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Melissa Lucio; Texas House Committee urge leaders to pause the mother's execution this month in light of new evidence

"If I could take back my vote, I would," said original juror in the case Johnny Galvan Jr.

AUSTIN, Texas — There is a bipartisan effort in Texas to grant clemency to a mother who is set to be executed in April.

Melissa Lucio has gained national attention as the days count down to her execution, which is set for April 27. She was convicted of killing her 2-year-old daughter in 2007 in Harlingen, Texas.

Her supporters have pointed out flaws in the case, and some believe her daughter died after accidentally falling down the stairs. Her supporters also say there were issues with how the case was handled at the time.

The Texas House Committee on Criminal Justice held a hearing on the death penalty on April 12th, prompted by Lucio's quickly approaching execution. 

The bipartisan group of lawmakers includes the chair of the committee, Rep. Jeff Leach, and the committee's vice-chair, Joe Moody.

"We have an opportunity now to right the ship and fix the system not only for Melissa but for others who can be in her spot," said Leach. 

The committee is working to stop the execution in light of new evidence and five of the jurors saying they were not aware of all the facts in the case and would not sentence her to death if they knew what they know today. 

One of those jurors, Johnny Galvan Jr., testified Tuesday to call for a new trial.

"I am now convinced that the jury got it wrong and it's too much doubt to execute Ms. Lucio," said Galvan. "If I could take back my vote, I would. I would be haunted by Ms. Lucio's execution if it goes forward."

Galvan also said he felt pressured by other jurors to sentence Lucio. 

The committee then frustratingly grilled Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz to take action to save Lucio's life. They asked Saenz to withdraw his request for Lucio's execution date.

Early on, Saenz said, "I don't agree with what they are saying is new evidence."

Saenz said he did not see a legal reason to withdraw the warrant.

"You have authority and you are choosing not to use it," said Moody. "You are advocating it. If that's your decision, I am fine and I respect it, but I want you to own it then." 

Leach explained how time is of the essence. 

"She is in her own room, alone 24 hours a day in solitary confinement," said Leach.

Saenz later changed his tone and said if the courts do not rule a stay, then he will step in and request to withdraw his warrant for execution. When asked why Saenz is in a rush to execute Lucio, he said, "Justice delayed is justice denied." 

Shannon Edmonds with Texas District and County Attorney's Association and Allen Place with Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Association testified as well. Both gave insight into how the death penalty work and what lawmakers can consider to improve the process. 

Lucio's family members attended the hearing, including her son, John Lucio. He said his mother has received thousands of letters and she is thankful for the support. 

"She's an innocent woman," said John Lucio. "She was not a woman of abuse."

Moody, an El Paso representative and speaker pro-tem of the Texas House, joined KVUE's Ashley Goudeau to talk about his and his colleagues' efforts.

RELATED: Texas This Week: Lawmakers working to stop State from executing mother of 12

Lucio's case has gained national attention in recent years. 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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