Death’s Waiting Room opens today at 1pm at Trafalgar Square; first ‘prisoners’ include actress Anna Chancellor, who will read a speech from Linda Carty to London

August 12, 2010

A life-size death row cell replicating the real cell of British grandmother Linda Carty, now facing imminent execution in Texas, opens today in London.

Death’s Waiting Room will launch at 1pm with short speeches and music and the first prisoners will enter the cell at 2pm.

Actress Anna Chancellor will read a speech from Linda Carty to London from the cell; the full speech is printed below. Today’s ‘prisoners’ also include two vicars – Reverend Jo Jepson, vicar at London College of Fashion, and Reverend George Pitcher of St Bride’s – plus the philanthropist Gordon Roddick, writer Anna Perrera and singer Aruba Red.

Death’s Waiting Room runs from Thursday 12th August – Sunday 5th September during daylight hours in the courtyard of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square. A film about Linda Carty will play on a loop, and visitors will be encouraged to spend 15 minutes in the cell, to write and post a letter in the cell post-box asking Texas for Linda’s life to be spared.

Any member of the public who would like to spend time in the cell is invited to drop in to the courtyard at St Martin-in-the-Fields anytime between now and September 5th, or book a slot by emailing matthew.leidecker@reprieve.org.uk.

DAY 1 PROGRAMME

1pm Reverend Richard Carter of St Martin-in-the-Fields will welcome guests 1.05pm Linda’s US lawyer Sophie Walker talks about Linda’s case1.10pm Actor Anna Chancellor and writer Margaret Busby OBE will read a speech from Linda to London 1.15pm Reverend George Pitcher will speak about Linda’s faith1.20pm Singer Aruba Red will sing Amazing Grace1.30pm Photo shoot of guests in cell/ posting letters 2pm Philanthropist Gordon Roddick enters cell2.30pm Writer Anna Perrera enters cell3pm Reverend George Pitcher enters cell5pm Reverend Joanna Jepson enters cell

LINDA CARTY’S MESSAGE TO LONDON (to be read Thurs 12 August)

Hello, my name is Linda. I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a preacher and I’m not a Hollywood actor. I used to be a school teacher so I’m more comfortable speaking to a classroom of kids than to a crowd. I’m not a trained public speaker, but I’m also not a killer. And as my trial lawyer failed to defend me, I have no choice but to speak for myself. So maybe I don’t sound the way you think someone on death row, convicted of a murder she did not commit, is supposed to sound.

Maybe you think I don’t seem scared enough. Well I am scared — sometimes I’m so scared I can’t even speak. That’s when I turn to God. I pray and I sing the hymn that has given me more strength than anything else: Amazing Grace. Amazing Grace means so much to me. It was written by an Englishman, John Newton, who found himself forced into the navy and became involved in the slave trade. Then one day the ship he was sailing in ran into a terrible storm and he nearly died. That’s how Newton discovered the power of God’s grace in moments of despair. As a deeply committed Christian, I am ready to accept God’s will, whatever it may be. But as an innocent woman, I will not stop fighting for the truth. And as a mother and a grandmother, I cannot give up hope of being free to hug my grandchildren again. My words alone can’t prove my innocence. That will require a fair trial and thorough examination of the evidence showing how and why I could never have committed the terrible crime of which I’ve been accused. But I can simply speak against murder itself. The Bible says: thou shalt not kill, and who are we to go against God’s laws? One innocent woman has already lost her life in this awful crime. And now the state of Texas plans to kill another. I believe that the truth will come out one day, that my innocence will be proven. But one day takes on a whole new meaning when you are staring death in the face. I haven’t got time on my side. Now all I can do is to ask for your mercy, your compassion and your grace. I believe God put these things in all of our hearts, if only we can be still and quiet long enough to listen to them. When the man-made justice system has failed, what is left for us except the grace of God? That is the only thing that allows me to keep hoping and fighting for freedom and that stops me from giving in to fear and despair. Because I know that as the hymn says, “grace will lead us home.”

Reprieve’s director Clive Stafford Smith said:

“Linda faces execution very soon now. There is no lonelier place than a death row cell, and no greater power imbalance than that between a condemned prisoner and the government that wants to kill them. I encourage visitors to enter Death’s Waiting Room and imagine yourself in Linda’s position – it will be an unforgettable experience.”

 

With thanks to the staff at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

Notes for Editors:

About Linda Carty

British grandmother and former primary school teacher Linda Carty was born on the Caribbean island and independent British Commonwealth realm of St Kitts. She was sentenced to die by lethal injection for allegedly ordering the 2001 murder of Joana Rodriguez.

The crime took place on 16 May 2001, when three men broke into the apartment of Rodriguez demanding drugs and cash. The perpetrators saved their own lives by testifying against Linda. Linda has always protested her innocence, and believes that she was framed because of her work as a confidential informant for the Drugs Enforcement Agency.

There were multiple serious failings in Linda’s trial. Firstly, the US failed to notify the British government of Linda’s arrest and trial as it was obliged to do under the Vienna Convention on the Right to Consular Assistance. As a result Linda was forced to rely on a court-appointed public defender, Jerry Guerinot, whose incompetence has already landed 20 of his clients on death row, more than any other defence attorney in the US.

Mr Guerinot’s handling of Linda’s case was a scandal. He spent just fifteen minutes with her before the trial and subsequently fabricated a story about how she had refused to see him until he bribed her with chocolate – Linda is fatally allergic to chocolate. Mr Guerinot also failed to spot obvious flaw and inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case, investigate important mitigating evidence or interview key witnesses in St Kitts, despite obtaining court funds to do so.

Linda would certainly not be on death row today – and she would probably have been acquitted altogether – if she had had a decent lawyer at trial.

About Death’s Waiting Room

The exterior of the cell will be covered with a timeline of Linda’s life, an abbreviated description of her case and statistics about the death penalty in general. The interior of the cell is designed to replicate Linda’s real cell as closely as possible. It therefore contains family photos, cricket memorabilia (she is a huge fan of the West Indies cricket team and of Sir Viv Richards in particular) and books that Linda has been reading recently. It also contains a television, on which will be playing a looped film consisting of clips of Linda singing and speaking interspersed with clips of lawyers and government officials talking about her case.

A representative of Reprieve at the cell site throughout the day, from 9am until it gets dark and the courtyard is closed (between 8 and 9pm). This person will be available to answer questions about Linda’s case or about Reprieve’s work and the death penalty in general. He or she will be equipped with information leaflets that people can take away with them, a sign-up sheet for our mailing-list and template clemency letters. Once visitors to the cell have signed the letters, they will be able to post them through the bars of the cell into a letterbox inside.

Reprieve is grateful to the staff at St Martin-in-the-Fields for their generosity in hosting the Death’s Waiting Room. We hope that the initiative will open people’s eyes to the reality of the death penalty and to the injustice of Linda Carty’s case.

About Reprieve

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.

Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

ReprievePO Box 52742London EC4P 4WSTel: 020 7353 4640Fax: 020 7353 4641Email: info@reprieve.org.ukWebsite: www.reprieve.org.uk

Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900 Registered Company No. 5777831 (England) Registered Office 2-6 Cannon Street London EC4M 6YH; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner