In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Kim Kardashian called on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to grant clemency to Melissa Lucio, a domestic violence survivor whose lawyers say she “falsely” admitted to killing her two-year-old daughter in 2007. Unless Gov. Abbott intervenes, Lucio’s will be executed on April 27, and she would be the first woman to die by execution in Texas in decades.
According to Lucio’s lawyers, her young daughter died in a tragic accident falling down a steep staircase outside their apartment. Over the course of Lucio’s aggressive interrogation, she denied abusing her child more than 100 times. But finally, after hours of questioning, when police asked if she was responsible for some of her child’s injuries, she told them, “I guess I did it.”
It was 3 am.
Lucio’s lawyers say her statement has been taken out of context and inaccurately used by prosecutors as a confession. Her legal team, as well as domestic violence advocates across the country, have also argued that Lucio made this statement after being worn down by trauma and grief at the loss of her child, as well as a lifetime of domestic abuse.
Kardashian noted Lucio’s background as a survivor and its impact in what Lucio’s lawyers have characterized as a false confession, in her tweets demanding clemency. “She has been on death row for over 14 years for her daughter’s death that was a tragic accident,” Kardashian wrote. “Her 2-year old daughter Mariah fell down a flight of stairs and two days later passed away while taking a nap. After she called for help, she was taken into custody by the police.”
Kardashian continued: “Melissa is a survivor of abuse and domestic violence herself and after being interrogated for hours and falsely pleaded guilty. She wanted the interrogation to end, but police made her words out to be a confession. ... It’s stories like Melissa’s that make me speak so loud about the death penalty in general and why it should be banned when innocent people are suffering.” She then shared a link to the Innocence Project’s petition, allowing people to contact Texas officials to demand clemency for Lucio.
Kardashian has previously used her platform to advocate for clemency and leniency for incarcerated people and those on death row. In 2018, she called on then-President Trump to commute the life-in-prison sentence of Alice Johnson, a first-time drug offender. Trump commuted Johnson’s sentence shortly after. Kardashian again called for the former president to pardon Brandon Bernard the day before Bernard’s execution in 2020. “Having gotten to know Brandon, I am heartbroken about this execution,” she wrote in a tweet at the time. But Trump declined to intervene this time, and Bernard was killed on December 10.
Shortly before Kardashian tweeted out her support for Lucio, a member of the jury that sentenced Lucio to death spoke out, calling for a retrial. “I did not know that her long history of physical and sexual abuse made her vulnerable to falsely confess when subjected to aggressive interrogation tactics on the night of her daughter’s death,” the juror, Johnny Galvin, Jr., wrote in a Sunday op ed in The Houston Chronicle. According to Galvin, “there were so many other details” about Lucio’s case that “went unmentioned,” and he would have voted differently with this information.
Sandra Babcock, faculty director of the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide and consultant to Lucio’s legal team, told the Independent last year that Lucio’s case is “an example of how the US legal system continues to ignore the consequences of gender-based violence in sentencing women to death.”
Our criminal legal system frequently criminalizes survivors—particularly those who are women of color, like Lucio. As a result of what’s often called the sexual assault-to-prison-pipeline, nearly 90% of incarcerated women are survivors of sexual violence. Many are criminalized for self-defense against an abuser, while others can face criminal charges if their abusive partner harms their children. Pregnant women can even be criminalized if they experience physical abuse and consequently lose their pregnancies.
Kardashian’s advocacy for Lucio comes amid ongoing criticisms of her often tone-deaf political statements, including recently telling less privileged women to “get your ass up and work.” Regardless, Kardashian has a massive platform and undeniable political influence, and she’s using it well here in her plea to save Lucio’s life.