Photos: Innocence Project\Lucio Family\YouTube
At 53, Melissa Lucio has survived a lifetime of unimaginable tragedies and trauma — the most devastating of all being the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah, after an accidental fall.
Yet, in less than 30 days, the State of Texas plans to execute Melissa for Mariah’s murder, a crime that never occurred, adding another layer of tragedy to what has already been the greatest one of Melissa’s life.
On Feb. 15, 2007, Mariah fell down a flight of stairs while the family was in the midst of moving homes. The toddler didn’t appear seriously injured, but two days later she wouldn’t wake up from a nap. Melissa called for help, and Mariah was taken to the hospital, but she could not be resuscitated. Melissa was taken into police custody that night.
Mariah on her birthday. (Photo: Lucio family)
Women, especially mothers, who are accused of harming a child tend to be viewed more critically than men and are often demonized in the media. According to the data from the National Registry of Exonerations, nearly 30% of exonerated women were wrongly convicted of harming a child. And about 71% of exonerated women were wrongly convicted in cases where no crime actually occurred — cases in which the “crime” was later found to be an accident, a death by suicide, or fabricated.
For five hours, investigators showed Melissa photos of her deceased child, berated her, told her she was a bad mother, and intimidated her. During the interrogation, Melissa asserted her innocence more than 100 times. But by 3 a.m., it was clear to Melissa that the interrogation wasn’t going to end until the officers heard what they wanted to hear. Pregnant with twins, exhausted, grieving, and afraid, Melissa eventually said, “I guess I did it.” Experts on false confession have confirmed that Melissa’s history of abuse and related mental health issues make her uniquely vulnerable to falsely confessing under such coercive conditions.
Medical experts have also concluded that Mariah exhibited signs of a blood coagulation disorder that causes bruising throughout the body. But those signs and the child’s extensive health history — including a history of accidental falls and head trauma — were never even considered as potential factors in her death.
Melissa Lucio (Photo: IIana Panich-Linsman\Innocence Project)
For the last 15 years, Melissa has maintained her innocence and continued her fight for justice. But time is running out — she’s currently scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas on April 27.