AUSTIN, Texas — State senators in Texas are now joining in on the fight to delay the execution of death row inmate Melissa Lucio.
Twenty Texas senators, which is more than half of the entire Texas Senate, sent a letter late Wednesday to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. They're pushing for the state to grant clemency for Lucio, a mother who was convicted in the death of her toddler in Harlingen, Texas, in 2007. She is scheduled to be executed on April 27.
The bipartisan effort is being led by State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., who represents District 27.
"Among the constitutional deficiencies and improprieties Ms. Lucio faced during her trial, new evidence has surfaced that calls Ms. Lucio's conviction into question," the state senator said in a statement. "Accordingly, she deserves a reprieve from execution until her defense team can gather the new evidence needed to prove her innocence."
In order to cancel Lucio's execution, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles must recommend to Gov. Greg Abbott that he grant clemency.
In the letter to the chair and members of the board of pardons and paroles, the senators recommended that Lucio either get her sentence commuted or that she get a reprieve. A commuted sentence is the power to reduce a sentence, while a reprieve grants a pause on a death row inmate's execution.
"The death penalty is the ultimate punishment in Texas, and our state has an absolute obligation to ensure that it never executes an innocent person," the letter dated April 13 said. "With eyewitness accounts of Mariah’s accidental fall, and no eyewitness accounts that point to murder, Ms. Lucio’s case is one that gives even proponents of the death penalty pause. Doctors who recently reviewed the autopsy — including a leading specialist from The University of Texas Medical Branch — concluded that the jury heard false testimony about whether Mariah was abused."
The senators, along with many of Lucio's supporters outside of the Texas Senate, also believe that there were issues with how her case and counsel were handled.
This is the latest push to get Lucio's execution postponed.
Members of the Texas House of Representatives have also been pushing to grant her clemency. A hearing was held at the Texas House earlier this week in an attempt to persuade the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
At that hearing, one of the jurors who voted against Lucio in her initial trial called for a new trial.
"I am now convinced that the jury got it wrong and it's too much doubt to execute Ms. Lucio," he said. "If I could take back my vote, I would. I would be haunted by Ms. Lucio's execution if it goes forward."
Last year, Hulu released “The State of Texas vs. Melissa,” which detailed how she could be innocent. Last month, HBO's "Last Week Tonight" discussed her case in an episode on wrongful convictions. Kim Kardashian has also expressed her support for Lucio and has signed a petition urging Abbott to stop Lucio's execution.
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