Crime & Justice

Texas court orders stay of execution for mother convicted of killing child

Austin, Texas, Apr 25 (EFE).- The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday granted a stay of execution for a Hispanic mother convicted in the 2007 death of her two-year-old daughter.

That Austin-based court of last resort highlighted in its decision the fact that several members of the jury who convicted Melissa Lucio in 2008 have publicly said they would not have opted for the death penalty had they been aware of all the evidence in the case.

In its ruling, that appeals court said the merit of several claims by Lucio’s attorneys – that the availability of new scientific evidence might have led to an acquittal and that prosecutors used false testimony and suppressed evidence – must be considered by the trial court that convicted her.

That lower court will then make a recommendation to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which could order a retrial.

Lucio, a mother of 14, became the first Hispanic woman sentenced to death in Texas after she was convicted in 2008 of fatally beating her two-year-old daughter.

That conviction was based in part by a confession that Lucio gave to authorities.

Her lawyers, however, argued in court that their client – a lifelong victim of sexual abuse and domestic violence – was coerced into confessing during a five-hour interrogation session without the presence of an attorney.

The woman has long maintained that the young girl, Mariah, died after a fall down a steep flight of stairs outside the family’s apartment.

The 53-year-old Lucio, whose execution had been scheduled for Wednesday and who will remain on death row despite Monday’s ruling, has received the support of several legal organizations and from a large bipartisan group of state lawmakers who cited numerous doubts surrounding the case and called for a stay of execution.

Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Susan Sarandon also have issued calls for clemency.

“This case shows that the death penalty process in Texas cannot be trusted to provide justice to all of us,” Democratic state lawmaker Joe Moody said in a news conference last month in the company of several other Texas legislators. EFE


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