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Lawyers Hope New Evidence Can Stop Texas Woman’s Execution | U.S. News®

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By JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) — During hours of relentless questioning, Melissa Lucio greater than 100 occasions had denied fatally beating her 2-year-old daughter.

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But worn down from a lifetime of abuse and the grief of dropping her daughter Mariah, her legal professionals say, the Texas lady lastly acquiesced to investigators. “I assume I did it,” Lucio responded when requested if she was accountable for a few of Mariah’s accidents.

Her legal professionals say that assertion was wrongly interpreted by prosecutors as a homicide confession — tainting the remainder of the investigation into Mariah’s 2007 dying, with proof gathered solely to show that conclusion, and serving to result in her capital homicide conviction. They contend Mariah died from accidents from a fall down the 14 steps of a steep staircase outdoors the household’s house within the South Texas metropolis of Harlingen.

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As her April 27 execution date nears, Lucio’s legal professionals are hopeful that new proof, together with rising public assist — together with from jurors who now doubt the conviction and from greater than half the Texas House of Representatives — will persuade the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Greg Abbott to grant an execution reprieve or commute her sentence.

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“Mariah’s dying was a tragedy not a homicide. … It can be a fully devastating message for this execution to go ahead. It would ship a message that innocence doesn’t matter,” stated Vanessa Potkin, one among Lucio’s attorneys who’s with the Innocence Project.

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Lucio’s legal professionals say jurors by no means heard forensic proof that will have defined that Mariah’s numerous accidents had been really attributable to a fall days earlier. They additionally say Lucio wasn’t allowed to current proof questioning the validity of her confession.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office maintains proof exhibits Mariah suffered the “absolute worst” case of kid abuse her emergency room physician had seen in 30 years.

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“Lucio nonetheless advances no proof that’s dependable and supportive of her acquittal,” the workplace wrote in court docket paperwork final month.

The Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted Lucio, declined to remark.

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Lucio, 53, can be the primary Latina executed by Texas and the primary lady since 2014. Only 17 girls have been executed within the U.S. because the Supreme Court lifted its ban on the dying penalty in 1976, most lately in January 2021.

In their clemency petition, Lucio’s legal professionals say that whereas she had used medicine, main her to quickly lose custody of her youngsters, she was a loving mom who labored to stay drug-free and supply for her household. Lucio has 14 youngsters and was pregnant with the youngest two when Mariah died.

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Lucio and her youngsters struggled by means of poverty. At occasions, they had been homeless and relied on meals banks for meals, in response to the petition. Child Protective Services was current within the household’s life, however there was by no means an accusation of abuse by any of her youngsters, Potkin stated.

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Lucio had been (s)-(e)-(x)-(u)-(al)ly assaulted a number of occasions, beginning at age 6, and had been bodily and emotionally abused by two husbands. Her legal professionals say this lifelong trauma made her inclined to giving a false confession.

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In the 2020 documentary “The State of Texas vs. Melissa,” Lucio stated investigators stored pushing her to say she had damage Mariah.

“I used to be not gonna admit to inflicting her dying as a result of I wasn’t accountable,” Lucio stated.

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Her legal professionals say Lucio’s sentence was disproportionate to what her husband and Mariah’s father, Robert Alvarez, acquired. He received a four-year sentence for inflicting harm to a baby by omission although he additionally was accountable for Mariah’s care, Lucio’s legal professionals argue.

In 2019, a three-judge panel of the fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Lucio’s conviction, ruling she was disadvantaged of “her constitutional proper to current a significant protection.” However, the complete court docket in 2021 stated the conviction needed to be upheld for procedural causes, “regardless of the tough concern of the exclusion of testimony which may have solid doubt on the credibility of Lucio’s confession.”

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Three jurors and one alternate in Lucio’s trial have signed affidavits expressing doubts about her conviction.

“She was not evil. She was simply struggling. … If we had heard passionately from the protection defending her not directly, we would have reached a distinct determination,” juror Johnny Galvan wrote in an affidavit.

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“As a conservative Republican myself, who has lengthy been a supporter of the dying penalty in essentially the most heinous circumstances … I’ve by no means seen a extra troubling case than the case of Melissa Lucio,” stated state Rep. Jeff Leach, who signed the letter.

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Abbott can grant a one-time, 30-day reprieve. He can grant clemency if a majority of the paroles board recommends it.

The board plans to vote on Lucio’s clemency petition two days earlier than the scheduled execution, Rachel Alderete, the board’s director of assist operations, stated in a e-mail. A spokeswoman for Abbott’s workplace didn’t return an e-mail looking for remark.

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Abbott has granted clemency to just one dying row inmate, Thomas Whitaker, since taking workplace in 2015. Whitaker was convicted of masterminding the deadly shootings of his mom and brother. His father, who survived, led the trouble to avoid wasting Whitaker, saying he can be victimized once more if his son was executed.

Lucio’s supporters have stated her clemency request is comparable in that her household can be retraumatized if she’s executed.

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“Please permit us to reconcile with Mariah’s dying and bear in mind her without recent ache, anguish and grief. Please spare the lifetime of our mom,” Lucio’s youngsters wrote in a letter to Abbott and the board.

Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

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Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials is probably not revealed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Former Kentucky Lawmaker Sentenced to Prison in Fraud Case

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LONDON, Ky. (AP) — Former Kentucky lawmaker Robert Goforth was sentenced Monday to two years and one month in federal jail for well being care fraud and money laundering.

Goforth, who resigned from the Kentucky House in 2021, additionally faces two years of supervised launch, media shops reported.

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Goforth ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for governor in 2019.

Goforth pleaded responsible in May 2022, admitting {that a} pharmacy he owned in Clay County billed insurance coverage applications, together with Medicare and Medicaid, for prescriptions that prospects didn’t choose up, in accordance to courtroom information. The pharmacy multiplied income by shopping for a dose of drugs as soon as after which “successfully promoting it a number of instances,” in accordance to Goforth’s plea settlement.

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U.S. District Judge Robert Wier imposed the sentence at a federal courthouse in Laurel County. Wier stated the sentence ought to function a deterrent to others in the well being care system who try to abuse the belief of others.

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In a tearful assertion, Goforth informed Wier that he was ashamed of what he had performed and apologized to his victims and his household.

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Fraud, Scam Cases Increasing on Zelle, Senate Report Finds

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By KEN SWEET, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Incidents of fraud and scams are occurring extra usually on the favored peer-to-peer cost service Zelle, in accordance with a report issued Monday by the workplace of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, giving the general public its first glimpse into the rising issues at Zelle.

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The report additionally discovered that the massive banks that partly personal Zelle have been reluctant to compensate clients who’ve been victims of fraud or scams. For occasion, lower than half of the money clients reported being despatched by way of Zelle without authorization was being reimbursed.

Warren, D-Massachusetts, a long-time critic of the massive banks, requested information on fraud and scams on Zelle from seven banks beginning in April. The report cites information from 4 banks that tallied 192,878 instances price collectively $213.8 million in 2021 and the primary half of 2022 the place a buyer claimed they’d been fraudulently tricked into making a cost. In solely roughly 3,500 instances did these banks reimburse the shopper, the report discovered.

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Further, within the instances the place it is clear funds had been taken out of shoppers’ accounts without authorization, solely 47% of these {dollars} had been ever reimbursed.

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Since being launched in June 2017, Zelle has develop into a well-liked method for financial institution clients to ship money to family and friends. Almost $500 billion in funds had been despatched by way of Zelle in 2021, in accordance with Early Warning Services, the corporate that operates Zelle.

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Zelle is the banking trade’s reply to the rising reputation of peer-to-peer cost providers like PayPal, Venmo and the Cash App. The service permits a financial institution buyer to instantaneously ship money to an individual by way of their e-mail or telephone quantity, and it’ll go from one checking account to a different. More than 1,700 banks and credit score unions provide the service. But the service has additionally grown extra fashionable with scammers and criminals. Once money is distributed by way of Zelle, it requires a financial institution’s intervention to aim to get that money again.

The instances of rising fraud and scams at Zelle have been highlighted in earlier news stories, together with two by The New York Times. But these tales cited principally anecdotal proof. Early Warning Services has beforehand mentioned that 99.9% of all transactions occur without complaints of fraud or scams. A bunch of Democratic senators requested for utilization information on Zelle after the report in The New York Times.

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Banks are required underneath the Electronic Fund Transfer Act to repay clients when funds are illegally taken out of their account without authorization. Banks have argued that in instances of fraud — which means a buyer’s account turns into compromised in some way they usually ship an unauthorized cost — they do reimburse clients. Banks are extra reluctant to reimburse clients who declare to have been scammed, arguing that clients would make such claims extra usually and it could be arduous to inform whether or not the shopper is telling the reality.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has additionally been wanting into Zelle and different cost platforms, and is anticipated to situation rules that might require banks to reimburse clients for a wider array of scams and fraud.

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The banking trade, conscious of Washington’s elevated scrutiny of Zelle, has been on a marketing campaign to point out Zelle is a secure solution to ship money. The trade sometimes likes to level out that fraud and rip-off claims happen extra usually on the non-bank cost platforms like Venmo or the Cash App.

The information for particular person banks reveals the rise in fraud and scams. PNC Bank had 8,848 instances on Zelle in 2020, and is on tempo to have roughly 12,300 instances this 12 months. US Bank had 14,886 instances in 2020 and had 27,702 instances in 2021. Truist had 9,455 instances of fraud and scams on Zelle in 2020, which ballooned to 22,045 final 12 months.

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In response to Warren’s report, Zelle’s proprietor mentioned the elevated instances mirrored the actual fact the service has develop into extra fashionable.

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“Zelle utilization has grown considerably since its launch, from 247 million transactions in 2017 to 1.8 billion in 2021, whereas the proportion of fraud and scams has steadily decreased,” Early Warning Services mentioned in an announcement.

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Warren made fireworks at a congressional listening to final month involving many of the CEOs of the massive Wall Street banks that use and partly personal Zelle, the place she pushed every of the CEOs to launch fraud and rip-off incident information at their banks. The seven are: JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, PNC Financial, Truist, Bank of America, Capital One and U.S. Bank.

The listening to featured an change the place Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, apologized to Warren for not getting her the info she requested and promised she would have it on the finish of that day.

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Warren’s workplace says in the end JPMorgan’s information on Zelle didn’t present the data they had been in search of, so information from JPMorgan isn’t included within the report. The different banks that didn’t present information to Warren’s workplace had been Wells Fargo and Capital One. JPMorgan didn’t return a request for remark.

This story has been up to date to appropriate the identify of the corporate working Zelle. It is Early Warning Services, not Early Warning Systems.

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Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials will not be printed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Evers Proposes Increase Into Local Funding for Public Safety

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By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, simply 5 weeks earlier than he’s up for reelection, introduced Monday that if he wins he’ll suggest a 4% enhance in funding for native governments every of the subsequent two years.

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Evers mentioned the money, totaling greater than $91 million over two years, could possibly be used to pay for public security priorities. His plan contains $10 million in funding for native governments to be spent particularly on police, hearth and emergency providers prices, with the money distributed primarily based on inhabitants.

Evers additionally introduced that he was instantly offering almost $3.5 million in federal COVID-19 aid money to the Wisconsin State Patrol and campus police departments to pay for extra time.

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Republican Tim Michels has made crime a central focus of his marketing campaign in opposition to Evers, arguing that the Democrat has didn’t maintain communities secure. Michels has mentioned through the marketing campaign that public security is a precedence, and if elected he would enhance funding for native governments to rent extra cops.

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Michels spokesperson Anna Kelly mentioned Evers is attempting to “rewrite his abysmal public security document.”

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“Evers doesn’t care about public security,” Kelly mentioned in a press release. “He cares about getting re-elected.”

The subsequent governor will submit a state price range proposal to the Legislature early subsequent yr. Even if Evers wins, his proposal have to be authorized by the GOP-controlled Legislature, which has gutted a lot of his previous two budgets.

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Evers has tried to deflect a number of the criticism from Michels by attempting to put blame with the Legislature for refusing his calls to extend state help to native communities and slicing funding he proposed to bolster regulation enforcement.

“Time and once more, I’ve labored to extend funding for shared income to assist native governments fund vital providers, together with our native cops, firefighters, and EMS suppliers, and repeatedly, the Republicans within the Legislature have refused,” Evers mentioned in a press release.

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Funding from the state to native governments in Wisconsin, generally known as shared income, has been flat since 2013, based on the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

“Public security specifically has change into more and more troublesome to assist although present revenues, although particular wants range throughout the state,” the teams mentioned in a joint assertion. “With inadequate funding for hearth safety, EMS, and regulation enforcement providers, each nook of the state is in want of help.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materials will not be revealed, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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