True Crime Documentary The State of Texas vs. Melissa, Mom on Death Row

The State of Texas vs. Melissa is a true crime documentary whose title gives away the premise. It’s perfectly fine. We have a case between the state of Texas (not the state of mind of Texas where you inexplicably wear cowboy hats north of the Mason Dixon Line) and a woman named Melissa Lucio.

Melissa never won any mother of the year awards. The mother of what I believe they said was 13 or 14 children, her two-year-old Mariah succumbs to injuries and dies from what Melissa claims was a fall. Evidence of bruising on the body says otherwise. Claims that one of her sisters, Alex, was abusive to Mariah is at the heart of Melissa’s potential innocence.

This is a documentary about what happened after Melissa’s court case and her version of what she claims really happened. 

You know all of the important tidbits. Let’s get to the important questions about whether it’s worth watching.

What was good about The State of Texas vs. Melissa

I like a good documentary where we go behind bars to see someone tell their side of things. Although it brings us near the end of the story when doing this, it’s often a smart strategy when it comes to making certain documentaries. Not everything needs to be a mystery from the beginning.

The State of Texas vs. Melissa is pretty basic throughout. It’s not flashy but does set a proper darker tone. Many of the interviews are from people who are either on her side or against it. The documentary moves incredibly fast for a film with a runtime of any other movie. I wasn’t bored at any point. I also wasn’t blown away.

What could have made The State of Texas vs. Melissa better

There definitely wasn’t enough evidence presented for either side. The conclusions made by the defense and prosecution seemed to come from minor sources. This documentary didn’t have much intrigue at all. It didn’t offer any twists. As far as filmmaking goes, it lacked drama in a big way.

Melissa doesn’t come across quite as sympathetic as I think the filmmakers wanted her to. Neglect of her children was evident. Whether or not she was an actual abuser is the main part of this story. You can draw conclusions. For me, I was left with reasonable doubt.

The documentary could have used more excitement to it. I know this is a story about a young girl who died and the word “excitement” isn’t necessarily what anyone desires. I’m looking at this from an entertainment factor. The State of Texas vs. Melissa was a bit dull. As “unbored” as I was throughout, I also never got pulled to the edge of my seat to see what would happen next.

Is The State of Texas vs. Melissa worth watching?

The documentary presents some big questions about capital punishment and the legal system in general. I really do think this could have been a multi-part series delving into things like how death-hungry Texas prosecutors seem to be. There was some mention of this and I think the documentary missed an opportunity to have a different focus. Instead, I felt like a lot of this documentary felt more like a long part one of three.

That said, I’d still recommend it. The simplicity worked. I just wish the story was told in a less monotone fashion. Nothing new seemed to really get revealed throughout. There have been some changes in Melissa’s life since with a death sentence date set and a stay of execution already ordered.

Overall Score: 6 out of 10

A forgettable true crime documentary you won’t hate yourself for watching. It almost had a hint of Murder on Middle Beach with Melissa’s daughter being a suspect in the case except this documentary wasn’t nearly as cinematic.

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