Linda Carty has been on death row in Texas for over a decade. She is convicted of murdering her neighbor, Joana Rodriguez, as part of a plan to abduct Rodriguez’s infant baby.
New affidavits from key witnesses, made available by the Houston Chronicle, allege serious prosecutorial misconduct on the part of the state. Significantly, the eyewitness and co-defendant who originally claimed he saw Carty kill Rodriguez has admitted that Assistant District Attorneys Connie Spence and Craig Goodhart “threatened and intimidated me” into identifying Carty as the killer. Despite these sworn statements, The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is yet to investigate the claims.
In his affidavit, Christopher Robinson, the prosecution’s key witness, says prosecutors Spence and Goodhart “told me I had to testify at Linda’s trial to avoid the death penalty, and they made it clear what it was I had to say.”
Robinson admits they “[told] me I would get the death penalty myself if Linda Carty did not get the death penalty.”
Robinson goes on to describe how prosecutors Spence and Goodhart collected him from his cell eight or nine times and took him to a room with snacks and beverages. Often during these meetings, they tape recorded him or wrote notes on legal pads. Robinson discloses in his affidavit:
“Spence and Goodhart had a version of events in their minds and they were alternating between coaching me and threatening me to get me to say their version. My testimony had to satisfy what they wanted; and what they wanted was Linda to get the death penalty. They both edited out things they did not want me to say, and edited in things they did.”
The notes and audio recordings Robinson alludes to in his affidavit were never provided to Carty, according to her most recent filing in court. Nor were any of the numerous statements he alleges he gave to Assistant District Attorneys Spence and Goodhart.
According to the Houston Chronicle, some months after the trial, the capital charges against Christopher Robinson were dropped and he received a 45-year sentence for aggravated kidnapping.
Christopher Robinson isn’t the only witness alleging prosecutor misconduct – retired Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) officer Charles Mathis said in his own affidavit that he was threatened into testifying against Carty. Mathis acted as Carty’s contact during the time she worked as a confidential informant for the DEA.
In Mathis’ affidavit, he says “I told Spence I had known Linda for a long time and I knew that Linda did not have it in her to kill anyone.” He accuses Assistant District Attorney Connie Spence, the lead prosecutor in the case, of threatening to cross-examine him about “an invented affair that I was supposed to have had with Linda” if he didn’t testify against Carty and omit certain evidence. Mathis denies the allegation of an affair and explains that he was concerned for his reputation as a law enforcement officer.
Like Robinson, Mathis’ says “I recall seeing that [Spence] took notes during our in-person interview.” None of these notes were handed over to Carty at trial nor at any subsequent stage, according to her lawyers.
Now, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is considering these affidavits along with the new evidence and will decide whether to grant Carty’s request for a hearing. Carty has already lost her state and federal appeals and faces execution if the court denies a hearing.
In the Houston Chronicle, Assistant District Attorney Roe Wilson is quoted telling reporter Lise Olsen by email that “If the Court of Criminal appeals returns the writ to the trial court, the State will thoroughly investigate and respond to all claims.”
Despite the severity of the misconduct claims in the Carty case, Spence and Goodhart continue to prosecute in Harris County. According to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office website, Assistant District Attorney Connie Spence leads the Special Prosecutions Bureau.
Assistant District Attorney Roe Wilson’s response to Lise Olsen raises the question, why should it take the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to force Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson to investigate these disturbing misconduct allegations? Aren’t the assertions of a former federal officer enough to trigger an internal review?
The failure of Anderson’s office to investigate the claims made out by key state witnesses in Carty’s case demonstrates the frailty of a system that relies on prosecutors to police themselves in order to ensure accountability.
Linda Carty was granted a new evidential hearing by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on February 25, 2015. Read Reprieve UK’s press release here.