The execution of Melissa Lucio was delayed by a Texas appeals court Monday amid growing doubts over whether she killed her 2-year-old daughter. This case has received the support of celebrities, lawmakers and some jurors who had sentenced her to death.
Lucio’s lawyers requested a stay of execution from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. This was so that a lower court could review her claims of new evidence.
Lucio was scheduled for Wednesday’s lethal injection in connection with Mariah’s 2007 death in Harlingen. Harlingen is a small city of approximately 75,000 people at Texas’ southern tip.
Prosecutors maintained that the girl was a victim of abuse, and pointed out that her body was covered with bruises. Lucio’s lawyers claim Mariah died after she fell down a steep staircase several times days before her death.
Lucio stated in a statement that her lawyers provided. Lucio stated, “I am grateful to the court for giving me the opportunity to live and prove mine innocence.” “Mariah is always in my heart. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a mother to my kids and a grandma to my grandchildren. I will dedicate my time to helping them find Christ. Everyone who prayed for and spoke on my behalf is deeply appreciated.
Lucio’s mother Esperanza Trevino wept and thanked everyone who supported her daughter, saying, “Thank God, for the miracle.”
Lucio was informed that her execution was delayed by Jeff Leach, a Republican, in a telephone call. This led to a bipartisan effort to stop her execution, according Vanessa Potkin, Lucio’s attorney who is part of the Innocence Project.
“She sobbed. Potkin said that she was overwhelmed.
Leach stated that he was thankful to the appeals court for “pushing the pause button” on her execution. This saved Texas from the irreversible mistake of potentially killing an innocent person.
Minutes before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was scheduled to review Lucio’s request for clemency to either commute or grant her a 120 day reprieve, the execution stay was announced. Because of the execution stop, the paroles board didn’t review her clemency request. Lucio’s lawyers will need to file a new petition if the case is to be remanded to the parole board.
Lucio’s lawyers claim that her capital murder conviction was based upon a coerced and unreliable confession. This was the result of constant questioning and her long history as being physically, sexually and emotionally abused. Lucio was not allowed to present evidence challenging her confession, they claim.
Her lawyers claim that jurors were misled by unscientific and false information, believing Mariah’s injuries may have been the result of abuse and not from severe falls.
Potkin stated that Melissa being executed based on incomplete and false medical evidence for a crime that has never occurred would shock the public’s conscience. “All of the evidence supporting her innocence has never been considered by any court before.” We can continue fighting with Melissa to reverse her wrongfully convicted conviction by the court’s stay.”
Luis Saenz from Cameron County, the prosecutor of the case, stated in a statement that he expected the execution delay because of various legal issues.
“I welcome the chance to prosecute the case in the courtroom: witnesses can testify under oath and witnesses may be cross-examined. Evidence is governed according to the rules of evidence, criminal procedure, and that is our criminal jurisprudence, and it works,” stated Saenz. He was not in office when Lucio’s trial began in 2008.
Saenz said that he did not agree with Lucio’s lawyers claims that new evidence would exonerate Lucio during a Texas House hearing this month. Prosecutors claim Lucio was a drug addict and had lost custody of several of her 14 children.
The appeals court requested that Lucio’s Brownsville trial court review the following four claims. They are: whether the prosecutors used false evidence in her case; whether there was previously available scientific evidence that would have prevented her conviction; if she is innocent; and whether the prosecutors suppressed any evidence that would have been beneficial to her defense.
It wasn’t immediately clear when the lower court would review her case. Tivon Schardl was one of Lucio’s lawyers. He said that they hope to persuade the judge to recommend a fresh trial. A recommendation would be made to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. This would then make the final decision about a new trial.
Over half of the Texas Legislature members had requested that her execution be stopped. A bipartisan group of state legislators traveled to Gatesville this month, where female death row inmates are kept, and prayed together with Lucio.
El Paso Democratic State Rep. Joe Moody tweeted that he was happy for Lucio. He wrote, “A stay confirms the things we’ve been saying all along: Melissa Lucio should not be on death row.”
Five of the twelve jurors that sentenced Lucio, along with one alternate juror, have questioned their decision. They also asked for a new trial.
Lucio’s cause has also been supported by faith leaders as well as celebrities like Kim Kardashian. It was featured on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.