Linda Carty has been on death row in Texas for more than 10 years, convicted of plotting the murder of her neighbor, Joana Rodriguez in order to steal Rodriguez’s newborn baby in 2001.  All of Carty’s appeals have failed and despite international protests over the fact that her court-appointed attorneys spent only 2 weeks preparing for her capital trial, her conviction stands.  Resting on the prosecution’s theory that Carty, a former school teacher directed 3 men to storm the victim’s apartment, steal $1,000, and carry out the abduction at gunpoint.  She has gained new momentum for a new appeal from unlikely sources:  the DEA agent for whom she was once a confidential informant and a star prosecution witness who has recanted their testimony.

In affidavits, independently supplied to Carty’s current appellate attorneys last year, the agent and two of Carty’s co-defendants allege that Harris County prosecutors were unethical during the case and threatened them to ensure that Carty would be convicted.

Retired DEA Special Agent Charles Mathis specifically accuses Connie Spence, the lead prosecutor, with threatening to cross-examine him in open court about “an invented affair that I was supposed to have had with Linda [Carty].”  Mathis insists that the allegations are false, but worried that it would have ruined his law enforcement career.  The Carty trial brought widespread publicity at the time.  The co-defendants also accuse Spence and another prosecutor of threatening them with death sentences if they didn’t retell the stories that Spence and the others supplied them to “nail” Carty.

The allegations are being presented as new evidence of prosecutorial misconduct in the case.  Carty is currently trying to win a new hearing.  Her petition is before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and was filed by her 10-year pro bono lawyer, Michael Goldberg.  Carty’s case has generated numerous TV specials, a documentary, front-page news stories, and even appeals from celebrities.  In an amicus brief, the British government urged the court to hold a hearing so that a judge can consider Carty’s death sentence in light of the allegations the prosecution coerced three key witnesses.  Carty was the last death penalty trial for Gerald Guerinot, her defense attorney.  Guerinot lost 20 death penalty cases, sending all of his clients to death row.  The American Bar Association calls his career a “possible record” of poor performance.

The Harris County DA’s office has so far filed no response.  Assistant District Attorney Roe Wilson, who handles capital appeals for the office, said she is waiting for the court’s decision before conducting any investigation.

“If the Court of Criminal appeals returns the writ to the trial court, the State will thoroughly investigate and respond to all claims,” Wilson said.

Carty was a popular teacher in her native St. Kitts in the Caribbean.  She moved to Texas to study at the University of Houston.  She met and dated a man who turned out to be a drug dealer and that is when she became an informant for the DEA.  She passed all background checks and over the years got paid for providing valuable tips to solve crimes. Carty, who is now a grandmother, suffered a series of miscarriages by 2001.  The prosecution used this fact in their arguments before the jury.  They said that she became obsessed with getting a baby for her and her common-law husband. Carty was not present during the crime, but prosecutors alleged that she planned it.

Three masked men abducted Rodgriguez and her son.  They all had criminal records, unlike Carty.  One of the men was previously convicted of a drive-by shooting, which resulted in a death.  Rodriguez was later found dead in the trunk of a car.  She’d been tied up and left there to suffocate.  Her 3-day-old son was found nearby. In the end, Carty was the only defendant prosecuted for capital murder and received a death sentence in 2002.

Jurors were convinced partially by the testimony of her “co-conspirator” Chris Robinson.  Robinson has now recanted his testimony.  He says that he was threatened by prosecutors to say that he saw Carty put a trash bag over Rodriguez’s head when Rodriguez was in the trunk.

“In fact, I did not see Linda Carty putting the trash bag over…Rodriguez’s head,” he said.

The story was fabricated by the prosecution, who coached him before trial.

When we were rehearsing I would say the story back to them they would stop me and add something in or take it out then make me keep going. They would stop me by saying ‘Wait, wait, this is what happened,’ ” he said in his affidavit. Several months after the trial, records show, capital murder charges were dropped against Robinson, though he was prosecuted for kidnapping and received a 45-year sentence. Another “co-conspirator” Gerald Anderson said in his affidavit that he was also supplied with stories.  He was supposed to testify that he was present when Carty “was making the plan to take the lady and the baby…”

“This just wasn’t true.”

Ultimately, he was never called.

Mathis, who served as a DEA agent for 30 years said Carty asked police to call him when she was questioned about her neighbor’s disappearance.  He said he realized that she became a target of the investigation early on.  Carty thought that she was helping the police rescue Rodriguez and her child.  The three men had borrowed Carty’s car that night.  Mathis argues in his affidavit that prosecutors fabricated the case to implicate Carty and that she was incapable of committing or plotting a murder.

Carty’s arrest came in the final years of Mathis’ career.  In November of 1972, Mathis had been handpicked to be a part of the first class of DEA agents.  For most of his career, he worked in the Houston office on drug trafficking cases, busting rings, from the small-time Caribbean dealers to the Colombian kingpins.  Mathis said he was shocked and had never seen anything like what the HPD did to Linda Carty.  They aggressively questioned her, never reading her her Miranda rights.  Mathis said he listened as Carty supplied an address to the police of where she thought the men might have taken her car.

Mathis said officers did not immediately check the address.

“I urged HPD to go to the location and see if they could recover the mother and the child. I understand now that it was not known at this time whether either … were alive,” he said.

Instead, he witnessed police continue to question Carty pushing her to confess.  They were fixated.  They moved her to a smaller room and shouted at her, screaming only inches from her face.

In the end, Linda Carty never confessed.

“I had been a DEA agent for a long time and seen some aggressive tactics, but I had never seen anything like this,” he said. “I knew what they were doing was not appropriate or within the rules and I did not want to be involved in something like this.”

To keep him quiet, Mathis alleges that Spence threatened him with an invented affair with Carty.

“I was shocked when (prosecutor Connie) Spence said this. I was (and still am) in a very happy marriage. Moreover, DEA agents should not have such relationships with their confidential informants. But beyond this I was and still am very proud of my reputation as a law enforcement officer with integrity and who did things right,” Mathis said. “I never had an inappropriate relationship with Linda Carty. Spence entirely invented the whole concept. … I felt Spence was threatening and blackmailing me into testifying.”

Carty’s appeals, up until this point, have all been primarily based upon the argument that her court-appointed defense attorneys failed their constitutional obligations. Guerinot and his co-counsel were appointed to replace Carty’s hired attorney only a month before trial and only spent 2 weeks preparing.  Guerinot did not get along with Carty and barely spoke to her.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Carty’s representation deficient in 2009, but they declined to grant Carty a new trial.  They found that the subpar defense “did not prejudice” Carty’s rights. Since Carty already has lost appeals at both the state and federal level, the top Texas criminal court must decide whether the new information is extraordinary enough to merit an unusual round of state court reviews.

“The UK believes that this new evidence brings to question serious concerns for the human rights, fair trials and access to justice by Ms. Carty which the Texas courts should have an opportunity to consider on its merits,” the UK’s brief says.

Carty is a British citizen.

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