Prosecutors ‘blackmailed’ witnesses to secure British woman’s death sentence – Reprieve

AFP Photo /  Fanny Carrier
Key witnesses against a British grandmother currently on death row in Texas have admitted that prosecutors threatened or blackmailed them to testify against her during the 2002 trial, human rights watchdog Reprieve has revealed.

Witnesses called to testify against Linda Carty, sentenced to death in February 2002 for the abduction and murder of 25-year-old Joana Rodriguez, in order to steal her newborn son, have said they were coerced into providing false information against the grandmother.

Carty claims she was framed by drug dealers in response to her work as an informant and has appealed her conviction. She would be the first British female to be executed since 1955, and the first British black woman to be executed in over a century.

Carty holds both US and British citizenship, having been born in the British colony of St Kitts before moving to the US in 1982.

Among the witnesses who revealed they had been blackmailed was the only person who claims to have seen the murder take place.

Christopher Robinson has since said the Texan District Attorneys (DAs) “threatened me and intimidated me” into identifying Carty as the culprit and admits he never saw Carty kill anyone.

Robinson signed an affidavit – a signature declaring the contents of a document to be true – filed in September 2014, in which he testified that prosecutors “told me I had to testify at Linda’s trial, and they made it clear what it was I had to say.”

He added that the prosecutors threatened him with an ultimatum.

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They [told] me I would get the death penalty myself if Linda Carty did not get the death penalty.”

Several other witnesses have also come forward and admitted to being “blackmailed” by prosecutors, which resulted in perjuring themselves in court or omitting evidence.

Charles Mathis, Carty’s ‘handler’ while she worked as an informer for the Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA), revealed the lengths to which the prosecutors went to obtain the testimony they needed, saying they viewed a death conviction as a service medal.

Mathis’ affidavit states that when he told the Texan DA he “knew that Linda did not have it in her to kill anyone,” and so did not want to testify against her, the DA “threatened me with an invented affair that I was supposed to have had with Linda.”

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“I felt that [Texas DA Connie] Spence was threatening and blackmailing me into testifying,” Mathis said. “It struck me that Spence wanted a death sentence as a feather in her cap. She was far more interested in a death conviction that the truth,” he added.

The new testimony, which was unearthed by Reprieve lawyers, is currently under consideration by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA).

Clare Algar, Executive Director of Reprieve said: “If Linda is not granted a new hearing, she faces the death penalty based on lies extracted by prosecutors desperate to secure an execution at any cost.”

“The behavior of prosecutors in this case has been so appalling it takes the breath away. They have stooped to targeting the marriage of one witness with invented slurs, while using the threat of death to force another to produce the lies they needed for conviction. Linda’s last hope is that Texas recognizes that she deserves a new – and this time fair – trial.”