A Texas appeals court on Monday delayed the execution of Melissa Lucio amid growing doubts about whether she fatally beat her 2-year-old daughter in a case that has garnered the support of lawmakers, celebrities, and even some jurors who sentenced her to death.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a request by Lucio’s lawyers for a stay of execution with just two days remaining so a lower court can review her claims that new evidence would exonerate her.
Lucio had been set for lethal injection Wednesday for the 2007 death of her daughter Mariah in Harlingen, a city of about 75,000 at the very southern tip of the state. Prosecutors have maintained that the girl was the victim of abuse and noted that her body was covered in bruises. Lucio’s lawyers say Mariah died from injuries she sustained in a fall down a steep staircase several days before she died.
Lucio’s attorneys say her capital murder conviction was based on an unreliable and coerced confession that was the result of relentless questioning and her long history of being sexually, physically, and emotionally abused. They say Lucio wasn’t allowed to present evidence questioning the validity of her confession.
The fate of Melissa Lucio, a mother of 14 who is facing execution in Texas on Wednesday, could be revealed later today as Lucio's children and a group of bipartisan lawmakers urge the District Attorney to step in. pic.twitter.com/sWz3kXTz5h
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) April 25, 2022
In its three-page order, the appeals court asked that the trial court in Brownsville that handled Lucio’s case review four claims her lawyers have made: whether prosecutors used false evidence to convict her; whether previously unavailable scientific evidence would have prevented her conviction; whether she is actually innocent; and whether prosecutors suppressed evidence that would have been favorable to her defense.
Just received word the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted a stay of #MelissaLucio’s execution – remanding vital issues back to the trial court and securing justice for Melissa and for Mariah and the entire Lucio family. Praise God! #txlege pic.twitter.com/lzfWaEe7TH
— Jeff Leach (@leachfortexas) April 25, 2022
Lucio was first told her execution had been delayed in a phone call with state Rep. Jeff Leach, a Republican who has helped lead a bipartisan effort to halt her execution, said Vanessa Potkin, one of Lucio’s attorneys who is with the Innocence Project.
Texas has relied on the death penalty more than any other state and has carried out 573 executions since 1982. Nationally, executions have declined in recent years, with 17 in 2020 and 11 in 2021.
— Houston Chronicle (@HoustonChron) April 25, 2022