Death row grandmother in Trafalgar Square plea

Brian Capaloff uses his slot on the plinth in Trafalgar Square to campaign for clemency for Linda Carty.
A campaigner for a British grandmother on death row in Texas made a unique plea for her life Thursday — from atop a plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square.

Linda Carty, 51, recorded the message this week from the prison in Gatesville, where she is serving her sentence. A man stood on the plinth and played Carty’s message aloud while standing in front of her picture. “Linda Carty’s speech to Trafalgar Square shows that she is a terrified woman, and with good reason,” said Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, a charity that campaigns for prisoners’ human rights. “Texas plans to kill her by lethal injection, which is a painful and lonely death.” Only three of Trafalgar Square’s four plinths have statues on top. The fourth plinth never had a statue and has stood empty for years, with specially commissioned artworks occasionally being featured on top. This year, sculptor Antony Gormley came up with an idea to have people stand atop the plinth as a sort of living monument. Thousands applied for the chance to occupy the plinth for an hour each to do whatever they like — perform, demonstrate, speak, or simply be silent. The project runs 24 hours a day. It began in July and is set to end in October. Carty’s case caught the eye of Brian Capaloff, one of the winners of a slot on the plinth, and he decided to use his hour on Thursday morning to raise awareness about her, Reprieve said. “Thanks to Brian Capaloff, Linda has a chance to speak directly to the British people, and they will be shocked by what she has to say about the injustice in her case,” Smith said. Carty was convicted of taking part in a May 2001 murder of Joana Rodriguez, a 25-year-old Texas woman, Reprieve said. Rodriguez and her 4-day-old son were abducted by men demanding drugs and cash; she later suffocated while her son survived. Prosecutors said Carty had hired the men to kidnap Rodriguez so she could steal her baby because she was unable to get pregnant, Reprieve said. Carty, who asserts her innocence, was sentenced to death in February 2002. But Reprieve said Carty’s court-appointed lawyer was incompetent and failed to take steps that could have at least spared her the death penalty. The lawyer failed to meet Carty until immediately before the trial, failed to spot flaws and inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case, failed to interview witnesses and did not look at key mitigating evidence, Reprieve said. “After her conviction, investigators from Reprieve visited St. Kitts (the former British colony where Carty is from) and learned that Linda was still remembered as a passionate teacher who frequently held extra classes for children with special needs. She also taught at Sunday school, sang in a national youth choir and led a volunteer social-work group,” Reprieve said. “This information would have enabled (her lawyer) to present her to the jurors as a dedicated teacher and community leader — factors that might well have induced them to vote to spare her life.” Carty worked as a confidential informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency during the 1980s, befriending suspected traffickers to get information and sometimes to make test purchases of drugs, Reprieve said. Carty believes that she was framed because of her work with the agency, Reprieve said. Lawyers for Carty have lodged an appeal in federal court in New Orleans, Louisiana, Reprieve said. If the court rejects her appeal, an execution date will be set, the charity said.