Groundbreaking Study Questions Execution of Possibly-Innocent Texas Man

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De Luna maintained his innocence throughout his trial, his time on death row and in his last words before he was executed in 1989.

Hernandez went on to be arrested more than a dozen times, including for the murder of a different woman, killed by a knife similar to the one used in Lopez's killing. The charges were dropped because of prosecutorial delay, according to Liebman's study.

For Liebman and his co-authors, the evidence that was ignored during the trial convinced them that, if retried today, no jury would find De Luna guilty.

"More specifically, we believe that on the evidence now known, a jury could not convict Carlos DeLuna beyond a reasonable doubt but could easily convict Carlos Hernandez beyond a reasonable doubt," Liebman said.

Hernandez died in prison in 1999 of liver disease, and the case will never be reopened, Liebman acknowledged. But the five-year investigation into the judicial system's handling of the Wanda Lopez murder is especially relevant today, he said.

"There has always been a debate about the death penalty, and there are very strong moral arguments on both sides," he said. "The debate now really lies in a policy debate, [as in] is this something worthwhile for government to do? The public is at that point where that's where they want to have that debate, and the best way for me to contribute is to tell this story, the facts as we know them, and document those facts, so people can make up their own minds."

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