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Forum Post: Wrong Man was Executed in Texas, Probe Says

Posted 1 year ago on May 15, 2012, 12:11 p.m. EST by LeoYo (4899)
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Wrong man was executed in Texas, probe says

By Chantal Valery | AFP

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. "Everything went wrong in this case," Liebman said. That night Lopez called police for help twice to protect her from an individual with a switchblade. "They could have saved her, they said 'we made this arrest immediately' to overcome the embarrassment," Liebman said.

Forty minutes after the crime Carlos DeLuna was arrested not far from the gas station.

He was identified by only one eyewitness who saw a Hispanic male running from the gas station. But DeLuna had just shaved and was wearing a white dress shirt -- unlike the killer, who an eyewitness said had a mustache and was wearing a grey flannel shirt.

Even though witnesses accounts were contradictory -- the killer was seen fleeing towards the north, while DeLuna was caught in the east -- DeLuna was arrested.

"I didn't do it, but I know who did," DeLuna said at the time, saying that he saw Carlos Hernandez entering the service station.

DeLuna said he ran from police because he was on parole and had been drinking.

Hernandez, known for using a blade in his attacks, was later jailed for murdering a woman with the same knife. But in the trial, the lead prosecutor told the jury that Hernandez was nothing but a "phantom" of DeLuna's imagination.

DeLuna's budget attorney even said that it was probable that Carlos Hernandez never existed. However in 1986 a local newspaper published a photograph of Hernandez in an article on the DeLuna case, Liebman said.

Following hasty trial DeLuna was executed by lethal injection in 1989.

Up to the day he died in prison of cirrhosis of the liver, Hernandez repeatedly admitted to murdering Wanda Lopez, Liebman said.

"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.

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12 Comments


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[-] 2 points by bensdad (8977) 1 year ago

Thou shalt not kill

[-] 0 points by LeoYo (4899) 1 year ago

"One nation, under God..."

Exodus 15:3 Yhwh is a man of war. Yhwh is his name.

Exodus 17:16 Yhwh has sworn, Yhwh shall have war against Amalek from generation to generation.

Exodus 20:13 You shall not murder.

Exodus 21:12 He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.

Exodus 21:15 And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

Exodus 21:17 And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

Exodus 22:20 He who sacrifices to any god other than to Yhwh alone shall be utterly destroyed.

Deuteronomy 2:34 So we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the men, women, and children of every city. We left no survivor.

Deuteronomy 3:6 And we utterly destroyed them as we did to Sihon, king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children of every city.

Deuteronomy 20:16 Only in the cities of these peoples that Yhwh your god is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes.

Joshua 10:26 So afterward, Yehoshua struck them and put them to death, and he hanged them on five trees, and they hung on the trees until evening.

Joshua 10:40 Thus Yehoshua struck all the land, the hill country and the South country and the lowlands and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor but utterly destroyed all who breathed just as Yhwh, the god of Yisrael, had commanded.

Joshua 11:14-15 And all the spoil of these cities and the cattle, the sons of Yisrael took as their plunder but they struck every man with the edge of the sword until they had destroyed them. They left no one who breathed. Just as Yhwh had commanded Mosheh his servant, so Mosheh commanded Yehoshua and so Yehoshua did. He left nothing undone of all that Yhwh had commanded Mosheh.

1Samuel 1:3 Now this man would go up from his city yearly to sacrifice to Yhwh of Armies in Shiloh.

1Samuel 15:3 Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.

1Samuel 15:8-9 And he captured Agag, the king of Amalek, alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Shaul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly, but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.

1Samuel 15:11 I regret that I have made Shaul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not carried out my commands.

There are far more commands from this nation's 'god' (of war) to kill than not to kill.

[-] 1 points by freewriterguy (882) 1 year ago

sounds like the america i know, i think whole neighborhoods should just shoot the cops whenever they come around or try to give us a ticket, i feel the pressure building, but like bensdad said, we are under the law, "thou shalt not kill". Our vengenance, and our reward will one day mature. We who were persecuted by our brothers will be called forth in the judgement to testify against them, even so.

If they cant do their job, then go fill out a resume. A san diego man was convicted for like 5 years for raping his daughter, when him and his daughter said it wasnt the dad, but since the gov couldnt find a forced entry point, they convicted him on circumstancial evidence. It turned out the man entered thru an air conditioning vent, from the outside, and dna evidence exhonorated the father, thanks again governmetn for not doing your job and destroying this family like you did mine, but so many stories like this just tell me more government workers should be shot on site, just like that arizona senator. that was funny as heck.

Also, I had a governmetn take my children away from me for 20 years now cuase i couldt afford an attorney, and they said, they couldnt supervise my visits in another state, so they just wrote me off as their father, I will remember, I will not forget, I will not forgive.

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (21783) 1 year ago

Just like Ruben Cantu and Todd Willingham. All of them went down in Texas.

[-] 1 points by mserfas (652) from Ashland, PA 1 year ago

What is most disturbing of all is that even a case this egregious took two decades to find its way to public knowledge - with proponents of execution confidently declaring all the while that no mistakes had ever been made.

[-] 1 points by Shule (1550) 1 year ago

Its not like it didn't happen before. If my memory serves me well, I remember some couple hundred people who were on death row in Texas some many years back were determined innocent by this new technology called DNA. The governor of the state at the time did not pardon any of them, but did pardon one man named Henry Lee Lucas who was a serial killer. The governor pardoned Lucas because Lucas did not kill as many people as he claimed he did.

Oh yeh, the Governor's name: George Bush.

[-] 1 points by jbgramps (159) 1 year ago

I’m a proponent of the death penalty. I believe that some crimes are so heinous that it would be unjust to allow the animals who commit them to live. In a lot of cases true justice would be allowing the family of the victims to beat the animal to death with a baseball bat.

How can anyone have symphony for a person who rapes and murders a child? Or kills their entire family in a drug filled rage? Any moral person would want these twisted people executed. They have no place in a civilized world.

Maybe it is inevitable that a innocent person is executed. However, In today’s world that’s pretty unlikely. It usually takes years of appeals, new trials and case reviews before an execution occurs. In most cases every possible chance is given to the convicted party.

Most people have made up their mind about the death penalty and few are going to change their mind. Threads like this won’t make a dent in anyone’s opinion.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (4899) 1 year ago

What's being seen is innocent people being denied chances to have their innocence recognized by the presented evidence due to corruption in both the justice and political system. At worst, innocent people die because of the corruption. At best, innocent people lose years of their lives to unjustified imprisonment. In either case, those actually guilty of the crimes commited as well as the criminally corrupt members of the criminal-justice system who consequently allow those criminals to get away at another person's expense, are never punished. When it comes to the death penalty, both murderers and criminally corrupt members of the criminal-justice system escape the death penalty for those they have sent to their deaths.

Personally, I see sending innocent people to their deaths by corrupt criminal-justice officials as crimes "so heinous that it would be unjust to allow the animals who commit them to live. In a lot of cases true justice would be allowing the family of the victims to beat the animal to death with a baseball bat."

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (4899) 1 year ago

Mistaken Identity? 10 Contested Death Penalty Cases

By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer | LiveScience.com

A death penalty case long surrounded by questions has been brought to the surface again, with a new report suggesting that the 1989 execution of Carlos DeLuna killed an innocent man. DeLuna's is not the first case to raise such red flags. DeLuna was convicted of the 1983 stabbing of Wanda Lopez, a convenience store worker in Corpus Christi, Texas. He maintained his innocence while insisting the real killer was Carlos Hernandez, a man who looked much like DeLuna.

According to the report, published by Columbia University law professor James Liebman and colleagues in the journal Human Rights Law Review and online, the similar appearances of the two men may have contributed to mistaken eyewitnesses pinning the crime on DeLuna. Hernandez, who died in prison in 1999, allegedly bragged of the Lopez killing to friends and family. A sloppy investigation and conflicting eyewitness reports call DeLuna's guilt into question, Liebman wrote in the report. For example, some witnesses reported seeing the killer flee in a disheveled flannel shirt, sporting 10 days' growth of beard and a mustache. DeLuna was wearing a white dress shirt the night of the killing and was clean-shaven. The report raises new questions about whether Texas executed an innocent man, but it's hardly the first to case to come under scrutiny. Here is a by-no-means-exhaustive list of some of the most controversial cases of the 20th and 21st centuries:

Sacco and Vanzetti: Italian Anarchists (1927)

Death penalty controversy is not a new phenomenon. Italian immigrants Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed in 1927 after a highly contested series of trials over the shooting death of two men during a 1920 armed robbery. Sacco and Vanzetti were followers of Italian anarchist Luigi Galleani, and anti-Italian sentiment almost certainly played a role in their execution, said Michael Radelet, a sociologist at the University of Colorado who specializes in death penalty issues. The accused men waged a then-unprecedented six-year legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court twice, and public figures (Albert Einstein among them) called for new trials. But even a confession to the murders by another man, ex-convict Celestino Madeiros, could not save Sacco and Vanzetti's lives. They died in the electric chair on Aug. 23, 1927. Later, several anarchist leaders spoke out to say that Sacco was guilty but Venzetti was not, though historians still debate whether either man really pulled the trigger.

The Scottsboro Boys: Race in Alabama (1931)

Based on the judgment of all-white juries, eight black teenage boys were sentenced to death for the rape of two white women on a freight train in 1931 (a ninth boy, only 12, was judged too young for the electric chair). The trials took place in just a day — with a lynch mob demanding the surrender of the teenagers outside the jail before the trials — and the only lawyers who would defend the accused included a retiree who hadn't tried a case in years and a Tennessee real estate lawyer unfamiliar with Alabama law. The convictions led to demonstrations in the heavily black neighborhood of Harlem in New York City, and the case eventually made it to the Supreme Court, where the convictions were reversed because of the lack of an adequate defense. Amid enormous public interest, charges were dropped against four of the men. Three were re-sentenced to life in prison; a fourth, Clarence Norris, was re-sentenced to death, later reduced to life in prison. Gov. George Wallace pardoned Norris in 1976. To this day, the Scottsboro case is still shorthand in public dialogue for unfair, racially biased convictions and sentencing.

Bruno Hauptman: The Lindbergh Baby (1932)

The abduction and murder of the 20-month-old son of Charles and Anne Lindbergh was known as "The Crime of the Century" in 1932. Two years later, German immigrant Bruno Hauptmann was arrested after allegedly spending some of the ransom money given by the Lindberghs before they knew that their baby was dead. The crime of the century led to the trial of the century, with Hauptmann maintaining his innocence to the end. Later analyses would call into question much of the evidence that sent Hauptmann to his death, including eyewitness accounts and a lack of Hauptmann's fingerprints at the scene. Books have been written both supporting the 1932 verdict and refuting it, and Hauptmann's widow fought until her death in 1994 to have her dead husband's conviction overturned.

Caryl Chessman: Death Penalty Without Murder (1960)

Californian Caryl Chessman became a flashpoint for anti-death-penalty sentiment in the 1950s. Chessman was convicted of robbery, kidnapping and rape in 1948; the jury determined that Chessman had caused bodily harm during one of the kidnappings, making him eligible for death. From death row, Chessman wrote books maintaining his innocence and insisting that his original confession had been coerced. There was widespread outrage over the case. Among his supporters, Chessman counted former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, writer Ray Bradbury and poet Robert Frost. Chessman missed his chance at a stay of execution (his ninth) on May 2, 1960. As the gas chamber at San Quentin Prison filled with toxic fumes, a legal secretary called to say that a federal judge had issued one more stay of execution. But it was too late for Chessman, who gasped a few times and died.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (4899) 1 year ago

Teresa Lewis: A Woman on Death Row (2010)

The first woman to die by lethal injection in the state of Virginia, Teresa Lewis was convicted of paying to have her husband and stepson murdered in 2002. Her case drew outcry, because testing had pegged Lewis' IQ at 72, just two points above that classified as intellectually disabled. Lewis' attorneys advised her to plead guilty in hopes of leniency, but she instead received the death penalty. The two hitmen who killed her husband and stepson received life sentences. Her supporters, among them legal novelist John Grisham, sent thousands of appeals for clemency to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, to no avail. Lewis was executed on Sept. 23, 2010.

Humberto Leal: an International Incident (2011)

The controversy around Humberto Leal's death was not focused on his guilt, but on his legal rights. Leal, a Mexican citizen, was convicted of the 1994 rape, kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old Adria Sauceda, whose body was found bludgeoned on a dirt road in San Antonio, Texas. But police had not informed Leal of his right to call the Mexican consulate upon his arrest, putting the case on shaky grounds. In 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Leal and other Mexican nationals on death row had been denied their right to contact their consulate under the Vienna Convention. The Supreme Court in 2008 held that the International Court's judgment was binding, but Congress would have to pass a law to ensure individual states would comply. That never happened. Citing fears that Leal's execution would harm America's standing in the world, the Obama administration entreated the Supreme Court to stay the execution until Congress could pass the binding law. The Supreme Court concluded that Congress had plenty of time to do so, and denied the appeal. Leal died by lethal injection on July 7, 2011.

Duane Buck: Racial Bias? (2011)

In a rare move on Sept. 15, 2011, the Supreme Court halted the execution of Texas death row inmate Duane Buck. The stay was a surprise, because the Supreme Court rarely jumps in on death penalty cases unless there is doubt about the defendant's innocence; in this case, the Supreme Court stepped in because of testimony of a psychologist who said black criminals were more likely to commit violence in the future than criminals of other races. (Buck was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and her friend in 1995.) The psychologist's comment led to cries of racial bias, and in 2000, then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn (now a U.S. senator) recommended that six cases in which the psychologist gave the racially tainted testimony be reopened. All the cases but Buck's were, and all five of those defendants were re-sentenced to death. The Supreme Court will now decide whether to hear Buck's case. If it doesn't, Buck will have to again appeal to Texas' Board of Pardon and Paroles, which has once before refused to commute his sentence to life in prison. If the board again turns down Buck's request, only Texas Gov. Rick Perry could halt Buck's execution.

Cameron Todd Willingham: Innocent of Arson? (2004)

Of the 243 people put to death during the tenure of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the case of Cameron Todd Willingham might be the most controversial. Willingham was convicted and executed for the deaths of his three young daughters, who died in a fire at the family's home. Prosecutors alleged that Willingham set the fire and killed the girls to cover up abuse; Willingham's wife, who was not home at the time of the blaze, denied at the time that he abused his children. The crux of Willingham's case, however, revolved around whether the fire was set on purpose. Central to Willingham's conviction was an analysis by deputy fire marshal Manuel Vasquez concluding that lighter fluid or some other accelerant had been spread throughout the hallways of the home. But in 2004, a second fire investigator, Gerald Hurst, found multiple scientific errors in Vasquez's report and concluded there was no evidence of arson. A 2009 report by the Texas Forensic Science Commission would later come to the same conclusion. Despite Hurst's criticisms, both the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Perry declined to halt Willingham's execution. He was put to death in 2004. But that wasn't the end of the Willingham case: In 2009, the case became intertwined with politics after Perry replaced three members of the Texas Forensic Science Commission two days before a meeting on the report, leading critics to accuse the governor of trying to hush up talk of Willingham's potential innocence. When the commission released its report in April 2011, it took no stance on Willingham's guilt or innocence.

No matter the strength of the evidence, an admission of fault is unlikely, UC Boulder's Radelet said. There have only been a handful of post-mortem pardons in the U.S., one in 1891 in Illinois and one in January 2011, when then-Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter pardoned a disabled man executed in 1939, Radelet said. With politics at play, he said, there is little motive to look deeply at the Willingham case.

"If Rick Perry ever admitted that Willingham was innocent, his political life would be threatened," Radelet said.

Troy Davis: National Protests (2011)

Amid vigils and protests, Georgia inmate Troy Davis faced the death penalty on Sept. 21, 2011 for the 1989 shooting of a police officer.

Davis' case became a national and international flashpoint because of concerns about witness testimony. Seven of nine eyewitnesses who implicated Davis in the shooting have recanted their testimony, and others say that the man who originally implicated Davis was actually the killer. Public figures as diverse as death penalty opponent former President Jimmy Carter and conservative U.S. representative Bob Barr of Georgia called for reconsideration of Davis' sentence, but on Sept. 20, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to grant him clemency.

In his final statement, Davis maintained his innocence. The case surprised some death penalty experts, including Radelet.

Davis had "a strong case for innocence," Radelet told LIveScience shortly before the execution.

"I have to admit, this one really stumps me," Radelet said. "It really surprises me. I'm just astonished that they're going to let this execution go forward."

You can follow LiveScience senior writer Stephanie Pappas on Twitter @sipappas. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and onFacebook.

[-] 1 points by writerconsidered123 (344) 1 year ago

you should supply a link for this report

[-] 1 points by writerconsidered123 (344) 1 year ago

no surprise here however I would like to see a federal investigation into it. I knew sooner or later a case would come up where an innocent man would be put to death. It was just a question of time. what's the innocents project take on this?