ByJane Lavender Assistant Editor
Linda Carty is the only British citizen awaiting execution on death row in America.
The 61-year-old was sentenced to death 19 years ago for the kidnap and murder of young mum, Joana Rodriguez, so she could steal the 25-year-old’s newborn son.
In the months leading up to the gruesome crime Carty, who was born in St Kitts and moved to Houston in Texas to work as a primary school teacher, told neighbours she would soon become a mum.
However, when police later interviewed them, the neighbours claimed to be surprised because Carty, who they say had bought a baby seat for her car, did not look pregnant.
Carty’s trial also heard that she had told her husband, from who she had recently separated, that she was expecting a baby.
The former teacher, who once sang for Prince Charles when she was a child, has always insisted she is innocent of the crimes.
She has lodged several appeals – all of them have failed – and now she fears the only option left to her is to what for execution by lethal injection.
Carty, now a grandmother, told the Telegraph: “I can truthfully say to you I did not commit this crime.”
Joana was a young mum who had given birth to her baby son, Ray, just two days before her harrowing death.
The mother and son were abducted from their apartment in Houston, Texas, on May 16, 2001.
Later that day the tiny boy was found, alive, in a car – but his mum’s body was discovered in the boot of a second car.
Joana’s legs and arms had been bound with duct tape, along with her mouth and nose and she had a plastic bag over her head.
The 25-year-old had suffocated to death.
Carty was arrested along with Gerald Anderson, Chris Robinson, and Carlos Williams and charged with the abduction and murder of Joana.
During her trial, Carty’s co-accused placed the blame firmly at her door, claiming she was the mastermind behind the whole twisted scheme.
While the three men received long prison sentences, Carty was the only one sentenced to death.
She claims she was framed for the kidnap and the murder because she was working as a drug informant for the US authorities.
Carty also claims she had never met the three men who were her co-accused, although phone records show there were almost a dozen calls between her and Anderson on the night of the crime.
Two of the men later said they had been coerced into testifying against Carty, who, at the time of her arrest was on probation for impersonating a federal agent and previously had been arrested for auto theft and drug charges.
Years after her conviction, Carty’s handler at the Drug Enforcement Agency, Charles Mathis, came forward to say he did not believe she was capable of committing the crime.
Her daughter Jovelle Carty, who lives in Houston and takes Carty’s grandchildren to see her when she can on death row, has also long campaigned for her mother’s release.
Carty’s case has also been supported by the British Foreign Office and lawyers for the UK government have submitted objections to her sentence.
They have expressed “serious concerns for Ms Carty’s human rights, fair trial, and access to justice”.
A UK official said: “We have been providing support to Ms Carty for a number of years, and will continue to do so.
“We have raised our interest in her case on multiple occasions with the US authorities, and remain in close contact with her family and legal team.
“We judge each request to file an amicus curiae brief on its individual merits and following careful legal scrutiny, as we have done on this case.”
Mick Jagger’s ex-wife, Bianca, has also taken up Carty’s case and in 2009 Brian Capaloff used his slot on the fourth plinth of London’s Trafalgar Square to highlight her case.
Human rights group Reprieve is also supporting Carty.
Despite launching several appeals, Carty remains on death row.
She said: “The sad thing is you don’t get an opportunity, once you’ve executed someone, to go back and dig them up from the grave and say ‘Oops, I made a mistake, let me just put you back together’. You’re done. You’re dead.”
Carty’s time on death row has been “horrid”. She describes her cell as covered in mould with water running down the walls.
And she says she also wants justice for the victim’s family.
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Carty explained: “She’s somebody’s child too and she’s somebody’s daughter. So for me it’s not only a healing process for me but to show the families that the person you have been hating all these years and that you thought because the state of Texas told you this is who did it, did not commit this crime.”
In 2018 the US Supreme Court declined to consider what may well be Carty’s final appeal.
If Carty is exceuted she would be the first Brit to be punished with the death penalty since Ruth Ellis in 1955.
She said: “I just think they should abolish the whole death penalty period. Is it a deterrent? No. It doesn’t serve the purpose for which they created it. The victims’ families will never have closure.
“Anyone can see there’s something wrong with the death penalty system. It’s not working, it’s not trustworthy. It is flawed.”