DALLAS — While he continues his effort to stop the execution of a woman he says could be innocent, state Rep. Jeff Leach thinks there could be others just like her on Texas’ death row.
“I do believe there are, potentially, a handful of other cases, men and women, on death row who need to have their convictions and their sentences looked at,” the Republican said on Inside Texas Politics. “And we ought to not be at all afraid to ask those questions and make sure that we’re not potentially executing an innocent fellow Texan.”
But the case that currently has his undivided attention is the scheduled execution of Melissa Lucio, convicted of murdering her daughter in 2007.
Lucio’s family, many judges and politicians, and even some of the jurors who convicted her, say she’s innocent.
We learned last week during a meeting of the Criminal Justice Reform Committee, which Leach chairs, that five of the jurors who sentenced Lucio to lethal injection now admit they believe they were wrong.
Watch the segment below:
Leach says he has personally watched the video of Lucio’s interrogation.
The Republican from Plano says she was interrogated for more than five hours by multiple armed officers while pregnant and deprived of food and water.
And he says despite proclaiming her innocence more than 100 times during the interrogation, officers coerced her into a confession.
“It would be a historic, irreversible blunder on the part of the state of Texas, a stain on the history of our great state if we move forward with executing her," Leach said. "And so, all we’re asking right now is to push the pause button, to review her case and to make sure that the truth is arrived at and we don’t potentially execute someone who, very likely, could be innocent.”
In addition to the Criminal Justice Reform Committee, Leach also chairs the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee.
He says lawmakers will explore legislation related to this issue when they return to Austin for the next legislative session in January 2023.
Leach says they’ll investigate interrogation tactics used by law enforcement in Texas, conflict-of-interest issues that may come up in death penalty trials and they’ll take a closer look at the trial and appellate processes in an effort to identify any issues with wrongful convictions and subsequent exonerations.
The Republican says Lucio’s case shows that the system in Texas is imperfect and can and does fail.
“Ask the tough questions to make sure that where there are weaknesses, we strengthen them. Where there are holes, we fill them. Where there are problems, we solve them. And Ms. Lucio’s case, literally every step of the way as I’ve mentioned, there have been problems, severe and substantial problems,” Leach said.
Melissa Lucio’s execution is currently scheduled for April 27.