The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the scheduled Wednesday execution of Melissa Lucio, whose death sentence has drawn international outcry as more people doubt her guilt in her 2-year-old daughter’s death. The court sent Lucio's case back to the Cameron County court where she was tried to weigh whether she is actually innocent, as well as whether the state presented false testimony and hid evidence from the defense. The court's ruling came minutes before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles was to vote on whether to recommend that the governor delay Lucio's execution for at least 120 days. The board said that it would no longer make a recommendation because of the court's ruling. In a phone call with state Rep. Jeff Leach, who has advocated for her, Lucio was overcome with emotion when Leach told her she had been granted a stay. "Are you serious?" she asked, laughing through tears. "That is wonderful. ... Oh thank you, God."
Questions over Mariah Alvarez’s death and Lucio’s role have lingered since the now-53-year-old mother was sentenced in 2008. In recent months, concerns about Lucio’s possible innocence — greatest among them whether Mariah’s fatal head trauma was caused by abuse or an accidental fall down the stairs — have been amplified. More than two-thirds of the Texas Senate and a majority of the Texas House of Representatives pleaded for the parole board and governor to halt Lucio’s execution. The lawmakers have been joined by an ever-growing list of people, including at least five of Lucio’s former jurors.