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Melissa Lucio has been granted a stay of execution by Texas' highest criminal court

 Melissa Lucio stands in the visitation area of a Texas federal prison.
Melissa Lucio stands in the visitation area of a Texas federal prison.

Updated April 25, 2022 at 3:20 p.m. CT

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution Monday to Melissa Lucio, who was set to be executed later this week.

The court ordered the 138th Judicial District Court of Cameron Country to reconsider Lucio's case in light of new evidence in the death of her daughter.

She was set to be the first Latina in Texas executed by lethal injection on Wednesday.

“I thank God for my life," Lucio said in a statement released by her attorneys. "I have always trusted in Him. I am grateful the court has given me the chance to live and prove my innocence. Mariah is in my heart today and always. I am grateful to have more days to be a mother to my children and a grandmother to my grandchildren. I will use my time to help bring them to Christ. I am deeply grateful to everyone who prayed for me and spoke out on my behalf."

Lucio's lawyers brought nine different claims in her clemency petition, of which the appeals court ruled four had adequate evidence. Among those were a claim that if not for false testimony, no juror would have convicted her. They also claimed that previously unavailable scientific evidence would prove her innocence, that the state withheld evidence favorable to Lucio in violation of federal law, and that she is actually innocent.

Lucio was charged with the murder of her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah Alvarez, in 2008. Her family claims Mariah accidentally fell down a flight of stairs two days prior to her death, and died from the injuries she sustained.

Her other children, family and attorneys have been fighting for her a new trial in light of evidence that was left out of her previous trial, including a psychological analysis, which revealed a history of abuse and PTSD.

Lucio’s attorneys have argued that her testimony was coerced after five hours of interrogation while pregnant with twins.

Her case sparked bipartisan support among Texas lawmakers. Nine Republicans and 12 Democrats in the Texas Senate signed a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles asking for her clemency earlier this month.

State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, was the only Democrat to not sign the letter. On Monday he sent out his own, telling Houston Public Media he made up his mind after weighing all of the information and noting that time was quickly running out.

“One thing I guess I could say that really weighed on me heavily were the five jurors that have said that they wouldn’t vote today like they did at the trial," he said. "That’s heavy and weighed on my conscience.”

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was set to weigh on whether to recommend clemency for Lucio on Monday afternoon. In light of the criminal appeals court ruling, the body declined to weigh the measure.

Additional reporting by Paul DeBenedetto

Haya Panjwani