Face-to-face with death row inmates at London show

Fri Jul 3, 2009 10:57am EDT
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By Julie Mollins

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Death row inmates depicted in oil paintings by British artist Claire Phillips, on view in London's South Bank gallery@oxo, have one thing in common.

"All are demonstrably innocent, or very probably innocent," according to Clive Stafford Smith, director of prisoners' rights organization Reprieve, which sponsors the touring five-day "Human Face of Death Row" exhibit on show at Oxo until July 5.

"They are very powerless people who face an incredible distillation of hatred resulting in society wanting them dead."

Among the paintings of three current inmates is Briton Linda Carty, who has been on death row in Texas for eight years for murdering a neighbor. Her case is in the final stage of the appeals process.

The prosecution's case was based on testimony from three people accused of the same murder who, in exchange for statements against Carty, avoided the death penalty, according to Reprieve.

The four-hour visit Phillips had with Carty was held under armed guard.

"They will be executing her soon," Phillips said of the experience.

"It's very different in each visit -- Linda just chatted away and ate the five rice krispie bars and a cherry coke I took her."   Continued...

<p>British artist Claire Phillips stands by her oil paintings of death row inmates, in this 2009 handout photo. REUTERS/Michael Phillips/Handout</p>