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'My trust in the system is shaky': Texas Republican says he would support moratorium on death penalty

State Rep. Jeff Leach was at the forefront of stopping Melissa Lucio’s execution, which had been scheduled for April 27.

DALLAS — In a startling revelation on Inside Texas Politics, state Rep. Jeff Leach said he would support a pause on all executions in Texas.  

What’s more, the Collin County Republican says he has a number of conservative colleagues who support the death penalty who would also back such a moratorium.

"Right now, going through what I just went through and seeing what I just saw, I would," Leach said on Inside Texas Politics. "I am, again, a supporter of the death penalty in the most heinous cases. But that is contingent upon the system working, the system being trustworthy, fair and reliable, us ensuring beyond a shadow of a doubt guilt of the inmate"

"And right now, I am unsure of that. My trust in the system is shaky," he added.

Leach was at the forefront of stopping Melissa Lucio’s execution, which had been scheduled for April 27. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted it two days before, opening up the possibility of a new trial amid growing doubts about whether Lucio killed her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah, in 2007.

The Texas appeals court said its decision was based on three counts raised by Lucio’s attorneys: whether Lucio is actually innocent; whether the state presented false testimony at trial; and whether the state hid evidence from the defense.

A lower court will now review claims that new evidence in Lucio’s case would exonerate her and they will determine whether she should get a new trial.

“And now the hope is that she gets a new day in court, a fair trial in front of a jury of her peers where all of the evidence can come in and all of the problems that were in the first trial are solved. And I’m very hopeful that that will happen,” said Leach.

Before announcing his support for a moratorium, the Republican told us a couple of weeks ago he thought there could be other Texans on death row whose cases deserve a second look.

Leach chairs both the Criminal Justice Reform Committee and the Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee and he says he’ll hold hearings over the next several months that will include lawmakers, defense attorneys, prosecutors, legal experts and law enforcement in pursuit of the “right reforms.”

The Republican 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.

“We’ve got to look at every part of our system.  And Melissa’s case, where the system failed her at every turn, is a great example of that,” he said.