From politicians of all stripes to celebrities like Kim Kardashian — and a cross-section of Texans — supporters of Melissa Lucio are urging the state of Texas not to execute her later this month. That was the message at a rally Thursday night in Dallas.
“What do we want? Free Melissa Lucio,” supporters chanted in front of Dallas City Hall. “When do we want it? Now…”
Elected officials and local activists held signs with those words printed in English and Spanish. And they held a large banner that read, “Watch The Film” — a documentary about Lucio’s case available on the streaming platform Hulu.
Lucio is on death row for the 2007 death of her daughter Mariah. The two-year-old died from injuries after falling down a staircase in her apartment complex.
State Representative Victoria Neave Criado told the crowd Lucio should not be executed because of overwhelming evidence pointing to her innocence.
“Her execution will be a stain on our state’s morality. Her execution will be a stain on our fundamental and constitutional principles and rights to a fair jury trial,” Neave Criado said.
Lucio’s execution is scheduled to take place on April 27. If her sentence is carried out, she would become the first Latina executed in Texas in 160 years.
Her case has drawn national attention and support from politicians on both sides of the aisle. So far though, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Greg Abbott haven’t made a decision to grant Lucio clemency or release her from prison.
Cynthia Simons, who leads the Women’s Justice Campaign at the Texas Center for Justice and Equity in Austin, said Lucio’s response to investigators after hours of questioning — saying, “I guess I did it,” after telling them she was innocent 100 times — wasn’t surprising.
“I can say that her response was a trauma response,” Simons said.
Simons, who discussed Lucio’s case earlier Thursday, said Lucio endured years of abuse.
“As a mother, if anything happens to your child and even if you are not present, you feel responsible because you feel like that is your duty to protect your child…that child was birthed from you,” Simons said.
Lucio had 12 children and was pregnant at the time of Mariah’s death.
During the past three decades, the rate of women incarcerated in the U.S. has grown at nearly twice the rate of men. And in Texas, it’s increased 1,000 percent since 1980. Today, 81 percent of women in prison are moms.
Maggie Luna, who’s also with the Texas Center for Justice and Equity, says she feels for Lucio’s children.
“It’s heartbreaking and then to see somebody like her son fighting so hard for her and her other children are fighting for her,” Luna said.
Luna oversees a group of advocates who were once incarcerated and family members of those imprisoned. Luna herself was incarcerated twice and is a mother.
“What I tell people is, ‘Look, we can argue all day about her guilt or innocence all day long,’ but at the end of the day, she’s got children who love her,” Luna said.
Earlier this week, Luna said she met with a group of law students from the University of Texas at Austin. They watched the film about Lucio and wrote dozens of letters of support to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and Abbott.
She says women and men in prison are treated differently.
“We were talked to like animals and so I always tell people when I got out this time, I was dehumanized,” she said. “I was like a feral animal.”
At the Dallas rally, 34-year-old Alejandra Arron Olvera talked about why she supports Lucio.
“My mother was a survivor of domestic violence,” Olvera said. “She kind of reminded me of my mother because of the domestic abuse and we must save her.”
Olvera and others say they hope a decision about Lucio will come soon.
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