A mother waiting to die on death row has been given fresh hope of survival just days before her lethal injection – but her supporters fear it will not be enough.
Melissa Lucio, 53, was found guilty of causing the death of her two-year-old daughter Mariah Alvarez, who seemingly died after falling down a rickety old staircase outside their apartment in 2007.
Prosecutors successfully argued that Lucio beat the child to death after her body was found covered in bruises.
The mom-of-14 is due to be killed by the state of Texas on April 27, despite maintaining her innocence amid claims she was coerced into confessing to police.
Now, with less than two weeks to go, the district attorney of the county who sentenced Melissa to death has said he will step in to stop the execution if a judge does not.
Luis Saenz told a hearing: “If defendant Lucio does not get a stay by a certain day, then I will do what I have to do and stop it.”
Her lawyer, Tivon Schardl, said he was “sceptical” about her chances after the meeting.
Jeff Leach, chair of the interim Criminal Justice Reform Committee, added: “My understanding of his remarks to the committee were that if we don’t get a stay or clemency issued … then he will step in and withdraw his request for an execution date.
“That was unequivocal to the committee, and we got it on tape.”
Despite being welcome news to her supporters, which include her family and Kim Kardashian, the move would not be enough to save her as she requires a full pardon.
Others to have joined the chorus claiming there are substantial doubts include federal judges and five jurors who convicted her.
The mum previously told documentary makers her confession to police came after several hours of interrogation when she was deprived of water, food and a lawyer.
She also claimed she admitted the murder for fear one of her children might be blamed as they were babysitting Mariah at the time.
She finally conceded: “Guess I did it. I’m responsible.”
“I kept telling them that I hadn’t hurt my daughter and they were very vulgar, very rough, very persistent.
“They wanted me to admit to something that I was not capable of doing to my child. The interrogation continued for maybe six or seven hours.”
Doubts have been cast since she was found guilty if her daughter was murdered at all, with many claiming her injuries were the result of an accident, Texas Tribune reports.
Melissa Quintanilla, the foreperson on Lucio’s jury, told the hearing: “The trial left me thinking Melissa Lucio was a monster, but now I see her as a human being who was made to seem evil because I didn’t have all the evidence I needed to make that decision
“Ms. Lucio deserves a new trial and for a new jury to hear this evidence.”
Should the execution go ahead she would be the first woman put to death in Texas since 2014.