"Linda Carty, shown on death row in 2010, was sentenced in the 2001 kidnapping and death of a 20-year-old woman in Houston. In a rare post-conviction hearing ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, four witnesses testified last week that they were coerced and threatened by a pair of Harris County veteran prosecutors in a case that sent a Houston woman to death row 14 years ago.
Linda Carty, a former teacher and ex-DEA informant, was sentenced to die after prosecutors convinced a jury that she organized three men to invade an apartment and kidnap her neighbor, Joana Rodriguez, all in order to snatch Rodriguez's newborn baby in May 2001. But in the hearing, prosecutors Connie Spence and Craig Goodhart were accused of destroying case notes and emails, of hiding at least 18 recorded witness statements from Carty's original defense team, and of coercing testimony to ensure Carty got a death sentence. A retired DEA agent testified that he was threatened by Spence. A star prosecution witness claims the pair instructed him to lie in a series of private meetings. Both prosecutors still work for the Harris County District Attorney's Office as supervisors. In an unusual about-face, they too appeared as witnesses in a Harris County District Court before a visiting judge in a hearing that has lasted five days and will continue this week. Under oath, both denied fabricating testimony or hiding evidence, though each acknowledged emails and notes had been lost or destroyed over time. "Defense had access to the evidence any time they wanted to look at it," Spence testified. Carty's pro bono defense team, headed by Michael Goldberg of Baker Botts, argued at the hearing that newly discovered evidence - detailed in testimony and 70 different exhibits -proves that both prosecutors repeatedly violated the so-called Brady rule by failing to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence and by concealing information about the credibility of witnesses used to convict their client. Goldberg has argued all that evidence should be enough to win Carty a new trial. Galveston County District Judge David E. Garner, presiding as a visiting judge, will decide whether there's enough evidence to reject or recommend a new trial based on prosecutorial misconduct. Carty, a petite, dark-eyed woman, has been on death row since 2002 and is now a grandmother. She was born on the island of St. Kitts, at the time a British protectorate, and holds British citizenship. Her long-running case has generated a documentary film, front-page news stories in London and protests from Bianca Jagger and other celebrities. In an amicus brief, the British government has joined her defense in arguing that her death sentence came only after prosecutors improperly coerced key witnesses and hid evidence.........Both of Carty's original court-appointed attorneys said they never received copies of 18 recorded statements obtained by Carty's current attorneys and submitted as evidence during last week's hearing. "I am so incensed they would hide all these witnesses from us and expect justice to be done and expect Linda Carty to get a fair trial," Pastorini said. Texas and federal courts have denied Carty's prior appeals. But her newer claims of prosecutorial misconduct were found worthy of further review by the Court of Criminal Appeals in February 2015. A majority of Texas' highest criminal court ordered that the Harris County's 177th District Court judge consider the misconduct allegations raised in affidavits by witnesses. Testimony is expected to conclude Tuesday. After that, Garner said he will hear closing arguments, review evidence and issue findings later this summer on whether to accept or reject Carty's multiple claims of prosecutorial misconduct. If he rules in Carty's favor, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals would then decide whether to order a new trial."