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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The British Woman on Death Row: Is the whole world watching this time?

Texas' Death Chamber, where Linda's headed unless she can secure a retrial or a repeal
Image Credit: Channel 4 (screenshot)
The death penalty hasn't strayed far from our computer and television screens ever since the execution of Troy Davies in September (Twitter was awash with the hashtag #thewholeworldiswatching, which now seems to refer to the 'Occupy' movement) and the calls from blogger Guido Fawkes to reinstate capital punishment in the UK in the summer. Channel 4's latest documentary brought us the story of Linda Carty, a British citizen (from the former Commonwealth island of St. Kitts) waiting for her time to be called on Texas' Death Row.

Steve Humphries, the film's director, brought us close to Linda Carty, who has been convicted for the murder of a woman in May 2001 whose 3-day-old son was also subject to kidnap. In a hour-long sob-story we're asked to consider the evidence and Humphries comes out on the side of Carty.

Humphries interviews Carty
Image Credit: Channel 4 (screenshot)
In scenes reminiscent of The Life of David Gale and Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, Humphries visited Carty on death row to talk to her about her life and the crime she insists she did not commit. With interviews from friends, family and an anti-death penalty lawyer, this documentary was very much on the side of the accused. But what are the facts? Unfortunately, this documentary ventured further into special pleading than dealing with what really happened.

We heard that much of the evidence against Carty hinged on circumstantial evidence and testimony from a gang who'd struck a deal with the prosecutor for reduced sentences in return for their evidence against her. However, nowhere during the documentary did Humphries ever present one ground of appeal or shred of evidence that Carty was innocent - his approach was simply to refute the prosecution's evidence.

Another interesting (and, arguably, telling) fact was that the Houston police had no qualms about giving Humphries full access to the crime scene evidence. Was this a full acceptance by the police that their case was water tight?

Humphries' final plea for clemency was the idea that if Carty did indeed commit the murder, then she needs help: a plea for criminal insanity. Unfortunately, that's not an avenue that Jerry Guerinot (nicknamed the state's undertaker for his infamy as a useless capital case lawyer) ever proceeded down. It's also something notoriously difficult to prove in court as several experts seem to disagree on what constitutes a good case for the 'Not Guilty: Reason Insanity' defence, something increasingly topical today with news about Anders Breivik's case breaking.

Whilst it's obvious that Carty has suffered from rape, abuse and had a good upbringing in a school that clearly impressed good moral values and the concepts of right and wrong on her young self, that alone is not evidence she's innocent.

Linda denies the crime she's been convicted of
Image Credit: Channel 4 (screenshot)
Call me heartless but this documentary was overly emotional and reliant on images of Carty's teary eyes, pleading with the viewer for sympathy. I actually feel Humphries has done Carty a disservice. It wasn't sympathy that Humphries should have gone for: it was outrage at the basic inhumanity of the death penalty and a call for a retrial due to the nature of Carty's incompetent defence lawyer.

  No documentary will ever be able to set out clearly and comprehensively the arguments of a case, but this one didn't even seem to try to.


Watch on 4OD
Sign the petition to save Linda from the death penalty 

Posted by Tannice for The Custard TV. Follow Tannice on Twitter.

Do you disagree with Tannice? Were you convinced of her innocence? What were your views? We'd like to find out in the comments below.

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