Texas woman on death row, local student asks for help
By Rylee Moore
Teresa Guzman is an Amarillo College student looking to make a difference. She is actively trying to save a Texas woman who is on death row, sentenced to be executed this month. Guzman, an AC business major and the director of Extended Hands Ministries and Prison Prayer and Equipping Ministry, says convicted murderer Melissa Lucio is innocent. “I became involved with Melissa by contacting Abraham Bonowitz, the director of Death Penalty Action. I learned of his organization by watching the documentary on Hulu,” Guzman said.
On April 16, 2022, Guzman hosted a documentary screening and letter signing in order to get letters to Governor Greg Abbott about Lucio’s case. Guzman said she has made many phone calls to his office and often got dismissed or hung up on, but she didn’t get discouraged. She said she hopes her campaign will bring awareness, get signatures and have people voice their opinions about the case in order to get Abbott’s attention.
Bonowitz said he learned of Lucio’s case from the film, “The State of Texas vs. Melissa.” In January 2021, “the director, Sabrina Van Tassel, connected with me and she asked if we could help promote the film,” Bonowitz said. After they got permission from Lucio’s attorneys, they started promoting the film and created a petition on their webpage. Guzman later reached out to Bonowitz to ask how she could help.
Lucio is an inmate on death row, sentenced to die April 27, 2022. Her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah, fell down a flight of wooden stairs in February 2007 while the family was moving houses, according to Lucio. The child had a physical disability that made her unbalanced while walking. Immediately after the accident, Mariah did not appear to be seriously injured according to court records. Two days later, Lucio laid Mariah down for a nap, but when Melissa tried to wake her up she was unresponsive and not breathing. Lucio called the police and Mariah was taken to the hospital. She was unable to be resuscitated and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Mere hours after her daughter’s death, Lucio was taken into custody by police and interrogated for more than five hours, according to Lucio’s attorneys. She was pregnant, had suffered abuse and trauma herself and was grieving her daughter. Because of this, some people believe that Lucio was manipulated into confessing to the crime. The prosecution focused their case on the confession and the fact that Lucio did not react the way they thought a grieving mother should, she was slouching and not making eye contact. On July 10, 2008, Lucio was convicted of capital murder and became the first Latina woman to be sentenced to death in Texas.
Since then, Lucio has appealed the conviction and has been denied numerous times. Her case has undergone scrutiny and has had growing attention and support. The Innocence Project of Texas took on Lucio’s case and has been advocating for her. Guzman said she hopes Amarillo College students will join the campaign. For more information, to sign the petition or to watch the film visit FreeMelissaLucio.org. To send your opinion to Governor Abbott go to https://Gov.Texas.gov and select ‘contact’ on the top right, click “I want to share my opinion,” then fill out the form and hit submit.