This article was originally published in Broadcast magazine.
Filmmaker Steve Humphries writes about the making of The British Woman on Death Row.
It began almost two years ago at a meeting with David Glover at Channel 4. I told David the story of the British woman on Death Row in Texas who'd always proclaimed her innocence and would soon be executed. Linda Carty will be the first British woman to be executed since Ruth Ellis in 1955. It all seemed so shocking we hatched a plan to make a film that would tell her story and bring her case to light.
Three months later I was in Houston, Texas filming very emotional interviews with Linda Carty's daughter, her sisters and her mother. I also filmed with American appeal lawyer Michael Goldberg who believed that Linda's trial was the most outrageous miscarriage of justice he'd ever encountered. Then I made the six hour journey to Death Row in Gatesville to film Linda.
I've spent my entire adult life interviewing people but this one was filling me with dread. It could only last for one hour and had to be done through a glass screen with armed guards present. Linda's alleged crime was horrific. She'd murdered the young woman who lived next door to steal her new born baby.
Linda is a 53-year-old grandmother who is a British citizen by virtue of the fact that she was born on the Caribbean island of St Kitts, then part of the Commonwealth. She was a model pupil with a superb voice who'd sung for Prince Charles on a royal visit. Later she became a schoolteacher but her life changed after she was sacked for having an illegitimate baby. She left the island with her daughter Jovelle to go to Texas in search of the American dream. In Houston tragedy struck again when she was raped, had another daughter as a result and gave her away for adoption. She began working for the Drug Enforcement Agency as an informer in a murky underworld of violent drug gangs. She has always claimed that she was framed by the gang who'd actually carried out the crime.
Prior to leaving for Texas, Clive Stafford Smith the director of Reprieve met me and David at Channel 4 and made a passionate case for Linda. We are both huge admirers of Clive going back to his iconic Death Row film Fourteen Days in May (1987) and wanted to help Reprieve with the campaign it had mounted to save her life. The main aim, we all agreed, was to get British people to care about her plight.
A few days later I was lying in the bath after watching The X Factor and I imagined filming Linda singing on Death Row and it becoming a worldwide YouTube hit. That would be certain to bring attention to her tragedy. So when I wrote to Linda telling her the questions I wanted to ask I also mentioned that maybe she could sing something too. I suggested Amazing Grace. This was another reason why I was so nervous as I approached Gatesville Women's Prison, one section of which housed Linda on Death Row.
My memory of the prison itself is all barbed wire, high walls and turrets manned by guards. As we walked into the room where we had to film Linda my mind blanked out. These were the most hostile conditions imaginable to get the kind of intimate and emotional interview that I felt I needed if I was to get anyone to care about Linda's plight. Linda however, looking surprisingly healthy and relaxed for a woman who'd been in solitary confinement on Death Row for almost ten years, made it easier than I'd imagined. She told me the dramatic ups and downs of her life story - and moved me with a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace. Her singing - and her story - made it as a national news item when I got back.
We originally only had development money for the project - and for a time it looked as if the film wasn't going to happen - but it was eventually commissioned by Channel 4 with Anna Miralis. We have worked on the film for over eighteen months filming in Texas and on the Caribbean island of St Kitts.
Over time we've become aware that the evidence against Linda is stronger than we'd first imagined. Even though she was badly let down by her defence lawyer - who'd barely spoken to her before the trial to prepare her case - this certainly wasn't a clear cut case of innocence. There have been many extraordinary twists and turns in the evidence, interviews and footage we have turned up.
Almost every week we seem to change our mind as to whether Linda is guilty or not. We were lucky to find the original interview police video tapes of Linda and the gang members when they were brought in for questioning - they are hugely revealing and form an important part of the film. But what is beyond doubt is that Linda didn't get a fair trial and doesn't deserve to be on Death Row.
Linda will be killed by lethal injection in an execution chamber watched by her family. Her execution date is soon to be announced from which time she has 90 days before it takes place. We hope our film will be seen in the United States, where the only man who can pardon Linda is the Governor of Texas, Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry. He is a hard line supporter of the death penalty but there is perhaps still a very outside chance that this film may just sway him to show mercy - if only to help win some more votes.