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HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas appeals courtroom on Monday delayed the execution of Melissa Lucio amid rising doubts about whether or not she fatally beat her 2-year-old daughter in a case that has garnered the help of lawmakers, celebrities and even some jurors who sentenced her to demise.
The Texas Court docket of Prison Appeals granted a request by Lucio’s legal professionals for a keep of execution so a decrease courtroom can evaluation her claims that new proof would exonerate her.
Lucio had been set for deadly injection Wednesday for the 2007 demise of her daughter Mariah in Harlingen, a metropolis of about 75,000 in Texas’ southern tip.
Prosecutors have maintained that the woman was the sufferer of abuse and famous that her physique was coated in bruises. Lucio’s legal professionals say Mariah died from accidents she sustained in a fall down a steep staircase a number of days earlier than she died.
“I’m grateful the courtroom has given me the prospect to stay and show my innocence,” Lucio mentioned in an announcement offered by her legal professionals. “Mariah is in my coronary heart at present and all the time. I’m grateful to have extra days to be a mom to my kids and a grandmother to my grandchildren. I’ll use my time to assist carry them to Christ. I’m deeply grateful to everybody who prayed for me and spoke out on my behalf.”
Lucio’s mom, Esperanza Treviño, tearfully thanked all of her daughter’s supporters, saying, “Thank God for the miracle.”
Lucio was first instructed her execution had been delayed in a telephone name with state Rep. Jeff Leach, a Republican who has helped lead a bipartisan effort to halt her execution, mentioned Vanessa Potkin, one in every of Lucio’s attorneys who’s with the Innocence Venture.
“She sobbed. She was simply overwhelmed,” mentioned Potkin.
In an announcement, Leach mentioned he was grateful the appeals courtroom had “pushed the pause button on her execution, saving the state of Texas from the irreversible blunder of doubtless killing an harmless citizen.”
The execution keep was introduced minutes earlier than the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles had been set to think about Lucio’s clemency utility to both commute her demise sentence or grant her a 120-day reprieve. The paroles board didn’t evaluation her clemency petition due to the execution keep. If the case have been to come back again earlier than the board sooner or later, Lucio’s legal professionals must file a brand new petition.
Lucio’s attorneys say her capital homicide conviction was primarily based on an unreliable and coerced confession that was the results of relentless questioning and her lengthy historical past of being sexually, bodily and emotionally abused. They are saying Lucio wasn’t allowed to current proof questioning the validity of her confession.
Her legal professionals additionally contend that unscientific and false proof misled jurors into believing Mariah’s accidents might have been prompted solely by abuse and never by medical issues from a extreme fall.
“It will have shocked the general public’s conscience for Melissa to be put to demise primarily based on false and incomplete medical proof for a criminal offense that by no means even occurred,” mentioned Potkin. “All the new proof of her innocence has by no means earlier than been thought of by any courtroom. The courtroom’s keep permits us to proceed combating alongside Melissa to overturn her wrongful conviction.”
Cameron County District Lawyer Luis Saenz, whose workplace prosecuted the case, mentioned in an announcement he anticipated the execution to be delayed as a result of varied authorized points stay unresolved.
“I welcome the chance to prosecute this case within the courtroom: the place witnesses testify beneath oath, the place witnesses could also be cross-examined, the place proof is ruled by the foundations of proof and legal process … That’s our legal jurisprudence system, and it’s working,” mentioned Saenz, who was not in workplace when Lucio was tried in 2008.
Throughout a typically contentious Texas Home committee listening to on Lucio’s case this month, Saenz had mentioned he disagreed with Lucio’s legal professionals’ claims that new proof would exonerate her. Prosecutors say Lucio had a historical past of drug abuse and at occasions had misplaced custody of a few of her 14 kids.
In its three-page order, the appeals courtroom requested that the trial courtroom in Brownsville that dealt with Lucio’s case evaluation 4 claims her legal professionals have made: whether or not prosecutors used false proof to convict her; whether or not beforehand unavailable scientific proof would have prevented her conviction; whether or not she is definitely harmless; and whether or not prosecutors suppressed proof that will have been favorable to her protection.
It was not instantly identified when the decrease courtroom would start reviewing her case. Tivon Schardl, one in every of Lucio’s legal professionals, mentioned they hope to persuade the trial decide to advocate a brand new trial. If such a suggestion is made, that will then be despatched to the Texas Court docket of Prison Appeals, which might make the ultimate resolution on a brand new trial.
Greater than half the members of the Texas Legislature had requested that her execution be halted. A bipartisan group of state lawmakers traveled this month to Gatesville, the place the state homes feminine demise row inmates, and prayed with Lucio.
A type of lawmakers, El Paso Democratic state Rep. Joe Moody, tweeted that he was relieved for Lucio. “A keep confirms what we’ve mentioned all alongside: Melissa Lucio shouldn’t be on demise row,” he wrote.
5 of the 12 jurors who sentenced Lucio and one alternate juror have questioned their resolution and requested that she get a brand new trial.
Lucio’s trigger additionally has the backing of religion leaders and celebrities equivalent to Kim Kardashian, and it was featured on HBO’s “Final Week Tonight with John Oliver.”
Comply with Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70
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