The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday issued a postponement of the execution of Melissa Lucio on the death row for the murder of her 2-year-old daughter in 2007.
Lucio, 53, was scheduled to be executed Wednesday. The court ordered the 138th Judicial District Court in Cameron County to consider the new evidence presented by Lucio’s legal team and issued a suspension of her execution “pending the remand of the remand prisoner” in her habeas application.
“I am grateful that the court has given me the chance to live and prove my innocence. Mariah is in my heart today and always,” Lucio said in a statement through his lawyers. “I’m grateful to have more days to be a mother to my children and a grandmother to my grandchildren.”
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Lucio was convicted in 2008 of murdering Mariah, who prosecutors said was subjected to physical abuse leading to her death. In pardon appeals, Lucio’s legal team has claimed that new evidence shows that the toddler’s death was an accident caused by an undiagnosed injury he sustained after falling down the stairs two days before.
Lucio has attracted public support from celebrities and state legislators since her case gained attention last month. Kim Kardashian, an outspoken advocate of criminal justice reform, expressed support for Lucio’s mercy on social media in early April, and Amanda Knox – whose murder following the death of a British student in Italy was overturned in 2015 – written a Twitter thread about Lucio’s case.
In statements issued after the decision, Lucio’s legal team shared that her family and loved ones feel relieved by the court’s decision.
“We know that Melissa’s children – Mariah’s brothers and sisters – and Mariah’s grandparents, aunts and uncles are all relieved and grateful that Melissa’s life will not be taken by the state of Texas,” wrote Tivon Schardl, one of Lucio’s lawyers, in a statement. “Melissa is entitled to a new, fair trial. The people of Texas are entitled to a new, fair trial.”
More than half of the members of the Texas Legislature have urged the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend pardon to Lucio, citing questions about her guilt and the legal process behind her sentencing. Lawmakers pressured a top state prosecutor to halt Lucio’s execution during a tense hearing on April 12.
Meanwhile, nearly half of the jurors who served on Lucio’s capital court jury in 2008 have spoken out against her execution in recent months.
The postponement of execution comes days after the state executed 78-year-old Carl Wayne Buntion, who had been the oldest death row inmate, for killing a Houston police officer during a traffic jam nearly 32 years ago. Lucio would be the first Latina woman to be executed in the United States since the resumption of the death penalty in the 1970s, according to her legal team.