This special episode is our first collaboration with The Lone Star Plate’s sister podcast, Factual America, hosted by Matthew Sherwood, which explores the American experience through the lens of documentary filmmaking.
Melissa Lucio is the only Hispanic woman to ever be sentenced to death in the state of Texas. She is currently facing her last appeal, having spent 13 years on death row. Her case, as well as the problems with the American justice system and the death penalty, are captured in the documentary The State of Texas vs. Melissa (2020).
Our guest is French-American journalist and filmmaker Sabrina Van Tassel, who directed, wrote and produced the film. I loved Melissa’s energy, she is so passionate, caring and invested in her work as a documentary filmmaker.
This is a phenomenal documentary, but it has outraged me, as it’s frustrating to see so much injustice in my state of Texas. Make sure to take time to see it on Amazon Prime or Hulu, and enjoy this Lone Star Plate/Factual America special episode.
“I believe Melissa would already have been executed if I hadn’t made this film.” – Sabrina Van Tassel
00:00 – Introducing the guest, and the trailer for The State of Texas vs. Melissa.
04:04 – Where you can watch this documentary.
05:16 – What the film is about and who Melissa is.
07:37 – How Sabrina got involved with this case.
12:00 – What it was like meeting Melissa for the first time.
15:13 – The biases people have towards certain ethnic groups.
22:36 – The trust in God there is within the Roman Catholic community.
24:40 – Melissa’s first lawyer and the chances of winning a case against the DA office.
28:27 – The appeal Melissa won and then overturned a short time later.
32:19 – Why Sabrina believes Maria died from falling down the stairs.
37:48 – How Sabrina got access to Melissa and her defence attorney.
44:14 – How Melissa’s family responded to the film.
45:56 – The chances of Melissa being released and Sabrina doing a follow-up film.
50:26 – How quickly an execution is carried out after an inmate’s appeals run out.
51:55 – Why Sabrina wants to bring awareness to the justice system’s failures.
55:55 – The problems with the death penalty and death row.
59:48 – The positive effects making this film has had.
1:01:58 – What people can do to help put an end to the death penalty.
1:06:48 – The next projects Sabrina is working on.
1:07:59 – How being French gives Sabrina a different perspective on American culture.
1:10:58 – Advice for other filmmakers who want to make documentaries.
1:14:56 – Sabrina’s director of photography and the film’s unique soundtrack.
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