The wrong Carlos Anatomy of a wrongful execution

James S. Liebman

Book - 2014

A case study of the fabulous recklessness of Texas death penalty justice, a study that destroys the myth of the mistake-proof executioner in the death penalty capital of the United States.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Columbia University Press [2014]
Language
English
Physical Description
xi, 429 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780231167222
0231167229
9780231167239
0231167237
Main Author
James S. Liebman (author)
Other Authors
Shawn Crowley (author), Andrew Markquart, Lauren Rosenberg, Lauren Gallo White, Daniel Zharkovsky
Review by Library Journal Reviews

Liebman (Columbia Law Sch.) and his former students present the chilling results of the Columbia DeLuna Project, which sought to prove that Texas executed an innocent man in 1989. Unlike Leslie Lytle's Execution's Doorstep, which studied death-row inmates who were freed after being exonerated, this is a postmortem investigation of a collection of travesties. According to the authors, the 1983 murder of Wanda Lopez, a convenience store clerk in Corpus Christi, TX, was committed by Carlos Hernandez, whom Carlos DeLuna, the executed man, knew. Using court records, extensive interviews with witnesses, and photographic evidence, the authors dissect DeLuna's conviction, which was based on a single eyewitness and on DeLuna's capture near the crime scene. The book attempts to refute Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia's 2006 claim that there has never been proof of a wrongful U.S. execution. The exhaustively documented text presents the case in chronological order, from the crime to the execution, and at a minimum creates abundant reasonable doubt for the accused. The authors do not argue for the abolition of the death penalty but show that in one case the justice system completely failed. One question left unanswered is whether, 25 years later, death penalty prosecutions are any more thorough. VERDICT A masterpiece of its type and a disturbing true crime account, highly recommended for all nonfiction collections.—Harry Charles, St. Louis [Page 106]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Columbia University law professor Liebman and five now-graduated students of the Columbia Law School stumbled upon an atrociously handled capital murder case in which a young Hispanic man, Carlos DeLuna, was wrongfully convicted for the murder of Wanda Lopez. The Carlos DeLuna project expands on the "abject failure of the Texas criminal justice system" in this infuriating yet engrossing book on wrongful conviction. Convenience store clerk Wanda Lopez was warned of a man carrying a knife loitering near her store. She called the police—once to tell them of the man, and a second time when he was already in the store. Recorded on that second phone call are her last words. Nearby, DeLuna is found hiding under a truck, and what follows is both tragic and shocking. Liebman details the police and courtroom procedures after DeLuna's arrest and describes how police incompetence, corrupt and inefficient lawyers, and sheer bad luck place the wrong man in jail, letting the true murderer, Carlos Hernandez, off the hook to commit more acts of violence. Liebman details the fallibility of eye-witness accounts alongside the injustice of death penalty sentencing, and the examples of racism, contempt for the poor, and police inaction mark this as an important critique of our legal system. (July) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A case study of the fabulous recklessness of Texas death penalty justice, a study that destroys the myth of the mistake-proof executioner in the death penalty capital of the United States.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

In 1989, Texas executed Carlos DeLuna, a poor Hispanic man with childlike intelligence, for the murder of Wanda Lopez, a convenience store clerk. His execution passed unnoticed for years until a team of Columbia Law School faculty and students almost accidentally chose to investigate his case and found that DeLuna almost certainly was innocent. They discovered that no one had cared enough about either the defendant or the victim to make sure the real perpetrator was found. Everything that could go wrong in a criminal case did. This book documents DeLuna's conviction, which was based on a single, nighttime, cross-ethnic eyewitness identification with no corroborating forensic evidence. At his trial, DeLuna's defense, that another man named Carlos had committed the crime, was not taken seriously. The lead prosecutor told the jury that the other Carlos, Carlos Hernandez, was a "phantom" of DeLuna's imagination. In upholding the death penalty on appeal, both the state and federal courts concluded the same thing: Carlos Hernandez did not exist.The evidence the Columbia team uncovered reveals that Hernandez not only existed but was well known to the police and prosecutors. He had a long history of violent crimes similar to the one for which DeLuna was executed. Families of both Carloses mistook photos of each for the other, and Hernandez's violence continued after DeLuna was put to death. This book and its website (thewrongcarlos.net) reproduce law-enforcement, crime lab, lawyer, court, social service, media, and witness records, as well as court transcripts, photographs, radio traffic, and audio and videotaped interviews, documenting one of the most comprehensive investigations into a criminal case in U.S. history. The result is eye-opening yet may not be unusual. Faulty eyewitness testimony, shoddy legal representation, and prosecutorial misfeasance continue to put innocent people at risk of execution. The principal investigators conclude with novel suggestions for improving accuracy among the police, prosecutors, forensic scientists, and judges.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

In 1989, Carlos DeLuna, a poor Hispanic man with childlike intelligence, was executed in Texas for the murder of Wanda Lopez, a convenience store clerk. His execution passed unnoticed for years until a team of Columbia Law School faculty and students almost accidentally chose to investigate his case and found that DeLuna almost certainly was innocent.The Wrong Carlos documents DeLuna's conviction, which was based on a single, nighttime, cross-ethnic eyewitness identification with no corroborating forensic evidence. At his trial, the prosecution branded DeLuna as a liar for fabricating Carlos Hernandez, the man he identified as the real killer. The evidence the Columbia team uncovered reveals that Hernandez not only existed but was well known to the police and prosecutors and had a long history of violent crimes, especially against women. This book and its Web site (thewrongcarlos.net) reproduce law-enforcement, crime lab, lawyer, court, social service, media, and witness records, as well as court transcripts, photographs, radio traffic, and audio and videotaped interviews, documenting one of the most comprehensive investigations into a criminal case in U.S. history. The principal investigators conclude with suggestions for improving accuracy among the police, prosecutors, forensic scientists, and judges.