A Case in Which Only the Unreasonable Would Be Absent Doubt

A Case in Which Solely the Unreasonable Would Be Absent Doubt


I’m taking a break from my collection on what to know when interacting with legislation enforcement to handle a particularly essential ongoing case: the case of Melissa Lucio. (The case has additionally been lined on this website’s Affordable Doubt weblog.) Her protection staff filed a clemency petition on March 21 requesting a commutation of her demise sentence, or a 120-day keep from execution as she fights for a brand new trial.

Lucio misplaced her 2-year-old daughter to a tragic accident in 2007. Mariah had a bodily incapacity that made it tougher for her to keep up her steadiness. Whereas the household was within the means of shifting, she fell down a flight of stairs. Though she appeared advantageous instantly after the autumn, two days later, she was put down for a nap from which she by no means woke.

A Late-Night time Interrogation

Lucio has been in a residing nightmare ever since. Shortly after her youngest baby was pronounced lifeless, Lucio, then pregnant, was interrogated by Texas Rangers late into the night time. Her interrogators used quite a lot of techniques (as detailed in my final put up — e.g., minimization, maximization), to safe a confession. At round 3 a.m., after asserting her innocence dozens of occasions, Lucio acquiesced to the cost of hitting her daughter — an admission that prosecutors framed as a full confession.

Whereas a few of Lucio’s 12 youngsters mentioned they witnessed Mariah fall down the steps, although, none claimed to have witnessed abuse. Nor did they report having been abused by her instantly. (Her trial legal professional, nevertheless, didn’t consider their testimony could be useful.)

A Historical past of Abuse

Lucio, nevertheless, was a repeat sufferer of abuse. In line with her protection attorneys, she was repeatedly sexually abused by two male family beginning at age 6. At 16, her mom consented to her marrying a person who ultimately deserted her and their 5 youngsters. She later remarried a bodily and sexually abusive man with whom she had 9 extra youngsters.

Analysis has proven that ladies will be extra susceptible to falsely confessing than males. A historical past of trauma and abuse can additional exacerbate these vulnerabilities.

An interrogation is an already daunting and even terrifying situation during which the topic feels trapped, usually with intimidating males. While you consider a historical past of being victimized by males, that will naturally intensify these feelings. Lucio’s attorneys tried to current skilled testimony at her trial (from a psychologist) that might have laid out her vulnerabilities to falsely confessing, however the trial court docket deemed it “irrelevant.”

Lucio’s confession was in the end the lynchpin within the prosecution’s profitable campaign to have her sentenced to demise. In distinction, Mariah’s father, Robert Alvarez, was sentenced to 4 years in jail.


Supply: r.classen/Shutterstock

The Aftermath

The prosecutor who pursued the demise penalty in opposition to Lucio is now serving a 13-year federal jail sentence for bribery and extortion. Her protection legal professional joined the prosecutor’s workplace shortly after her conviction.

A panel of three federal judges on the Fifth Circuit Courtroom of Appeals unanimously agreed that Lucio was disadvantaged of the correct to current “a significant protection.” This resolution successfully overturned Lucio’s conviction. Texas appealed that ruling. And whereas all the Fifth Circuit’s 17 judges successfully agreed that excluding skilled psychological testimony was problematic, seven in the end determined they may not intervene attributable to limits on the position of federal courts.

Lucio is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas on April 27, 2022. The Innocence Mission has a web-based petition to encourage a keep of execution that can permit the state’s district legal professional’s workplace, its Board of Pardons and Paroles, and its governor to actually take into account whether or not Lucio would have been convicted past an affordable doubt in a good trial.


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