Mennonite investigator who won’t testify goes back to jail

Greta Lindecrantz, a defense investigator jailed for refusing to testify for prosecutors in a death penalty appeal, in an undated booking photo provided by the Arapahoe County, Colo., Sheriff's Office. Lindecrantz is a Mennonite who opposes capital punishment and does not want to risk her testimony being used to help execute the defendant. (Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office via AP)

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — A defense investigator in a death penalty case has been jailed indefinitely for refusing to testify for prosecutors, saying that helping their effort to execute a defendant would violate her religious beliefs.

Greta Lindecrantz, a Mennonite who opposes capital punishment, refused for a third day Wednesday (Feb. 28) to answer questions in court about her work as part of a death penalty appeal.

Greta Lindecrantz, a defense investigator jailed for refusing to testify for prosecutors in a death penalty appeal, in an undated booking photo provided by the Arapahoe County, Colo., Sheriff’s Office. Lindecrantz is a Mennonite who opposes capital punishment and does not want to risk her testimony being used to help execute the defendant. (Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

“I feel like I’m having to choose between you and God,” Lindecrantz, wearing a blue jail uniform with her arms shackled to her waist, told Judge Michelle Amico in a courtroom crowded with supporters in suburban Denver. They sang hymns outside the courthouse before filing in for the hearing.

Lindecrantz told Amico that her faith will not change before she was led away by deputies back to jail.

Lindecrantz was jailed Monday after she repeatedly refused to answer questions about her work on the defense team of Robert Ray, one of three men on Colorado’s death row.

Ray’s current defense team is challenging his death sentence partly by arguing that he did not have an effective legal team when he was convicted in 2009. Prosecutors subpoenaed Lindecrantz to testify to back up their case that he did have good representation from his publicly funded defense team and previously questioned Ray’s original lawyers as part of the appeal proceedings.

Lindecrantz’s attorney, Mari Newman, said Lindecrantz worked for those lawyers and noted that prosecutors already have access to Lindecrantz’s report and other documents on her work. She said Lindecrantz would testify if not for the possibility that her testimony could be used to put Ray to death. She said Lindecrantz compared her predicament to being asked to shoot a gun at Ray, not knowing if it was loaded.

Amico ruled Feb. 16 that Lindecrantz must testify because her effectiveness in Ray’s defense has been questioned and there is no substitute for her testimony. She found Lindecrantz in contempt of court Monday after she was called to testify. Newman filed an emergency appeal of that ruling to the state appeals court on Wednesday but it’s not known how soon the court will consider it.

Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center group that compiles death penalty statistics and issues an annual death penalty report, said he had never heard of a trial team member asserting a religious objection to testifying in a death penalty appeal before.

Amico said the appeal means that Lindecrantz’s fate now rests with “someone higher than me.” She did not set a date for Lindecrantz to return to court again but said she could always let her know if she has changes her mind.

Lawyers proceeded with partial closing arguments in the case Wednesday but would return to court again for more proceedings if Lindecrantz testifies.

Newman believes that shows her testimony is not essential in the case and the jailing is more about punishment than anything. She said Lindecrantz is sick and has not been getting adequate care in jail.

Ray and co-defendant Sir Mario Owens were sentenced to death for the 2005 killings of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe. Marshall-Fields had witnessed an earlier shooting that Owens was convicted of.

Vikki Migoya, a spokeswoman for District Attorney George Brauchler, said the office would not comment on Lindecrantz because it usually does not talk outside court about proceedings, especially when many of the filings have been sealed.

Ray’s defense criticized Lindecrantz’s work as a specialist in mitigation — finding reasons to persuade jurors not to sentence a defendant to death — in closing arguments. However, one of his defense lawyers, Michael Heher, declined to comment on whether Lindecrantz should have to testify.

Marshall-Fields’ mother, who became politically active after his murder and is now a state lawmaker, said Lindecrantz should not have worked on a death penalty case if she was not prepared to take the stand.

“If she’s not going to testify, she should return her compensation,” said state Sen. Rhonda Fields, a Democrat.

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  • Though I admire the woman’s courage, consistency, and principles, this is one more case where religion claims to set itself above the law.

    At least she has the convictions and the courage of them.

  • I agree. My problem in this is that she has the religion excuse that she is using. I am not religious but, of course, have convictions as well – one being anti-death penalty – yet I would never be able to get out of complying with the law.

  • I am also anti death penalty, though there have been a few cases over the years where I have to try to work up some outrage about it.

    But at least this woman is willing to pay the price for her convictions over something that actually matters, unlike certain whiny so called Christians are being persecuted if they have to behave decently towards people they clearly despise.

  • I’m pro death penalty and I feel that this woman should have a right to refuse to testify if it viilates her faith, whichever faith it might be. And not being a lawyer myself, I don’t see how she is putting herself above the law. I’m not aware of any law that compells her to testify.

    We shall see what the appeals court has to say.

  • She Has the right to refuse to testify. What she doesn’t have is the right to be free of consequences for it, unless she is being told to testify against herself.

    Google “compelled to testify” for the relevant law.

    It’s the same issue as the cake bakers. The law says no discrimination in public
    accommodations on the basis of religious belief or in some cases, sexual orientation.

  • “unless she is being told to testify against herself”

    Isn’t that what she is doing? They want to question her about her work for the defense of the man who has appealed his conviction of murder in the lower court. The appeal is based on the current defense team’s assertion that the original defense was incompetent. In testifying to her work, she either shows she did incompetent work and he may win his appeal or that she did competent work and she helps confirm his death sentence. Either way, she is testifying against herself.

  • It is not the same issue as the one raised in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case before the Supreme Court.

  • Frankly, Jose, anyone who is a Servant/Child of Almighty God in Christ Jesus SHOULD be anti-religious; after all, it was Israel’s religious establishment who relentlessly sought Jesus’ death, no? Yes…???

  • Hey,Ben!! It’s been a minute my friend!! My take on the death penalty is this: If there is NO DOUBT that you are the guilty party,especially if you’ve committed depraved murder of a child, and you committed the crime in a death-penalty state,well…goodbye. I don’t particularly advocate for the death penalty per se, but crimes like that…at any rate, that’s me. Hello again, and God bless ya, buddy!! ???

  • Thanks for the good wishes. I know how you feel about it. The problem for me has always been the exonerations AFTER the certainty that led to the death sentence. Google “exoneration project” for more information.

    I came to the conclusion some 40 years ago that I don’t want to kill anyone, and I don’t want the state to do it in my name. So I’ve always been a firm “no” when the subject comes up.

    On the other hand, there have been some cases where I plan on mowing the lawn or washing my hair or something really important on that day. It’s a moral dilemma for me, so I just hope that no one brings up the subject.