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News Link • Criminal Justice System

Mistaken Identity? 10 Contested Death Penalty Cases

•, Stephanie Pappas
DeLuna was convicted of the 1983 stabbing of Wanda Lopez, a convenience store worker in Corpus Christi, Fla. He maintained his innocence while insisting the real killer was Carlos Hernandez, a man who looked much like DeLuna.

According to the report, published by Columbia University law professor James Liebman and colleagues in the journal Human Rights Law Review and online, the similar appearances of the two men may have contributed to mistaken eyewitnesses pinning the crime on DeLuna. Hernandez, who died in prison in 1999, allegedly bragged of the Lopez killing to friends and family.

A sloppy investigation and conflicting eyewitness reports call DeLuna's guilt into question, Liebman wrote in the report. For example, some witnesses reported seeing the killer flee in a disheveled flannel shirt, sporting 10 days' growth of beard and a mustache. DeLuna was wearing a white dress shirt the night of the killing and was clean-shaven.
 The report raises new questions about whether Texas executed an innocent man, but it's hardly the first to case to come under scrutiny.

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