In late July, I flew to Texas to visit an impressive woman called Linda Carty. Linda is a 52-year-old grandmother who was born in St Kitts, but has lived most of her adult life in Texas.
When I first arrived in Houston, I went to meet Linda’s daughter, Jovelle, who is studying law. I met Jovelle’s two beautiful young boys, and I met Linda’s mother, Enid, a soft spoken women whose accent still bears a strong Caribbean lilt. The next day, I met the lawyer who is heading the team fighting to get Linda released from prison; I met Paul Lynch and his colleagues at the British consulate, who are using every diplomatic and legal channel and their disposal to get Linda’s case reheard, and I met a number of the volunteers, interns and staff at Grace, the Gulf Region Advocacy Centre, who fight to get cases like Linda’s overturned, or sentences like the one she faces—death—commuted.
Linda is on Death Row at the Mountain View Unit near Gatesville, Texas, for a crime which she is very unlikely to have committed, after a trial in which her legal defence was so inadequate that, even after a guilty verdict, she should never have been sentenced to death. Her lawyer spent less than 15 minutes with her before the trial, and failed to interview several of the key witnesses. I will be writing more about my visit with Linda and her life on Death Row in a forthcoming issue of Prospect. This month, however, central London is home to an exhibit which may bring home the reality of Linda’s situation—as well as those of countless others awaiting a state-sponsored death—better than I ever could.
“Death’s Waiting Room,” which stands in the grounds on St Martin in the Fields, next to Trafalgar Square, is a life-size replica of the cell in which Linda spends up to 23 hours per day. It contains the pictures she has taped to her walls, her bed, her toilet and washbasin. It also has a television which plays a film about Linda on a loop.
At the launch of the instillation last week, the singer Aruba Red sang the hymn “Amazing Grace,” one of Linda’s favourite songs. Linda sang it for…