Photos: Carlos DeLuna (top) and Carlos Hernandez
Columbia University law school published a book-length law review article Tuesday presenting the possible wrongful execution of Texas inmate Carlos DeLuna. The DeLuna case is one of several Texas executions that have been under scrutiny, including that of Cameron Todd Willingham. According to the
Columbia Human Rights Law Review
article, “Los Tocayos Carlos,” Carlos Hernandez, a DeLuna acquaintance with a history of committing similar crimes was the real perpetrator.
DeLuna was sentenced to death for the 1983 murder of Wanda Lopez, a store clerk in Corpus Christi based on a suggestive eyewitness identification procedure in which DeLuna sat handcuffed in the back of a police car. The key eyewitness initially described a suspect that did not match DeLuna’s appearance then changed his mind, reported the
. The same eyewitness said if DeLuna had not been detained near the crime scene he would have only been 50% sure it was him.
DeLuna was executed by injection in 1989 and Hernandez, who was convicted of a knife attack, died in prison in 1999.
Innocence Project co-director Barry Scheck hailed the journal article as a “terrific job,” saying that the DeLuna case will join those of Cameron Willingham, Claude Jones and Ruben Cantu in forming a stern indictment of the Texas death penalty. In those cases, serious questions about the men’s guilt arose after they were put to death.
Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing. In an effort to prevent future misidentifications, Texas lawmakers passed legislation to improve the way police conduct live and photo lineups.
The Innocence Project supports a moratorium on capital punishment while the causes of wrongful convictions, including eyewitness misidentification are fully identified and remedied. To date, there have been 17 people who have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row.
editorial about DeLuna’s case
The New York Times
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