CORPUS CHRISTI -- A study released Tuesday may have sparked debate about the death penalty but those closest to the case say researchers aren't raising new questions about the 1983 capital murder case and execution.
The 400-page study, "Los Tocayos Carlos," in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review argues that Carlos DeLuna wrongfully was executed in 1989.
DeLuna was convicted of fatally stabbing Wanda Lopez on Feb. 4, 1983, during a robbery of a Corpus Christi convenience store. He testified at his trial, claiming a man named Carlos Hernandez killed Lopez.
The Columbia study asserts that Hernandez committed the crime and DeLuna was innocent.
Paul Rivera, a Corpus Christi police investigator who transported DeLuna between city and county jails, said the study's researchers asked him years ago to reread the DeLuna case.
Rivera said he took his time combing through the investigation reports and transcripts. In the end, he drew the same conclusion.
"I know exactly what happened," he said. "DeLuna stabbed Wanda Lopez when she was on the phone and she was screaming for help."
Rivera, who investigated more than 200 murders in Corpus Christi, said at least nine of those people were on death row and no one questioned his investigations or methods before DeLuna's case.
DeLuna received the appropriate punishment, he said.
A Local View on the Carlos DeLuna Case
There is a lot of buzz about a case from Corpus Christi, Texas. Lifelong anti-death-penalty advocate James Liebman claims he has proven that Carlos DeLuna is innocent of the crime for which he was executed. As with the Willingham case, the view from the local scene is very different from what you read in national media. Michelle Villareal has this story in the Corpus Christi Caller Times.
I have not yet had time to get into the details of the case myself, so I won't be commenting on who is right at this point. It is worth noting, though, that Liebman has a history of dubious studies. Some years back, he proclaimed that his study showed that capital trials had a very high rate of "serious error." That simplistic conclusion was trumpeted around the country. When you got into the details, though, you found that he counted as "serious error" cases that were tried correctly under the rules in effect at the time of trial but were later reversed when the Supreme Court changed the rules retroactively. The problem was not unreliability of the trial courts but rather the Supreme Court's "annually improvised" jurisprudence, as Justice Scalia called it, combined with nearly unlimited retroactivity. After Teague v. Lane, AEDPA, and reduced Supreme Court tinkering on procedure, the reversal rate dropped dramatically. The point here is that just because Liebman says something does not make it true.