The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has issued a stay of execution for Melissa Lucio, who has been on death row since her 2008 conviction for the murder of her 2-year-old daughter.
Two days before her scheduled execution, the court intervened, and ordered a trial court to examine new evidence in the case.
“A new person in Christ”
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops released a statement commending the court decision:
“Since her imprisonment 14 years ago for the death of her daughter Mariah, Melissa Lucio has become a new person in Christ. Her conversion is a profound witness to the power of God’s love and mercy,” said the bishops.
In a statement released by her attorneys, Lucio spoke of her Christian faith:
“I thank God for my life. I have always trusted in Him. I am grateful the court has given me the chance to live and prove my innocence. Mariah is in my heart today and always. I am grateful to have more days to be a mother to my children and a grandmother to my grandchildren. I will use my time to help bring them to Christ. I am deeply grateful to everyone who prayed for me and spoke out on my behalf.”
Lucio was convicted in the death of her daughter, after a jury found that she was guilty of physical abuse that led to the child’s death. The prosecutors presented evidence to show that Mariah had suffered head and internal injuries as a result of abuse. Lucio’s defense was that the child died after falling down a staircase.
Attorneys for Lucio say that prosecutors forced Lucio to confess, and that her own history of child sexual abuses made her more likely to confess under pressure. They also contend that some evidence introduced at the trial — bite marks on her daughter’s skin — would not be admissible in a court today.
“Because there was a rush to judgment, because they presumed Melissa Lucio guilty, every piece of evidence they viewed through the lens of her guilt and failed to consider other causes of the evidence,” said Vanessa Potkin, one of Lucio’s attorneys told the Washington Post.