“If Melissa had had a fair trial, she would not be on death row.

– Sabrina Van Tassel, Director

For over ten years Melissa Lucio, the first Hispanic woman sentenced to death in Texas, has been awaiting her fate and now faces her last appeal. Filmmaker Sabrina Van Tassel documents Melissa Lucio’s ordeal in the The State of Texas v. Melissa world premiering at the downsized online version of 2020 Tribeca Film Festival.

Her name is Melissa Lucio. For over ten years, she’s been awaiting her fate on death row and is now on her last appeal. Melissa was the first Hispanic woman sentenced to death in Texas. To many, Melissa looks like she is responsible for her daughter’s death. Guilty of abusing Mariah, her two year old child, day after day, until she died from a blunt head trauma. But strangely, she was never known to be violent towards her children. And nobody had ever seen her being abusive to Mariah. This film explores her life’s journey. It highlights the bizarre miscarriage of justice she went through. It is the portrait of a woman against the entire system.

The State of Texas vs Melissa Traile

Sabrina Van Tassel is a French-American film director and a journalist. As an investigative reporter she has directed over 45 documentary films for the last 15 years for major television programs. Focusing mainly on social and politically motivated matters such as women forced into marriage, under age sex trafficking, post traumatic stress, children in the white nationalist movement, women in prison and the Holocaust. The Silenced Walls (2015) was her first documentary theatrically released. Critically acclaimed by the French press, it told her journey to discover the history of the Drancy camp, the biggest internment camp, turned into a social housing building at the end of the war. The State of Texas vs. Melissa (2020) tells the story of the first Hispanic woman sentenced to death in Texas. It tells the fate of so many indigents destroyed by the courts.

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