Mistaken identity led to execution of an innocent man
from various sources – June 2016
submitted by – Danielle Roberts
Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
On the 7 December 1989 Carlos DeLuna was executed by Texas via lethal injection. Throughout his time in prison he continuously protested his innocence; years after his death, it was proven that Carlos DeLuna was in fact an innocent man.
On February 4 1983 in Corpus Christi, Texas, Wanda Lopez, a convenience store clerk at a gas station was brutally murdered with an 8-inch buck knife. Carlos was found a couple of blocks away hiding under a truck by the police. Several witnesses then identified Carlos saying ‘he looked like the killer’.
At his trial, Carlos alleged that he knew the murderer and his actual name was Carlos Hernandez. However, this claim was shut down by the lead prosecutor, Steve Schiwetz. Steve Schiwetz then went on to say that Hernandez was a “phantom and figment of DeLuna’s imagination”.
According to the police Carlos DeLuna was the rightful man to be prosecuted for the murder of Wanda Lopez. However, as Carlos DeLuna protested his innocence from the minute of his arrest Prof. Liebman and his team from Columbia Law School aimed to clear his name. The findings that they unearthed were published in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review.
The journal doubled its size in order to publish the study on this case. Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution is the name of the book and is based on 6 years of detective work completed by Prof. Liebman and 12 of his Columbian Law School students.
Prof. Liebman said “It was a house of cards. We found that everything that could go wrong did go wrong,”
So, what actually happened in order for an innocent man to be executed for a murder he did not commit? One of the first things that Liebman tried to do was to locate Carlos Hernandez; the man that DeLuna named as the alleged murder as well as the man that prosecutors said was figment of DeLuna’s imagination. ‘It took a detective he hired exactly one day to track down Carlos Hernandez, who was a repeat violent offender with a history of slashing women with his ubiquitous buck knife’.
Carlos DeLuna and Carlos Hernandez looked very similar. Throughout years of the investigation, the team found out that Hernandez bragged about killing Wanda Lopez and letting his ‘stupid tocayo’ (namesake) which was DeLuna, take the blame for the murder. The investigating team found out that Hernandez was an alcoholic with a history of violence. He was arrested 39 times, 13 of which were for carrying a knife; in particular a lock-blade buck knife. In addition, some of the crimes that Hernandez committed involved gas station hold-ups in Corpus Christi.
At the trial Carlos said he met Hernandez in town on the day of the murder, they went to a bar together. Hernandez went to the gas station to buy something but he did not return. Carlos went over and saw Hernandez fighting with a woman. “I just kept running because I was scared, you know.” This is what Carlos said at his trial. DeLuna had previous convictions of sexual assault and was afraid he would get into trouble again when he heard the police sirens. He ran and hid under a truck where he was found by police and arrested.
Possley, a reporter, was asked in 2005 why he had chosen to focus on the case? He stated: “I remember that what really got me interested in the case was seeing the crime scene photos with all of the blood and then learning that there was no blood on DeLuna. It just didn’t seem possible that he committed such a crime and was caught so quickly and had no blood on his clothing.”
DeLuna was arrested, convicted and executed on the basis he had murdered Wanda Lopez when there was no blood or DNA evidence ever linking him to the crime scene. Also, it is said that there was a bloody footprint and a cigarette butt at the scene that the police failed to recover.
In 1989, two months before DeLuna was scheduled to be executed, Hernandez was sentenced for attempting to kill another woman called Dina Ybanez with a knife, he was given 10 years imprisonment. Yet, no one told the court or Texas state, that the man DeLuna had named as the murderer was sentenced for attempting to kill another woman.
All of the evidence is available online so that everyone can read all of the evidence for themselves. It is evident that there were failings by the police and an innocent man was executed for a brutal murder he was innocent of.
Yes, America, we have executed an innocent man
14 May 2012