On 16 May 2001, in the early hours of the morning, three men broke into the apartment of 25-year-old Joana Rodriguez, her husband, and their 3-day old son in Houston, Texas. The men tied up her husband and her husband’s cousin, who also lived with the couple and beat them before robbing the apartment and searching for drugs. Joana Rodriguez was forced out of her home and thrown into the trunk of a car. Bound with tape around her wrists and ankles, the woman was defenseless. Her new-born son was also kidnapped and placed in the back of the car.
The following morning police received information on two vehicles which may have been involved in the abduction. Locating them outside a house in Houston, the new-born baby was found alive in a car seat in the back of one vehicle which was filled with baby items including blankets, bottles, and comforters. In the trunk of the second vehicle police found the body of the baby’s mother Joana Rodriguez; still bound she had a plastic bag over her head. A case of kidnapping had now turned into a murder.
On the 17 May 2001, while police were processing the crime scene at the home of the Rodriguez family, a neighbor came forward and told them of a strange encounter she’d had with Linda Carty, who lived in the same apartment complex, a few days earlier in the parking lot outside the Rodriguez’s home. She said Carty was in her car with a baby seat in the back and told her she was due to give birth the following day. It was a statement which surprised the neighbor as Carty did not look pregnant or nearing her due date. Police immediately became suspicious of Linda Carty and questioned whether she was involved in the attack, kidnapping, and murder.
Asking her to the police station under the guise of responding to a complaint she had made in the weeks previously, Carty arrived at the station and told police she was an informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and asked to speak to her handler, Charlie Mathis. She told him she had lent her car to people she thought might have been involved in the Rodriguez kidnapping. It was her information that led police to the two vehicles and the address where the new-born baby was found alive and Joana Rodriguez was found murdered.
Linda Carty was 43-years-old and a neighbor of Joana Rodriguez. She had lived in Houston for 20 years before she was arrested and convicted for murder. A national citizen of the Caribbean island of St. Kitts when it was still under British rule, she holds a British nationality.
While Linda Carty was living on St. Kitts she was a teacher, aiming to provide children with better opportunities in life. She moved to the US in 1982 where she studied pharmacology at the University of Houston. It was during this time she did get in trouble with the police, finding herself charged with auto theft and impersonating a FBI officer in 1992. She was offered a deal where in exchange for a 10 year probation period for her crimes, she would become an informant for the DEA. Her role was to get close to drug dealers and pass on information about their operations to her handlers. Although she did provide information which reportedly led to two arrests, her supervisors said she was ‘uncontrollable’ and when she herself was arrested on drug charges the agreement ended.
By 2002, one year after Joana Rodriguez was killed, Linda Carty had been arrested and charged with kidnapping and murder. A trace of Carty’s phone records led police to Gerald Anderson through the communications that took place between the pair in the early hours of 16 May 2001 at the time the attack took place.
The three men involved had been identified as Christopher Robinson, Carliss Williams, and Gerald Anderson, all of whom had made statements against Carty, claiming they entered the home but she was the one who planned the attack and the kidnapping of the new-born baby. According to the prosecution, while Carty may not have carried out the acts herself she was the mastermind behind the plot. Under Texas law, an individual can be convicted under the ‘law of parties’ which means if an individual solicits, encourages or directs another to commit the offence, they too can be convicted of the same crime.
Court documents reveal that during the guilt/innocence phase of her trial in February 2002, Carty’s relationship with Jose Corona was raised. He was a man she was living with until early May 2001 and had, according to him, repeatedly faked pregnancies in an attempt to keep the relationship. When Corona left her in the weeks before the Rodriquez murder, she again told him she was pregnant with his child claiming she was due to give birth in the middle of May. This was not true.
The three men who were involved in the kidnapping testified against Carty, telling the court their version of events and that Linda Carty had planned the kidnapping because she wanted the baby to claim as her own. They said she began talking to them about abducting the baby three days before they broke into the Rodriquez apartment. Robinson, Williams, and Anderson all received long prison sentences for their roles in the kidnapping of Joana Rodriquez and her son after testifying against Carty. Linda Carty was sentenced to death.
“As a mother myself I feel so sorry for the lady who lost her life. Now someone is trying to take my life for someone else’s crime.”
Linda Carty is now 59-years-old and has been on death row for 16 years. She has a grown-up daughter and two grandchildren and is the only British woman in a United States prison awaiting execution. There is, however, a fierce controversy over her conviction and her guilt. The debate centers on her trial and the representation provided by her two court-appointed lawyers and the behaviour and actions of the prosecutors against her. There is no forensic evidence linking Linda Carty to the crime and her conviction is based primarily on the testimony of her co-accused.
In June 2016, the Houston Chronicle reported that a post-conviction hearing was told by four witnesses that “they were coerced and threatened” by two Harris County veteran prosecutors to testify against Carty at her trial. The two prosecutors, Connie Spence and Craig Goodhart, have been accused of withholding witness statements from Carty’s defense team and destroying vital evidence in her case including case notes and emails. Charlie Mathis, Carty’s handler at the DEA, testified at the hearing that he did not want to testify against Carty as he could not believe she was involved in the plot, but he was threatened to lie on the stand by Connie Spence.
Both prosecutors have denied all allegations against them. Carty’s lawyers say, “both prosecutors repeatedly violated the so-called Brady rule by failing to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence” and have called for a retrial for Carty as a result.
Christopher Robinson, one of the men who broke into Rodriquez apartment on the night of the murder, provided numerous damning statements against Carty which were presented at her trial as evidence of her guilt. He has now claimed in an affidavit that he too was threatened by the prosecutors into lying under oath and saying he watched Linda Carty put a plastic bag over Joana Rodriquez’s head.
Despite these new statements, Linda Carty’s most recent appeal against her conviction has this month been rejected by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The appeals court did not accept that prosecutors at her 2002 trial hid evidence from the defense or coerced witnesses. This defeat means that Linda Carty will now most likely be put to death by lethal injection.
Chief Executive of human rights defenders organisation Reprieve has said: “If Linda is not granted a new hearing, she faces the death penalty based on lies extracted by prosecutors desperate to secure an execution at any cost.” If her execution goes ahead, Linda Carty will be the first British national to be executed since Ruth Ellis was hanged in 1955.