Mar 29, 2022 - News

Plano lawmaker seeks clemency for death row inmate

A photo of Melissa Lucio in prison
Melissa Lucio at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas, on March 21. Photo courtesy of Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Innocence Project

Plano state Rep. Jeff Leach is among nearly 90 Texas lawmakers asking the state parole board and Gov. Greg Abbott to stop next month’s planned execution of Melissa Lucio.

Why it matters: Lucio says she was wrongly convicted in the death of her 2-year-old daughter in 2007 in Harlingen.

  • She could become the first Latina put to death in Texas.

Details: Lucio's attorneys say she is a lifelong victim of sexual abuse and domestic violence and that her confession was coerced by police after, what her lawyers say was, the girl’s accidental death from falling down a flight of stairs, reports Axios' Astrid Galván.

  • The bipartisan group of lawmakers is asking for Lucio’s execution to be delayed for three months or for her sentence to be changed to life in prison.

The big picture: New death sentences have steadily declined during the past decade in Texas, and fewer people were put to death in 2021 and 2020 than any year since 1996.

Yes, but: More people than not support the death penalty, according to a 2021 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

  • 78% of the respondents said there is a risk that an innocent person will be put to death and only 36% said there are "adequate safeguards" to keep an innocent person from being executed.

What they're saying: By ensuring an innocent person is not executed "we are strengthening our criminal justice system," Leach, a Republican, said at a news conference last week.

  • "Please don’t bury your head in the sand on this. Speak out for life," Leach said to faith leaders. "The life of a fellow Texan who very likely could be innocent is hanging in the balance."
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