TEXAS (USA): MAN EXECUTED FOR A CRIME HE DID NOT COMMIT
May 15, 2012: Columbia University law professor James Liebman said Carlos De Luna was innocent when he was executed in 1989.
In one of the most comprehensive investigations ever undertaken about the execution of a possibly innocent defendant, Professor Liebman and other researchers at Columbia University Law School have published a groundbreaking report: "Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution", that is being published today (May 15) in Columbia's Human Rights Law Review.
Prof. Liebman concluded DeLuna was innocent and was wrongly convicted "on the thinnest of evidence: a single, nighttime, cross-ethnic eyewitness identification and no corroborating forensics."
De Luna maintained that he was innocent from the moment cops put him in the back seat of a patrol car until the day he died. Shoddy police work, the prosecution's failure to pursue another suspect, and a weak defense combined to send De Luna to death row, they argued.
Police and prosecutors treated the killing of Wanda Lopez , a 24-year-old single mom working the night shift at a gas station on February 4, 1983, like a robbery gone bad. De Luna, then 20, was found hiding under a pickup truck a few blocks from the crime scene. A wad of rolled-up bills totaling $149 was in his pocket.
Eyewitness testimony formed the bedrock of the case against him. DeLuna claimed that the actual culprit was Carlos Hernandez, who looked so similar to DeLuna that friends and family had mistaken photos of the two men for each other.
Prosecutors called Hernandez a "phantom" of DeLuna's imagination, although Hernandez was known to police and prosecutors because of his history of violent crimes, including armed robberies and an arrest for a murder similar to the one for which DeLuna was executed.
Liebman's investigation found that Hernandez "spent years bragging around Corpus Christi that he, not his tocayo - his namesake and 'twin' - Carlos DeLuna, killed Wanda Lopez."
The article is accompanied by a website at the Human Rights Law Review, which offers more information on DeLuna's case, including maps, videos, timelines, and primary sources from the investigation. (Sources: huffingtonpost.com, Atlantic.com, 15/05/2012)