Melissa Lucio: Texas court grants stay of execution for death row inmate | SehndeWeb

State Representative Jeff Leach called Lucio with the news, and she immediately sobbed into the phone, realizing she would not be executed this week, according to audio of the conversation obtained by CNN.

“Oh, thank God,” said Lucio – barely able to speak through tears – after hearing the news about Leach.

Lucio, her family, lawyers and attorneys say she was wrongfully convicted of capital murder in the 2007 death of her baby Mariah.

“I thank God for my life. I have always trusted in him,” Lucio said in a statement shared by his legal team. “I am grateful that the Court gave me the chance to live and prove my innocence. Mariah is in my heart today and always.”

Lucio’s son, Bobby Alvarez, said the family is now looking forward to Mother’s Day.

“We were talking about it today, actually, about what we’re going to do for Mother’s Day,” Alvarez said. “So I know she wants a lot of cards.”

At trial, prosecutors argued that Lucio was an abusive mother who likely caused the injuries that led to her daughter’s death. But Lucio and his lawyers said Mariah’s injuries were not the result of abuse but of falling down a flight of stairs outside the family’s second-floor flat two days before she died.

Of the nine claims raised by Lucio in her habeas petition, the appeals court ordered the trial court to consider four, including her claims that she is innocent and new scientific evidence prevents her conviction. Lucio also alleged that the state relied on false testimony and suppressed evidence favorable to his defense.

CNN has reached out to prosecutors for comment.

Lucio will remain on death row despite the reprieve, according to his legal team.

The court’s decision delays Lucio’s enforcement while the trial court considers the merits of his claims.

According to Lucio’s attorneys, the Brownsville District Court will hold a proceeding to hear evidence of Lucio’s innocence. The court would then make a recommendation to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which will ultimately decide whether Lucio should be granted a new trial, Tivon Schardl, one of Lucio’s attorneys, told a virtual press conference. Monday.

“There’s still a long way to go in Melissa’s case, and there’s a lot more standing against Melissa and an exoneration,” said Vanessa Potkin, director of special litigation at the Innocence Project, whose attorneys are also working on Lucio’s case. .

“But today’s reprieve and remand to have hearings on further evidence of his innocence really opens the door to the possibility of a new trial in his case,” Potkin told reporters, “and ultimately , to full justification”.

Lucio’s family appeared at the press briefing, thanking their legal team.

Separately, the Texas Board of Pardons and Pardons on Monday declined to make a recommendation for clemency in Lucio’s case, citing the stay of execution.

The reasons for doubt “are innumerable”

Lucio’s case gained wider attention after it was featured in the 2020 documentary, “The State of Texas vs. Melissa.”
And calls for clemency have multiplied in recent weeks: a bipartisan majority in the Texas legislature has called for clemency, as have celebrities such as Kim Kardashian. Perhaps more importantly, five members of Lucio’s jury have come forward to say that her execution should be stopped or that she should get a new trial based on evidence they haven’t heard.
Texas woman on death row receives bipartisan support for clemency from state officials

When she died, Mariah’s body was covered with bruises “in various stages of healing”, her arm had been broken several weeks earlier and she had a bite mark on her back, according to court documents.

According to the state’s case, these injuries were the result of abuse. At trial, the medical examiner said Mariah died of blunt force trauma to the head, calling her a “battered child”. An ER doctor who tried to resuscitate Mariah called it the “absolute worst” case of child abuse he had seen.

But Lucio – a mother of 14 – and her lawyers insist she is innocent and that Mariah’s injuries were sustained in a fall down a steep flight of stairs outside the family’s flat . And authorities, plagued by a misunderstanding of the fall, ignored or discounted evidence that could have proven his innocence, Lucio’s lawyers say.

Lucio never abused his children, they say, pointing to more than a thousand pages of child protective services records from that time.

These records, according to her clemency petition, “tell a story of Melissa’s love for children, as well as her inability to care for them properly,” in part highlighting the family’s struggle with poverty and Lucio’s drug addiction. But none of the CPS records, according to his lawyers, indicate that any of the children ever reported being abused by Lucio.

Melissa Lucio holds her daughter Mariah, while her daughter Adriana stands next to them.

Lucio was convicted largely, according to her lawyers, based on a coerced “confession” she gave to authorities during “aggressive” questioning late at night on the same night her daughter died. But Lucio’s lawyers say she only “vaguely” indicated she was responsible for her daughter’s injuries and never admitted responsibility for Mariah’s death.

Lucio was particularly vulnerable to coercion due to her status as a lifelong survivor of sexual abuse and domestic violence, her lawyers said, citing medical experts who reviewed the case.

Lucio’s legal team offered other explanations for Mariah’s injuries, again citing medical experts: her bruises could have been caused by her fall and a blood clotting disorder, they say, and a fractured arms is not uncommon in toddlers, especially one like Mariah, who had a documented history of falling.

“The reasons to doubt here are innumerable,” his lawyers wrote in Lucio’s clemency petition. “The prospect that the state could shed innocent blood for a death that Melissa Lucio did not cause, let alone intentional, should strike righteous fury into the hearts of Texans.”

CNN’s Amir Vera, Claudia Dominguez, Jenn Selva and Natasha Chen contributed to this report.

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