`I didn’t do it. But I know who did’
New evidence suggests an execution in 1989 in Texas was a case of mistaken identity. First of three parts.
Did this man die … for this man’s crime?
By Maurice Possley and Steve Mills
Tribune staff reporters
Published June 24, 2006
Photos: The victim and crime scene (Warning: Graphic content)
For many years, few questioned whether Carlos De Luna deserved to die.
His closed the book on the stabbing of Wanda Lopez, a single mother and gas station clerk whose final, desperate screams were captured on a 911 tape.
Arrested just blocks from the bloody crime scene, De Luna was swiftly convicted and sentenced to death –even though the parolee proclaimed his innocence and identified another man as the killer.
But 16 years after De Luna died by lethal injection, the Tribune has uncovered evidence strongly suggesting that the acquaintance he named, Carlos Hernandez, was the one who killed Lopez in 1983.
Ending years of silence, Hernandez’s relatives and friends recounted how the violent felon repeatedly bragged that De Luna went to Death Row for a murder Hernandez committed.
The newspaper investigation, involving interviews with dozens of people and a review of thousands of pages of court records, also shows the case was compromised by shaky eyewitness identification, sloppy police work and a failure to thoroughly pursue Hernandez as a possible suspect.
These revelations, which cast significant doubt over De Luna’s conviction, were never heard by the jury.
His case represents one of the most compelling examples yet of the discovery of possible innocence after a prisoner’s execution.
Part 2: Monday
Phantom or er
Part 3: Tuesday
What the jury didn’t hear