A Texas appeals court on Monday suspended the execution of Melissa Lucio, a Mexican-American woman on death row accused of murdering her daughter, after a controversial trial. The suspension comes two days before the scheduled date for Lucius to be executed.
Another Texas court will examine his lawyers’ information, according to court documents.
The defense claims that new scientific evidence exonerates his client and that the conviction was motivated by false testimony. He says the death of Lucius’ daughter, Mariah, was an accident, not a murder.
“I am grateful to the court for giving me the opportunity to live and prove my innocence” and “for having more days to be a mother to my children and a grandmother to my grandchildren,” said Lucio, who has been claiming her innocence for 15 years.
In recent weeks, calls for clemency have multiplied, such as that of Kim Kardashian, in favor of this woman with 14 children.
Many congressmen from the Republican Party, which frequently defends the death penalty, had called for her pardon, and one of the jurors who convicted her expressed “deep regret” for sentencing her to death.
In 2007, two-year-old Mariah was found dead in her bruised home days after falling down the stairs.
Melissa Lucio, who has suffered physical and sexual assaults in her life, as well as drug addiction and poverty, was found suspected of having beaten him.
After a long interrogation, they extracted a confession, says Sabrina Van Tassel, director of the documentary The State of Texas v. Melissa.
“I guess I did,” Lucio replied to investigators, referring to the bruises.
After a controversial trial, she was sentenced to death. According to her defense, the experts did not take into account the girl’s disabilities, which could explain the fall, nor the fact that the bruises could be due to a circulatory disorder. None of Melissa’s children accused her of being violent.
The prosecutor was later sentenced to prison for bribery and extortion, in a case with no ties to that of Melissa Lucio.
Read more: The controversial case of Melissa Lucio, the first Latina who could be executed in Texas for the death of her two-year-old daughter
“Melissa has the right to a fair new trial,” said Tivon Schardl, one of her lawyers.
“It would have been a historic injustice to be executed for a crime she didn’t commit, a crime that, in fact, never took place,” said Burke Butler, director of Texas Defender Service.
It’s unusual for women to be executed in the United States — just 17 in more than 1,500 since 1976, when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Melissa Lucio would have been the first woman of Hispanic origin to be executed in Texas.
On Friday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a body of the Organization of American States (OAS), urged the United States to refrain from executing Lucio and to guarantee “conditions of detention consistent with international standards.”
In a statement, he recalled that Lucio has been a beneficiary of precautionary measures since February 18 and called again “to eliminate the death penalty, or failing that, to impose a moratorium on executions as a step towards its gradual abolition.”
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