Prosecutors Hid Evidence in Convicting Mom of Murder

Texas death row inmate Melissa Lucio, convicted of killing her toddler, could now go free
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2024 9:55 AM CDT
She's on Death Row for Child's Possibly Accidental Death
This undated booking photo shows Melissa Lucio.   (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP, File)

The judge who presided over Melissa Lucio's 2008 murder trial following the death of her 2-year-old daughter now says the conviction should be thrown out. State District Judge Arturo Nelson recommended on Friday that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturn Lucio's conviction and death sentence, in response to a court filing in which the Cameron County District Attorney's Office admits prosecutors withheld key evidence from Lucio's defense team and therefore the jury, per the Texas Tribune. Lucio, who's been on death row in Texas for 15 years and avoided execution in 2022, was convicted of abusing 2-year-old Mariah Alvarez to the point of death. Authorities said she confessed during an hourslong interrogation on the same day Mariah died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Lucio, who'd repeatedly claimed innocence during the interview, has recanted the supposed confession, which advocates say was related to her history as a victim of sexual and physical abuse. Lucio claims her daughter died in 2007 from injuries suffered from a fall down stairs in the family's Harlingen apartment two days previously, per the AP. Unbeknownst to Lucio's legal team, one of Lucio's other children claimed to have witnessed the fall, as well as Mariah's declining health over the next couple of days, the Texas Tribune reports. In all, five of Lucio's children told investigators their mother wasn't abusive, per the outlet. Lucio's legal team wasn't fully informed of that, either, nor of expert findings that the death was likely caused by "an accidental fall resulting in head trauma," according to the filing, per the AP.

Lucio's lawyers and Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz now agree that was a violation of Lucio's due process rights. Lucio "would not have been convicted in light of the suppressed evidence," reads the filing, which was reportedly submitted to the court in December 2022 but only received Nelson's signature on Friday. The case now heads before Texas' highest criminal court for a final decision. "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," Lucio's family says in a statement, per "It's been 17 years that we have been without her. We love and miss her and can't wait to hug her." (More Texas stories.)

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