GATESVILLE, Texas – A 51-year-old British grandmother convicted of murdering a 20-year-old woman and kidnapping her newborn son will soon get a date with the executioner, after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected her last appeal on Monday by declining to review her case.
Linda Carty, who moved to the U.S. from St. Kitts in the British Virgin Islands, insists she played no role in the May 16, 2001, slaying of her neighbor, Joana Rodriguez, and abduction of Rodriguez's 4-day-old son, Ray. In court documents and an interview with The Associated Press, Carty said her court-appointed attorney failed to properly defend her during her murder trial, and contends she deserves a new day in court.
"It is scary," she told the AP recently from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Mountain View Unit near Gatesville. "You're talking about terminating my life for something I know for myself I didn't do. I'm supposed to be this bad criminal."
The high court did not comment on why it declined to formally review her case. Harris County prosecutors will need to seek an execution date from a judge, who then can set the date no sooner than 90 days from the time of that court hearing.
British reporters have been trickling in to central Texas in recent months to interview Carty, the only British woman slated for execution in the U.S. In September, a London-based human rights organization, Reprieve, elevated her profile by displaying a life-size cutout of Carty and playing an audio tape of her plea for help from a stereo system mounted on an empty plinth in London's Trafalgar Square.
Carty said she hopes the recent attention hasn't come too late to spare her from becoming the fourth woman executed since 1998 in the nation's busiest capital punishment state.
Prosecutors say Carty was desperate to have another child after a miscarriage and planned to steal Rodriguez's baby by cutting it from her womb because she didn't want her common-law husband, Jose Corona, to leave her. Witnesses testified at her trial that Carty had rented a motel room and bought surgical scissors, scrubs and baby care items.
Carty duped three male associates into helping her by telling them there were drugs and cash in Rodriguez's home, prosecutors said.
"She was going to cut this baby out," Harris County prosecutor Roe Wilson said. "But when they (Carty and her accomplices) arrived, the baby had already been born."
The men stole about $1,000, but there were no drugs in the home. Carty waited outside during the invasion and called one of the men, according to phone records presented at the trial. She then joined up with them and took the baby, while they took Rodriguez, prosecutors contend.
The baby was found unharmed in a car later that day, but Rodriguez's body was found in the trunk of another car with her mouth and nose taped shut and a plastic bag over her head.
At her trial, Corona testified that Carty told him several times that she was pregnant, but that he didn't believe her and decided to leave her. Evidence showed she called him while in police custody, still claiming to be pregnant.
And a neighbor told detectives she saw Carty, obviously not pregnant, the day before the killing talking about how she was having a baby the next day.
Carty said the state "fabricated a bizarre story in order to get a conviction."
"It's ludicrous," she told the AP.
She said she had already raised a daughter and had two grandchildren, and that she wasn't desperate for another child, as prosecutors contended.
Carty said two of the three men convicted of lesser charges in the abduction-slaying were people she didn't know and the third was involved in one of her informant cases. Chris Robinson, 41, is serving 45 years; Gerald Jerome Anderson, 37, has a life prison term; and Carliss Ray Williams Jr., 31, is serving 20 years.
Carty had been seeking a new trial, claiming her trial attorneys, led by Houston lawyer Jerry Guerinot, did little to defend her. She also claimed the slaying was connected to her role as a federal drug informant, which stopped after she led police on a chase that ended with the discovery of 50 pounds of marijuana and two guns in her car.
According to a petition filed for Carty by appellate attorneys obtained through the British government, Guerinot didn't meet with her until two weeks before her trial, ignored the fact that Carty had been raped and forced to give up a child and never sought legal help from the British consulate. It also said Corona was never informed he could invoke spousal privilege and not offer damning testimony against her.
Britain also filed a companion brief supporting Carty's Supreme Court appeal, slamming her trial defense and saying its consulate officials were not informed properly under terms of international treaties when she was arrested.
Guerinot didn't respond to messages from The Associated Press seeking comment. In a 2004 affidavit related to the case, he said he never told Corona that as Carty's husband he didn't have to testify and never sought him out as a defense witness at punishment.
Carty said she'd been in Houston about 20 years at the time of the slaying. She said if freed, she'd want to go to Washington to "meet the president" and tell him that the death penalty is a "political machine that's seriously flawed."
"And I don't want to have to wait for three years after the state of Texas has killed me for them to say: 'Oops, we have murdered an innocent lady,'" she said.
Eds: CORRECTS that witnesses said Carty, not Rodriguez, was accused of renting a motel room before the slaying and duping three associates to invading Rodriguez's apartment. LINKS photos.