Monday, July 14, 2008

More tragedy in a tragedy filled world

Now, the defendant cries.

My guess is she is not crying for the child she murdered by beating her to death but for herself.

What a tragedy this is.

Homicidal mom gets death
DA: Death sentence first for a woman in Cameron County
By ALLEN ESSEX/Valley Morning Star

BROWNSVILLE - A jury handed down a death sentence late Thursday for a Harlingen mother convicted of beating her 2½-year-old daughter to death in February 2007 in a Lee Street apartment.

When the sentence was read, Melissa Elizabeth Lucio, 39, maintained the same blank stare she exhibited during most of the two-week trial, except for occasional sobbing as witnesses testified about the last 88 days of Mariah Alvarez's life.District Attorney Armando Villalobos said it was the first time a woman has been sentenced to death in Cameron County in known history."We feel relieved," Villalobos said. "I honestly think justice was done. This sets a very serious tone.

The District Attorney's Office was relieved that the U.S. Supreme Court recently made a decision in a case involving lethal injection, ruling that it is not cruel and unusual punishment", Villalobos said. A disturbing trend has developed in recent years in which Cameron County has begun to see big city problems such as violent crimes, Villalobos said. Jurors fulfilled their duty by showing the county is a family friendly place and made it clear violent crimes will not be tolerated, he said.

Villalobos said he is disappointed that local, state and national news media have shown little interest in the case, just as the case with the 2004 trial of John Allen Rubio in which he was convicted of killing and beheading his three children in 2003 in Brownsville.

Prosecutors are preparing to retry that case.Villalobos said that what news coverage the Lucio trial received did not center on the victim, a little girl who was beaten and tortured repeatedly for months by her mother, he said, until she died of a brain injury in a final spate of violence."I'm very proud of this jury," Villalobos said.

Although people living along the border may be influenced by Mexico's prohibition on the death penalty and disapproval of capital punishment by the Catholic Church, jurors were able to assign the correct penalty for a hideous crime, Villalobos said."I am a Catholic," Villalobos said. "I have to put that aside to do my constitutional duty. ... That's what the jury did, too."Villalobos said jurors didn't buy defense attorneys' arguments that Lucio killed her daughter because she was poor or suffered from "battered women's syndrome."No proof was presented that Lucio was really sexually abused as a child or had "battered woman's syndrome," as claimed by her lawyers, Villalobos said.

Jurors had to vote on two special issues to decide the case.The first is "whether there is a probability that (Lucio) would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society."The second issue was whether to choose the death penalty or life in prison without parole, court papers state.

There is no way to predict how long the appeals process might take or when Lucio might actually be executed, Villalobos said."It could be a couple of years, it could be 10 years," he said.

Roberto Antonio Alvarez, Lucio's live-in boyfriend, will go on trial Aug. 4 on a charge of injury to a child by omission for doing nothing to prevent the beatings that resulted in Mariah Alvarez's death, Villalobos said. If convicted, Alvarez could face up to life in prison.