I just completed watching a documentary about a Hispanic woman called Melissa, who was given the death sentence after being found guilty of murdering her little girl.

I was horrified at the lack of empathy and the harsh treatment meted out upon this woman!

Melissa has 14 children (now 13 because of the death of the infant girl). These children aren’t from the same man but various men she had relationships with! 

She is not particularly good looking, does not have much of an education and doesn’t seem very caring. She comes across as cold, almost “dead inside,” and speaks matter of factly about her life. She grew up in poverty, and so did her children.

I don’t know if Melissa is guilty of killing her baby girl, but what I do know is that the law failed her. Justice was neither kind nor blind to Melissa, and it reminds me of how poor White people and Black and Brown people are “used” by slick District attorneys wanting to gain as many convictions as possible to gain favour with their employers. It saddened me how incompetent and woefully inadequate public defenders are; Granted, not in all instances, but definitely in this instance!

Watching this reminded me of how wealthy people with “good” attorneys are “set free,” not because they are innocent but because their attorneys are slick and convincing when presenting a defence.

The bottom line is, poor people across all races, but specifically, Black and Brown people, are judged before they even have a chance to defend themselves. The police seemed less than interested in investigating what may have happened. Her defence attorney decided that she was guilty yet still chose to take the case. Was this to the best of his ability? Of course not! 

The truth is when poor people need to access the justice system, they’re treated as if they are a nuisance, as subhuman, and with very little kindness and compassion.

Based on what I have seen, there are absolutely grounds for appeal, and I hope that the death sentence will be commuted! 

After several unsuccessful appeals, she had one left. They found that the evidence didn’t show that she was an abusive mom, abused substances or had an inclination to kill her baby girl. She was found guilty of neglect by Child Protection Services, but not abuse. In fact, her older children speak lovingly of her and how much they miss her.

Melissa was offered a 30-year sentence as opposed to a death sentence if she pleaded guilty. She declined the offer!

What horrified me was the terrible way in which men treated her. The police officers, the judge, the District Attorney and her Defence Attorney were all male. They all looked down on her, and none of them seemed inclined to “go the extra mile” to investigate the case. The Defence Attorney(during the making of the documentary) was asked why he never allowed her older children to be witnesses and speak about what they had seen. He left me nonplussed when he said that the children aren’t quiet, that they are rowdy and would be running around the courtroom annoying the Jurors. Does this mean that he failed in his duty to “adequately” represent her? Absolutely, yes!

Based on the documentary and the prison to pipeline racist system in the United States, I wonder how many people are innocent of the crimes they were found guilty of committing? How many Black and Brown prisoners have not been “adequately represented,” resulting in guilty verdicts and harsh sentences for petty crimes or misdemeanours?

It would seem that being Black and Brown or poor is enough for authorities to arrest, try and convict people knowing that they are innocent.

This documentary is briefly about the State of Texas versus Melissa, but think about how many people are in prison because that same State couldn’t be bothered to investigate and defend the accused.