Two inmates on death row have found solace in their friendship and are now fighting together to have their executions stayed.
Tiffany Cole and Emilia Carr had never spent a night in prison before their convictions. They became neighbors at Florida’s Lowell Correctional Institution for Women in Ocala and quickly realized they had a lot in common.
Both said they were sexually abused when they were young and got into trouble with the law after meeting the “wrong people.”
“(I was) looking for love in all the wrong places,” Cole told ABC News.
The cellmates were both convicted of separate murder charges and were sentenced to death. They are now fighting to have the sentenced reduced to life in prison.
“I am not the same person anymore,” Cole said. “I have peace, I have joy. I have sound mind.”
Cole, 33, was found guilty of the kidnapping and murder of her family’s next door neighbors, Reggie and Carol Sumner. She was 25 at the time and claims she did not know the men she committed the robbery with planned on killing them.
Four other men were involved in the crime, one of whom was Cole’s boyfriend at the time. They robbed the husband and wife, tied them up and drove them to Georgia to bury them alive.
Cole claims she helped dig a grave but didn’t know it was for the victims. She said she thought the grave was being used to bury some of the items they had stolen.
A psychiatrist at the trial claimed Cole suffered from mental problems and had a history of drug and alcohol abuse.
Still, the jury voted 9 to 3 that she receive the death penalty after being shown photos of Cole and two co-defendants in a limousine, celebrating with handfuls of cash and bottles of champagne, the Daily Mail reports.
Carr, 30, is currently the youngest woman in the U.S. on death row. She criticized the justice system, saying that, “equality is an illusion.”
“How many rich people go to prison?” Carr asked. “We’re all minorities. We’re all people who are either minorities or didn’t have any, any money, any way to say, ‘Hey, let me buy my freedom,’ because it’s not free in this country.”
According to ABC News, 75 percent of Americans accused of a crime do not have the finances to afford a private attorney. Minorities make up the most of those in that group.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 79 percent of state public defenders systems were overloaded.
Carr was sentenced to death in 2011 for the 2009 murder of Heather Strong. Strong was the wife of Carr’s boyfriend.
Carr and her boyfriend were both convicted of suffocating Strong with duct tape and a plastic bag and then dumping her body in a Florida storage unit.
But Carr, who was eight months pregnant at the time, claims she had left the scene before any murder was committed.
“Wouldn’t there have been physical evidence?” She said. “I mean, duct tape is some sticky stuff, yet there’s no finger prints, no DNA, no hair.”
A video shows police interrogating Carr’s boyfriend where he implicated her in the crime. On tape, Carr tells an officer that her boyfriend had asked her to “try and snap her neck,” to which she responds, “I didn’t really try.”
Carr has four children. She says there isn’t a day that goes by where she doesn’t think about them.
“Before I really even came to know God, that was the hardest thing for me to cope with day in and day out, was being away from my kids,” Carr said. “When I got here, my hair was falling out just from stress.”
Both women plan to appeal their sentences. This process can take an average of 10 to 12 years. Carr and Cole remain optimistic they will not be executed.
“You can’t have that mentality (that you’re going to die), because that means you’ve accepted this,” Carr said.
“You’ve already died… you’re already dead if you accept that,” Cole added.
Cole and Carr said that God and self-help books have turned both their lives around
“It’s not over,” Cole said. “There is forgiveness and there is hope.”
Jay Plotkin, the prosecutor in Cole’s case, is not so convinced.
“I was a prosecutor for more than 20 years,” Plotkin told ABC News. “There was not any case that I prosecuted where the crime was more vile or cruel than the torture 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,” Plotkin added. “I am personally confident that she received more than adequate representation and a fair trial.”