Report: wrong man executed in Texas

I have to wonder how many other times this has happened.


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.

Read the rest.


  1. Deacon John says:

    Another reason yet, why we need to end the death penalty in this country.
    I am confident that the prosecutor and the police were absolutely sure that they had the right man….and yet this man, who did not commit the crime, was executed.
    How many other times have we, as a society killed a person who was innocent of the crime he was convicted of?
    Is our desire for revenge and retribution so powerful that we are willing to execute an innocent person?

  2. I agree with you, Dcn John, except that I’m sure at all that the prosecutor and police were absolutely sure that they had the right man.

  3. Another tragic example of why this country needs to get rid of the death penalty.. It happen more than people realize..

  4. Most people do not think this could happen to them or their loved ones. Moreover, people who have such distrust in the competence of government magically discount the chance of error in this arena. The larger the country gets, no matter the evolution of technology, the less likely people are to actually know what happens in their communities, and how and by whom it happens.

  5. this is all the more reason to revisit the seamless garment concept since we are the dominant pro-life church!!!

    All life has value.

  6. Elissa Bell-Bassett says:

    Well,this is yet another glaring reason of why I am against the Death Penalty.
    What are We trying to prove here,people,executing people who we believe have executed people.Redundant at best,barbaric at worst.Even with wrongful convictions plentyful in this age of infinite technology, and statistics that prove it does NOTHING to lower the crime rate We continue to murder One another.
    I have it written in My last wishes that should I die at the hands of another,My wishes are for My Family to not approve a Death Penalty case.
    After all-Even if a terribly negligent Doctor were to get drunk and kill Me on the operating table,he would at best get manslaughter.Would THAT be any less henious?
    We as an industrial nation need to focus more on WHAT makes a murder and how to stop some of the injustices in Our society that make sick people,not wait until We can put them to death-Then We have 2 deaths on our hands…

  7. Interestingly, this post has received six comments over the course of four or five hours; a post on a priest who fathered a child has gotten nearly three times as many hits in less than two hours.

    It is very tragic indeed that innocent people are sometimes executed, and that’s one reason (among many others) why people who claim to be pro-life should support the abolition of the death penalty in every state that still has it. (I’m proud that my own state, Illinois, finally outlawed the death penalty in 2010.) I’m also hoping that a large group of Catholic bishops will show up on the scene the next time Texas — the place that most frequently celebrates the state’s decision to stop a beating heart — chooses to kill another person. That would be a fitting tribute to our pro-life position as a Church.

  8. For the record, my state came mighty, mighty close itself to executing demonstrably innocent people before it finally saw the light. One of the few good things former governor George Ryan did was enact the moratorium on the death penalty in 2000.

  9. Not even remotely surprised. The death penalty in the US is a disaster on wheels.

  10. Regina Faighes says:

    I agree with all of the previous comments. It is high time that capital punishment is abolished in this country!

  11. Fr. Bryan Brooks says:

    Sadly, there is an additional injustice of executing the wrong man. None of those in law enforcement and the DA’s office who committed the, “numerous missteps, missed clues and missed opportunities”, in the DeLuna case will pay a price. There may be a civil law suit from the DeLuna family, but is that really holding someone accountable for the death of an innocent man?

    No police officer will lose a job or pension if now retired. No attorney will lose a license to practice law in Texas. None of them will go to prison themselves. It will be interesting to see if any of them have the integrity to publicly apologize to the DeLuna and Lopez families and ask for forgiveness. More likely there will be the, “sorry, but it wasn’t my fault, blame the ‘system’, excuses that are heard in other wrongful conviction cases.

  12. In response to most of the comments above, if you wish to end the death penalty based on what you must feel as unjust punishment, then I can understand. To end the death penalty based on some incredibly rare circumstance then that’s just bad reasoning. Everyone has greater odds of being killed in a car crash, killed walking the street, killed in a roberry attempt, killed flying in an air plane. One is more likely to die from accidently injesting poison than being falsely accused of murdered, found guilty through the legal system, and executed. There are risks one takes in life. This is about as remote of happening as anything. Stop the death penalty on its merits, but don’t argue from anomolies.

    And to be up front, I support the death penalty.

  13. One more thing. This is so rare that one is much more likely to be killed as a corrections officer working in a penitentiary than wrongly executed. Think about that.

  14. I think if we are pro-life, then it is logical for us to be against the death penalty. I can understand that some individuals have committed such heinous crimes that we feel they deserve to die; yet, we should still desist from using the death penalty on principle. Additionally, this case reminds us how possible it is to err in a conviction. We just cannot take the risk of killing an innocent person. And this young man was only 27 years old. Thanks to Liebman and his five students for their dedication in researching this case, and let us pray that researching this case will improve the standards of criminal investigations in Texas.

  15. Matt Roth says:

    I don’t know…I totally see your point Dcn John. But can we keep it in reserve, perhaps for the military, terrorism, and other certain offenses?

  16. pagansister says:

    How often does this actually happen? Lifers have nohting to lose, thus those that have to guard them are more in danger. As tragic as this was, I ask again, how often does it actually happen?

  17. Dudley Sharp says:

    Carlos DeLuna: Another False Innocence Claim?
    Dudley Sharp, 713-622-5491

    No one can, responsibly, accept what the Liebman/DeLuna report says, without fully fact checking it, as well as evaluating bias.

    However, we can review the previous record of both Liebman and the anti death penalty movement and assert that a healthy skepticism would be merited and wise.

    What happened when folks took the time to fact check Liebman’s prior opus, “A Broken System”? Take a look.

    “A Broken Study: A Review of ‘A Broken System”

    Any good anti death penalty defense counsel, as Liebman, can make a convincing case, absent the prosecution’s case and rebuttal. That is all we have, now.

    Possibly, at some point, this report will be fact checked, as these were:

    “The Innocent Executed: Deception & Death Penalty Opponents”–death-penalty-opponents–draft.aspx

    This is the perfect storm for anti death penalty folks. Both the “innocent” and “guilty” parties are dead and an, often,way too eager press plays defense mouthpiece for an anti death penalty report.

    Am I saying that this newest Liebman report is total BS, just another anti death penalty tome whereby the conclusions can either be easily rebutted or that stronger positions can be made for guilt, with a thorough review, as was the case with many prior such cases?

    No. But anyone would be a fool not to consider that possibility.

    Time will tell.



    “The DeLuna Deception: At the Death House Door” Can Rev. Carroll Pickett be trusted?”

    “Those closest to Carlos DeLuna case say Columbia Human Rights study doesn’t raise new questions”,

    “Report questioning execution doesn’t sway lawyers”, MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press, May 16, 2012


    See Section B. The false innocence claims by anti death penalty activists are both blatant and legendary


    “The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives”

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