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Campaign: British grandmother sentenced to US death

Linda Carty: insists that she's innocent

Linda Carty, a British grandmother, has been sentenced to death over the alleged murder of another woman in the US state of Texas nine years ago.

The BBC Newsnight programme recently featured an in depth exploration of the details of this exceptional case.

Carty a 51-year-old British grandmother is going to be executed by lethal injection within months.

She sentenced to death over the kidnap and murder of Joana Rodriguez, who was seized with her four-day-old son by three men on May 16, 2001.

The baby was later found unharmed in a car, but Rodriguez was found suffocated with duct-tape on her mouth and a plastic bag over her head.

Carty has repeatedly protested her conviction and insists that she is innocent. She maintains that she was framed by three men in revenge for her work as an informant with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The US Supreme Court, however, has refused to review Carty Carty’s murder conviction.

Reprieve, prisoner human rights campaigners believe Carty’s conviction has resulted from a trial that was both unfair, illegal and amounted to an abusive of process.

For example Carty was forced to accept a local court-appointed lawyer, Jerry Guerinot, whose incompetence has already led to 20 of his clients ending up on death row, more than any other defence lawyer in the US.
Guerinot’s catalogue of serious failings in Carty’s case includes:

  • Failure to spot obvious flaws and inconsistencies in the prosecution case;
  • Failure to spend more than 15 minutes with Carty before the trial;
  • Failure to investigate key mitigating evidence;
  • Failure to inform Carty, a British citizen, of her right to consular assistance;
  • Failure to inform Carty’s husband of his right not to testify against his wife.

Based on the testimony of their informants, the prosecution’s theory was that Carty was afraid of losing her husband and thought that if she had another baby he would stay. They allege she was unable to get pregnant and had hired three men to kidnap Rodriguez and that she planned to “cut the child out” of the pregnant mother – a baby of a different race to Carty.

The utter implausibility of this theory should have been obvious: Joana Rodriguez had already given birth to the child, as Carty clearly knew, being her neighbour.

Since the baby would be a difference race to Carty, she could not possibly pass it off as her own. When the prosecution produced ‘the scissors’ that Carty was supposedly going to use to cut the child out, Guerinot failed to point out that they were bandage scissors, with a rounded end, obviously useless for any such purpose.

Despite the fact that Carty’s life was at stake, an investigator from Guerinot’s office spoke to Carty for the first time, just briefly, only a couple of weeks before her trial. Guerinot himself met with Carty for only 15 minutes before trial.

According to Guerinot he tried to talk to Carty but she refused until bribed with a bar of chocolate. As with so many matters, Guerinot could not even make up a story effectively – Carty is allergic to chocolate.

Carty was born on 5, October 1958 on the Caribbean island of St Kitts to Anguillan parents and holds UK dependant nationality. She worked as a primary school teacher in St Kitts until she was 23 years old.

Guerinot was awarded funds by the court to carry out investigation there but he never bothered to go. After Carty’s conviction, investigators from Reprieve visited St Kitts and learnt that she was still remembered as a passionate teacher who frequently held extra classes for children with special needs. She also taught at Sunday school, sang in a national youth choir and led a volunteer social-work group. The Prime Minister of St Kitts would have appeared as a character witness on her behalf, if only Guerinot had bothered to follow up.

Carty had a daughter Jovelle, then two (born 10 September 1979). Jovelle’s father emigrated to New York, leaving Carty as a single mother. In 1982, Carty emigrated to the US, seeking her American dream, but far too soon it began to unravel into a nightmare. Circumstances forced Carty to give up her higher education, and in 1983, her cousin and dearest friend Harriet died suddenly.

During the 80s, Carty worked as a hair stylist, and the chatter of women associated with local drug dealing led Carty to work as a confidential informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Carty has always asserted her innocence of the murder charges, and believes that she was framed because of her work with the DEA.

In 1988 Carty was raped in a University of Houston car park. The rape resulted in a pregnancy and Carty gave up the baby girl (born 23 June 1989) for adoption. Two months prior to giving birth, Carty’s beloved father died, Carty was distraught. Carty felt a deep sense of shame at her rape and concealed the pregnancy from her family. Later, she found herself in an abusive relationship and was a victim of domestic violence.

Under the Vienna Convention on the Right to Consular Assistance and a bilateral treaty between the UK and the US, the US has undertaken an obligation to the UK to notify British consular officials whenever a British national is detained and notify the national of their right to consular assistance. The British consulate was not informed that Carty had been arrested and was being charged with capital murder; neither was Carty informed of her right to consular assistance.

Guerinot clearly knew that Carty was not from the US but failed to do anything about it. The British government has filed Friend-of-the-court briefs before the US Court arguing that had they been notified of Carty’s arrest they would have assisted in obtaining meaningful and effective legal representation by consulting Reprieve at an early stage (i.e., Guerinot would never have been the lawyer), and attempted to persuade prosecutors not to seek the death penalty.

Indeed, at the time of Carty’s arrest the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was already working closely with Reprieve. After Carty’s conviction Reprieve has gathered significant evidence in Carty’s case and Reprieve believes that had this evidence been presented at trial she would neither have been convicted of capital murder, nor been sentenced to death.

Guerinot never spoke to Carty’s common-law husband, Jose Corona. Corona was called as a witness by the Prosecution. It was never explained to him that there is a marital privilege and under that privilege he had the right to refuse to testify. Had Guerinot informed him, Corona would never have testified. The prosecution tried to make much of some very unreliable gossip about Carty, and he did not want to help them secure this unfair conviction.

Carty is one of 10 women on death row in Texas. She is incarcerated at Mountain View Unit. Since executions were resumed in the US in 1977 after a 5 year moratorium, 11 women have been executed, 3 of them in Texas.

Capital punishment in Texas has come under scrutiny since it emerged that a man who was almost certainly innocent was executed in 2004. Cameron Todd Willingham was executed for the murder by arson of his three young children but it has since been established that the forensic evidence of arson presented at trial had no scientific basis and should not have led to Willingham’s conviction. As is sadly common, Willingham’s lawyers did no independent investigation into how the fire started.

Write a letter of support to Carty at: Carty Carty, # 999406, Mountainview Unit, 2305 Ransom Rd, Gatesville, Texas 76528, USA. Letters must include a return address.  If you would like to send Carty a book, you order the book(s) from Amazon and have them sent to the above address.  Any media sent from a personal address will not be accepted.

HELP REPRIEVE HELP Linda by SIGNING THE PETITION at their Save Linda Carty page, on Facebook or by contributing to international and urgent appeal for Linda Carty.

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