UK government appeal for death row woman

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The Independent US

The government has intervened in the case of a British woman facing the death penalty in Texas, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

Linda Carty was sentenced to death in 2002 for her part in the abduction and murder of a 25-year-old woman after a trial campaigners say was "catastrophically flawed".

Last week, the UK government sent an amicus brief to the US Appeals court complaining of lack of notification of the woman's arrest and trial and "ineffective counsel".

A Foreign Office spokeswoman added that it will make representations against the use of the death penalty.

Carty, 50, was arrested and later convicted in connection to the kidnap and murder of Joana Rodriguez, who was seized alongside her four-day-old son by three men on 16 May 2001.

The baby was later found unharmed in a car, but Rodriguez was found dead, having suffocated after having duct-tape put over her mouth and a plastic bag placed around her head.

At the subsequent trial, prosecutors argued that the men were hired by Carty who, unable to get pregnant herself, intended to "cut the baby out" out of the woman and pass the child off as her own.

It was claimed that the accused had bought surgical scissors ahead of the abduction.

According to legal campaign group Reprieve, the prosecution's claim should have been objected to on the grounds that the baby had already been born and the inadequacy of the scissors purchased if they were to be used for such a procedure.

Campaigners have highlighted a number of other failings during the trial.

Carty believes she was framed for the crime by the three men who carried out the abduction due to her earlier work as an informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). But the DEA agent who recruited Carty was not interviewed over her claims.

Reprieve notes that the court-appointed defence lawyer has seen 20 of his clients ending up on death row - believed to be the highest of any defence lawyer in the US.

In addition the authorities failed to contact the British Embassy or inform Carty of her right to consular assistance at the time of arrest or trial.

She was born on the Caribbean island of St Kitts to parents from the British overseas territory of Anguilla. Carty holds a UK dependent territory passport and as such the British national's arrest should have been notified to the British Embassy under a bilateral treaty between the UK and US.

More than seven years after the death sentence was handed down, her case is now in the hands of the Federal Courts - the final stage in the appeal process.

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Washington said an Amicus Curiae (friend of the court) brief had been sent to the US County Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on May 4.

He said: "The brief focused on the issues of consular notification and ineffective counsel."

A Foreign Office spokeswoman added: "The British government is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances.

"We make representations against the use of the death penalty on a British national at whatever stage and level is judged appropriate.

"We remain in close contact with Ms Carty and her legal representation in the US and UK and continue to provide Ms Carty with consular assistance."

Responding to the move, Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve said: "It is admirable that the government has filed this brief on Linda's behalf.

"Linda's plight is very serious - Texas is dedicated to the death penalty, and she could face execution as early as next year. I suspect she needs the help of her government more than any other British citizen right now."

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