Death Row News to fight the Death Penalty – TX: Editorial: When the wrong man dies

Death Row News to fight the Death Penalty – TX: Editorial: When the wrong man dies.

TX: Editorial: When the wrong man dies
Sat Jul 26, 2014 11:54
Editorial: When the wrong man dies
Published: 24 July 2014 11:56 AMThe Dallas Morning NewsWhile the national debate over the death penalty has been rekindled by Wednesday’s botched execution of a murderer in Arizona, the execution of Carlos DeLuna should matter much more. It happened almost 25 years ago. It should haunt us still today.

DeLuna’s death at the hands of the state of Texas was almost certainly a crime in itself. The evidence is compelling that he was an innocent man and that it was another Carlos — Carlos Hernandez — who in February 1983 brutally murdered a single mother named Wanda Lopez as she worked in a Corpus Christi convenience store.

A newly published book by Columbia Law School professor James S. Liebman and The Columbia DeLuna Project lays out the story not only of Lopez’s sadistic murder but of the injustice that likely led the state to strap an innocent man to a gurney and poison him to death.

The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, shows how law enforcement officers botched the investigation of Lopez’s death from the first moments they walked into the crime scene.

Evidence that included shoe prints, a cigarette butt, a wad of chewing gum and clumps of hair were ignored or overlooked. Detectives trampled on the blood-covered crime scene before it was washed down and erased by 6 a.m. the morning after the murder. The primary detective on the case spent less than two hours at the scene and never saw it in the light of day, the book states.

DeLuna was no saint. The eighth-grade dropout was a repeat felon. But when police found him hiding under a truck as they scoured a neighborhood for a suspect — not a drop of blood on him — it was the fatal beginning of wrong assumptions and bad law enforcement.

The key evidence against DeLuna was an eyewitness who identified him as the man he saw struggling with Lopez behind the counter of the convenience store window. That witness, Kevin Baker, was pumping gas when he saw the fight. He walked to the convenience store door as the killer walked out. They stood 3 feet apart. “Don’t mess with me, I got a gun,” the murderer said.

A former Navy medic, Baker ran into the store and aided Lopez as she begged him for help before dying.

Baker’s testimony that it was DeLuna he saw that night was crucial in the conviction. And yet, considering all of the evidence now, it appears certain Baker was wrong. It was Hernandez, a known gang leader with a penchant for knives and a sadistic bent, who killed Lopez, the book concludes. Hernandez repeatedly boasted that he had killed Lopez and let his “stupida tocayo,” or namesake, take the fall.

That’s what makes this book so disturbing. A man’s life turned on a single piece of evidence. Police and prosecutors, meanwhile, actively ignored evidence to the contrary. DeLuna was even accused of fabricating the existence of Hernandez, someone who was well known to authorities.

The punishment of death is irreversible. It is the most dire sentence a state can mete out. Carlos DeLuna was executed 25 years ago. But The Wrong Carlos reminds us that his death must still have meaning, especially in his home state.

DNA prompts court to overturn conviction in Hernando death

Originally posted on


DNA prompts court to overturn conviction in Hernando death

DNA prompts By GEOFF FOX
Tribune Staff

Paul Christopher Hildwin, left, hangs his head down as jurors give a guilty verdict against him for the first-degree murder of Vronzettie Cox. Seated beside Hildwin is his defense attorney Dan Lewan. The jury took only two hours to reach their verdict. FILE

BROOKSVILLE — DNA evidence persuaded the Supreme Court of Florida to overturn the conviction of death-row inmate Paul Christopher Hildwin on Thursday.

In 1986, Hildwin was convicted of first-degree murder by a Hernando County jury in the strangulation death of 42-year-old Vronzettie Cox, whose naked body was found in the trunk of her car the previous year. Cox had also been raped.

The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court, which covers Hernando County.

A majority of the state Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that…

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Louisiana Man is Freed from Prison after DNA Results Prove His Innocence

4538-LargeInnocence Blog

Louisiana Man is Freed from Prison after DNA Results Prove His Innocence in Attempted Rape Conviction

Posted: June 25, 2014 2:35 pm

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Photo: Nathan Brown (white shirt) with exoneree Michael Williams (black hat) and his legal team.

Nathan Brown walked out of a Louisiana state prison a free man today after a Jefferson Parish judge overturned his conviction for attempted rape. Results from DNA testing of crime scene evidence proved that he is innocent and matched to an alternative suspect, a man who is currently serving a sentence for a felony in Mississippi and who, at the time, lived only a few blocks away from the crime scene. Brown served nearly 17 years of a 25-year sentence for a crime that he did not commit.

In August 1997, a woman was walking through the courtyard of her apartment building when she was attacked from behind and thrown to the ground. The assailant bit the victim’s neck, ripped her dress open and took her purse before she was able to fend him off by striking him with her high heels, which she was carrying. The victim saw him flee on a bike shortly before reporting the incident to a police officer who had been called by neighbors who heard her screams.

The victim, who was white, told police that she had been attacked by a black man who was wearing black shorts and no shirt. She also said the man had a very strong body odor. The victim believed her attacker lived outside of the apartment complex, but a security guard for the complex directed police to Brown, one of few black people living in the apartment complex.

Police knocked on Brown’s door just minutes after the crime. He was in his bedroom wearing pajamas, rocking his young daughter to sleep. The officers conducted what is called a one-on-one “show-up,” a highly-suggestive identification procedure in which a single suspect is presented to the eyewitness at either the site of the arrest or near the site of the crime.

Brown was told to get dressed. He changed out of his pajamas into black shorts and was taken outside to the victim who was waiting in a patrol car. Brown had no shirt on. The victim was asked to get out to take a closer look and to smell Brown, at which point she identified him as her assailant. Although Brown did not have strong body odor, but rather smelled of soap, she explained at trial that she believed he must have taken a shower and that meant he was her attacker.

Brown’s mother retained a private lawyer to represent him. His lawyer met Brown for the first time on the day his trial was set to start. At trial, the victim claimed that she recalled seeing a tattoo with the letters “LLE” on the assailant’s chest, but a police officer testified that the victim didn’t mention anything about the tattoo until after the show-up (during which Brown did not have a shirt on exposing a “Michelle” tattoo on his chest). Brown testified in his own defense and told the jury that he was at home caring for his “fussy infant daughter” at the time of the crime. Despite the fact that four relatives who were at home with Brown that night testified as alibi witnesses, Brown was convicted in less than a day. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole for the crime of attempted aggravated rape.

“Mr. Brown’s mother paid for an attorney who it appears did almost nothing to prepare for the trial,” said Emily Maw, director of the Innocence Project New Orleans. “Unfortunately we have seen that happen far too many times here in Louisiana. Of the 41 people who have been exonerated in Louisiana, more than two-thirds had less than effective defense lawyers.”

Brown has maintained his innocence throughout the past 16 years and contacted the Innocence Project to help prove that he was wrongly convicted. With the consent of the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s Office, the Innocence Project conducted DNA testing of a stain where she was bitten on the shoulder of the dress the victim was wearing. The stain tested positive for saliva and yielded a full male DNA profile that excluded Brown. This profile was consistent with male DNA found on three other areas of the dress, including the front where the assailant ripped it open. The profile was entered into the federal DNA database and there was a match to an offender convicted of a felony in Mississippi, who is a black male and, at the time the crime happened, was a 17-year-old living within blocks of the complex where the victim was attacked.

Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in nearly 75 percent of the 316 convictions overturned through DNA testing. Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, said Brown was “another victim of an unduly suggestive police show-up procedure.”

“There are best practices to minimize the risk of misidentification from a one-on-one show-up, and we’re hopeful that this case will inspire law enforcement in Louisiana to adopt the procedures recommended by the International Associations of the Chiefs of Police,” says Scheck.

Brown was represented by Barry Scheck and Vanessa Potkin of the Innocence Project and assisted by local counsel Emily Maw of Innocence Project New Orleans.

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After being falsely accused, the Central Park 5 Get a $40M settlement


After being falsely accused, the Central Park 5 Get a $40M settlement

Published On June 20, 2014 | By Staff | black people and money, Financial News, News


April V. TaylorUSA Today is reporting that the Central Park Five have agreed to a $40 million settlement with the city of New York.  The five black and Latino men were arrested as teenagers and charged with the 1989 attack and rape of a white female jogger in Central Park.  At that time, the murder rate in New York was at an all-time high, and there were an average of nine rapes a day.  The media quickly pounced on the climate of fear that permeated the city and began referring to the men as a “wolfpack.”  The story made national headlines and heightened racial tensions in the city.

The group of teenagers were all coerced and intimidated into providing false confessions.  In two separate trials, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray and Raymond Santana were convicted of attempted murder, rape, assault, robbery, and riot while Kharey Wise was convicted of sexual abuse and assault and Kevin Richardson was convicted of attempted murder and rape.  The only DNA evidence came from a single perpetrator , and did not belong to any of the teenagers who were convicted.  The convictions were affirmed on appeal.

In 2002, Matias Reyes confessed to the crime, and DNA evidence confirmed his confession.  On December 19, 2002, New York Supreme Court Justice Charles Tejada vacated the group’s convictions.  A civil rights lawsuit was filed in 2003 accusing police and prosecutors of committing false arrest, malicious prosecution, and racially motivated conspiracy.  Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg fought the suit, but current Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to work on a settlement when he took office.  The $40 million settlement breaks down to roughly $1 million for every year each man spent behind bars.

The settlement still must be  approved by New York City’s comptroller as well as a federal judge before it is official.  Mayor de Blasio’s office has not released an official statement yet regarding the Settlement.

Vagabond Players to Present THE EXONERATED, 6/6-7/6

Vagabond Players to Present THE EXONERATED, 6/6-7/6

May 20
10:05 AM2014
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Vagabond Players to Present THE EXONERATED, 6/6-7/6The final production of the Vagabond Players’ 98th season, The Exonerated by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen and directed by Josh Shoemaker, opens June 6 and runs weekends through July 6.This award-winning docudrama intertwines the true stories of six death row inmates who are proven innocent before they are executed. More importantly, it poses the question: how many innocent have not been as fortunate? The Exonerated is a provocative and unforgettable theater-going experience.The cast includes: Doug W. Goldman, Don Kammann, Don K. Murray, Tyrone Requer, Beverly Shannon, and David Shoemaker as the exonerated and Christen N. Cromwell, Tim Evans, Justin Johnson and Annette Mooney Wasno as an ensemble of characters.

The Exonerated contains strong language and is therefore recommended for mature audiences.

Located at 806 S. Broadway in Fells Point, the Vagabond Theatre is easily accessible to patrons.

Show times are Friday and Saturday at 8:00; Sunday at 2:00. There is no performance on Friday, July 4.

Tickets can be purchased on line at or at the door ($10-$18); special rates for groups are available on line. Friday night performances feature special pricing of $10 for students and $15 for everyone else.

Poster by Sherrionne Brown


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