Legislative sponsors of a law tightening procedures for police lineups faulted Corpus Christi, Tx., police for allowing eyewitnesses in a 1983 convenience store robbery-murder to identify the suspect as he sat handcuffed in the back seat of a squad car, reports the Houston Chronicle. State Sen. Rodney Ellis and Rep. Pete Gallego stopped short of claiming Texas wrongfully executed Carlos DeLuna for the murder of store clerk Wanda Lopez. Gallego said the way Corpus Christi police handled the suspect’s identification was a “textbook example” of why the system needs to be reformed.
“What appears to be very faulty eyewitness identification was the main evidence used to reach a conviction in this case,” Ellis said. “The chief witness appears to have gone back and forth on how certain he was that Mr. DeLuna was the culprit. You cannot have this level of uncertainty in death penalty cases.” Accounts of the case were presented in a 400-page article in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. Authors argue that the crime actually was committed by Carlos Hernandez, a DeLuna acquaintance with a history of convenience store robberies. Only car salesman Kevan Baker saw Lopez struggle with her assailant, the article says. Baker later told researchers he was only 70 percent sure of his identification.