Saturday, 3 October 2009

More on Linda Carty

Clive Stafford Smith's OpEd, "The final act of Linda Carty's tragedy," is in the Guardian. Stafford Smith is the director of Reprieve.

All of this leads up to last week's final tragedy. The fifth circuit court of appeals turned down the penultimate appeal of British grandmother Linda Carty, which means she has only the supreme court and Governor Rick Perry between her and an encounter with the executioner.

As to whether she should even have been convicted, the court found it a "close case", but the verdict was good enough for government work. An unfair trial is apparently OK, so long as it is not "fundamentally unfair."

But the court had to indulge in greater contortions to justify Carty becoming the first black British woman to be executed in over a century. She is not only a black woman, she is a battered woman, herself the victim of rape. So what? The court refused even to consider it. Her court-appointed advocate is, quite clearly, the worst capital defence lawyer in the country: he has had more clients facing execution than the death row population of 25 of the states. But the court blamed Carty for his inaction, accepting without question his statement that she refused to talk to him until he "bribed her with a bar of chocolate". While this was not the only dubious assertion the lawyer made, it was perhaps the most flagrant: Carty is allergic to chocolate.

None of this caused the court to doubt the infallibility of the Texas death penalty. The court concluded that Carty should die.

Even so, in a sane world there would be no chance that Carty would be executed. The supreme court would reverse her case, or the governor would grant clemency. But Death Row USA leaves little room for hope. The supreme court hears only one capital case in 30. And few observers expect Texas to clean up its own mistakes. Far from being a heartless killer, Cameron Willingham was the victim of a terrible tragedy, yet Perry sanctioned his execution. It is farcical to suggest that Charles Hood had an impartial judge, yet he is slated to die. And if Texas doesn't manage to kill Carty the first time, it'll probably put her back in the holding cell and have another go seven days later.

The Fifth Circuit ruling is here, in Adobe .pdf format.

Kevin Quinn reports, "Death row inmate speaks after losing appeal," for Houston television station KTRK. Video is available at the link.

Her current attorney says the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called this a close one, finding that her trial attorney acted unreasonably. But the court also concluded that even if her attorney had done everything she asked at trial, the evidence against her was overwhelming.

Inside the Mountain View unit in Gatesville, where all women sentenced to death in Texas are housed, we met Tuesday with Linda Carty.

"I want my name cleared. I know I didn't do it," said Carty.

She was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2001 abduction and murder of Joana Rodriguez. Prosecutors say Carty kidnapped Rodriguez and her infant son because Carty wanted the baby. Rodriguez was found dead in the trunk of a car Carty had rented. She had been suffocated with a plastic bag over her head.

"I had nothing to do. I could never do something like that," Carty said.

Carty at one time was a confidential informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency. She has maintained her innocence all along, saying she was framed by folks she met while working undercover.

She blames her conviction on her trial attorney who she claims failed to do his homework. She said he neglected to present witnesses at trial who would speak favorably of her and refused to spend more than 15 minutes with her prior to trial.

Just last week, a human rights group erected a cardboard cutout of Carty in a public square in London while playing an audio recording of her pleading for help from the British government. She was born on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts so she is considered a British national.

"There are very, very strong legal reasons why the case needs to be looked at again," said Paul Lynch, British Consul General in Houston.

Lynch says Carty deserves a new trial because the British Consulate was not notified of her capital murder charge prior to her conviction.

"Because we were not informed, Linda Carty was not given all the assistance she should have been given by her government. And therefore she did not get the representation that she should have had at her first trial," said Lynch.

The appeals court ruled Carty's request for help from the British government came too late. Carty's attorney says still that their quest to save her life is not over.

Earlier coverage begins here.


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