“When it comes to capital punishment, Texas is guilty of failing to protect the innocent”
by Rose Rhoton
Monday, June 02, 2008
Excerpt from Rose Rhotan’s article in the Austin American-Statesman:
‘I want to say that I hold no grudges.’
These were the final words of my brother Carlos De Luna before he was executed by the state of Texas in 1989 for a crime he did not commit. His last words express remarkable forgiveness from an innocent man facing the ultimate miscarriage of justice. Unfortunately, in the 19 years since his execution, the numerous problems that led to his wrongful conviction have never been addressed and continue to plague the Texas capital punishment system. With executions in the state about to resume, I hope that legislators and the courts will learn lessons from my brother’s story.
Carlos was convicted, sentenced to death and executed in six short years, despite overwhelming problems with the case. In 1983, convenience store clerk Wanda Lopez was stabbed to death, and Carlos became a suspect when he was found near the scene shortly after the crime took place. But the crime had all the hallmarks of a violent felon who had a history of knife attacks against women in the area. This individual had repeatedly bragged to friends and family members that he committed the crime and that his “stupid tocayo,” or namesake, had taken the fall. Police and prosecutors ignored the information and refused to look into the alternate suspect who many in the community believe committed the crime.
Instead, prosecutors convicted my brother on the basis of faulty eyewitness testimony and no supporting forensic evidence. The main eyewitness told the Chicago Tribune, in the newspaper’s re-investigation of the case, that he has serious doubts about Carlos’ guilt. The identification was made while Carlos was in the backseat of a police car and after the police told the witness they had arrested Carlos near the scene, giving the witness a false sense of certainty that Carlos was guilty.
Unfortunately, my brother’s story is not unique. Far from it. The well-documented problems in his case are unacceptably common. The nature of eyewitness identification, for instance, is often flawed. It plays a role in 75 percent of all DNA exonerations nationwide.