A Columbia Law School team’s in-depth examination of one man’s 1989 wrongful conviction and execution for murder.
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 chose to investigate his case and found that DeLuna almost certainly was innocent. 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.
DeLuna’s conviction was based on a single, nighttime, cross-ethnic eyewitness identification with no corroborating forensic evidence. At his trial, DeLuna’s defense—that another 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. However, he not only existed, but also had a long history of violent crimes . . .
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 US history.
“This book will become a classic in the field.” —Austin Sarat, Amherst College
“[An] infuriating yet engrossing book on wrongful conviction...An important critique of our legal system.” —Publishers Weekly