Melissa Lucio execution to be paused, DA says

Melissa Lucio before her arrest and conviction for a crime she says she didn’t commit (Melissa Lucio)

Melissa Lucio, the Texas mother of 14 who was scheduled for execution on 27 April for what her lawyers argue was a wrongful conviction, is likely to get a stay of execution, Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz told a hearing Tuesday.

Ms Lucio, who has maintained her innocence on death row for more than 14 years, was sentenced to death in the murder trial of her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah, in February 2007.

The district attorney, who previously had stood by his decision to sentence Ms Lucio to death, has since walked back that statement, The Daily Beast reported.

Mr Saenz reportedly said he believed the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals would stop the execution, saying: “If defendant Lucio does not get a stay by a certain day, then I will do what I have to do and stop it.”

It is the district attorney’s prerogative to unilaterally withdraw the request for Ms Lucio’s execuction, The Daily Beast reported.

In recent weeks, Texas lawmakers, foreign ambassadors and even reality star Kim Kardashian have rallied around Ms Lucio’s clemency case, arguing that police coerced the domestic abuse survivor to sign a false confession.

Ms Lucio’s team were reportedly skeptical after hearing Mr Saenz’s pledge.

State Representative Jeff Leach, however, noted after the hearing that Mr Saenz’s words could be relied on.

“My understanding of [Mr Saenz’s] remarks to the committee were that if we don’t get a stay or clemency issued… then he will step in and withdraw his request for an execution date. That was unequivocal to the committee, and we got it on tape.”

Tuesday’s hearing was led by Mr Leach and State Rep. Joe Moody, who are part of a bipartisan group of more than 80 Texas House members who are troubled by Ms Lucio’s case and believe new evidence shows she did not fatally beat her daughter in 2007 in the South Texas city of Harlingen.

The lawmakers last month sent a letter to the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles and Texas Governor Greg Abbott asking them to grant an execution reprieve or commute her sentence.

With files from the Associated Press.