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Melissa Lucio: what now, and who's the other Latina Texan legally executed in state?

Texas' execution history has 158-year-old legend
Posted at 9:57 AM, Apr 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-29 10:52:46-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Melissa Lucio, a mother of 14 children, was convicted of killing her daughter 15 years ago.

A ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is delaying Lucio's execution.

“Stay of execution granted. Yes, yes, yes,” said a family member of Lucio’s as she held a phone to her ear to receive the news Monday.

She announced it to the rest of the group. They were all waiting in their Harlingen home.

Shock, hugs, and tears filled the living room.

After 15 years on death row, Lucio lives to see another day.

In 2008, Lucio was convicted of capital murder after the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah.

Lucio’s family and supporters feel she was wrongly convicted. A petition with at least 65,000 signatures was delivered to the Cameron County District Attorney's office in Brownsville on Friday. Petitions were also taken to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and to Gov. Greg Abbott in Austin on Monday.

Supporters have long pushed for Lucio's scheduled execution to be stopped. This case now has the nation's attention; catching the interest of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian.

A Cameron County Court will host a new hearing for Lucio, and look at new evidence.

The Death Penalty Information Center explains: Lucio submitted court statements from forensic experts saying Mariah had a medical condition which caused her to be an unsteady walker, and died after falling down the stairs at their home.

Lucio also presented evidence alleging that an abusive police interrogation is what forced her to falsely say she caused Mariah's death.

Lucio would have been put to death by lethal injection Wednesday evening. Had her execution not been temporarily suspended, she would have been taken to the death chamber in Huntsville, strapped down and injected with one drug called pentobarbital.

According to the National Library of Medicine, pentobarbital mainly affects the nervous system. At low doses, it works as a sedative. At higher doses, it causes a coma.

The history of death row in Texas

Lucio would have been the first Latina executed by the state.

But there is also the case of Josefa Rodriguez, also known as Chipita, who was reportedly executed by hanging in the 1800s in San Patricio County. Some consider her story a legend.

Chipita’s tale made such an impact that multiple articles, books, and operas were written about it.

A Texas A&M-Corpus Christi professor created one of the operas. His name is Lawrence Weiner, and the drama was first performed in Corpus Christi in 1982. Weiner composed over 150 pieces throughout his career.

As reported by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, hanging was a means of execution from 1819-1923.

Then, the state moved on to the electric chair.

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court declared all executions unconstitutional, and they were stopped.

The practice was reinstated in 1976 after challenges from some states, including Texas.

In 1977, Texas turned to lethal injection as its means of execution.

Now, the Lone Star State is leading the nation in the number of executions. Also, California, Florida, Texas, and Alabama have the largest death-row populations.

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