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Mum’s execution over baby death delayed

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A Texas appeals court has delayed the execution of a woman whose conviction of killing her toddler 15 years ago has come under doubt because of new evidence.

The Court of Criminal Appeals granted the stay two days before the scheduled execution by lethal injection of Melissa Lucio, who would have been the first female Hispanic to be put to death by the state of Texas and who has consistently maintained her innocence.

On Monday (local time), the criminal appeals court ordered a lower county court to reconsider new evidence Lucio’s lawyers said proved her two-year-old daughter Mariah died in 2007 after an accidental fall, not because of child abuse.

It was not immediately known when the court would consider the evidence and also look at whether prosecutors withheld evidence from Lucio’s defence.

“I am grateful the court has given me the chance to live and prove my innocence,” Lucio said in a statement provided by the Innocence Project, whose lawyers are helping defend her.

“Mariah is in my heart today and always.”

Lucio’s bid to have her execution stayed garnered support from celebrities and from a bipartisan collection of more than half the Texas House of Representatives, who had asked that she get a new trial.

Lucio’s lawyers have said her 2008 conviction was due to what they called a coerced and false confession Lucio gave about spanking and biting Mariah.

That confession came after hours of questioning. Lucio had called emergency to report that her daughter was unresponsive after she had gone down for a nap at her apartment in Harlingen, Texas.

Lucio’s lawyers have new evidence from forensic experts who argue the child died from blunt-force trauma to her head, which was consistent with injuries she could have suffered while falling down a flight of stairs two days before her death as the family was moving.

Lucio and other members of her family had told investigators about the accident. But the jury never heard about that fall.

– AAP