HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas appeals court on Monday delayed the execution of a woman 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 of the jurors who sentenced her to death.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a request by Melissa Lucio’s lawyers for a stay of execution so a lower court can review her claims that new evidence would exonerate her. The date that the lower court will begin to review her case was not known immediately.
Lucio had been set for lethal injection on Wednesday for the 2007 death of her daughter Mariah in Harlingen, a city of about 75,000 in Texas’ southern tip.
Just minutes after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles set up to examine her request for clemency, it was announced that she would be executed.
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 sexual, physical and emotional abuse. They say Lucio wasn’t allowed to present evidence questioning the validity of her confession.
Her lawyers also contend that unscientific and false evidence misled jurors into believing Mariah’s injuries only could have been caused by physical abuse and not by medical complications from a severe fall.
Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz, whose office prosecuted the case, has said he disagrees with Lucio’s lawyers’ claims that new evidence would exonerate her. Prosecutors claim Lucio was a drug addict and had at times lost custody of one of her fourteen children.
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