Reprieve’s campaign for justice for Linda Carty: ‘death’s waiting room’

Exhibited by
Charlie Burnett, Reprieve volunteer.
Added
June 10, 2012
Medium of Communication
Event, online, press advertising
Target Audience
Awareness
Type of Charity
Criminal justice
Country of Origin
UK
Date of first appearance
August, 2010

SOFII’s view

On Thursday 12 August 2010 the UK human rights charity Reprieve announced the launch of ‘death’s waiting room’, a life-size death row cell that for three weeks will be in the courtyard of the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London. Linda Carty is a British woman living with the threat of imminent execution in a Texas jail. She was convicted of murder but did not get proper legal representation, so she’s been denied a fair trial. Reprieve created this macabre and powerfully moving exhibit to draw public and press attention – and outrage – to the injustice faced by Linda Carty.

Creator / originator

Katherine O'Shea (communications manager) and Laura Stebbing (resource development manager). Campaign organised by Matthew Leidecker at Reprieve.

Summary / objectives

Reprieve is a legal action charity that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.This extraordinary exhibition replicates the real death row cell of British grandmother Linda Carty, now facing imminent execution in Texas. It will run from 12 August to 5 September 2010, during daylight hours, in the courtyard of the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square in the heart of London.

A film of Linda Carty speaking about her imminent execution will play on a loop and visitors will be encouraged to spend 15 minutes in the cell to write and post a letter in the cell’s post box asking the authorities in Texas to spare Linda’s life.

Background

British grandmother and former primary school teacher Linda Carty was born on the Caribbean island and independent British Commonwealth realm of St Kitts. She was sentenced to die by lethal injection for allegedly ordering the murder of Joana Rodriguez in 2001.

The crime took place on 16 May 2001, when three men broke into the apartment of Rodriguez demanding drugs and cash. The perpetrators saved their own lives by testifying against Linda. Linda has always protested her innocence and believes that she was framed because of her work as a confidential informant for the US Drugs Enforcement Agency.

There were multiple serious failings in Linda’s trial. First, the USA failed to notify the British government of her arrest and trial as it was obliged to do under the Vienna Convention on the Right to Consular Assistance. As a result Linda was forced to rely on a court-appointed public defender, Jerry Guerinot. Alleged incompetence from Mr Guerinot has already landed 20 of his clients on death row, more than any other defence attorney in the US.

Reprieve believes that Mr Guerinot’s handling of Linda’s case was a scandal. He spent just 15 minutes with her before the trial and subsequently fabricated a story about how she had refused to see him until he bribed her with chocolate – Linda is fatally allergic to chocolate. Mr Guerinot also failed to spot obvious flaws and inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case. He failed to investigate important mitigating evidence and to interview key witnesses in St Kitts, despite obtaining court funds to do so.

The charity is sure that Linda would not be on death row today – and she would probably have been acquitted altogether – if she had had a decent lawyer.

Her final appeal has been over-ruled, so her execution could be carried out at any time.

Special characteristics

For this campaign Reprieve is making a replica of an actual condemned person’s cell. The exterior of the cell will be covered with a timeline of Linda’s life, an abbreviated description of her case and statistics about the death penalty in general. The interior of the cell is designed to replicate Linda’s real cell as closely as possible. It therefore contains family photos, cricket memorabilia (she is a huge fan of the West Indies cricket team and of Sir Viv Richards in particular) and books that Linda has been reading recently. It also contains a television that will be playing a looped film consisting of clips of Linda singing and speaking, interspersed with clips of lawyers and government officials talking about her case.

A representative of Reprieve will be at the site throughout each day of the campaign, from 9am until nightfall, when the courtyard is closed (between 8 and 9pm). He or she will be available to answer questions about Linda’s case, or about Reprieve’s work and the death penalty in general and will have information leaflets that people can take away with them, a sign-up sheet for Reprieve’s mailing list and template clemency appeal letters. Once visitors to the cell have signed the letters, they will be able to post them through the bars of the cell into a letterbox inside.

Reprieve acknowledges with gratitude the staff at St Martin-in-the-Fields for their generosity in hosting death’s waiting room. We hope that this initiative will open people’s eyes to the reality of the death penalty and to the injustice of Linda Carty’s case. 

Merits

Campaigning for justice and social change is a constant theme of effective fundraising and communication. In this case time is running out. The dramatic and powerful imagery of this campaign is a perfect way to get across the awfulness of this kind of miscarriage of justice. Hopefully its message will be heard, a tragedy can be prevented and similar injustices at least in civilised nations will become a thing of the past.

View original image
‘Maybe you think I don’t seem scared enough. Well I am scared - sometimes I’m so scared I can’t even speak.’ Speeches were made, singers sang, photographers and journalists crowded round the Reprieve death cell as the exhibit was launched. And a moving message was read out from grandmother Linda Carty, from the real death row cell in Texas.
Then and now. Linda Carty has spent nine years on death row.
View original image
More bad news.
Click the image to read the full Observer article.