The Montana Innocence Project will host a screening of the documentary “The Phantom” followed by a Q&A with the director, Patrick Forbes, at the Missoula Public Library on September 14 from 5:30 p.m. – 7:45 p.m.
“The Phantom” tells the story of Carlos DeLuna, a man who was executed in 1989 for the murder of Wanda Lopez at a gas station in Corpus Christi, Texas. Six years later, a Columbia University law professor conducted one of the most thorough reviews of a death penalty case in U.S. history that revealed mounting evidence of DeLuna’s innocence including that the eyewitness who identified DeLuna was not sure and that law enforcement failed to investigate an obvious, more plausible suspect.
DeLuna was killed before he could prove his innocence. But since 1973, there have been 185 innocent people exonerated from death rows across the country. About 60 percent were Black or Latinx. At least two were primarily Spanish-speaking, making it harder to mount a proper defense. And many others lacked access to the necessary resources to combat wrongful prosecutions. These statistics emphasize how capital punishment racially discriminates.
In addition to the death penalty killing innocent people who are predominately Black and Latinx, MTIP acknowledges that the death penalty does not deter crime, proving that its only purpose is restitutive. Moreover, it is far more expensive to sentence people to death than it is to impose life without parole sentences. MTIP participated in Montana’s Death Penalty Abolition Coalition in the last legislative session and will continue to support efforts to fully remedy the unjust and often racist practice of executing people as a punishment for crime.
“No matter what your moral, ethical, and even political stance may be on the death penalty, and even setting aside the tremendous financial cost of capital punishment, the fact remains, and as Innocence Projects all over the world can attest, the criminal justice system does not always get it right,” said MTIP Executive Director, Amy Sings In The Timber. “And the idea that even one innocent person would be sentenced to death for a crime they did not commit should be important to everyone.”
This event will highlight issues related to innocence work, witness misidentification, official misconduct, the death penalty, and the criminalization of Latinx people. Follow the Montana Innocence Project on Facebook @MTInnocenceProject and Instagram @bigskyinnocence for more information about our screening of “The Phantom.”