A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers visited Melissa Lucio on death row as part of an effort to top her execution, amid doubts she had fatally beat her two-year-old daughter.
State Representatives Jeff Leach, a Republican, and Joe Moody, a Democrat, led the group Wednesday to the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas, where the state houses women on death row. Lucio will be executed on April 27.
“We are blessed to have the opportunity to meet Melissa, pray with her, spend time with her and are more determined and committed than ever to fight for the next three weeks to save her life,” Mr. Leach to The Associated Press in an interview after the meeting.
Lucio was convicted of second-degree murder for the death of her daughter Mariah in 2007. Prosecutors say Mariah was a victim of child abuse and there is no evidence that Lucio would acquit her of her daughter’s death.
But Lucio’s attorneys say jurors never heard forensic evidence that would have stated Mariah’s various injuries were actually caused by a fall days before her death. They also say Lucio was not allowed to provide evidence that questioned the validity of her confession.
Among those who have doubts about Lucio’s guilt is a bipartisan group of 83 Texas House members led by Mr. Leach and Mr. Moody. Last month, they sent the Council of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Greg Abbott a letter asking for a stay of execution or commutation of her sentence.
A spokesman for Mr. Abbott’s office did not immediately return an Associated Press email requesting comment.
Mr Leach said he and six other lawmakers spent about two hours traveling through the prison before meeting Lucio privately for about 40 minutes, even praying with her.
Lawmakers encouraged Lucio and spoke to her about their efforts to stop her execution, Mr Leach said.
“It was just a sweet, sweet time together, very powerful,” he added.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Mr. Moody tweeted: “She prayed with us and hugged us; today may be the last real human contact she has before the state kills her.”
In the effort to halt Lucio’s execution, several now-questioning jurors from her trial include sentencing reality star Kim Kardashian who shared a letter from Lucio’s children to Governor Abbott on Wednesday.
“So heartbreaking to read this letter from Melissa Lucio’s children begging the state not to kill their mother. There are so many unresolved questions about this case and the evidence used to convict her,” she tweeted.
Some of the most compelling information about the case came in an op-ed published Sunday in The Houston Chroniclein which juror Johnny Galvan Jr said he believes the jurors were not given all the information necessary to make a correct decision and that he now has “deep regret” for sentencing Lucio to death.
“The idea that my decision to take someone’s life was not based on complete and accurate information in a fair trial is appalling. There are so many problems in this case that I don’t think it should be executed,” wrote Mr Galvan.
The calls to rescue Lucio have been going on for several years.
In 2019, a panel of three judges on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Lucio’s conviction, ruling that she was being deprived of “her constitutional right to make a meaningful defense.”
However, the full court in 2021 said the conviction should be confirmed for procedural reasons.
Lucio’s lawyers had asked the appeals court to revoke his decision, but the request was rejected last week.
But in a footnote to the short decision, 5th Circuit Judge Patrick Higginbotham called Lucio’s case “a systematic failure, causing a series of injustices that only the governor’s hand can stop”.
Lucio, 53, would be the first Latina to be executed by Texas and the first woman since 2014.
Only 17 women have been executed in the US since the Supreme Court lifted the death penalty ban in 197. The most recent execution of a woman took place in January 2021.
With coverage from Associated Press