The State of Texas VS. Melissa

laurels icon Best Documentary Feature Winner
  • Politico, Female Gaze
  • 1h 38m
  • Documentary Feature
  • European Premiere
  • 2020

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Melissa Lucio, the first Hispanic woman to be sentenced to death in Texas, faces her last appeal after ten years of awaiting her fate. The State of Texas vs. Melissa examines a life plagued by poverty and prejudice and is the story of one woman’s fight against an entire system.

Sabrina Van Tassel is a French-American film director and a journalist. Over the last fifteen years, she has directed over 45 documentary films for major television networks. Her work focuses mainly on social and politically motivated matters.

Film Review: Sabrina Von Tassel presents a case study of Melissa Lucio, the first Hispanic woman to be sentenced to death in Texas, for the murder of her infant daughter. In a collection of startling interviews, we hear from those directly involved in the trial, as well as members of Melissa’s immediate family and, most poignantly, from Melissa herself, telling her own story from Death Row. The film re-examines the case from top to bottom, scrutinising the dubious tactics of the prosecution and the negligent oversights of the defence. As fresh evidence piles up, it becomes glaringly obvious that questions still hover over the District Attorney’s office and their verdict of guilty. Delving further into Melissa’s life story, the documentary identifies the ways in which trauma from childhood sexual abuse manifested during her interrogation. We are confronted with the fact that Melissa’s socio-economic status and drug addictions were distorted by the prosecution, who chose to misrepresent her as a poorly educated and violent parent. This is the story of an ordinary citizen who was made a scapegoat by a corrupt District Attorney’s office. The State of Texas vs. Melissa is an intimate portrayal of a vulnerable woman and a shocking indictment of a broken system which routinely fails those most in need of its protection. Jake Burton


Garineh Nazarian

Executive Producer

Philippe de Bourbon


Isaac Sharry

Director of Photography

Cyril Thomas


Damien Bois

Sound Designer

Francois-Joseph Hors

Sound Designer

Maxime Saleix