Texas Executed another innocent man: The case of Carlos de Luna
Can you tell these men apart?
Can you tell these two men apart?
Cameron Todd Willingham was not the first.
As I studied Texas Death Penalty cases, the case of Carlos de Luna always seemed to be everywhere. Luna was convicted in 1983 of murdering a clerk at a Shamrock Gas Station in Corpus Christie, TX. He was found a block away, hiding under a truck and with $149. Witnesses who saw him struggling with the clerk or running out of the building also identified him. However, Luna proclaimed his innocence and said he knew who the actual killer was. I thought he was guilty.
De Luna was executed on December 7, 1989. He died proclaiming his innocence and telling everyone who would listen that he knew the killer. His proclamations fell on deaf ears until some 16-years after his execution when the Chicago Tribune ran an article about his case. Central to their argument about his innocence was the existence of man by the name of Carlos Hernandez. Hernandez and Luna were the same height, weight, and build and were sometimes mistaken as twins.
Now a new book published by Columbia University called Los Tacayos (look-alike) Carlos is shining a light on the case that points to de Luna’s innocence and Hernandez’s guilt. Among the newly found evidence is:
- Not only did Carlos Hernandez exist, the Corpus Christie Police Department had an intimate relationship with him because he had been arrested numerous times for attacking women with knives.
- Eyewitnesses reported that they told the police that they could not identify de Luna.
- People who heard Hernandez confess to the crime and say that his “tocayo” had taken the fall.
- The police completely bungled the case and preserved, basically, no forensic evidence.
- Not even close relatives of the two men could tell them apart in a photo line-up.
- Prosecutor’s withheld evidence that would have exonerated de Luna, including a bloody footprint that did not match the shoes de Luna had on.
- Police followed another suspect for 40 minutes before finding de Luna hiding under a truck a block away.
Carlos Hernandez died in 1999 of cirrhosis of the liver. He is believed to have been an informant for the police because, although, he was wanted for many violent crimes, he served minimal time in jail. One of those crimes was the murder of another Hispanic woman with a knife.
Carlos de Luna went to his grave proclaiming his innocence. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once proclaimed that if evidence was found supporting an innocent person had been executed that he would proclaim his name and it would be proclaimed forever. I guess he better start.