The 1989 execution of Carlos De Luna in Texas seemed to close the book on the fatal stabbing of a single mother and gas station clerk whose final, desperate screams were captured on a 911 tape, says the Chicago Tribune. Arrested a few blocks from the bloody crime scene, De Luna was swiftly convicted and sentenced to death–even though the parolee proclaimed his innocence and identified another man as the killer. Sixteen years after De Luna died by lethal injection, the Tribune has uncovered evidence strongly suggesting that the acquaintance he named, Carlos Hernandez, was the one who killed Lopez in 1983. Ending years of silence, Hernandez’s relatives and friends recounted how the violent felon repeatedly bragged that De Luna went to Death Row for a murder Hernandez committed.
The newspaper investigation, involving interviews with dozens of people and a review of thousands of pages of court records, shows the case was compromised by shaky eyewitness identification, sloppy police work, and a failure to pursue Hernandez thoroughly as a possible suspect. His case is one of the most compelling examples yet of the discovery of possible innocence after a prisoner’s execution. De Luna’s prosecutors still believe they convicted the right man, but the lead prosecutor acknowledged he is troubled by some of the new information. A former police detective told the Tribune that he got tips about Hernandez shortly after the crime and now believes the wrong man was executed.