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Archive for July 4th, 2010

I don’t know if Linda Carty did or did not commit the offence for which she will be executed in Texas shortly – but it does seem to be clear:

(a) That Texas has broken the agreement relating to British citizens by failing to inform the British government when legal action is taken against British citizens

(b) That Linda Carty is a British citizen by virtue of her birth in St Kitts

(c) The original trial was flawed in several ways – her conviction resting on testimony of co-conspirators who testified against her to avoid execution themselves

(d) That Jerry Guerinot, the defence lawyer, has landed 20 clients on death row, more than any defender in America (The Times) and that he only met Carty for 15 minutes before the trial.  It appears, astonishingly, that he failed to cross-examine prosecution witnesses.

(e) The New York Times concluded “A good way to end up on death row is to be accused of a capital crime and have Jerry Guerinot represent you [See also: Attorney Jerry Guerinot, Undertaker For The State Of Texas]

Britain has filed several briefs detailing flaws in the conviction.  These have produced no result.
Reprieve: A visit with Linda Carty – British grandmother on death row in Texas

The Times notes that an appeal for clemency would be highly improbable.  Texas has a taste for executing criminals.

We’re No. 1! (In Executions)

Report

The Observer reported in 2007: “In Texas, it is the jury, rather than the judge, which decides when to confer the ultimate penalty. Guerinot has acted for 39 capital murder defendants, of whom three had their charges dropped by the prosecution and six pleaded guilty in return for life imprisonment. In a further five trials, the prosecution did not ask for the death penalty when it came to sentencing. Guerinot has managed to persuade a jury to give his client life instead of death just five times since 1983. Not one of his capital clients has been found not guilty. Thirty-eight states in the US have the death penalty: former Guerinot clients have either been executed or are on death row in 15 states besides Texas.”

The Times noted that there is one possible hope.  “One legal precedent does offer hope.  In 2008, Mexico succeded in persuading the International Court of Justice to strike down as death sentence imposed on a Mexican citizen in texas.  As in the Carty case, the Texan authorities had breached international law by failing to notify the defendant’s home government about the trial.  The US Supreme Court rejected that ruling.

I make a few points: I am against the death penalty.  Many people – but far from a clear majority in Britain –  are.  They say that if there was a referendum on the death penalty in Britain – it would be brought back. Hopefully this is not correct and there will be no such referendum.

I don’t practise law. I was an academic.  I am now a blogger who does various things, including a bit of law commentary.  I know a great many lawyers who do and I have had the pleasure of talking with some fairly well known defense lawyers who blog.  I have also had the pleasure of talking with a US Public defender from Connecticut – who is an ardent opponent of the death penalty in the States.  The problem is that, as I suspect is the case in Britain, the quality of legal representation is both excellent and bad in the United States.  This is a common problem with many sectors – unfortunate thought it may be.   It would seem, from remarks in a leading US newspaper (above), that Linda Carty drew a short straw and ended up with one of the bad ones. Unfortunately – this is not a matter of a poorly executed conveyance, if you forgive the deliberate metaphor – this is a matter where a woman will be put to death by the State of Texas. If the trial and legal representation was flawed – it should not be a matter of our prime minister appealing for clemency – the entire trial should be be set aside (assuming there is provision for appeals of this nature – and if there isn’t, perhaps there should be)

If the trial was fair, the legal representation to the standards expected of lawyers in the United States, then it becomes a matter of investigating the breach of the agreement between Britain and the United States as to why our government was not informed. If that has been breached – is the trial even valid in law?  I don’t know the answer to that one.  Assuming that argument to be a non-runner (in which case why bother having agreements between the United States and Britain on such matters)  it becomes a matter for the United States to consider the value they place on our relationship with them should Cameron make an appeal.

The fact that the United States has a death penalty in some states is a matter for the United States. This does not stop those opposed in  their country and elsewhere lobbying or commenting negatively. Should British prime ministers be making clemency appeals?  I’m not so sure they should or should have to.  I hope David Cameron will on grounds that Linda Carty is a British citizen, albeit indirectly,  and on humane grounds. Others will disagree and say that he should not – let justice take its course. I think the United States should remember, however flawed or effective our relationship is, however effective our contribution to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has been in American eyes, that we have stood shoulder to shoulder with them.  British soldiers (from all services) have fought alongside American troops and many have died – still more have been injured. In the light of this, let alone our common history –  I do not think it unreasonable to ask the United States of America to ask the State of Texas – (a)  Did you breach the agreement between the United States and Britain relating to informing the British government? and if so what can be done about that?  (b) Can  you be absolutely sure that Linda Carty got a fair trial given the objective assessment of the procedures and the behaviour of the trial lawyer?  and then (c) if the answer to (a) and (b) is No and Yes – (c) ask if they could exercise clemency?

I suspect that Linda Carty will be put to death.  I very much hope not – for the sake of humanity, let alone the rule of law.

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