Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Columbia University Law Professor Says Texas Executed Innocent Man

Carlos De Luna

Carlos De Luna

On December 7, 1989, Texas executed Carlos De Luna, 27, for the brutal 1983 stabbing death of convenience store clerk, Wanda Lopez. Before her death, Lopez had been able to call 911, which recorded the single mom begging her killer to spare her. Police found De Luna almost immediately, hiding under a pick-up truck nearby. He had been drinking, a violation of his parole, and had a wad of cash on him, but insisted that he was innocent from the moment they arrested him until the moment he was executed. At all phases of the case evidence supporting his innocence:  a lack of blood on de Luna when there was a bloody footprint at the scene, the fact the he identified a suspect who bore a striking resemblance to De Luna, was romantically linked to Lopez, had a history of knife attacks and had bragged about committing the murder, was allegedly ignored.

These are some of the arguments that Columbia University law professor James Liebman and a team of students have used to declare De Luna innocent of the murder and Texas guilty of executing the wrong man. “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.” Though there is no definitive physical evidence to exonerate De Luna, Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, who read a draft of Liebman’s report said, “If a new trial was somehow able to be conducted today, a jury would acquit De Luna.”

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