After a catastrophically flawed trial, British grandmother Linda Carty was sentenced to death in February 2002 by a Texan court and is now, after being denied review by the US Supreme Court in June 2010, dangerously close to execution.
It will now be very difficult for Linda to prevail in any court, and clemency – through the Pardons Board and the Governor of Texas – is the only other option.
Linda Carty was convicted and sentenced to die by lethal injection for the 2001 murder of Joana Rodriguez. On 16 May 2001, three men broke into the apartment of Rodriguez and her partner Raymundo Cabrera, demanding drugs and cash. They abducted Rodriguez and her four-day-old son, Ray, who was later found unharmed in a car, while Rodriguez had suffocated. The perpetrators struck a deal with the prosecution to save their own lives by trying to shift the blame onto Linda.
Linda 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 Linda's case includes:
• Failure to spot obvious flaws and inconsistencies in the prosecution case;
• Failure to spend more than 15 minutes with Linda before the trial;
• Failure to investigate key mitigating evidence;
• Failure to inform Linda, a British citizen, of her right to consular assistance; and
• Failure to inform Linda’s husband of his right not to testify against his wife;
Based on the testimony of their informants, the prosecution’s theory was that Linda 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 Linda.
The utter implausibility of this theory should have been obvious: Joana Rodriguez had already given birth to the child, as Linda clearly knew, being her neighbour. Since the baby would be a difference race to Linda, she could not possibly pass it off as her own. When the prosecution produced “the scissors” that Linda 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 Linda’s life was at stake, an investigator from Guerinot’s office spoke to Linda for the first time, just briefly, only a couple of weeks before her trial. Guerinot himself met with Linda for only 15 minutes before trial. According to Guerinot he tried to talk to Linda but she refused until bribed with a bar of chocolate. As with so many matters, Guerinot could not even make up a story effectively – Linda is allergic to chocolate.
Linda 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 Linda’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.
Linda had a daughter Jovelle, then two (born 10 September 1979). Jovelle’s father emigrated to New York, leaving Linda as a single mother. In 1982, Linda emigrated to the US, seeking her American dream, but far too soon it began to unravel into a nightmare. Circumstances forced Linda to give up her higher education, and in 1983, her cousin and dearest friend Harriet died suddenly.
During the 80s, Linda worked as a hair stylist, and the chatter of women associated with local drug dealing led Linda to work as a confidential informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Linda has always
asserted her innocence of the murder charges, and believes that she was framed because of her work with the DEA.
In 1988 Linda was raped in a University of Houston car park. The rape resulted in a pregnancy and Linda gave up the baby girl (born 23 June 1989) for adoption. Two months prior to giving birth, Linda’s beloved father died, Linda was distraught. Linda 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 Linda had been arrested and was being charged with capital murder; neither was Linda informed of this right to consular assistance. Guerinot clearly knew that Linda 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 Linda’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 Linda’s arrest the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was already working closely with Reprieve. After Linda’s conviction Reprieve has gathered significant evidence in Linda’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 Linda’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 Linda, and he did not want to help them secure this unfair conviction.
Linda is one of 10 women on death row in Texas. She is incarcerated at Mountain View Unit. The last woman to be executed in Texas was Frances Newton (14 September 2005). The last British woman to be executed was Ruth Ellis who was hanged at Holloway Prison on 13 July 1955. 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 Linda at: Linda Carty, # 999406, Mountainview Unit, 2305 Ransom Rd, Gatesville, Texas 76528, USA. Letters must include a return address. If you would like to send Linda 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 US HELP LINDA by SIGNING THE PETITION at our Save Linda Carty page, on Facebook or by contributing to our urgent appeal for Linda Carty.
PO Box 72054
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Tel: 020 7553 8140
Fax: 020 7553 8189
Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900; Registered Company No. 5777831 (England) Registered Office 2-6 Cannon Street London EC4M 6YH; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner