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Report says Texas executed an innocent man

  |   May 15, 2012 at 4:24 PM
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, May 15 (UPI) -- A 400-page article in Columbia University's Columbia Human Rights Law Review asserts Texas convicted and executed the wrong man in a 1983 killing.

The article examines the arrest, prosecution and 1989 execution of Carlos DeLuna in the death of Wanda Lopez, 24, who was fatally stabbed during a robbery at a Corpus Christi gas station, the Houston Chronicle reported.

In prosecuting, DeLuna, the state bypassed Carlos Hernandez, a man who the article said had bragged about killing Lopez and laughed about DeLuna being convicted of the crime.

Hernandez had claimed to have strangled a young woman and carved an "X" into her back with her child sleeping nearby but was never convicted of the crime and served prison time for convenience store robberies and for slicing a female friend's belly from her sternum to her navel. Hernandez died in prison three years after his parole was revoked in 1996 after he attacked a woman with a knife.

DeLuna, 27 when he was executed, was described to the article's researchers by acquaintances as "childlike" and a "follower." He had convictions for auto theft and attempted rape.

Police had sharply differing descriptions of the robber, with a gas station customer reporting seeing a shabby man who was unshaven and had a mustache and a nearby couple saying they spotted a neatly groomed man wearing a white shirt and dress pants.

Hernandez normally dressed sloppily and had a mustache. The night of the robbery, DeLuna had worn a white shirt.

DeLuna has said he saw Lopez and Hernandez struggling through the windows of the gas station minutes after Hernandez had made a purchase there.

Witnesses at the station identified DeLuna as the culprit when police took him back to the station in a patrol car. But the only witness who saw Lopez struggling with the robber told journal authors he was only 70 percent sure of the identification and if police had not told him DeLuna had been caught nearby, he would have been only 50 percent sure.

Lopez bled profusely after the killer's knife sliced an artery but DeLuna's body and clothing contained no trace of blood, the article said.

Steve Schiwetz, who was lead prosecutor at DeLuna's trial, said he had not read the journal article but disputed its conclusions, as related by a reporter.

"These guys are crusaders," Schiwetz said. "What can I say?"

Schiwetz, now in private practice, dismissed DeLuna's original court defense and said he had rebuttals for several assertions in the article, the Chronicle said. He said DeLuna had confessed his guilt to a sheriff's deputy -- a claim the journal researchers disputed.

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