Saturday, February 28, 2015

Perilously Close

Linda Carty is on death row in Texas, convicted of the abduction and murder of her neighbor, Joana Rodriguez.  Lise Olsen in the Houston Chronicle:
Her conviction rested on the prosecution's theory that Carty, a former school teacher from the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, directed three men with criminal histories to storm the victims' apartment, steal $1,000 and carry out the mother and child's abduction at gunpoint.
The idea was that Carty was so desperate for a child that she was going to steal Rodriguez's newborn.

Her lawyer spent all of two weeks preparing for the trial.  The prosecutors, on the other hand, are alleged to have pulled out all the stops.  In particular,
In affidavits separately supplied to Carty's current defense team in 2014, the agent and two of Carty's co-defendants allege that Harris County prosecutors crossed ethical boundaries and threatened them to ensure Carty's conviction.
Retired DEA Special Agent Charles Mathis, in his affidavit, specifically accused Connie Spence, the lead prosecutor on the case, with threatening to cross-examine him in open court about "an invented affair that I was supposed to have had with Linda." Mathis insists that allegation was false, but worried that it could have clouded his law enforcement career if Spence had carried out her threat in a capital murder trial that generated considerable publicity.
(You can read Mathis' affidavit here.)

OK, the case has been up and down through the courts.  She says she's innocent.  She's always said that.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  In any case, the affidavits sure suggest that she was convicted based on coerced and contrived testimony.  Based on lies.

Which was too much even for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.  Here's the entire text of the court's per curiam opinion granting her a hearing on her allegations.
This is a subsequent application for writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to the provisions of Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 11.071, § 5.
In February 2002, Applicant was convicted of the offense of capital murder. The jury answered the special issues submitted pursuant to Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 37.071, and the trial court, accordingly, set punishment at death. This Court affirmed Applicant's conviction and sentence on direct appeal. Carty v. State, No. AP-74,295 (Tex. Crim. App. April 7, 2004). This Court denied relief on Applicant's initial post-conviction application for writ of habeas corpus. Ex parte Carty, No. WR-61,055-01 (Tex. Crim. App. March 2, 2005). Applicant's instant post-conviction application for writ of habeas corpus was filed in the trial court on September 10, 2014.
Applicant presents six allegations. We have reviewed the application and find that Allegations A, B, and C satisfy the requirements of Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 11.071, § 5(a). Accordingly, we find that the requirements for consideration of a subsequent application have been met and the cause is remanded to the trial court for consideration of Allegations A, B, and C.
And if that was all there was, I wouldn't be writing about it.  Because it's damn good and clearly right that she get the hearing, and frankly it's rare.  But really, who knows what will come of it?  As I said, maybe she's factually innocent.  Maybe not.  Maybe the affidavit claims are true (OK probably they're true, but what do I know?), maybe not.

Except the court wasn't unanimous.  For whatever reason, Judge Newell didn't participate.  Sharon Keller did.  And, not surprisingly to those of us who've followed her, she's not buying it.

Oh, sure, maybe some jurors wouldn't have voted to convict if they knew all this stuff.  And maybe Carty didn't do it.  But hey, maybe she did.  And some rational juror might have voted to convict and kill.  Besides, she should have said all this before.

We can't just offer people another chance because they might be fucking innocent.  

Or so Sharon Keller said.  As she has before.

It was Harry Blackmun who said, in dissent from the denial of cert in Herrera v Collins,
The execution of a person who can show that he is innocent comes perilously close to simple murder.
Of course, Judge Keller would deny Linda Carty the opportunity to make that showing.  But really, that shouldn't change the calculus.


  1. Newell probably didn't participate because he is brand new to the Court from Harris County, where he worked in Writs. He's probably conflicted out. That's just a guess, though.