Linda Carty and the march of the gullible

The case of convicted murderess Linda Carty is back in the news in Britain; this is a short article setting out the true facts about her case as opposed to the propaganda which is swallowed uncritically by the well-meaning and the gullible.

Linda Carty, mugshot - Texas Department of Criminal Justice

“Tot Mom” Casey Anthony may have America’s court watchers transfixed, but another capital case is back in the news on this side of the Pond. Like Anthony, Linda Carty is a mother who is facing the death penalty in America’s Deep South, but that is where the similarity ends. Although the case against her looks ominous, Anthony’s trial has some way to go, and even if she is convicted the jury may not sentence her to die.

While Anthony is a young mother, Carty is far from young; she has also been convicted and has exhausted her appeals. Now she is literally waiting to die; the only thing that may save her is the clemency of the Governor of Texas, but although he has yet to sign her death warrant, and appears to be in no hurry to do so, once he does sign it, her goose is as good as cooked.

Although Carty was convicted way back in February 2002, her case received very little coverage by the mainstream media here until two years ago when the British arm of the Reprieve organisation mounted a high profile campaign to “save Linda”.

If you’re wondering why a British campaigning organisation should take such an interest in a Texas death row inmate, it is because technically Carty is a British citizen. The inspiration for the brief public campaign for Carty was novel, although the campaign of lies and disinformation that accompanied it was anything but.

In Central London there is a world famous tourist attraction known as Trafalgar Square which among other things inspired the Mark Knopfler song Lions. The Square also contains four plinths, one of which was famously empty. After a century and a half, it was decided finally that this plinth should be occupied, but first it was to be used for a number of temporary exhibits, the most novel of which was supplied by the famous sculptor Antony Gormley, who came up with the extraordinary idea of allowing 2,400 people to stand on it one at a time for an hour over a hundred day period. Those chosen could do anything they wanted: recite a poem, display a placard, or simply stand there, a truly inspired effort to bring art to the people.

This prompted some bright spark at Reprieve to use it to highlight the “plight” of a “British” woman on death row in Texas, and led to its being occupied for one hour by a cardboard cut-out of Carty and the playing of a recording of her pleading for her life. Later, Reprieve mounted another exhibition, in a church courtyard off-Trafalgar Square; this included a mock up of the cell in which Carty had lived for the past eight years. Reprieve also recruited a number of female celebrities who were duped into making a video pleading both Carty’s innocence and for her life.

The full and true story of how Linda Anita Carty came to end up on death row in Texas has been documented by the United States Court of Appeals, but briefly, Carty moved to Texas from her native St Kitts in 1982. At that time, St Kitts was a British colony, although it was granted independence the following year. This means that Carty, who never revoked her citizenship, is technically a British citizen.

In 1992, she stole a car, posing as an FBI agent in the process. Though not the most serious of crimes, this could have led to a prison sentence and even to her being deported. To avoid both, Carty offered her services as a snitch, and was granted ten years’ probation. Her much vaunted undercover work which her apologists claim led to her being framed for murder did not last long because she tried to steal drugs during a sting operation, and run down a police officer in the resulting high speed car chase.

Carty has two children; one she gave up for adoption, and her daughter Jovelle, who is an active supporter of her mother. She claims to have been raped in a Houston car park, said rape resulting in her becoming pregnant and giving up that baby for the aforementioned adoption, although Houston Police have no record of a rape being reported at the time, and this claim appears to be yet another dishonest attempt to elicit unwarranted sympathy for a rightly convicted murderess.

Whatever the truth of that claim, Carty appears to have become fixated with having another baby, and to that end formulated a bizarre plan to kidnap a heavily pregnant woman, cut the baby out of her, and pass it off as her own. To this end she tricked a gang of ne’er-do-wells into kidnapping her neighbour Joana Rodriguez, who by that time had actually given birth. Although Carty’s co-conspirators were willing to kidnap a young woman and her baby as well as use violence against the two men with whom she shared a home, they were motivated purely by greed, in particular the money and drugs that Carty had led them to believe was in the apartment.

After the raid and kidnap, Carty was left alone with Joana Rodriguez who was trussed up and bound in the trunk of her car. When one of the men returned, he found Carty had smothered Miss Rodriguez with a plastic bag.

When the attorneys for the State of Texas looked at this case they evaluated the evidence correctly, ie that Carty had instigated the kidnap and robbery, and that she alone had murdered the victim, so they offered her co-conspirators a plea bargain, which they accepted. As a result, Carty was the only one of the gang to be tried for capital murder. The evidence against Carty came from many sources including forensics and two disinterested female witnesses. After she was sentenced to death, she looked around for someone else to blame for her plight, and the man who fitted the bill was her attorney, who has been called the worst lawyer in the United States if not the entire world.

This claim which was apparently coined by Reprieve has been parroted uncritically by the media including even the New York Times Supreme Court correspondent who should know better. However, an unprejudiced examination of the record shows Jerry Guerinot was not quite the muppet Carty would have the world believe him to be. For one thing, he moved successfully to suppress some of the incriminating evidence against her; for another, Carty lied to both him and the court about her British citizenship, claiming she was born in the American Virgin Islands. If one is to give any credit to the claims of Clive Stafford Smith and his gang, the consular assistance this would have entitled her to would also have been a get out of gaol free card.

Although the high profile Reprieve campaign for Carty didn’t last long, it has now been revived by a Guildford College student with more humanity than common sense. Verity Mackworth-Praed has organised a march for Carty in London on July 16. Apparently she “heard about the case, particularly Carty’s defence counsel, after reading a newspaper story last year.”

That is unquestionably true, but if this young lady wants to be a barrister as she says, she should pay less attention to what she reads in the newspapers and more to the findings of fact delivered by tribunals of appeal.

It remains to be seen how many people will bother to turn up to march for such an obviously lost cause, but as Verity is extremely attractive it is not unlikely that a fair number of young men will be in attendance for reasons totally unrelated to the pursuit of justice.

If Verity and others of her persuasion are intent on rectifying a real and palpable miscarriage of justice they will find one closer to home in the persona of Michael John Stone. Though unfortunately for him, for justice, and for the world, career criminal Stone and others who have been shafted by the criminal justice system on both sides of the Atlantic generally don’t have either the magnetic personality of that other perennial lost cause, Mumia Abu-Jamal, or the cuddly granny image of Linda Carty, which one suspects is what really attracts the well-meaning and the gullible to campaign on their behalf.

[The above op-ed article was published originally June 13, 2011].

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