Mennonite investigator remains jailed after court ruling
DENVER (AP) — A Colorado criminal defense investigator who refused to testify for the prosecution in a death penalty case because she says it’s against her Mennonite faith will remain jailed after an appeals court on Friday ruled against her request to testify under alternative conditions.
Greta Lindecrantz, who opposes capital punishment, requested to be called as a witness by the court instead of in response to the prosecutors’ subpoena.
District Court Judge Michelle Amico ruled against her Friday, and the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the decision.
The appellate court ruled that any burden to Lindecrantz’s rights “must give way to the state’s paramount interests in ascertaining the truth and rendering justice.”
“Ms. Lindecrantz is in a tough spot — caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. We take no pleasure in declining to extricate her. But the state of the law being what it is, decline we must,” the appeals court judges wrote in their 3-0 decision.
Lindecrantz was jailed Monday after she repeatedly refused to testify about her work on the defense team representing Robert Ray, who is on death row.
Ray and co-defendant Sir Mario Owens were sentenced to death for the 2005 killings of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee Vivian Wolfe as they drove on a suburban Denver street. Javad Marshall-Fields was scheduled to testify against Ray and Owens in another case.
Mari Newman, Lindecrantz’s attorney, said her client feared that her refusal to testify would be used against Ray and she wanted to suggest an alternative to Amico. Newman told the appeals court that her client’s religious beliefs prevent her from being used “as a tool of those seeking to execute a fellow human being,” but she was willing to testify through another path.
Matthew Grove, an assistant solicitor general representing Amico, argued that the request would make the judge a participant in the case rather than a “neutral arbiter” and “upend” normal court procedure.
“What we can’t have, just from a systemic standpoint, are witnesses who decide they can start dictating terms” when responding to a subpoena, he said.
Ray’s current defense team is challenging his death sentence, partly by arguing that his legal team wasn’t effective during trial in 2009. Prosecutors seeking to have the sentence upheld have argued that his representation was good and subpoenaed Lindecrantz, along with questioning Ray’s original defense team.
Associated Press writer Thomas Peipert contributed to this report.