Death's Waiting Room: launch 1pm today

Aug. 10, 2010

Reprieve announces the launch of Death’s Waiting Room, a life-size death row cell outside St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, at 1pm Thursday 12th August.

This extraordinary exhibition replicates the real death row cell of British grandmother Linda Carty, now facing imminent execution in Texas, and runs 12th August – 5th September during daylight hours in the courtyard of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square.

A film of Linda Carty speaking about her imminent execution 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

The cell will be officially launched at 1pm on Thursday 12th August with the following programme:

  • Reverend Richard Carter of St Martin-in-the-Fields will welcome guests
  • Linda Carty’s US lawyer Sophie Walker will speak about the case
  • Actor Anna Chancellor and writer Margaret Busby OBE will read a speech from Linda to London
  • Reverend George Pitcher speaks about Linda’s faith and faith among death row prisoners
  • Singer Aruba Red will sing Amazing Grace– the hymn that Linda sings to keep her spirits up. During this time we will ask people to post their letters of support to Linda.
  • Speakers to be photographed in the cell/ posting letters.

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 5, or book a slot by emailing matthew.leidecker@reprieve.org.uk.

Reverend Nicholas Holtam of St Martin-in-the-Fields said: "We are pleased to be able to help draw attention to the shocking circumstances of Linda Carty and all those on death row. This is very much in the Christian humanitarian tradition of St Martin's, the church where Amnesty International was begun."

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 – I’m sure it will be an unforgettable experience.”

For further information, please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 07931592674/ 020 7427 1099. With thanks to the staff at St Martin's-in-the-Fields.

Background

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. First, 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.

The Cell Project

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 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.

Notes for Editors:

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

Katherine O'Shea

Reprieve

Tel: 020 7427 1099

Mob: 07931592674

Reprieve delivers justice and saves lives, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.

To find out more visit www.reprieve.org.uk or follow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/ReprieveUK.

To join our press mailing list please email katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk

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