(Trends Wide) –– The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay on Monday to the execution of Melissa Lucio, as announced by her lawyers in a statement, which stops the procedure scheduled for this Wednesday.
Lucio, her family, defenders and lawyers say that she was wrongfully convicted of qualified homicide.
The court returned several of Lucio’s claims to the trial court for review, according to Monday’s order.
“I thank God for my life. I have always trusted Him,” Lucio said in a statement shared by his legal team. “I am grateful that the court has given me the opportunity to live and prove my innocence. Mariah is in my heart today and always,” he added.
Lucio filed nine reparation claims with the appeals court, which ultimately returned four of those items to the trial court for review, according to the ruling.
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 her attorneys said Mariah’s injuries were not due to abuse but to a fall down a staircase outside the family’s second-floor apartment two days before her death.
For its part, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to make a clemency recommendation at this time, citing a stay of execution.
The case of Melissa Lucio
Melissa Lucio was charged with capital murder and sentenced to death after the death of her daughter Mariah in February 2007 at her home. While her execution, originally scheduled for this Wednesday, was approaching, the calls to suspend the sentence multiplied, arguing that the sentence was unjust and that the girl died after accidentally falling down a staircase.
The medical examiner evaluating the case at the time said Mariah was a “battered child” who died of head trauma.
The ER doctor who tried to revive Mariah after the family called 911 the day the girl died also said it was the “worst” case of child abuse he had seen in his career and that the injuries could not have been caused by a fall down the stairs.
Prosecutors in the case told jurors they could “draw conclusions from the evidence,” pointing to Mariah’s other injuries and arguing that if Lucio had abused her daughter in the past, it would be “consistent with his behavior” to cause the injuries that caused his death.
A clemency petition filed by Lucio specifically addresses the issue of bruising, stating that there are scientific explanations for Mariah’s severe bruising. For that they quote medical experts who say there were indications that the girl suffered from a blood clotting disorder known as disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC, which could explain her bruising.
What happened the day Melissa Lucio’s daughter died, according to the defense
Lucio got up on February 15, 2007, got some of his children ready for school, and then packed things from his “dilapidated second-floor apartment” because the family was in the process of moving, the petition says. of mercy.
In the meantime, he did his best to keep an eye on Mariah, who had trouble walking and was prone to falling due to a mild physical handicap, according to court records. But while Lucio was busy, Mariah opened a screen door, stepped outside and fell down a “steep” flight of more than a dozen steps.
Lucio realized almost immediately that Mariah was missing and found her outside, crying. Her lip was bleeding, but she did not appear to be seriously injured.
But her appearance was deceiving: the girl had just suffered internal injuries that, according to the petition, would lead to her death. The next two days, during a family move, Mariah’s condition deteriorated: she slept too much and eventually refused to eat. On February 17, Lucio considered taking the two-year-old to the doctor, but he preferred to wait until the next day and put Mariah down for a nap.
Soon, Mariah stopped breathing and the family called 911. Paramedics at the scene and at the hospital tried to revive her, but were unsuccessful.
His body was covered in bruises “in various stages of healing,” his arm had been broken several weeks earlier, and he had a bite mark on his back, according to court documents recounting the case.
The “critical” misunderstanding, according to his defense
At the scene, Lucio told paramedics that Mariah had fallen down the stairs days earlier, but one of the first responders was skeptical, according to the clemency petition, because the residence was one story with a few steps. in front. He did not understand, the petition says, that the girl had fallen in the family’s previous home.
“This critical misunderstanding set in motion a biased investigation,” Lucio’s petition says, “in which investigators continually assumed the worst about Melissa without investigating or considering alternatives.”
Lucio, now 53, was convicted largely, according to her lawyers, on the basis of a coerced “confession” she gave authorities in an “aggressive” overnight interrogation the same night her daughter died.
The woman — who had 12 children at the time of Mariah’s death and later gave birth to twins while in prison — was especially susceptible to coercion by authorities due to her record as a lifelong survivor of sexual abuse and violence. domestic, they say, citing medical experts who reviewed her case.
With information from Dakin Andone.