Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Report: Texas executed innocent man

He was the spitting image of the killer, had the same first name and was near the scene of the crime at the fateful hour: Carlos DeLuna paid the ultimate price and was executed in place of someone else in Texas in 1989, a report out Tuesday found.

Even "all the relatives of both Carloses mistook them," and DeLuna was sentenced to death and executed based only on eyewitness accounts despite a range of signs he was not a guilty man, said law professor James Liebman.

Liebman and five of his students at Columbia School of Law spent almost five years poring over details of a case that he says is "emblematic" of legal system failure.

DeLuna, 27, was put to death after "a very incomplete investigation. No question that the investigation is a failure," Liebman said.

The report's authors found "numerous missteps, missed clues and missed opportunities that let authorities prosecute Carlos DeLuna for the crime of murder, despite evidence not only that he did not commit the crime but that another individual, Carlos Hernandez, did," the 780-page investigation found.

The report, entitled "Los Tocayos Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution," traces the facts surrounding the February 1983 murder of Wanda Lopez, a single mother who was stabbed in the gas station where she worked in a quiet corner of the Texas coastal city of Corpus Christi.
Read the rest here.


Fr. John Whiteford said...

Three points here:

1. We don't know that this guy was innocent, we only know that this report raises questions about it. It is from an anti-death penalty group, and so we can't assume it is all as presented.

2. Since this case, the death penalty laws in Texas were modified such that eye witness testimony alone is no longer sufficient for conviction on a death penalty case.

3. If there was no death penalty, and this man truly was innocent, would it be an improvement if he had been given a life sentence? You might say that the truth might have eventually gotten him out, but only death penalty cases get the kind of scrutiny that would have brought any of this to light. Personally, if I was wrongly convicted, I would rather be executed on death row than spend a life in the general prison population.

Fr. John Whiteford said...

And I should add that getting the death penalty would make it far more likely that the innocence of a person wrongly convicted will come out, and he will be released from prison.