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Melissa Lucio could soon become the first Latina executed in Texas despite serious concerns about her case

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David Martin Davies
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Supporters of Texas death row inmate Melissa Lucio gather in San Antonio Milam Park

Cameron County native Melissa Lucio is months away from becoming the first Latina executed by the State of Texas and the sixth woman executed in the U.S. in the past decade.

She was convicted and sentenced to death in 2008 for knowingly and intentionally killing her 2-year-old daughter, but Lucio maintains her innocence and says Mariah’s death was a tragic accident.

On Feb. 8, Lucio’s lawyers filed a motion to withdraw or modify her April 27 execution date, arguing she was denied a fair trial and wrongfully convicted.

They say there are serious flaws in the state’s case, including indications the child’s death was accidental and that Lucio had an inadequate defense.

There are indications of a coerced confession, experts who were prevented from testifying on her behalf, and a corrupt district attorney who may have played a role in Lucio’s guilty verdict.

Texas leads the nation in executions with 573 people put to death since 1982.

Only six of the 197 inmates currently sitting on Texas’ death row are women.

At least 186 people have been wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in Texas since 1973, and later cleared after spending years on death row.

What are the facts of the case? What evidence was presented? Why do her lawyers and supporters say the proceedings were problematic?

Should Melissa Lucio get a new trial?

Does the State of Texas risk executing an innocent woman?

Guests: 

  • Tivon Schardl, chief of the Capital Habeas Unit of the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Texas, and Melissa Lucio’s attorney
  • Sandra Babcock, clinical professor of law at Cornell Law School and represents Melissa Lucio in her appeal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
  • Sabrina van Tassel, director of the documentary film “The State of Texas vs. Melissa

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Monday, February 28.

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