Published on: Monday, April 25, 2022

Texas has stayed the execution of Melissa Elizabeth Lucio, who confessed to the murder of her 2-year-old daughter after repeated denials during an hours-long interrogation (press release available here).

In an application for a writ of habeas corpus, Lucio’s lawyers say newly discovered evidence shows that Lucio was convicted of a crime that never happened.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a trial-level court review of four of Lucio’s claims: that she is actually innocent, that previously unavailable scientific testimony would have prevented her conviction, that no juror would have convicted her but for the prosecution’s use of false testimony, and that the state suppressed evidence favorable to her defense.

Lucio’s daughter, Mariah, had died in February 2007 two days after falling down the stairs, her lawyers say. Lucio was interrogated for more than five hours beginning two hours after Mariah’s death, the application says. Police “shouted at Ms. Lucio; berated her as a neglectful mother; repeatedly showed her photos of her dead child; and implied that if she wasn’t at fault, one of her other children or her husband would have to be,” the application says.

Before confessing, Lucio denied involvement more than 100 times, either orally or by shaking her head.

The application also alleges that the state suppressed evidence of eye witnesses who would have confirmed Lucio’s account of Mariah’s death, and that Lucio had not abused Mariah or any of her children.