Former federal prosecutor Michael J. Wynne provided his expert opinion for the documentary “The State of Texas vs. Melissa,” which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival and is garnering international attention.
The film centers on Melissa Lucio, the first Hispanic woman on death row in Texas, convicted of killing her two-year-old daughter Mariah. Former Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos pushed for her execution. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2014 for crimes including racketeering, bribery and extortion.
“Bribery was endemic. [Villalobos would] be compensated for favorable treatment in criminal cases,” Wynne commented in the video.
Villalobos planned to convict Lucio to help his re-election campaign, filmmaker Sabrina Van Tassel argues.
Van Tassel met Lucio while working on a documentary about women on death row and didn’t think she fit the profile of a murderer. She wrote more than 200 letters back and forth with Lucio and examined the archives of CPS files, police interrogations, home videos and newspaper cuttings. The film dives into Lucio’s childhood abuse and adulthood homelessness, addiction and poverty. Lucio married at 16 and had 14 children.
In prison now for 11 years, Lucio has had numerous appeals denied. in 2019, her conviction was overturned by a three-judge panel, but the state of Texas appealed the decision, and Lucio remains behind bars. Due to the current pandemic, her final appeal will be “strictly paperwork,” said Van Tassel.
Watch the trailer for the video, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
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