The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution for Melissa Lucio on Monday afternoon. Lucio has been on death row for 15 years and was scheduled for execution on April 27—just 48 hours from when the stay was granted.
Her case has now been sent back to trial court with four of the nine claims raised by her legal team to be reviewed, per CNN.
In a short statement after the announcement of her stay, Lucio made reference to her late daughter: “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.”
Lucio has been on death row since she was convicted for the murder of her two-year-old daughter Mariah in 2007. Her lawyers claim that the death of the toddler was an accident caused by a fall down 14 steps of a steep staircase. They also maintain that Lucio was coerced into confessing after hours of police interrogation and repeatedly cited her long history of trauma and domestic abuse. In a Medium post about Lucio earlier this month, Amanda Knox spoke out in Lucio’s defense and cited that such abuse can often make “people more likely to succumb to coercive pressure to confess.”
The state prosecutorial arm has maintained Lucio’s guilt. The Texas Attorney General’s Office said in a February filing that “Lucio advances no evidence that is reliable and supportive of her acquittal” and that Mariah suffered the “absolute worst” child abuse seen by her emergency room doctor in three decades. The injuries included a broken arm, bite marks, and ripped out hair.
If Lucio were to be executed, she’d be the first Latina executed by Texas and the first woman since 2014. There have been 17 women executed in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Of all 50 states, Texas has executed more—six—than any other.
It’s that “first” that has garnered Lucio supporters around the country. In early April, Kim Kardashian spoke out in support of the mother of 14. “It’s stories like Melissa’s that make me speak so loud about the death penalty in general and why it should be banned when innocent people are suffering,” Kardashian wrote.
The mogul tweeted the news of Lucio’s stay with the comment “Best news ever!!!”
Before the appellate court ruling, Lucio’s legal team had another avenue for possible relief. On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles met to make recommendations in Lucio’s case, including possible commutation, a stay or uphold the execution. Instead, the Board released a statement: “Based on a stay of execution issued by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas on April 25, 2022 the Board of Pardons and Paroles will not be making a clemency recommendation at this time.”