Federal Appeals Court Overturns Mother’s Conviction in Texas Child Murder Case That May Have Been an Accidental Death

Melissa-Lucio.jpg?auto=format&crop=focal

Citing trial court interference in her right to present a defense, a federal appeals court has overturned the conviction of a Texas mother who was sentenced to death on charges that she had murdered her two-year-old daughter. In an unpublished, unsigned opinion issued on July 29, 2019, a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said that trial court rulings that blocked Melissa Elizabeth Lucio (pictured) from calling an expert witness to challenge the reliability of statements she gave to police violated Lucio’s right to present a “complete defense.” The appeals court reversed a federal district court decision that had upheld Lucio’s conviction and death sentence and returned the case to the lower court to grant Lucio a new trial.

The prosecution alleged that Lucia had physically abused her daughter, Mariah, over a period of time and that the child had been beaten to death by her mother. Lucia’s lawyers contested the cause of death, presenting expert testimony from a neurosurgeon that Mariah may instead have died from head trauma caused by falling down a flight of stairs. The primary evidence implicating Lucio was a recording of statements she made to police during lengthy interrogation the night her daughter died. During that interrogation, Lucio admitted to spanking Mariah, but denied ever having abused her. Late into the night, after hours of continuous interrogation, Texas Ranger Victor Escalon pressured Lucio to say more. She responded with: “I don’t know what you want me to say. I’m responsible for it.” When Escalon later asked her about specific bruises on her daughter’s body, Lucio said, “I guess I did it. I guess I did it.”

The prosecution characterized Lucio’s interrogation as evidence that she had abused her daughter, and therefore must have killed her. Lucio’s lawyers sought to present testimony from a psychologist to explain the coercive effect of the police interrogation on Lucio, whom Dr. John Pinkerman described as a “battered woman” who “takes blame for everything that goes on in the family.” The trial court barred Pinkerman from testifying, asserting that his testimony was irrelevant because Lucio had “denied ever having anything to do with the killing of the child.”

The Fifth Circuit rejected the factual and legal basis for the trial court’s finding, holding that the exclusion of the evidence was “of such a magnitude or so egregious that [it] render[ed] the trial fundamentally unfair.”

As the Trump Administration Seeks to Remove Families, Due-Process Questions over Rocket Dockets Abound

InAbsentiaOrders-Commentary-F1.png

The U.S. government is operating accelerated dockets to handle the rising number of cases of families in immigration court. While it is essential to have timely, fair case processing and removal of those who have truly had their day in court and been found to be removable, using “rocket” dockets to speed up proceedings only heightens the breakdowns that are a recurring feature of the court system on its best day, as this commentary explains.

Petula Clark: ‘Elvis angled for a threesome – he was raring to go’ | Music | The Guardian

From child star to superstar, the singer is still performing at 86. She talks about being consoled by John Lennon, her friendship with Karen Carpenter – and her close encounter with the King

Source: Petula Clark: ‘Elvis angled for a threesome – he was raring to go’ | Music | The Guardian

‘I was scared I’d get sick’: the pregnant migrant women detained by the US

5760.jpg?width=300&quality=85&auto=forma

Esther Ramos lost 20 pounds when she was sent to a Texas facility while pregnant – and critics say experiences like hers are becoming more common

Esther Ramos was 16 years old and two months pregnant with her second child when she, her husband, Fredy Aldana, and their then 19-month-old daughter, Milagro, crossed the border in Tijuana to seek asylum in the US on 13 January.

Upon entry into the San Ysidro border station, Esther and Milagro were separated from Aldana and they haven’t seen him since. Esther and her daughter spent three days in a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) holding cell, where she said she wasn’t offered any food on her first day and she hardly ate during the next two days.

Continue reading…