May 03, 2010|By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times
When British consular officials in Houston first learned that Linda Carty was in trouble with the law, the St. Kitts-born British national was already on death row in Texas, convicted in a bizarre plot to kill a neighbor and kidnap her newborn son.
Under the Vienna Convention and a U.S.-British treaty, British authorities should have been notified of Carty's arrest "without delay." The time gap in notification is at the center of an appeal by Carty for a stay of execution, which the Supreme Court may rule on as soon as Monday.
If the court does not grant the stay, Carty, 51, stands to become the first British woman executed in 55 years.
Carty's case is well known in Britain, where capital punishment is outlawed. Newspapers have followed her pleadings since British consular officials learned about her 2002 death sentence more than a year after it was imposed.
Carty has maintained her innocence in the 2001 killing of 25-year-old Joana Rodriguez, and British diplomats and pro bono lawyers have appealed to the Supreme Court with arguments impugning the fairness of her trial.
Carty's defenders argue that the outcome of her trial would have been different had she been accorded the protections offered by the British government.
"It made a material difference in this case," said Paul Lynch, British consul general in Houston. "It is quite clear to us that Linda Carty did not get the assistance she should have and the trial she should have."
Carty's appeal is a long shot. Although the International Court of Justice has upheld treaties that mandate governments inform one another on arrests of their nationals, the Supreme Court two years ago rejected the notion that states were obliged to follow the international court's decisions.
In his appeal to the Supreme Court, attorney Michael Goldberg said Carty's state-appointed defense lawyer, Jerry Guerinot, did not meet with Carty until two weeks before her trial and then only for 15 minutes. Goldberg also said that Guerinot never interviewed potential witnesses.
In a September ruling, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged deficiencies in Carty's trial but upheld a lower court's denial of relief.
In the trial, prosecutors charged that Carty had participated in the kidnapping and killing of Rodriguez in order to obtain her baby. Texas Assistant Atty. Gen. Katherine D. Hayes said that the 5th Circuit judged the evidence of Carty's guilt as "overwhelming."