Pointing to the terrible dysfunctions of the American judicial system, through the case of Melissa Lucio, the first Spanish-American woman sentenced to death in Texas, “The State of Texas against Melissa” is a shocking documentary.
The story is excruciatingly sordid, tragic. That of Melissa Lucio, a poor and drugged mother, mistreated and abused, accused by the Texas authorities of having caused the death of her last two-year-old child, by mistreatment.
After an expeditious trial, the sentence falls. It is terrible: the death penalty, in a State which holds a sad record in the matter. But there’s more: Melissa is indeed the first Spanish-American woman to be sentenced to death in Texas. However, its history, which is full of gray areas, turns out to be much more complex than it seems …
Below is the Texas Vs Melissa trailer, “in theaters this Wednesday:
Signed by the Franco-American journalist and director Sabrina Van Tassel, to whom we owe in particular the moving La Cité muette in 2015, dedicated to the former internment camp of Drancy where nearly 80,000 Jews were interned before d Most of them being sent to death camps, The State of Texas Vs Melissa sheds a harsh and terrible light on the American judicial system. Maintenance.
DashFUN: In 2017, you had already made a documentary devoted to women sentenced to death in the United States, “Woman on Death Row”. What led you to take an interest this time around in the specific case of Melissa Lucio, beyond the fact that she is the first Spanish-American woman to be sentenced to death in Texas?
Sabrina Van Tassel : In 2017, the M6 channel asked me to do a report on women sentenced to death in the United States. I did not necessarily know the subject, even if I had made a lot of films on the prison world. It turns out that Texas, in addition to being the one that executes the most in the United States, is also the only one where one has the right to interview death row inmates. So I had spotted several women on death row, and Melissa was one of them. She accepted my request to meet her. At the start, our meeting was really a coincidence.
When I got interested in his case for reporting, I almost didn’t process it. In truth, there was little about her, very little written in particular, barely a few poor articles in the local press. It suprised me. She was therefore sentenced in 2007 for having killed her two-year-old daughter, accused of having hit her for weeks, months.
I went to South Texas to meet his family, which was completely broken up. when they saw me, they told me that I was the first person to meet them in 13 years. No lawyer, especially the one who had defended him, had come to see them since the conviction.
They told me that Melissa was absolutely not violent with Maria [NDR : sa fille de 2 ans morte], that it was an accident. The other children had even seen her fall down the stairs herself. They even showed me this staircase. They told me about this court-appointed lawyer, who had done everything to get her to where she is now. Added to this the fact that the Attorney General at the time of the case took 13 years in prison for corruption …
Texas is the Lone Star State; the state which has only one star. They are still in this Wild West mentality, with this idea that Justice is above all revenge. Justice is not made to protect society, or rehabilitate people. It is revenge, and the penalties are terrible.
The next day, I went to see Melissa Lucio, and this meeting, still in the context of this report, was the trigger for everything. As I watched her, everything told me that she couldn’t be guilty of what she was accused of. I then said to myself that it was absolutely necessary to make a film on this woman. When I walked out of death row that day, I told my cameraman that I wanted to make a film about this woman, that it would occupy the next three years of my life.
This film was therefore made completely in a hurry, I immediately contacted her lawyer, who told me that I risked arriving too late, because she could be executed within nine months after our interview. “If you want to make a movie, it’s now! Do you want to read everything in his file?” she told me.
She sent me tons and tons of documents. All her history with the Social Services who followed her for a long time. If she had been violent, it would have …