Texas Executed An Innocent Man, Study Finds


Carlos DeLuna, left, and Carlos Hernandez

A recently published investigation shows that on December 7, 1989, Texas executed Carlos DeLuna for a murder that he did not commit. The entire Spring 2012 issue of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review painstakingly details how “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 report, entitled “Los Tocayos Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution,” traces the facts surrounding the February 1983 murder of Wanda Lopez in Corpus Christi. One of the most thorough reports of a criminal investigation and its aftermath in U.S. history, the book-length article and its source materials are available online.

Among the many issues calling into question the reliability of DeLuna’s conviction are:

– A single cross-ethnic eyewitness identification conducted at night, at the crime scene, while the suspect was in the back seat of a police squad car;

– No corroborating forensics and a sloppy crime scene investigation;

– Grossly inadequate representation at the trial and appellate levels, including failure of his court-appointed attorneys – one of whom had never tried a criminal case in court, let alone a capital murder case – to present any witnesses or mitigating evidence during the sentencing phase; and

– The prosecutor’s failure to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense.

Professor Liebman first discovered evidence pointing to Mr. DeLuna’s innocence 10 years ago, when he began examining convictions in which a single eyewitness testified. He turned over his findings to the Chicago Tribune, which published a three-part series in 2006 reporting on evidence that Carlos Hernandez, and not Carlos DeLuna, had committed the murder.

Texas has executed 482 people since it reinstated the death penalty in 1982, four times the number of any other state.

“Unfortunately, the flaws in the system that wrongfully convicted and executed DeLuna — faulty eyewitness testimony, shoddy legal representation and prosecutorial misconduct — continue to send innocent men to their death today,” read a statement that accompanies the report.