Recent news of the possible wrongful execution of Texas inmate Carlos DeLuna has caught the attention of former Texas governor Mark White, who oversaw 19 executions while in office. White has become an unlikely proponent of the case for DeLuna’s innocence. In a recent Houston Chronicle op-ed, White urged Texas to improve its criminal justice system to prevent innocent people from going to prison, or even worse, being executed.
While Texas has certainly taken some steps forward since 1989 with regard to eyewitness identification reform and other innocence-related issues, the problems that plagued DeLuna’s case continue to plague criminal – including capital – convictions in our state and across the nation. DeLuna’s case should give us all pause as we realize that the possibility of executing an innocent individual is very real. And it should strengthen our resolve to ensure that convictions, particularly capital convictions, are accurate.
If we are going to continue to execute individuals, we must be absolutely certain of those individuals’ guilt. Texas must implement best practices when it comes to criminal investigations and trials.
White hails the passage of an eyewitness identification reform bill but says Texas must go further and continue to improve all aspects of the justice system including providing adequate defense counsel for the poor, improving crime labs procedures and preventing government misconduct.
I continue to believe some crimes are so heinous, some actions so abhorrent, that society is justified in demanding the perpetrator’s life be forfeit. But I also believe if Texas is going to continue to impose the death penalty, we must take every possible precaution to ensure there is never another Carlos DeLuna.