Coming to theatres from BAFTA-winning director Patrick Forbes, Greenwich Entertainment and premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival is the story of death, investigation, and injustice with THE PHANTOM.
In 1993, a young woman named Wanda Lopez was working a night shift at a Shamrock gas station in Texas when police dispatch receives a call. Ms. Lopez is worried about a young man outside the store who is scaring her. He enters the store and proceeds to rob and bring tragedy leaving behind a haunting recorded moment for investigators.
Arrested is 20-year-old Carlos DeLuna who is found lying underneath a car after a telephone call gives away his hiding. Taken into custody he is charged with the murder of Wanda Lopez. After questioning, Carlos tells police that the person responsible is also named Carlos Hernandez. During the investigation police did not find any other Carlos to link to the crime.
Prosecutors in the case told the jury that the “other” Carlos was a phantom, someone DeLuna wanted to blame for the heinous murder of an innocent woman. Even with no evidence linking DeLuna (no blood on his body or money from the robbery etc.) the jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to death. Covering the trial was just a young reporter Karen Boudrie Greig who was swept up in the trial as the Lopez and DeLuna families were.
After the trial, it was Greig who kept in touch with DeLuna who continued to tell the story that it was the other Carlos responsible for the young woman’s death. In December of 1989, no one else could help DeLuna face the courts verdict. Professor James Liebman from Columbia University would speak with Greig letting her know the team was looking into it and discovered the phantom was real.
The answers would come, but not before the truth could set DeLuna free!
The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution is a book by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project as well as thewrongcarlos.net that lets readers see crime scene photos, court records, videotape interview and more.
Director Forbes says of the film, “I’m thrilled to be working with Greenwich on THE PHANTOM. They completely got the movie from day one – the mystery at its heart, and the tragic importance of what happened. In this film, for the first time we prove without a shadow of a doubt that America executed an innocent man. It’s a shocking, moving, and enraging story, and I couldn’t wish for a better partner to tell it with”.
THE PHANTOM is a heartbreaking story of a young man who told the truth and instead of diving deeper to keep from doing the wrong thing, chose the easy way to convict and move on. The DeLuna family is horrified learning of the history of Hernandez and how the police refused to investigate or admit they were wrong from beginning to end.
The tape played in court of Ms. Lopez seemed to me to be the convicting factor for a jury looking to make someone responsible. Yet, when it came time for evidence, there just was not any so for a jury to not take that into consideration just hurts the soul.
Listening to DeLuna’s brother tell his story of youth, family, difficulties and how it is possible that his brother became connected to Hernandez is so very important. DeLuna is not seen by the court as a person because they chose to believe and took the easiest route to “solving” a murder investigation.
THE PHANTOM does what the justice system did not, bring together all the evidence and all the people who have brought this story so that it never happens again.