The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution for Melissa Lucio, a woman who wasfor the murder of his 2-year-old daughter Mariah in 2007. The court determined that several issues raised by Lucio’s legal team about his initial trial warranted further consideration and referred the case to a lower court.
“I am grateful that the Court has given me the chance to live and prove my innocence,” Lucio said in a statement after the ruling. “Mariah is in my heart today and always. I am grateful to have more days to be a mother to my children and a grandmother to my grandchildren. I will use my time to help bring them to the Christ. I am deeply grateful to everyone who has prayed for me and spoken on my behalf.”
Detectives and an autopsy blamed Lucio, a mother of 14, for Mariah’s death, alleging the girl died of abuse. But new evidence suggests Mariah’s bruises were consistent with brain damage from an accidental fall down steep stairs two days earlier, as Lucio and some of his children told officers and the city’s protective services. ‘childhood.
Jurors in Lucio’s trial heard what testimony experts now consider to be forced confessions. Lucio was convicted and sentenced to death, and would have been the first Latina executed in Texas.
In Lucio’s appeal to his court, his attorneys raised nine legal issues regarding what happened in the original trial. The court found that four of these points merited further consideration: “If it hadn’t been for the state’s use of false testimony, no juror would have convicted her;” “previously unavailable scientific evidence would prevent his conviction;” “she really is innocent”; and “the state suppressed favorable physical evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland”.
According to Monday’s ruling, a trial court will now consider those points and Lucio will not be executed until those issues are resolved.
“We know that Melissa’s children, Mariah’s siblings, and Mariah’s grandparents, aunts and uncles are all relieved and grateful that Melissa’s life is not being taken by the State of Texas.” one of his lawyers said in a statement celebrating the decision. “And we believe the court honored Mariah’s memory because Melissa is innocent. Melissa is entitled to a fair new trial. The people of Texas are entitled to a fair new trial. Texans should be grateful and proud that the Court criminal appeal has given Melissa’s legal team the opportunity to present the new evidence of Melissa’s innocence in the Cameron County District Court.”
The decision came as the Texas Board of Pardons and Pardons was to make a recommendation on her case, which would be forwarded to Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Recommendations could have included commuting his sentence, granting a reprieve so the courts could take more time to weigh the issues or upholding the decision. The board said Monday it would not issue a further recommendation because of the decision.
Before learning that the execution had been stayed, Lucio’s family explained to CBS Mornings the consequences of the death sentence.
“It’s very stressful,” her sister Sonya Alvarez said. “Sometimes I just want to put myself in a hole and I don’t want to know anything. But that’s the reality.”