Linda Carty, a death row inmate in Texas, has been granted a rare new hearing by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Carty, 56, has been on death row for nearly 14 years.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has agreed to assess claims that key witnesses in her trial lied on the witness stand because of prosecutorial pressure. Human rights charity Reprieve has been investigating Carty’s case and unearthed evidence that witnesses were threatened by the prosecutor into testifying that Carty was the mastermind in the murder of her neighbor. Carty was convicted of killing a young mother and plotting to steal her small child with three men.  She has always maintained her innocence.

Among the witnesses who are now recanting their testimony is Christopher Robinson, who claimed that he saw Linda Carty put a bag over Joanna Rodriguez’s head before closing the trunk.  Rodriguez later suffocated to death.  He now says that the prosecutors “threatened me and intimidated me”.  He says that he never saw Linda Carty kill anyone.

Michael Goldberg, a Baker Botts civil attorney who represents Carty pro bono, said he hopes that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office will provide its full cooperation to determine if witnesses were coached by prosecutors.

Along with that witness, a DEA agent says that he was threatened by prosecutors after he confronted them about their unethical interrogation of Carty.

Both assistant district attorneys involved in the Carty case still work for Harris County, one still tries death penalty cases.

“The entire…team is so happy that Linda is finally going to have her first real day in court,” said Goldberg, a civil attorney who learned of the victory while meeting with clients on another case.  Goldberg estimates that the firm has invested more than $1 million in volunteer work for Carty’s defense, “We are looking forward to working with the DA’s office to see if we can do an investigation together to get to the truth.”

Roe Wilson, an assistant district attorney who supervises capital appeals, said county officials already had begun to probe three different claims of prosecutorial misconduct, “We’ll just continue the investigation until we’ve gotten everything that we can possibly get.” After the prosecution files a response to the request by the court to investigate these claims, Judge Ryan Patrick will decide whether to hold a court hearing or rule on the written arguments.

British attorney Clive Stafford Smith, who has followed Carty’s appeals for years, said he hopes her case gets more scrutiny, “Britain has a very close relationship with Texas, and I think I can speak for everyone in the UK when I say that we are grateful to the Court of Criminal Appeals for doing the right thing here. The state witnesses now admit that they lied at trial, and surely we don’t execute people based on confessed perjury.”

Carty is one of about two dozen death row inmates who asked the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals for unusual authorization to pursue a second – or even third round – of state appeals in 2014. But she is one of only two such defendants to receive a favorable ruling.

The other capital case, Rob Will II’s case was based upon evidence that prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence that proved someone else murdered the sheriff’s deputy.  Last month, a Harris County judge denied the hearing and sent the case back to the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Both the Will and Carty prosecutions were overseen by former District Attorney Charles Rosenthal, who left office in 2008 in a scandal over racist, sexual, and political e-mails he wrote while on the job.


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