Carlos De Luna Execution: Texas Put To Death An Innocent Man, Columbia University Team Says
One of the strongest arguments against the death penalty is the frightening chance of executing an innocent person. Columbia University law professor James Liebman said he and a team of students have proven that Texas gave a lethal injection to the wrong man.
Carlos De Luna was executed in 1989 for stabbing to death a gas station clerk in Corpus Christi six years earlier. It was a ghastly crime. The trial attracted local attention, but not from concern that a guiltless man would be punished while the killer went free.
De Luna, an eighth grade dropout, maintained that he was innocent from the moment cops put him in the back seat of a patrol car until the day he died. Today, 29 years after De Luna was arrested, Liebman and his team published a mammoth report in the Human Rights Law Review that concludes De Luna paid with his life for a crime he likely did not commit. Shoddy police work, the prosecution's failure to pursue another suspect, and a weak defense combined to send De Luna to death row, they argued.
"I would say that across the board, there was nonchalance," Liebman told The Huffington Post. "It looked like a common case, but we found that there was a very serious claim of innocence."
Police and prosecutors treated the killing of Wanda Lopez at the Sigmor Shamrock gas station on February 4, 1983, like a robbery gone bad. A recording of the chilling 911 call from Lopez, a 24-year-old single mom working the night shift, captured her screaming and begging her killer for mercy.
De Luna, then 20, was found hiding under a pickup truck a few blocks from the gory crime scene. A wad of rolled-up bills totaling $149 was in his pocket.
Eyewitness testimony formed the bedrock of the case against him. Now, that testimony is perhaps most contested aspect of his conviction.
Cops brought De Luna back to the Shamrock. A customer filling his tank before the murder told police that De Luna was the man he saw putting a knife in his pocket outside the store. Another customer who rushed to the store's entrance when he heard Lopez struggling identified De Luna as the man who emerged. A married couple saw a man running a few blocks away and later identified De Luna in police photos shown to them.
With De Luna's record of numerous arrests for burglary and public drunkenness, plus a conviction for attempted rape and auto theft, it seemed like police had found the perp. But Liebman said De Luna took the fall in a case of mistaken identity.
Among the key findings in the Columbia team's report:
The eyewitness statements actually conflict with each other. What witnesses said about the appearance and location of the suspect suggest that they were describing more than one person.
Photos of a bloody footprint and blood spatter on the walls suggest the killer would have had blood on his shoes and pant legs, yet De Luna's clothes were clean.
Prosecutors and police ignored tips unearthed in the case files that Carlos Hernandez, an older friend of De Luna, who had a reputation for wielding a blade, had killed Lopez. The defense failed to track down Hernandez, who bore a striking resemblance to De Luna.
"If a new trial was somehow able to be conducted today, a jury would acquit De Luna" said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, who read a draft of Liebman's report. "We don't have a perfect case where can agree that we have an innocent person who's been executed, but by weight of this investigation, I think we can say this is as close as a person is going to come."
Originally posted by medullahThe problem is that once you have the death penalty, it's very difficult to say "Well, we're only going to apply it when we know for sure."
SH76 makes a good point - I belive Texas is pretty keen on the dealth penalty? Did anybody look at that second video that I posted; would that be a strong enough case for CP, or even in the face of this sort of evidence should CP always be a "No"?
Originally posted by sh76It is never on solid ground to judge what we do by a few anecdotal events, or by our desire to be faultless.
The problem is that once you have the death penalty, it's very difficult to say "Well, we're only going to apply it when we know for sure."
As long as you have the death penalty, the risk exists that innocent people will be executed. The question is whether the benefits outweigh that fact (e.g., that innocent people go to prison is not a good enough reason t ...[text shortened]... hat the death penalty is an effective deterrent, I would say the risk outweighs the reward.
Originally posted by medullahIs it preferable to lock them away for life?
I wasn't a big fan of CP, but when you see this
can anybody give me a good defense for thoses that attacked this bloke?
I mean is this an accident, was the guy posing a threat?
Originally posted by sh76[/b]The real problem though in that case is not whether we should have used capital punishment in this case. It is that for 29 years we thought a person should be severely punished and now (if indeed we are convinced by a report and that too is probably very debatable) we now think the person should not have been punished.
On the other hand you read stories like this and it makes you wonder about capital punishment.
[b]Carlos De Luna Execution: Texas Put To Death An Innocent Man, Columbia University Team Says
One of the strongest arguments against the de ...[text shortened]... tion, I think we can say this is as close as a person is going to come."
Originally posted by quackquackBut at least if her were kept in prison, you could release him, compensate him a little and let him enjoy the rest of his life. As it is, nothing can be done for him.
The real problem though in that case is not whether we should have used capital punishment in this case. It is that for 29 years we thought a person should be severely punished and now (if indeed we are convinced by a report and that too is probably very debatable) we now think the person should not have been punished.
Originally posted by sh76How exactly do you compensate someone a little for spending 29 years in prison?
But at least if her were kept in prison, you could release him, compensate him a little and let him enjoy the rest of his life. As it is, nothing can be done for him.
Originally posted by quackquackYou give them some money. Of course you can't give someone 29 years back, but generally they will be happy to be free.
How exactly do you compensate someone a little for spending 29 years in prison?
Its not like you can really reconstruct your life with a three decade gap in the middle. Your family doesn't even know you. Your wife/ girl friend move on. Your friends moved on. There is a fairly big gap in your resume.
I think the 99.99999% of the mistake is that we punished the wrong person and .00001% of the mistake is that we actually killed the guy.