Court of Criminal Appeal blocks execution of Melissa Lucio and orders trial court to consider claims of innocence

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the execution of Melissa Lucio, 53, who was to die by lethal injection in Huntsville later this week for the murder of her two-year-old daughter, Mariah.

The court’s decision does not overturn his death sentence but forces the lower court to consider some of the issues raised in one of his appeals.

Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano), who is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers defend on behalf of Lucio, announced the court’s decision on social media.

“I just learned that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay [Melissa Lucio’s] Enforcement – returning vital issues to the trial court and securing justice for Melissa and for Mariah and the entire Lucio family. Glory to God !” leach wrote.

A Cameron County jury convicted Lucio of capital murder in 2008 and she was sentenced to death. Earlier this year, Democratic 138th District Court Judge Gabriela Garcia scheduled Lucio’s execution for April 27.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles had yet to announce a decision in Lucio’s case. Asked about his execution last week, Governor Greg Abbott noted that he was awaiting the council’s recommendation.

According to a document provided to Texas Grandstand, the Court of Criminal Appeals sent the case back to Garcia’s courtroom “for consideration on the merits” on several grounds, including that Lucio may be innocent and his claim that the government had suppressed evidence that would have helped his case.

The court also dismissed several of Lucio’s allegations, including that sexism and juror misconduct could have contributed to his conviction.

President Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) commented on the stay of execution on social media, thanking Leach and Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso).

“I am proud that the Interim Task Force on Criminal Justice Reform has examined the underlying issues in our criminal justice system that have made this reprieve necessary. Thank you [Leach] and [Moody] for having carried out this fight with audacity”, Phelan wrote:.

Leach is the chairman of the committee Phelan is referring to, while Moody is vice-chairman. In a committee Meet Earlier this month, state officials petitioned Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz to seek the cancellation of the execution date.

At that hearing, Saenz predicted that the Court of Criminal Appeals would issue a stay.

Below is a copy of a letter sent last month to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles by members of Texas House.

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