Many films have been made to tell death row stories, and they are mostly about men, and men of color. The State of Texas vs Melissa is the first to tell this kind of story. The film explores the life and conviction of Melissa Lucio, the first Hispanic woman to be sentenced to death in the state of Texas. This gripping tale of her life and the prosecution of her case displays the blatant disparities in our criminal justice system when it comes to being poor and a minority.
Melissa Lucio has been on death row for over ten years, she’s currently on her last appeal, awaiting her fate on death row. Director Sabrina Van Tassel brilliantly delves into the personal story of Melissa, her years of sexual abuse as a child, her tough adult life as a mother of 14 children, who developed a drug addiction. When her 2-year old daughter, Mariah, dies from a head injury, law enforcement believe Melissa is responsible for her daughter’s death. But to her other children, sisters, and those who know her best, she was never known to be violent towards any of her children.
Set in South Texas, on the other side of the border, in the heart of the Latino community. There was no investigation, a coerced confession, a court appointed attorney who willingly set aside evidence and a District Attorney who used Ms. Lucio's case for his reelection and he now sits in prison convicted of bribery and corruption. Years later evidence is revealed that could exonerate her, the conviction is overturned, but the state of Texas appeals, and thus Melissa continues to sit on death row during the appeal. Her story tells the fate of so many poor and misrepresented Americans destroyed by the courts. This film is by far one of the most powerful stories told this year.
The film is written and directed by Sabrina Van Tassel and will be available on VOD on October 20.