Linda Carty – one of eight women sitting on death row in Texas – may be looking at a second chance at freedom if a retrial is granted in her recently appealed case. Carty’s attorney is appealing on the basis of alleged prosecutorial misconduct by the two lead prosecutors in her case.
As I’ve previously written, in a profession where your success is determined by the number of prosecutions you have under your belt and how strict a sentence you can negotiate, Brady violations have become an epidemic.
A Brady violation is the suppression of evidence by the prosecution that would be favorable to the accused.
Carty, who holds both United States and United Kingdom citizenships, was convicted and sentenced to death 14 years ago in February of 2002 for the abduction and murder of her 25-year-old neighbor – Joana Rodriguez. The prosecution alleged that Carty hired three men to break into Rodriguez’s apartment, steal $1,000, and kidnap her and her child at gunpoint. The purpose? To steal Rodriguez’s 3-year-old son.
Carty has appealed numerous times, but until now it was never granted. The Court of Criminal Appeals finally granted her most recent request after her lawyer, Michael Goldberg of Baker Botts, claimed prosecutors coerced witnesses to give false testimony along with evidence of numerous other miscarriages of justice.
During the hearing, Goldberg cross-examined the lead prosecutor in the case, Connie Spence who allegedly threatened witnesses and coerced testimony. Both Spence and fellow lead prosecutor Craig Goodhart, who is also accused, are currently supervisors in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
Charles Mathis, a former DEA agent who recruited Carty as a confidential informant, because she was a trained pharmacist, submitted an affidavit detailing Spence’s actions during the trial.
When Mathis refused the prosecutor’s request to testify against Carty, Spence allegedly threatened to fabricate a story about the DEA agent having a sexual relationship with the defendant.
“Spence provided me with no option to testify against Linda: Spence threatened me with an invented affair that I was supposed to have had with Linda… When I told Spence that I did not want to testify, I remember very clearly what Spence said in response. She said to me ‘you don’t want me to cross examine you about any inappropriate relationship with Linda Carty do you?’”
In his affidavit Mathis continued, “It struck me that Spence wanted a death sentence as a feather in her cap. She was far more interested in a death conviction than the truth.”
One of the three men allegedly hired by Carty to commit the crime was Christopher Robinson. Robinson signed sworn testimony claiming he did not see Carty kill anyone. In an affidavit he wrote, “[They] told me I had to testify at Linda’s trial, and they made it clear what it was I had to say.”
Goldberg also presented to the judge allegations that prosecutors Spence and Goodhart had fabricated evidence, destroyed case notes and emails favorable to the defendant, and withheld recorded witness statements.
Goldberg is arguing that this evidence proves that the two prosecutors knowingly and repeatedly committed Brady violations.
Following the hearing Goldberg said, “now that we’ve concluded the hearing, the evidence that we were able to present shows even more conclusively that Linda’s rights in the first trial were abused and that a new trial is required.”
These allegations should also raise the question: Is it proper for the Harris County DA to continue to employ supervisors who are under investigation for misconduct so egregious that it has the potential to end someone’s life?
Closing arguments in the case will be heard on August 20th, and the decision from the appeals court appointed judge, David E. Garner, is expected to come within the first ten days of September. If he rules in favor of Carty, the recommendation will then go to the full Court of Criminal Appeals.