Colorado investigator will testify in death penalty case

Feb 28, 2018 by

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A Colorado woman who refused to testify in a death penalty appeal case has agreed to participate after defense attorneys expressed concern that her refusal hurts, rather than helps, their efforts.

Greta Lindecrantz

Lindecrantz

She was released late March 12 and is anticipated to take the stand March 14.

Greta Lindecrantz, a member of Beloved Community Mennonite Church in Englewood, was found in contempt of court Feb. 27 after telling Arapahoe County District Judge Michelle Amico she would not answer questions on the witness stand because of her religious beliefs.

Reuters reported Lindecrantz attorney Mari Newman said on March 11 that Lindecrantz changed her mind after being notified that appellate attorneys said her refusal may hurt the chances of a death sentence being overturned.

“This has changed everything,” Newman said.

Prosecutors had called on her to testify in an appeals hearing for Robert Ray, who was sentenced to death in 2009 for ordering the murder of two people who were witnesses in another murder case. Lindecrantz worked as an investigator for Ray’s defense team from 2005 to 2009.

The Colorado Independent reported the death penalty appeal case is based in part on claims that Ray had inadequate legal representation. Prosecutors hoped her testimony would help them prove Ray had sufficient legal defense, which would bolster their case for the death penalty.

After Lindecrantz was found in contempt of court in February, Newman told reporters Lindecrantz has a fundamental religious belief against the killing of other human beings — specifically state-sanctioned killing in the form of the death penalty.

“The one and only reason she’s refused to testify is because to do so would violate her firmly held religious beliefs against the death penalty,” she said.

Beloved Community Pastor Vern Rempel wrote March 4 on Facebook that Lindecrantz went to prison “with clarity and a whole aching heart.”

“Her commitment arises from decades of work fighting the state-sponsored killing that is the death penalty, rooted and grounded in her faith as a Mennonite Christian, a woman of compassion, someone who has simply made herself available to care for people who society has deemed people to ‘get rid of,’ ” he wrote.

Members of her congregation have been singing hymns outside the courthouse every day since the 67-year-old went to prison.

Mountain States Mennonite Conference issued a statement of solidarity in its March newsletter.

“We believe Greta is paying the cost of living out the Jesus’ call to live in alignment with the Sermon on the Mount, despite the complexities of the situation,” said the statement. “We want to honor her commitment by calling members of our Conference to prayer, presence and material support in whatever ways are possible.”

Lindecrantz’s attorney first filed a motion to keep her off the witness stand on Jan. 20, but Judge Amico repeatedly denied the motion, stating that using religious grounds to allow people to refuse to participate in death penalty cases would disrupt the justice system, creating an “absurd and unworkable result” for such cases in Colorado.

The Associated Press reported Lindecrantz submitted a handwritten statement March 1 offering to testify as a court-sponsored witness rather than as a witness for the prosecution. Her request to be questioned by the judge directly — with cross-examination by both sides — was denied the following day.

The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed that decision later the same day, stating, “We take no pleasure in declining to extricate her. But the state of the law being what it is, decline we must.”

This story was updated March 12, 2018.


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