Director Sabrina Van Tassel does an excellent job of drawing in the audience to the labyrinthian case of Melissa Lucio. There’s not only the mishandling of the case by the defense, but we also find out later that the District Attorney of Cameron County, Armando Villalobos, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for corruption. He was part of the drug cartel, accepting bribes from them and also from defense attorneys. Due to his desire to continue his tenure as DA, he made decisions that would appeal to the citizens of the conservative Catholic constituency. This includes putting an abusive mother to death. Additionally, right before Melissa’s trial, a man who pleaded guilty to murder disappeared, which made the office look really bad. So it could be argued that he so aggressively prosecuted Melissa’s trial to save face.
“…will leave you on the edge of your seat until the final moments and will also leave you practically in tears…”
Van Tassel leaves no stone unturned, talking to Melissa’s defense attorney, Peter Gilman, her appellate lawyer, Margaret Schmucker, a private investigator/mitigation specialist on the case, Lynn Marie Garcy, and several members of Melissa’s family including her mother Esperanza, her sisters Sonya and Diane, her brother Rene, her son Bobby, and her daughters Daniela and Alexandra. The most heart-wrenching moments come from scenes inside the prison talking to Melissa herself.
If you want to see a documentary that will leave you on the edge of your seat until the final moments and will also leave you practically in tears, I highly recommend The State of Texas Vs. Melissa. It will leave you questioning the case long after the film is over. While we still don’t know if Melissa’s case has been overturned, although it was close, now I’m invested and I’m sincerely hoping that the state of Texas doesn’t win the appeal to have her case overturned. I’m hoping Melissa gets to see her other children again, and after you watch the film, you will too.
The State of Texas Vs. Melissa screened at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival.
"…most heart-wrenching moments come from scenes inside the prison talking to Melissa herself."