Did Texas Execute the Wrong “Carlos” For 1983 Murder?


The Columbia University Human Rights Law Review published a 400-page article asserting that Texas executed in an innocent man in the 1983 Corpus Christi killing of Wanda Lopez, bypassing a potential suspect who had bragged of killing her. The Houston Chronicle calls the critique the latest in which death penalty opponents seek to prove that Texas, with 482 executions since 1982, killed an innocent man. Steve Schiwetz, lead prosecutor at the executed man’s trial, disputed the authors’ conclusions. “These guys are crusaders,” he said. “What can I say?”

The journal article presents the stories of Carlos DeLuna and Carlos Hernandez, who shared darkly handsome looks and a history of substance abuse and violence against women. DeLuna, 27, executed for Lopez’s murder in 1989, was “childlike” and a “follower,” acquaintances told researchers. Hernandez bragged of killing Lopez and laughed about DeLuna taking the fall. He died in prison in 1999 at 45. The journal article grew out of a 2003 student project to examine Texas capital cases in which a single eyewitness account was key to conviction. “This case changed my whole view,” said Columbia Law professor James Liebman. “I had thought the problem cases were ones where you have an out-of-town defendant, a scary person who commits a really bad crime that grabs the whole community. The police are under so much pressure to find someone that something goes wrong. Now, I think the worst cases are those that likely happen every day in which no one cares that much about the defendant or the victim.”

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