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Granny Carty not the only Black Brit on America’s death row

Carty-MaharajThe case of a British gran Linda Carty, who is on death row in Texas, received a boost yesterday when a man used his moment on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth to protest her innocence. Sadly Carty is not the only Black Briton currently on death row

Krishna Maharaj, has been languishing in a Florida jail for the past 23 years for a crime many people believe he did not commit. Now 70 years old, Maharaj’s case has been largely forgotten since his death sentence was commuted to a 50-year jail term in 2002, and he was denied a retrial last year.

There are remarkable similarities between the cases of Maharaj and Carty, both British citizens of Caribbean birth, from Trinidad and St Kitts respectively.

Both trials are noted for a shocking lack of evidence connecting them to the crimes, with their prosecutions cases based entirely on circumstantial theory and the testimonies of other suspects who plea-bargained lighter sentences or outright freedom.

Both Carty and Maharaj were also handicapped by extremely poor legal representation at their original trials, with many witnesses who would have aided their defence either not contacted or not called to give evidence.

Both cases have also attracted criticism about a lack of interest from the British government, despite them holding British passports.

It is regrettable that even though there are huge doubts over Maharaj’s conviction, summarised below, his case has been largely filed away now that legal avenues appear to have been exhausted.

This all but ensures that a man who may well be innocent, and who certainly should not have been convicted on the ‘evidence’ presented, will now most likely die behind bars.

But at the same time it is right that attention should now focus on saving Linda Carty from death by lethal injection. Carty was convicted of taking part in the May 2001 murder of Joana Rodriguez, a 25-year-old Texas woman, in a plot to steal her 4-day-old son.

Carty, 51, who has a grown-up daughter and two grandchildren, was convicted in February 2002 when three men who admitted kidnapping Rodriguez and the baby were given lighter sentences in a plea-bargain after claiming that Carty was behind the abduction.

The baby was later found unharmed in a car, but Rodriguez was found dead, having suffocated with duct-tape over her mouth and a plastic bag placed around her head. At the subsequent trial, prosecutors argued that the men were hired by Carty who, unable to get pregnant herself, intended to “cut the baby out” of the woman and pass the child off as her own.

It was claimed that the accused had bought surgical scissors ahead of the abduction. According to Reprieve, the prosecution’s claim should have been objected to on the grounds that the baby had already been born and the inadequacy of the scissors purchased if they were to be used for such a procedure. It is one of a number of defence failings during the trial, campaigners have claimed.

The organisation Reprieve, which is now representing Carty, accuse Carty’s original court-appointed lawyer of incompetence and of failing to interview witnesses. Reprieve have lodged an appeal in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Texas.

Carty worked as a confidential informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency during the 1980s, befriending suspected traffickers to get information and sometimes to make test purchases of drugs. Carty believes that she was framed because of her work with the agency. The British Foreign Office has filed two amicus briefs in Carty’s case complaining that Britain was not notified of her original arrest.

Maharaj was sentenced to death in 1986 over the murders of Derrick and Duane Moo Young in a Miami hotel room. Exporter and Caribbean newspaper owner Maharaj has always insisted he was set up after being lured to the hotel room for an early morning business meeting – hence his fingerprints on a newspaper and coffee mug.

But after the contact failed to turn up, he says he left the hotel and was 40 miles away in Fort Lauderdale at the time of the murders. Six witnesses who verified Maharaj’s movements were never called to give evidence.

Neville Butler, who was seen leaving the hotel with blood-stained clothes and a broken watch, admitted being in the hotel room at the time of the double-murder but was granted immunity from prosecution in return for testifying against Maharaj.

Maharaj was taking the Moo Youngs to court over an unpaid bill which he was advised he would win. Reprieve, who now represent him, argue that Maharaj had no motive to kill the pair but his court dispute made him the best “fall-guy” available at the time.

Maharaj’s trial was beset by attempts to bribe the judge, poor legal representation, and the non-disclosure of evidence that the victims – who filed tax returns declaring a total household income of just US$20,000 a year – but were in fact multi-billionaires. It is not clear where any of this amazingly vast wealth came from.

A suitcase belonging to the victims, which was found in the hotel room but not disclosed at the trial, contained evidence of the Moo Youngs giving loans of up to US$1.5 billion each to three Caribbean states, and the transfer of US$5 billion in Yen bonds.

The murder weapon was never discovered, and a Colombian guest at the hotel has never been traced. A BBC documentary in 2005 found that the prosecutions star witness, Tino Geddes, originally claimed to have been in Fort Lauderdale but later changed his story claiming he saw Maharaj in the hotel at the time of the murders. Gun-running charges against Geddes were dropped.

By Lester Holloway

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