if she was responsibly for some of Mariah’s injuries. Her lawyers say that statement was wrongly interpreted by prosecutors as a murder confession.
Kardashian, who has been an outspoken advocate of criminal justice reform in recent years, has urged Gov. Abbott to grant Lucio clemency after she ‘falsely pleaded guilty’ following hours of police interrogation.
‘It’s stories like Melissa’s that make me speak so loud about the death penalty in general and why it should be banned when innocent people are suffering,’ Kardashian said.
Melissa Lucio, 53, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on April 27 for fatally beating her two-year-old daughter Mariah to death in 2007. Lucio maintains she is innocent and her lawyers contend Mariah died from injuries from a fall. Pictured: Lucio holds her daughter Mariah, while one of her other daughters, Adriana, stands next to them in this undated photograph
Lucio dabs tears from her eyes as she is sentenced to death on July 10, 2008, in Brownsville, Texas
Lucio’s lawyers argue that her statement of ‘I guess I did it’ after hours of interrogation was taken as a murder confession — tainting the rest of the investigation into Mariah’s death, with evidence gathered only to prove that conclusion, and helping lead to her capital murder conviction.
Lucio, who has been on death row for more than 14 years, had been sexually assaulted multiple times, starting at age 6, and had been physically and emotionally abused by two husbands. Her lawyers say this lifelong trauma made her susceptible to giving a false confession.
As her April 27 execution date nears, Lucio’s lawyers are hopeful that new evidence, along with growing public support — including from jurors who now doubt the conviction and from more than half the Texas House of Representatives — will persuade the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Abbott to grant an execution reprieve or commute her sentence.
‘Mariah’s death was a tragedy not a murder… It would be an absolutely devastating message for this execution to go forward. It would send a message that innocence doesn’t matter,’ said Vanessa Potkin, one of Lucio’s attorneys who is with the Innocence Project.
After reading about Lucio’s case, Kardashian tweeted: ‘[Melissa] has been on death row for over 14 years for her daughter’s death that was a tragic accident.
‘Her 2-year-old daughter Mariah fell down a flight of stairs and two days later passed away while taking a nap. After she called for help, she was taken into custody by the police.
‘Melissa is a survivor of abuse and domestic violence herself and after being interrogated for hours and falsely pleaded guilty. She wanted the interrogation to be stopped, but police made her words out to be a confession.’
‘She is scheduled to be executed on April 27 in Texas,’ Kardashian added as she urged the public to sign a petition by the Innocent Project in an effort to press Gov. Abbott to stop Lucio’s execution.
Lucio’s lawyers say jurors never heard forensic evidence that would have explained that Mariah’s various injuries were actually caused by a fall days earlier. They also say Lucio wasn’t allowed to present evidence questioning the validity of her confession.
Pictured: Lucio smiles as she holds one of her sons, John, in this undated photograph
Kim Kardashian has urged Texas Governor Greg Abbott to spare the life of Lucio, who is due to be executed in 22 days, after she ‘falsely’ pleaded guilty to beating her two-year-old daughter to death following hours of police interrogation
The Texas Attorney General’s Office maintains evidence shows Mariah suffered the ‘absolute worst’ case of child abuse her emergency room doctor had seen in 30 years.
‘Lucio still advances no evidence that is reliable and supportive of her acquittal,’ the office wrote in court documents last month.
The Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted Lucio, declined to comment.
Lucio would be the first Latina executed by Texas and the first woman since 2014. Only 17 women have been executed in the U.S. since the Supreme Court lifted its ban on the death penalty in 1976, most recently in January 2021.
In their clemency petition, Lucio’s lawyers say that while she had used drugs, leading her to temporarily lose custody of her children, she was a loving mother who worked to remain drug-free and provide for her family. Lucio has 14 children and was pregnant with the youngest two when Mariah died.
Lucio and her children struggled through poverty. At times, they were homeless and relied on food banks for meals, according to the petition.
Child Protective Services was present in the family’s life, but there was never an accusation of abuse by any of her children, Potkin said.
In the 2020 documentary ‘The State of Texas vs. Melissa,’ Lucio said investigators kept pushing her to say she had hurt Mariah.
‘I was not gonna admit to causing her death because I wasn’t responsible,’ Lucio said.
Her lawyers say Lucio’s sentence was disproportionate to what her husband and Mariah’s father, Robert Alvarez, received. He got a four-year sentence for causing injury to a child by omission even though he also was responsible for Mariah’s care, Lucio’s lawyers argue.
Kardashian, who has been an outspoken advocate of criminal justice reform in recent years, has urged Gov. Abbott to grant Lucio clemency after she ‘falsely pleaded guilty’ following hours of police interrogation
In 2019, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Lucio’s conviction, ruling she was deprived of ‘her constitutional right to present a meaningful defense.’
However, the full court in 2021 said the conviction had to be upheld for procedural reasons, ‘despite the difficult issue of the exclusion of testimony that might have cast doubt on the credibility of Lucio’s confession.’
Three jurors and one alternate in Lucio’s trial have signed affidavits expressing doubts about her conviction.
‘She was not evil. She was just struggling… If we had heard passionately from the defense defending her in some way, we might have reached a different decision,’ juror Johnny Galvan, who sentenced Lucio to death, wrote in an affidavit.
Galvan on Sunday wrote in the Houston Chronicle claiming he was misled and pressured to return a vote in favor of the death penalty during Lucio’s trial.
He wrote he was wrong to succumb to ‘peer pressure’ and change his vote from a life sentence to the death penalty, saying the jurors would ‘be there all day’ if he hadn’t done so.
‘There were so many other details that went unmentioned. It wasn’t until after the trial was over that troubling information was brought to life,’ Galvan wrote.
‘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.’
Galvan added: ‘I did not know that her long history of physical and sexual abuse made her vulnerable to falsely confess when subjected to aggressive interrogation tactics on the night of her daughter’s death.
‘No one took us through the interrogation to show us how many times she asserted her innocence (over 100) or how she repeated the same words the interrogators fed to her. No evidence was presented of that and it would have mattered to me.’
In a letter last month to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and to Abbott, 83 Texas House members said executing Lucio would be ‘a miscarriage of justice.’
‘As a conservative Republican myself, who has long been a supporter of the death penalty in the most heinous cases… I have never seen a more troubling case than the case of Melissa Lucio,’ said state Rep. Jeff Leach, who signed the letter.
Abbott can grant a one-time, 30-day reprieve. He can grant clemency if a majority of the paroles board recommends it.
The board plans to vote on Lucio’s clemency petition two days before the scheduled execution, Rachel Alderete, the board’s director of support operations, said in an email. A spokeswoman for Abbott’s office did not return an email seeking comment.
Abbott has granted clemency to only one death row inmate, Thomas Whitaker, since taking office in 2015. Whitaker was convicted of masterminding the fatal shootings of his mother and brother. His father, who survived, led the effort to save Whitaker, saying he would be victimized again if his son was executed.
Lucio’s supporters have said her clemency request is similar in that her family would be retraumatized if she’s executed.
‘Please allow us to reconcile with Mariah’s death and remember her without fresh pain, anguish and grief. Please spare the life of our mother,’ Lucio’s children wrote in a letter to Abbott and the board.