Melissa Lucio execution halted, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals grants stay

Claps, shouts and tears of joy were on display at the Texas State Capitol Monday, as the decision to halt Melissa Lucio's execution came down.

"It's a stay to have a hearing to determine whether there should be a new trial," said Abraham Bonowitz, executive director of Death Penalty Action.

The decision came down from the Texas Court of Criminal appeals and now will be set for a hearing with the lower court which handled the case in Cameron County, the 138th District Court. Lucio was set to be executed on Wednesday.

"It's really outrageous and frightening and it should concern everybody in Texas that it takes getting to this point before you can get anybody to pay attention," said Bonowitz.

"This is such a bigger fight for women who have suffered with addition, have children they cannot take care of. Instead of helping this woman we failed her," said Maggie Luna, Statewide Leadership Council.

Jennifer Toon did time behind bars alongside Lucio at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville. She was among many supporters who are calling for her immediate release while the case is reviewed.

"This is not who we are as the state of Texas. These are not our values and Melissa deserves a fair trial," she said.

Lucio was convicted in 2008 of beating her two-year-old daughter Mariah to death. She claims the toddler fell down the stairs and maintains her innocence. She also said she was coerced into a false confession.

"The doctor who treated Mariah and declared her dead in the emergency room is not the doctor who testified as such at her trial. The actual doctor that declared her dead examined her and said he saw no evidence of child abuse," said Bonowitz.

Supporters said political corruption on behalf of the district attorney at the time Armando Villalobos, new evidence, and the alleged coerced confession, should exonerate her.

"I'm happy to see a glimmer of hope from Texas. I cannot believe it took this to do the right thing," said Luna.

Lucio's case was also under review by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. It decided to halt the review, because of this stay of execution. Her case is now heading back to the original trial court in Cameron County for a hearing.