USA - Texas. Judge Nelson Recommends Melissa Lucio’s Conviction Be Overturned

USA - Representatives pray with Melissa Lucio

18 April 2024 :

April 12, 2024 - Texas. Judge Arturo Nelson Recommends Melissa Lucio’s Conviction and Death Sentence Be Overturned
On April 12, 2024, Judge Arturo Nelson signed an Agreed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law submitted by the prosecution and defense stating that Melissa Lucio was not given access to favorable information in the prosecution’s possession at the time of trial. The acknowledgement of this constitutional error resulted in Judge Nelson’s recommendation to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) that Ms. Lucio’s conviction and death sentence be overturned. The ruling marks the latest chapter in a saga that saw Ms. Lucio narrowly avoid an execution date in 2022 following a highly publicized clemency campaign over concerns she had been wrongfully convicted.
Ms. Lucio was convicted and sentenced to death for the death of her 2-year-old daughter in 2008 but has always maintained her daughter died of complications relating to fall. Ms. Lucio says she falsely confessed after 5 hours of intense police interrogation on the evening her daughter died. Attorneys for Ms. Lucio recently presented expert opinion that her daughter was not murdered, but rather succumbed to head trauma from the accidental fall 2 days prior to her death. Judge Nelson ultimately determined that Ms. Lucio “met her burden of proof, by a preponderance of the evidence, that she would not have been convicted in light of the suppressed evidence.” The TCCA will now have the final say about whether Ms. Lucio’s conviction will be set aside.
A week before Judge Nelson’s findings were entered, Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz and Innocence Project attorney Vanessa Potkin released a joint statement about the Agreed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law they submitted in January 2023. “Under Texas procedure the trial court must make a recommendation to the CCA which is the only court that can vacate a conviction,” the statement explained. “We are hopeful Melissa’s case will be resolved,” the statement added. Jordan Steiker, the Director of University of Texas Law School’s Capital Punishment Center called this agreement “exceptionally rare,” as both the prosecution and defense concurred that prosecutorial misconduct occurred during Ms. Lucio’s trial. Lucio’s case garnered widespread support in recent years, particularly ahead of her scheduled execution. Kim Kardashian – the celebrity and entrepreneur who has championed a number of death row inmates’ cases – as well as a bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers called for mercy on Lucio’s behalf, as did 5 members of her jury.


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