Texas bishops call for mercy for mother facing execution

Melissa Lucio and her family deserve a review of her conviction

AUSTIN — The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops are asking the State of Texas to spare the life of Melissa Lucio, a mother of 14, and a grandmother, who is sentenced to die April 27.

Melissa Lucio at court in 2008 in Brownsville, Texas. (Image: AP Photo/Valley Morning Star, Theresa Najera)

Melissa Lucio was sentenced to die by a flawed process. With no evidence and no witnesses, she was convicted based on a coerced, passive admission of guilt, given after a rigorous interrogation the night her two-year-old daughter, Mariah, died after a fall down a staircase.

A broad coalition, including domestic violence and battered women’s organizations and former prosecutors, and others, has expressed support for Melissa’s innocence.

The TCCB statement follows:

“As the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, we ask the state to commute Melissa Lucio’s sentence of death and re-examine the case to consider her history as a victim of sexual abuse and domestic violence, her troubling interrogation by law enforcement, and the lingering questions regarding the manner of her daughter Mariah’s death.

“Melissa has undertaken a spiritual journey while in prison. Her spiritual advisor, Deacon Ronnie Lastovica of the Diocese of Austin, reports how her heart is centered on Christ and how she has been accompanying others to a deeper faith.

“As bishops of the Texas Catholic Conference, we affirm the statement of our brother, Bishop Daniel Flores, who shepherds the Diocese of Brownsville, where the Lucio family lives. Bishop Flores states, ‘One tragedy is not somehow made better by killing someone else. Justice is not suddenly restored because another person dies. Executing Melissa will not bring peace to her surviving children, it will only bring more pain and suffering.’

“Melissa’s case illustrates yet again why the Texas death penalty process cannot be trusted to provide justice to all. It is a deeply flawed process rife with human error and inconsistency.

“We continue to pray for everyone who has been touched by the tragic loss of Mariah’s life, especially for the suffering Melissa and her family have endured. We beseech the State of Texas to commute her death sentence and conduct a meaningful review of her case to enable this family to continue the hard work of restorative justice and healing.”

Statement of Bishop Daniel E. Flores

Statement of Bishop Joe S. Vásquez

Melissa Lucio Case Information from the Innocence Project

Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops 2016 Pastoral Statement on the Death Penalty

The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops is the association of the Roman Catholic bishops of Texas. The TCCB represents 15 dioceses and 21 active bishops. Through the TCCB, the bishops provide a moral and social public policy voice, accredit the state's Catholic schools, and maintain archives that reflect the work and the history of the Catholic Church in Texas.