'We Call It Life Row': Two of the Youngest US Women on Death Row Describe Life Behind Bars

Emilia Carr is the youngest woman in the United States on death row.

ByABC News
February 24, 2015, 12:57 PM

— -- When Tiffany Cole and Emilia Carr walk down the hall in Florida’s Lowell Correctional Institution for Women together, they seem more like smiling girlfriends than convicted felons sitting on death row.

Cole is now 33, and Carr is now 30. Carr is the youngest woman in the United States sitting on death row, and Cole is the third youngest. The two women are behind bars for committing two separate crimes, and they had separate lives until they arrived as neighbors on the famous death row corridor at the women’s correctional facility in Ocala, Florida.

“We call it ‘life row,’” Carr said. “It’s life row ... because we’re not dying, we’re living.”

Carr, who is from Ocala, and Cole, from Jacksonville, Florida, share a similar path.

Prior to their incarcerations, neither had ever spent a night in jail, they said. Cole played the flute in high school, and participated in cheerleading and Girl Scouts. Carr was book smart and modeled, she said, and was in the school Marines, which was her high school's Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program.

Both said they were sexually abused and got into trouble after they met the “wrong people.”

“[I was] looking for love in all the wrong places,” Cole said.

When she was 25 years old, Cole was convicted on murder charges after being connected to the death of her family’s neighbors, Reggie and Carol Sumner, who suffocated to death from dirt in their lungs when they were buried alive. She has acknowledged she helped dig a grave, but said she thought it would be to hide the items that she, her boyfriend, a guy she had known for three weeks and two of his friends had stolen from their victims. A psychiatrist at Cole’s trial said she suffered from mental problems and had a history of drug and alcohol abuse.

“I am not the same person anymore,” Cole said. “I have peace, I have joy. I have a sound mind.”

The jury was shown a damning photo of her celebrating after the crime was committed. She was given the death penalty, which she is in the process of appealing.

Carr was 26 years old and eight months pregnant with her boyfriend’s child when they were both convicted of suffocating his wife with duct tape and a plastic bag. Carr argued she left the scene before the woman was killed.

“Wouldn’t there have been physical evidence? I mean, duct tape is some sticky stuff, yet there’s no finger prints, no DNA, no hair,” Carr said.

But there is video of Carr being interviewing by police, recorded after her boyfriend confessed and implicated her in the crime. On the tape, Carr is heard telling an officer that the boyfriend asked her to “try to snap her neck,” and then Carr says, “I didn’t really try.”

She was convicted of capital murder and given the death penalty, which she is in the process of appealing.

Legal experts say the average appeals process takes 10 to 12 years for death row inmates. Carr has been on death row for four years, while Cole has been on death row for seven years.

Both women are reluctant to give details about their cases under appeal, but both insist the murders they were convicted of were done at the hand of their boyfriends, not them. Both say they are not arguing for their release, just for their lives, to have their executions stayed.

Both refuse to believe they will be executed.

“You can’t have that mentality, because that means you've accepted this,” Carr said.

“You've already died... you’re already dead,” if you accept that, Cole said.

In response to Cole appealing her conviction, the prosecutor who handled her case, Jay Plotkin, said in a statement to ABC News, “I was a prosecutor for more than 20 years. There was not any case that I prosecuted where the crime was more vile or cruel than the torture and murder of the Sumners. This case lingers on in the heart and soul of our community. Ms. Cole is certainly entitled to, and should, exhaust all of her legal rights to appeal. I am personally confident that she received more than adequate representation and a fair trial.”

The prosecutor in Carr’s case, Rock Hooker, declined to comment to ABC News while the appeals process was still pending.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, one in 25 people on death row is innocent.