Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The execution of an innocent man

Sorry for this blog's long silence--it has been a busy spring, and I'm finding it hard to maintain posting here.

But I wanted to share this (Hat tip: Deacon Kandra):

He was the spitting image of the killer, had the same first name and was near the scene of the crime at the fateful hour: Carlos DeLuna paid the ultimate price and was executed in place of someone else in Texas in 1989, a report out Tuesday found.

Even "all the relatives of both Carloses mistook them," and DeLuna was sentenced to death and executed based only on eyewitness accounts despite a range of signs he was not a guilty man, said law professor James Liebman.

Liebman and five of his students at Columbia School of Law spent almost five years poring over details of a case that he says is "emblematic" of legal system failure. [...]

The report, entitled "Los Tocayos Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution," traces the facts surrounding the February 1983 murder of Wanda Lopez, a single mother who was stabbed in the gas station where she worked in a quiet corner of the Texas coastal city of Corpus Christi.

"Everything went wrong in this case," Liebman said.

That night Lopez 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," Liebman said.

Forty minutes after the crime Carlos DeLuna was arrested not far from the gas station.

He was identified by only one eyewitness who saw a Hispanic male running from the gas station. But DeLuna had just shaved and was wearing a white dress shirt -- unlike the killer, who an eyewitness said had a mustache and was wearing a grey flannel shirt.

Even though witnesses accounts were contradictory -- the killer was seen fleeing towards the north, while DeLuna was caught in the east -- DeLuna was arrested.

Arrested. Sentenced to death. And executed. For a murder he did not commit.

There are many reasons for faithful Catholics to oppose the death penalty, but the executions of innocent people stand at the top of the list. Anyone who thinks this is an isolated incident hasn't been paying attention. It's time for Catholics to work together to end the death penalty in the modern world.

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