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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.

The TVWEEK: Sunday 4th - Friday 9th December 2011

9.00pm Mark Zuckerbeg: Inside Facebook BBC2 - Documentary that tells the story of Facebook's creation, looks at the accuracy of The Social Network movie, and examines Facebook's plans to use the personal information it has collected to power a new kind of online advertising.
9.00pm A Night with Beyonce ITV - The singer performs hits new and old and answers questions from fans and a celebrity audience.
9.00pm Black Mirror Channel 4 - Charlie Brooker returns to Channel 4 with three stand-alone dramas that are sharp, suspenseful, satirical tales with a techno-paranoia bent. Charlie authors the first two, while the third is written by Jesse Armstrong. Over the last ten years, technology has transformed almost every aspect of our lives before we've had time to stop and question it. In every home; on every desk; in every palm - a plasma screen; a monitor; a smartphone - a black mirror of our 21st-century existence. Our grip on reality is shifting. We worship at the altars of Google and Apple. Facebook algorithms know us more intimately than our own parents. We have access to all the information in the world, but no brain space left to absorb anything longer than a 140-character tweet.
9.00pm RBS: Inside the Bank That Ran out of Money BBC2 -  Documentary about the Royal Bank of Scotland which nearly collapsed at the end of 2008.
9.00pm Exposed: Groomed for Sex BBC3 - Adil Ray investigates the controversial subject of on-street grooming of young girls for sex by Pakistani men in the UK. He speaks to members of his own community, the police and victims of abuse.
9.00pm I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here: Coming Out! ITV - Episode catching up with what happened to each celebrity when they were voted out of the jungle.
8..30pm Dispatches: Landlords from Hell Channel 4 - As part of The Great British Property Scandal season, as the numbers of the homeless rise, Dispatches goes undercover to find out what really happens when you're without a roof over your ahead and desperate. Local councils are supposed to look after you, but now the housing minister wants them to sort the problem by working with private landlords. But how suitable are the landlords they send you to? And what checks do councils make on the rooms they rent? Jon Snow, with a team of undercover reporters, returns to investigate the reality of life for people at the mercy of private landlords, and finds families with young children sent by local authorities to live in filthy, bed bug-infested properties, while their rogue landlords make a fortune out of public money.
9.00pm The Great British Property Scandal Channel 4 - George Clarke is shocked by this senseless waste of housing stock. He wants to discover just how much public money is being spent to secure these empty homes. He aims to prove that refurbishing is a quicker and a more efficient way of getting people a roof over their heads than building anew. He's also setting himself the challenge of getting some families who have never had a permanent home housed by the festive season Concludes tomorrow at 9pm.
10.00pm Sitcom does Comedy with Ricky Tomlinson GOLD - The Royle Family star looks as how sitcoms portray Christmas including interviews with the cast of Vicar of Dibley and Ricky's on-screen son Ralf Little.
10.35pm The Fight of their Lives ITV - Documentary about the 1995 world title fight boxing match between Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan, which ended in such tragic circumstances that it has never been broadcast since.  
9.00pm My Child's Not Perfect ITV - Two-part programme looking at the problem of children with behavioural, emotional or clinical issues that can go undiagnosed and are often put down to bad behaviour. Cameras follow families from a variety of backgrounds as they try to understand their children's problems and test methods of dealing with their conditions. In the first programme, the show meets six-year-old Katherine, who is chatty at home but has not uttered a single word at school. It looks into selective mutism.
9.00pm The Newlyweds BBC3 - Two couples - Sam and Rachel from Wigan and Tony and Serena from Liverpool - have never met, but they do have one thing in common; they are both planning to tie the knot. But there's a problem. In the UK if you get married under 30, you are far more likely to end up divorced than any other age group. So if these couples want to ensure they go the distance, who better to turn to than someone in the same boat? Both couples agree to spend seven days in each other's lives, on a fact-finding mission to discover the potential pitfalls in each other's relationship. 
9.00pm Afterlife: The Science of Decay BBC4 - If you have ever wondered what would happen in your own home if you were taken away and everything inside was left to rot, the answer is revealed in this programme which explores the strange and surprising science of decay. For two months, a glass box containing a typical kitchen and garden was left to rot in full public view within Edinburgh Zoo 
9.00pm Phil's Empty Homes Giveaway Channel 4 - One off special, part of The Great British Property Scandal season, Phil Spencer will meet some of the people worst affected by the UK housing crisis, and helps them find a roof over their head for an opportunity to get their lives back 
8.00pm Kevin's Grand Design Channel 4 - For the first time ever Kevin McCloud embarks on building his own Grand Design. The first episode of the two-part series follows Kevin over five years as he sets out to prove that we can all have beautiful, affordable eco homes for the same price as low-cost social housing. Despite spending a decade watching other people build their own homes, Kevin has never built anything before. 
9.00pm Without You ITV - Three-part drama starring Anna Friel as a woman who is left devastated by the death of her husband (Marc Warren) in a Car Crash but feels compelled to find out the truth when she discovers he was killed with a mystery female passenger.
9.00pm Jerusalem: The Making of a Holy City BBC4 - Author and historian Simon Sebag Montefiore presents a three-part series illuminating the history of Jerusalem. 
9.00pm The Nation's Favourite Bee Gees Song ITV - Amanda Holden narrates a special programme celebrating the amazing catalogue of Bee Gees hits and counting down the top 20 to reveal the nation's favourite. The show reveals the stories behind the songs and features in-depth interviews with Barry and Robin Gibb as well as a version of Stayin' Alive which has been lost since 1977.

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