The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted the scheduled April 27, 2022 execution of Melissa Lucio and directed that a Cameron County trial court conduct a hearing to address evidence that she may be innocent of charges that she murdered her two-year-old daughter, Mariah (pictured, being held by her mother).

In an unpublished three-page order issued April 25, 2022, the Texas appeals court granted Lucio review of four issues: that prosecutors obtained her conviction using false testimony, that the jury’s exposure to previously unavailable scientific evidence would have resulted in her acquittal, that she is actually innocent, and that prosecutors suppressed favorable evidence that was material to the outcome of her trial. The court denied review of five other issues. The judges stayed Lucio’s execution “pending resolution of the remanded claims.”

Lucio has presented affidavits from leading forensic experts that Mariah, who had a medical condition that caused her to be an unsteady walker, was not murdered at all, but died from injuries sustained after falling down a steep set of stairs in the new family home. She also presented evidence that abusive interrogation practices coerced her into falsely agreeing with police suggestions that she had caused Mariah’s death and that prosecutors twisted those statements before the jury to falsely imply that she had confessed to murdering Mariah.

Texas State Representative Jeff Leach (R–Plano), the driving force behind a bipartisan legislative effort that resulted in majorities of both the Texas House and Senate signing letters calling for Lucio’s sentence to be commuted, broke the news of the stay to Lucio in a phone call. As reported by the Texas Tribune, Lucio responded with a combination of laughter and tears. “Are you serious?” she said. “That is wonderful. … Oh thank you, God.”

The court issued its decision shortly before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was scheduled to vote on Lucio’s application for clemency. With the execution stayed, the board said that it would not issue a recommendation on Lucio’s application.


Jolie McCullough, Melissa Lucio’s exe­cu­tion halt­ed by Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas Tribune, April 25, 2022; Juan A. Lozano, Melissa Lucio’s exe­cu­tion delayed by Texas appeals court, Associated Press, April 25, 2022; Kiara Alfonseca and Kendall Ross, Texas halts Melissa Lucio’s exe­cu­tion, court to con­sid­er new evi­dence, ABC News, April 252022.

Read the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals order stay­ing Melissa Lucio’s exe­cu­tion and the state­ments of Ms. Lucio and her defense team in response to the ruling.