Texas mother's death sentence could be overturned, claims of withheld information

Melissa Lucio was put on death row for the alleged murder of her 2-year-old daughter, but the mother's death sentence may be overturned after claims information was withheld.

In July 2008, Lucio was convicted of capital murder after her daughter, Mariah Alvarez, died in 2007. According to court records, Lucio claims her daughter died after falling down the stairs at their previous apartment but prosecutors claimed the 2-year-old was the victim of abuse.

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The Texas Senate wrote a letter in April 2022 and stated, "New evidence that has emerged since Ms. Lucio’s trial points to the fact that her daughter, Mariah, died after a tragic accident and not by her mother’s hands."

Lucio was sentenced to death by legal injection on April 27, 2022, but she was granted a stay of execution two days prior.

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A photo of Melissa Lucio praying with Texas lawmakers in April 2022 a few weeks before her scheduled execution. (Source: Rep. Jeff Leach.)

According to Lucio's attorneys in a statement to FOX 26:

"On April 12, 2024, the Honorable Judge Arturo Nelson entered findings of fact and conclusions of law recommending that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) overturn Melissa Lucio’s conviction and death sentence. Judge Nelson, who presided over Melissa’s trial, found that critical information was withheld from the defense at the time of trial. On April 25, 2022, the CCA issued a stay of execution for Melissa and ordered the 138th Judicial District Court of Cameron Country to consider new evidence of her innocence in the death of her daughter, Mariah Alvarez, along with other claims challenging the fairness and reliability of her conviction. Following the remand and in response to the CCA’s directive, the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office undertook further review of Melissa’s case. After that review, the DA’s office concluded that the undisputed facts show that favorable evidence was withheld from Melissa’s defense team at the time of trial. Judge Nelson found that critical information was withheld from the defense at the time of trial and that 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 case now moves to the CCA, which has the ultimate power to decide whether the conviction should be set aside."

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Lucio's family also gave this statement:

"We are grateful to our mother’s legal team for their hard work to bring the truth to light and to D.A. Saenz for taking another look at our mother’s case and recognizing that she did not receive a fair trial and her conviction should be overturned. Important evidence that our sister Mariah’s death was an accident, not a murder, was never presented to the jury. We hope and pray the Court of Criminal Appeals will agree with the District Attorney, the defense, and Judge Nelson and our mother can come home to her family. It’s been 17 years that we have been without her. We love her and miss her and can’t wait to hug her."