By Alexander Baron
We in the West, the United States and perhaps even more so Britain, have become so used to seeing appeal courts overturn unwarranted convictions and innocent people walk free after years or even decades behind bars that sometimes it is difficult not to feel cynical about any conviction. But it is a comforting fact that the majority of people convicted of serious crimes have been so convicted on compelling evidence, though it is anything but comforting to see campaigning individuals and organisations squandering precious resources championing not only hopeless causes but innately worthless ones.
Last year, the Reprieve organisation, a charity that among other things campaigns against the death penalty, came up with a novel idea to publicise the case of Linda Carty
. The sculptor Antony Gormley had suggested that the vacant fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square be used to bring art to the people in a big way; the result was that over a one hundred day period, two thousand four hundred members of the public would stand on the plinth one at a time for an hour during which they could promote their particular causes, or do whatever they wanted subject to health and safety regulations. Unfortunately, the union of two novel ideas was one sick publicity stunt; a cardboard cut-out of convicted murderess Linda Carty was hoisted onto the plinth and a tape was played of her pleading for her life.
While even the most notorious of killers is entitled to plead for mercy, Carty’s plea was coupled not simply with protestations of innocence but outright lies which have been endorsed uncritrically by both Reprieve and her other supporters on both sides of the Atlantic; lies which do not pass the slightest critical scrutiny.
Carty and her supporters claim both that she was framed by wicked drug dealers, and that she owes her plight to her lawyer, who has been derided as not simply the worst lawyer in America but the worst in the world. The basis for this claim is that he is said to have defended 39 people on capital charges, 20 of whom have ended up on death row. It could be that he is a bad lawyer, or it could simply be that as a public defender he is given the worst clients.
Carty was convicted of a senseless murder, bizarre and cruel in equal measure. After telling her common law husband, and others, that she was pregnant, she recruited a gang of miscreants to kidnap her neighbour, a young woman named Joana Rodriguez, who was coming to the end of her pregnancy. Carty’s original plan was to literally cut the baby out of the mother, which necessitates one murder and would probably have resulted in two. Reprieve call this the State’s “rather implausible theory”; unfortunately, implausible is about the only adjective that cannot be attached to this case; there have in fact been several similar well documented cases since.
The first gang Carty recruited backed out, but the second went ahead, raided the apartment where the victim lived with her common law husband and his cousin, overpowered and tied up the men, and kidnapped both Miss Rodriguez and her then four day old baby.
The four men Carty recruited – three of whom were apprehended – may have been ruthless criminals who had no or few qualms about using extreme violence against strangers and kidnapping a young mother, but unlike Carty they drew the line at murder, and were angry at being duped into committing a crime for which they had been promised a rich haul of cash and drugs. Their anger was exceeded only by Carty’s callousness, and while the victim was trussed up in the back of a car, she smothered her with a plastic bag.
Arrests followed promptly, including of Carty, and the evidence against her was damning. It included the testimony of her co-defendants, of men on the periphery of the crime, her own common law husband, a disinterested female witness, and forensics, including mobile phone records.
Carty’s conviction was reviewed in great detail by two tribunals of appeal, and all her points of contention were dismissed. These findings of fact also refute if not ridicule most of the claims Carty, her supporters and apologists have made about her history and her crime.
The reason the people at Reprieve have championed her case so loudly in Britain is because Carty is technically a British citizen, but she left St Kitts before it was granted independence, in 1983, and was living in Texas as a de facto
American citizen. The British authorities should have been advised when she was arrested, they claim, although Carty herself does not have appear to have shown any interest in contacting them until after her trial, and in any case it is difficult to suggest what if any assistance Britain could have offered her in view of both the gravity of the charges she faced and the weight of the evidence against her.
Carty’s spiel to the media is that she was framed because of her undercover work for the DEA, in other words she was a snitch. She was enticed into this field she claims almost if not totally by accident; she was dating a Jamaican who – unknown to her – was a major drug dealer. The truth is somewhat different. Carty offered her services to the DEA after being arrested for auto theft and impersonating an FBI agent. Her undercover “work” led to three arrests, the last being her own when she tried to abscond with a package of drugs.
Carty attempted to bolster this fiction by recruiting a fellow inmate named Sarah Hernandez to write an anonymous letter to the effect that she had been so framed. Unsurprisingly, neither Reprieve nor any of Carty’s other supporters mention any of this, rather they simply continue to parrot her lies uncritically interspersed with slanders against both her lawyer and the State of Texas.
Reprieve’s latest stunt in the campaign to save St Linda is to create a mock up of her cell in Central London which people can visit. There is also an ongoing appeal for hard cash. At a time when literally millions of innocent people in Pakistan have been left destitute, facing disease, malnutrition and even death, many people will find it obscene to solicit funds on behalf of a rightly convicted murderess and in such a blatantly dishonest fashion.