Prosecutors at the trial argued that Lucio, now 53, was an abusive mother who had caused the injuries that led to the death of her daughter, Maria. Lucio’s lawyers say these injuries were in fact the result of a staircase falling outside the family’s apartment.
On Monday, the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals issued a stay of execution, indefinitely postponed Lucio’s execution and ordered the trial court to review several of the relief claims highlighted by her team, including her assertion of her innocence.
Lucio learned of the suspension from Texas Representative Jeff Leach, who — along with a bipartisan majority in the state legislature — had defended her case, calling for clemency or a new trial.
Lucio wept Monday upon hearing the news that she had not been executed on Wednesday, according to an audio recording obtained by CNN.
“I am grateful that the court has given me the opportunity to live and prove my innocence,” Lucio said in a statement. “Maria is in my heart today and always.”
Separately, all eyes on Monday were on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which was expected to vote on a pardon recommendation in the Lucio case. But minutes before the board’s decision was expected, the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals delivered its verdict.
The council then announced that it would not vote at that time.
what happened after that
An appeals court order returns Lucio’s case to the 138th District Court of First Instance in Cameron County, along the border with Mexico in far south Texas.
The appellate court has reinstated, or reinstated, several of the lawsuits Lucio had raised in a subpoena—requiring a government employee to show a valid reason for detaining a person—and ordered the lower court to conduct “benefits review.”
After reviewing her claims and evidence, the court will then make a recommendation to the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals, which will ultimately decide whether Lucio will receive a new trial.
It is unclear how long this process may take. “We definitely want to hear from Melissa as soon as possible,” Chardel said. “We can’t say exactly how long, but we certainly don’t want her to spend a day in prison longer than is absolutely necessary.”
Her legal team said that as the proceedings develop, she will remain on death row.
Claims to be reviewed by the court
Lucio and her team have filed nine cases with the Court of Appeal, four of which have been returned to the Court of First Instance. The appeals court found that Lucio’s other claims did not meet the legal requirements, and will not be reviewed.
of the four:
• The first claim says that no juror could convict Lucio if the plaintiffs had not provided false, misleading, and scientifically invalid testimony by experts. That includes the medical examiner who says Lucio’s request had performed Maria’s autopsy, “ignoring indications that Maria’s fatal condition had another cause”, and testifying that the injuries might have been caused solely by abuse without exploring the fall from the stairs two days earlier.
• The second claim says that new scientific evidence will prevent Lucio’s conviction. Among their arguments is that Lucio was particularly prone to making a false confession as a lifelong survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence.
• Lucio’s attorney’s third claim says that scientific evidence shows that Maria was not murdered. As a result, they argue, in part, her execution violated constitutional guarantees of the right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment.
• The fourth prosecution says the state suppressed evidence supporting her defense, violating her right to a fair trial. Among the stifled evidence, her lawyers say, were indications from the police and prosecutors that they knew other family members knew Maria had fallen from the stairs and that no one had described the abuse she claimed Maria had suffered.
CNN has reached out to prosecutors for comment.
She can still be executed
However, the ruling delays Lucio’s execution “indefinitely,” Botkin said, while Lucio gets her first chance to present new evidence of her innocence claim in court.
“The end result may be that she can get a new trial, and we are confident … if Melissa is retried today she will be acquitted,” Botkin said.