Corpus Christi, TX – A five year research project at Columbia School of Law has established that Carlos DeLuna, 27, was wrongly executed in 1989 after a string of proceedings – and errors. A report, entitled “Los Tocayos Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution,” traces Deluna’s path to his lethal injection.

In February 1983, Wanda Lopez – a single mother – was stabbed to death in the gas station where she worked in Corpus Christi. That night Lopez had 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,” law professor James Liebman said.

Forty minutes after the crime Carlos DeLuna was arrested near the gas station. DeLuna said he ran from police because he was on parole and had been drinking.

Deluna was identified by a single eyewitness who saw a Hispanic male running from the gas station. There were some immediate discrepencies. Deluna was dressed differently and clean shaven. The killer was also seen fleeing towards the north and DeLuna was caught toward the east.

“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.

The problem was that Deluna and Hernandez – who lived nearby – looked alike. Even their relatives reportedly confused them.

Hernandez, known for using a switchblade in his attacks, was later jailed for murdering a woman with the same knife. But in Deluna’s trial – described in the press as ‘hasty’ – the lead prosecutor told the jury that Hernandez was nothing but a “phantom” of DeLuna’s imagination. Even DeLuna’s attorney said that it was probable that Carlos Hernandez never existed at the time.

These contentions would prove patently false when a photo of Hernandez was posted in a newspaper article on Deluna’s trial in 1986. Despite this, DeLuna was sentenced to death. He was executed by lethal injection in 1989.

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

“Everything went wrong in this case,” 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,” added a statement that accompanies the report.

So what is the penalty for wrongful execution?  Death?

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