AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has granted a stay of Melissa Lucio’s execution, according to Texas Rep. Jeff Leach. Lucio was convicted of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah, in Harlingen, Texas, 15 years ago.
Her execution was scheduled for Wednesday.
Her lawyers say new evidence shows Mariah’s injuries were caused by a fall down a staircase. They also believe Lucio may have been coerced into confessing to the murder on the day of her daughter’s death.
Since the conviction, five of the 12 jurors have publicly stated if they had known about the new evidence, they would not have sentenced her to death.
“I was wrong to sentence Melissa. I pray it is not too late to right the wrongs,” juror Johnny Galvan said on April 12.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a request by Lucio’s lawyers for a stay of execution so a lower court can review her claims that new evidence would exonerate her. It was not immediately known when the lower court would begin reviewing her case.
The execution stay was announced minutes before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles had been set to consider her clemency application to either commute her death sentence or grant her a 120-day reprieve.
Lawmakers have rallied around Lucio, signing letters and asking the board of pardons and paroles to intervene in Lucio’s execution. Both a supermajority in the Texas House and a group of 20 Texas Senators have sent letters to the board.
“New evidence that has emerged since Ms. Lucio’s trial points to the fact that her daughter, Mariah, died after a tragic accident and not by her mother’s hands,” said the senators in their letter on April 14. “A commutation or a reprieve would give her lawyers the time they need to develop all the evidence that could prove Ms. Lucio’s innocence.”
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 say Lucio had a history of drug abuse and at times had lost custody of some of her 14 children.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.