When Judgment is in Bad Faith

How misunderstood scripture threatens Melissa Lucio’s life: Some thoughts on why we live in a punitive rather than a forgiving society.

Matt Peterson
6 min readApr 21, 2022

Do you see law and order? There is nothing but disorder, and instead of law there is the illusion of security. It is an illusion because it is built on a long history of injustices: racism, criminality, and the genocide of millions. Many people say it is insane to resist the system, but actually, it is insane not to.
Mumia Abu-Jamal

The Innocence Project

Should we be able to stop states from putting somebody to death if there is evidence that the person is not guilty?

Melissa Lucio is scheduled to be executed by the state of Texas in six days, on April 27, 2022.

If her death sentence is carried out, Texas might be executing an innocent person. Even if Lucio is guilty of killing her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Mariah, should she be put to death for it?

Unfortunately, neither the circumstances of mothers Melissa Lucio’s life nor the facts surrounding her daughter’s death were taken into consideration by police or the court she was tried in.

No, the death penalty is an outrageous response to someone killing their toddler.

Johnny Galvin was the only undecided juror in the state of Texas’s trial of Melissa Lucio.

Galvin recalls everyone awaiting his decision when a fellow juror pressed upon him a passage in The New Testament saying that it shows why Lucio should be put to death.

That passage is Matthew 18:6:

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Galvin’s peer convinced him that Lucio should be put to death based on this verse.

The problem with citing biblical passages for guidance is that misreadings frequently precede interpretation of scripture.

Jesus was not a political figure.

He doesn’t side with Republicans and condemn Democrats. He has no concern for radical politics. Everyone who believes their salvation is in Jesus Christ will go to heaven.

People politicize faith. One of the things about Christian spirituality that is often ignored by non-Christians and Christians who are weak in their belief is that salvation is for everybody.

People of Christian nations commonly know that Jesus came here for sinners, and we know that he associated with prostitutes and that his disciples were unliked people in society. But we don’t seem to apply this knowledge when we consider young women who have children out of wedlock, or the rights of people of color, immigrants, or the poor in the United States.

To understand this passage, it’s necessary to know what Jesus means by ‘children.’

On one hand, the passage seems to refer to punishing those who abuse or kill children.

Is the passage talking about children as in young people under the authority of adults?

Reading the first half of Matthew chapter 8, it is clear that Jesus is talking about Christians being children of God — not young people under the authority of adults. Christians are referred to as “little children.”

The chapter opens with Jesus calling a young child within the crowd of people around him to stand with him in front of the adults in the group. But he does it to say that whoever humbles themselves in the way a child is humble is the same as the greatest in heaven.

The passage is talking about the children of God. Those who believe in God are God’s children. This passage is speaking about those who harm God’s children would be better drowned with a millstone tied around their neck than suffer hell.

The chapter then shifts into a long passage about forgiveness.

Though chapter 18 can be seen as two lessons — one on punishment and the other on forgiveness — forgiveness is a common theme — and the ultimate theme in Christianity from the believer’s perspective.

Turn the other cheek forgive. Forgive. Keep forgiving “until seventy times seven.” If people steal from you, do not demand your possessions back. They are no longer yours.

Jesus said the two most important commandments are putting God before everything else, and loving your neighbor as yourself. He tells his disciples that they are the only ones that need to be followed because the other commandments come out of them.

Texas is not doing a good job of upholding God’s commandments. But people are trying to make right the court’s decision.

There’s overwhelming evidence that her 2008 trial was deeply flawed.

Eighty-three Texas representatives have urged governor Greg Abbot to halt Lucio’s execution.

Four of Lucio’s jurors have stated that they would reverse their decision given the evidence that has seen the light of day since her conviction.

Mariah Lucio had mental deficiencies which inhibited her ability to walk and made her prone to tripping.

The prosecution ignored the fact that Melissa Lucio and her family lived in a second-floor apartment on the day Mariah Lucio took her fatal fall down a flight of stairs. It was after the accident that the family moved to a first-floor apartment that had only three stairs leading up to it.

Lucio’s trial was so severely flawed that it appears Melissa Lucio was convicted to make an example of what happens to Latinas who abuse their children in Texas.

Ten of Melissa Lucia’s eleven children have gone on record saying that she did not abuse them. One of her children has claimed that her abuse started with Mariah, the youngest. Her statements contradict evidence presented in court.

The confession that the prosecution used against Lucio came from coercion and exhaustion. Lucia was questioned for over five hours with no food or water while pregnant with twins. No lawyer was present.

The former district attorney — Armando Villalobos — who served during Lucia’s trial, is currently serving 13 years for bribery and extortion.

Another thing about Christians that doesn’t seem to be getting through is that we must solve our own problems through Jesus Christ. There’s no place for condemning other people. God deals with us — it’s not up to an individual or the state to say when someone should live or die.

Earlier in the book of Matthew (7:3–5) in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says:

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

There’s plenty of biblical interpretation out there that points out the role of forgiveness in this passage.

Jesus lays out a transparent, careful process to confront sin in others before removing them from the community. Christ also replies to Peter’s question about forgiveness with a parable. This story represents God’s incredible forgiveness and how we should respond as Christians.

The very action of upholding law and order that Texas is trying to stand for by executing Melissa Lucio is murder fueled by hatred of the poor and non-white classes.

Texas can cancel Lucio’s execution and review her case. There is so much evidence pointing towards her innocence and a corrupt prosecution; by executing Lucio, Texas is proving itself to be a white supremacist state that does not understand the faith to which it adheres.

Melissa Lucio is a Catholic. The denominational label one ascribes to is not essential regarding faith — it’s what one believes that matters. Since Melissa Lucio believes Jesus Christ died for her sins, she’s a Christian, and executing her exactly contradicts the juror’s use of the biblical passage from Matthew about not harming God’s “little children.”

Even if she did kill her baby — she deserves to live.


How you can help stop Melissa Lucio’s execution.



Matt Peterson

I write at the intersection of interest and pressing need.