A man who was ‘wrongly’ convicted of murder ‘died in agony’. His story is the subject of a shocking new documentary.
In 1989, Carlos DeLuna was convicted of killing petrol station clerk Wanda Lopez, who was stabbed to death in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1983.
DeLuna maintained his innocence and insisted the crime was committed by a different Carlos – Carlos Hernandez – but he received a lethal injection, aged 27.
Over the decades since his execution, mounting evidence has been unearthed – notably by a 2012 Columbia Human Rights Law Review investigation – indicating that DeLuna was in fact innocent.
Now, documentary The Phantom explores the tragic miscarriage of justice.
Writer and director Patrick Forbes said the process of making the film was infuriating.
Speaking to The Guardian, he said: “At the end of the film I was angrier by far than when I started it.
“Everything in the Carlos DeLuna case that could go wrong did go wrong – there was no proper disclosure, the defence was completely underfunded, the appeal was rushed through.
“Not only was he killed an innocent man, the lethal injections didn’t work and he died in agony.”
As well as sharing the same name, the man DeLuna said committed the crime happened to look remarkably similar to him.
A key difference was that Hernandez had a history of carrying out similar crimes, whereby he violently assaulted women with the same type of lock-blade buck knife that was used to murder Lopez.
In court though, prosecutors said Hernandez was just a figment of DeLuna’s imagination – or ‘the phantom’.
Forbes hopes the documentary will convince anyone in doubt that there is no place for the death penalty in civilised society.
He said: “Initially, everybody believed one truth: Carlos DeLuna was guilty.
“He had a criminal record, he was found hiding under a truck close to the murder scene, and he concocted this ridiculous defence that the murderer wasn’t him but another guy called Carlos. Yeah, right.”
He added: “His story shows that capital punishment has no place in a civilized society. If a mistake of this gravity can happen, there is no justification for the death penalty.”