The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the execution of Melissa Lucio on Monday, April 25, only two days before she was scheduled to be put to death.
Texas State Rep. Jeff Leach, a Republican from Plano, was the first to tell Lucio that the court had issued a stay in her case, sending the case back to the local court that convicted her. His office provided Storyful with a recording of the call.
After Leach relays the news, Lucio exclaims "are you serious" and begins to cry. "Oh my God!" she says. "That is wonderful, Oh my God, what does that mean?"
"Well, it means you are going to wake up on Thursday morning," said Leach.
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Lucio, 52, had been set to be executed by lethal injection Wednesday for the death of her 2-year-old daughter Mariah in Harlingen, a city of about 75,000 in Texas’ southern tip.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals intervened Monday, granting Lucio’s lawyers’ request for a stay of execution so a lower court can review claims that new evidence would show Mariah’s injuries, including a blow to the head, were caused by a fall down a steep staircase.
Nearly half of the jurors who sentenced her to die for the 2007 death of one of her 14 children had called for her execution to be halted and for her to get a new trial.
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Many lawmakers and celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, an advocate for criminal justice reform, and Amanda Knox, an American whose murder conviction in the death of a British student in Italy was overturned, have rallied to Lucio’s cause. Prosecutors, though, maintain that the girl was the victim of child abuse.
Lucio’s lawyers had filed various legal appeals seeking to stop her execution. She also had a clemency application before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which had been set to consider her case Monday. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott could have also played a role this week in deciding Lucio’s fate. If ultimately put to death, Lucio would be the first Latina executed by Texas since 1863, and the first woman the state has put to death since 2014.
The Associated Press and Storyful contributed to this report.