Hulu is streaming Sabrina Van Tassel’s documentary which shows the first woman of Hispanic descent in line for judicial execution. Variety reported that Hulu picked up the streaming rights for “The State of Texas vs. Melissa,” which shows the journey of Melissa Lucio while she submits her final appeal.
Melissa was convicted on a murder charge for her daughter who was two. She died of head trauma. Melissa however has been in line for a judicial execution for over 10 years. “The State of Texas vs. Melissa” sends out the message that Melissa’s sentencing was a judicial failure. The DA who executed Melissa’s case was Armando Villalobos who has been known for corruption and accepting bribery. The police were also told by one of Melissa’s kids that their sister had tripped on the staircase and hence hurt her head.
A source shared, “Lucio’s conviction was overturned in July 2019 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, but the State of Texas immediately appealed that ruling. And in February, a court of appeals reversed the 2019 grant of relief by a vote of 10 to 7 and her hopes for exoneration now lie in the U.S. Supreme Court, which only takes 1% of all cases. Lucio could receive an execution date any day.”
Van Tassel shared, “When I started the film I knew it was a timely piece. Now, every [festival] selection, every article is an opportunity to make noise about her case. This is the best example of how you can bring awareness through art and hope to make a difference, have a decisive impact.”
You can purchase or rent “The State of Texas vs. Melissa” on various platforms such as Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV. It will premiere in North America this year at Tribeca and will be seen on the screen at Deauville American Film Festival. Madrid Human Rights Film Fest, DocLondon, and various other festivals have chosen this documentary previously.
Van Tassel was asked what she wanted her audiences to think after watching “The State of Texas vs. Melissa,” and she replied by saying, “Not to judge a person hastily based on what they represent in the eyes of society, but to deal with the facts instead. Most defendants who are victims of wrongful convictions are very flawed characters who had broken lives. They might not have been model citizens, but that doesn’t mean that they’re guilty of the crime of which they are accused. I would also like people to realize that death row targets the poor, and it targets Black and Brown lives. It is a very unjust system. You probably would not be on death row if you were a rich white male. However, you may well be on death row because you have a court-appointed attorney who doesn’t have the means to defend you and a district attorney’s office who has all the means in the world to get you convicted. Ninety percent of court cases are won by the State. That’s a fact. That is why most poor defendants accept plea deals even if they’re innocent. They don’t stand a chance in a court of law.”