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Los Dos Carlos

It’s cases like this that make my support of the death penalty waver:

Carlos DeLuna was executed in 1989 for stabbing to death a gas station clerk in Corpus Christi six years earlier. It was a ghastly crime. The trial attracted local attention, but not from concern that a guiltless man would be punished while the killer went free.

DeLuna, an eighth grade dropout, maintained that he was innocent from the moment cops put him in the back seat of a patrol car until the day he died. Today, 29 years after DeLuna was arrested, Liebman and his team published a mammoth report in the Human Rights Law Review that concludes DeLuna paid with his life for a crime he likely did not commit. Shoddy police work, the prosecution’s failure to pursue another suspect, and a weak defense combined to send DeLuna to death row, they argued.

Please read the whole thing. It’s frightening. The police and prosecutors thought they had an airtight case. This wasn’t really a close call on whether to convict him or not. They had witnesses, motive, his presence in the area and a violent criminal history. But the new investigation turned everything over. The evidence actually pointed to another Carlos — Carlos Hernandez — another violent felon so similar in appearance to DeLuna that they were often mistaken for each other.

Now there are a few points to make. As Ted Frank pointed out on Twitter, without the death penalty, DeLuna would probably still be in prison and no one would know of his innocence (although I think that’s cold comfort to him). This was not a case of prosecutorial misconduct. And the accumulation of circumstance was so unique and rare that you’d think it was an episode of Law and Order. The number of death row inmates who are there because an airtight case convicted them of a crime their doppleganger committed has got to pretty close to zero.

But the larger point is at the heart of why, as a conservative, I am finding myself increasingly worried about the death penalty. We do not have a system that is anywhere close to perfect. Shoddy police work, confused eye witnesses, unmotivated inexperienced defense attorneys … this is not unusual in death penalty cases. And that’s without prosecutorial misconduct or mistaken witnesses.

13 comments

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  1. Mississippi Yankee says:

    An anecdotal case where, by your own admission:

    Now there are a few points to make. As Ted Frank pointed out on Twitter, without the death penalty, DeLuna would probably still be in prison and no one would know of his innocence (although I think that’s cold comfort to him).

    Ironically I too am against the Death Penalty. But for much different reasons By the time you account for years and years of “arrest to chamber” benefits, about a bazillion billable hours of attorneys fees (at MY expense) not to mention security to make sure the demonstrators are kept in a peaceful assembly (think Save Mumia) a throw away the key approach becomes cost effective.

    In fact I’d bring back ‘working’ penal colonies. That way IF this happens again you’ll come home looking fabulous! See I’m talking physical labor, maybe even chain gangs.
    Oopps, did that last one make you cry?

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  2. CM says:

    You sure you’re not really from Louisiana?

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  3. Hal_10000 says:

    I just tweeted about that, CM. It’s simply appalling. While I favor lots of privatization, prisons have an epic catastrophe.

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  4. Mississippi Yankee says:

    You sure you’re not really from Louisiana?

    No but I convalesced there for 14 months when I broke my neck and my youngest was born there in Baton Rouge.

    Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran’s, seven times China’s and 10 times Germany’s.

    Just goes to prove a length of rope, or sharp scimitar (Iran) of a single bullet (billed to the perpetrator’s family (China) is much cheaper than arrest to grave benefits. A theocracy and a communist paradise. Germany (and I’m not sure why it is included) deports… east and southeast for the most part.

    But this paragraph was perfectly frigging precious:

    The hidden engine behind the state’s well-oiled prison machine is cold, hard cash. A majority of Louisiana inmates are housed in for-profit facilities, which must be supplied with a constant influx of human beings or a $182 million industry will go bankrupt.

    Don’t you ever,ever blame another human being for knocking you for biased links. The Times-Picayune,really, how does the Daily Kos and Democrat Underground feel about it.

    I just tweeted about that, CM. It’s simply appalling.

    I knew you’d cry , I just goddamn knew it. You ran out of Iraqis and Taliban so you turn your are-old rant to home.

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  5. mrblume says:

    Germany (and I’m not sure why it is included) deports… east and southeast for the most part.

    I’m not even sure what that is supposed to mean. Germany has a very lenient justice system. For example, life in prison without parole is unconstitutional on human rights grounds. A five year mandatory sentence in the US is a five your maximum sentence in Germany, and a five your maximum essentially means that for a first time offence you’ll likely receive a suspended sentence.

    So to be clear, where you choose to pay to feed a person for 5 years (and destroy his life, but let’s focus on the important things), Germany can instead put a hundred kids through college.

    In fact I’d bring back ‘working’ penal colonies. That way IF this happens again you’ll come home looking fabulous! See I’m talking physical labor, maybe even chain gangs.

    I’ll leave the snark for once. I’m not going to hide that I’m a bleeding heart liberal. And if you want to be though on serious, violent crimes, I even understand. But murderers and child molesters are NOT the reason for the immense prison population, and not the reason why US has the worst criminal justice system in the western world. It’s the 40 year sentences for drug-possession, and ridiculous mandatory minimums on so many non-violent crimes (also, other things).

    To refuse to recognize that the interests of for-profit prison corporations do not align with the public good is to believe that the higher the sentence, the better, period. And while that flies into the face of every sensible definition of “justice”, I’m sure it’s exactly what you believe.

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  6. Kimpost says:

    MY, the caricature…

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  7. Mississippi Yankee says:

    MY, the caricature…

    Ah yes the new lefty boys meme. Wassamatta Kim, you tired of dancing around the issues.

    mrblume, I also think most drug crimes are foolish along with mandatory minimums on so many non-violent crimes. But saying the

    US has the worst criminal justice system in the western world.

    seems a bit over the top even for a self proclaimed a bleeding heart liberal.
    How do you feel about the lengthy sentences of tax evaders that tried to not contribute to the public dole fund?

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  8. Mississippi Yankee says:

    mrblume

    If I may add, there would be much less mandatory minimums on so many non-violent crimes. had it not been for an over-abundance of bleeding heart liberals on the bench to begin with. And don’t even get me started on envro-law… spotted owls, snail darters ect.
    One thing society tends to do is over-react to poor leadership. And at the end of the day what is a judge that disregards the constitution along with past precedence but a poor leader?

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  9. Kimpost says:

    Ah yes the new lefty boys meme. Wassamatta Kim, you tired of dancing around the issues.

    You’re a caricature of an angry-southern-white-middle-aged-man, who’s pissed off at just about everything that ain’t manly enough for your world. You fit every single stereotype. Except that you’re not evangelical, if I remember correctly. Must be exhausting to live in a world as black and white as yours?

    Anyway, I apologize for the venting. I’ll try to stay on issue from now on. *hug*

    ;)

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  10. Mississippi Yankee says:

    You’re a caricature of an angry-southern-white-middle-aged-man, who’s pissed off at just about everything that ain’t manly enough for your world.

    Kim,
    Angry? At times, dishonesty, disingenuous debate and liberal double-speak does set me off.
    Southern? I was born in Maine and grew up in Massachusetts. Have only live here foe 17 years.
    White? Yes of French, Irish and Italian (Sicilian) heritage. Is white the “new” boogieman in your world view? ‘Cause Lady GaGa said “I was born this way”.
    Middle-aged? If 63 is middle aged it looks like I’ll be giving you a piece of my mind for some time to come.

    But lastly, I love musicals, puppy dogs, long walks in the rain (especially during Bambi season) oh and sunsets.

    No hugs for you tho… commie cooties and such, you understand.

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  11. HARLEY says:

    Christ, you re my old mans age! LOL ,, nice response,, white guys are anymore the new boogeyman, and its socially acceptable.

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  12. Mississippi Yankee says:

    Christ, you re my old mans age!

    Then dammit, don’t make me get up and fetch my own beer :)

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  13. Seattle Outcast says:

    My solution to prosecutorial misconduct is that when is it uncovered and exposed, those involved are immediately given the same sentence that the unjustly prosecuted received (even if it hasn’t been fully served yet) with no chance of early release or clemency. Additionally, all assets of those involved will be transferred to the victim – retirement & bank accounts, vehicles, home and other real estate, personal property, etc.

    In the cases where the unjustly prosecuted are acquitted (the Duke rape case comes to mind), the sentence will automatically be the maximum possible that the prosecuted could have received.

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