By RYLEE MOORE
On April 25, 2022, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Melissa Lucio’s ordered execution, set for Wednesday, April 27, and granted her a stay of execution.
Lucio and her supporters were overcome with joy and gratitude when they heard the news. When asked what the next steps would be, Abraham Bonowitz, the director of Death Penalty Action, said that this is far from over. “If the lawyers have to take it through the evidentiary hearing that has been ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and then a new trial, then it can be months or years,” Bonowitz said.
Lucio has already spent over 14 years on death row, and during that time she has always maintained her innocence. “We are focused on the district attorney, who can still take it upon himself to reinvestigate the case, acknowledge the mistake, and free Melissa as soon as he can schedule a hearing,” said Bonowitz. “That can happen tomorrow or, more realistically, in the coming weeks.” The biggest battle for Lucio will be “patience” and, for the attorneys, “perseverance,” according to Bonowitz.
Lucio’s case has gotten widespread attention from Texas lawmakers to celebrities like Kim Kardashian who are showing their support for her. Her family and supporters insist she was coerced into a false confession that the prosecution based their entire case around. Important evidence supporting Lucio’s innocence was never presented in court.
For example, expert witnesses weren’t allowed to testify in court on behalf of the defense as to why Lucio might have given a false confession. One expert was a psychologist who was going to testify about how Lucio’s history of surviving domestic violence and sexual abuse could explain why she confessed to the investigators. The trial judge at the time ruled the testimony as “irrelevant” according to court documents. These missing elements are what everyone is hoping will shed light on Lucio’s side of the story that never got to be heard.
Lucio’s trial court will use this time to decide whether she should receive a new trial. The trial court will review four out of the nine claims Lucio submitted in her application for a writ for habeas corpus. This demands a public official to show a valid reason for the detention of a person.
Based on their review, and the review of the prosecutors’ response, the trial court judge will make a recommendation to the state of appeals court that will decide if Lucio gets a new trial. There isn’t a timeline for this process.
For more information please visit https://freemelissalucio.org.