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May 24th, 2018

Law & Order

Jailed Mennonite woman will testify in death penalty case after refusing on religious grounds

 Derek Hawkins

By Derek Hawkins The Washington Post

Published March 13, 2018

Jailed Mennonite woman will testify in death penalty case after refusing on religious grounds

A Mennonite criminal investigator who was jailed last month for refusing to testify in a Colorado death penalty case is now ready to take the stand because it could help spare the defendant's life, her attorney said Saturday.


Greta Lindecrantz has spent nearly two weeks in an Arapahoe County, Colorado, jail for contempt of court after telling a judge her religious views precluded her from testifying for prosecutors in an appeal of the murder conviction and death sentence of Robert Ray.


But Lindecrantz's attorney, Mari Newman, said she now intends to cooperate after hearing from Ray's defense team that her refusal was hurting his appeal.


"This changes everything," Newman's statement read, according to the Denver Post.


"Ms. Lindecrantz has always been guided by the overarching faith-based principle that she cannot assist in the taking of life," it read. "Having learned that Mr. Ray's current counsel believes that not obtaining her testimony will adversely affect Mr. Ray's likelihood of securing a legal remedy to spare his life, Ms. Lindecrantz must take them at their word and reevaluate her position. Based on this dramatic change in circumstance, she has concluded that her religious principles honoring human life now compel that she must testify."


Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said he was pleased with her decision.


"She is now going to do what every other person who has ever received a subpoena to testify has been expected to do, and I appreciate that," he told NBC News on Saturday.

Lindecrantz, 67, previously worked as an investigator for lawyers representing Ray, who was convicted in 2006 as an accessory to murder in the death of Gregory Vann and of ordering the murder of a witness, Javad Marshall-Fields, and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe. During the court proceedings, Lindecrantz was brought in to find information that could convince jurors that Ray didn't deserve the death penalty.


On appeal, Ray has claimed that his original defense team was ineffective. Prosecutors want Lindecrantz to testify about the work she did in the hope of showing that Ray received adequate legal counsel.


In a hearing last month, Lindecrantz refused to answer more than 70 questions from prosecutors, saying she was worried her words could be used to help execute Ray, as the Colorado Independent reported. It was a matter of religious conviction, she told Judge Michelle Amico through tears.


"Do I follow the court's word? Do I follow God's word at the expense of my family and my husband?" she said. "I feel like I was handed a gun and I was told to point it at Mr. Ray, and the gun might or might not have bullets in it, but I'd have to fire it anyway. I can't shoot the gun. I can't shoot the gun."


Mennonites staunchly oppose violence in any form and have long protested war as conscientious objectors. One of the Mennonite Church's tenets specifically opposes capital punishment.


In court last month, Lindecrantz told Amico she felt as if she was being forced to choose "between you and God." The judge responded that she had to answer prosecutors' questions or face jail, according to the Colorado Independent.


"I don't want to do this, Ms. Lindecrantz. All I want to hear is the truth," Amico said.


"I'd have no problem saying the truth if death wasn't on the line," Lindecrantz responded. "I don't believe in killing fellow human beings or participating in that."


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