Mennonite agrees to testify in death penalty case after being jailed for refusing on religious grounds

(Wikimedia Commons/Ammodramus)Representative image: A Mennonite criminal investigator has agreed to testify in a death penalty case after being jailed for refusing on religious grounds.

A Mennonite criminal defense investigator from Colorado has agreed to testify in a death penalty case after she was jailed for refusing to take the stand because she feared that her testimony could be used to help execute the defendant.

Greta Lindecrantz, who opposes capital punishment because of her Mennonite faith, is now reportedly planning to take the stand because she believes that it might help save the life of Robert Ray, who was one of the defendants sentenced to death for a double killing in 2005.

Court documents filed on Saturday have revealed that Ray's lawyers have said that Lindecrantz's refusal to testify is hurting Ray's appeal and putting his life at risk.

"Based on this dramatic change in circumstance, she has concluded that her religious principles honoring human life now compel that she must testify," Lindecrantz's lawyer, Mari Newman, wrote in the document, as reported by the Edwardsville Intelligencer.

Lindecrantz was sent to jail nearly two weeks ago after Arapahoe County District Judge Michelle Amico found her in contempt of court for declining to testify for prosecutors during an appeal of Ray's conviction and death sentence.

Newman has filed a motion seeking the immediate release of Lindecrantz, who was part of Ray's original team that worked on finding things that might persuade jurors to vote against the death penalty.

After she was jailed, Lindecrantz had repeatedly refused to answer the question in court about her work. At one point, she told the judge that she will not change her mind as she was led away by deputies back to jail. Newman had previously stated that Lindecrantz fell sick and has not been getting adequate care in jail.

Ray and co-defendant Sir Mario Owens received the death sentence for the 2005 killings of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe.

Attorneys representing Ray are now trying to overturn the 2009 conviction and death sentence by partly arguing that the defendant did not have an effective defense.

Prosecutors, who have questioned Ray's original lawyers as part of the appeal proceedings, have subpoenaed Lindencrantz to testify to support their case that the defendant had good representation from his publicly-funded defense team.

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, whose office is seeking Lindecrantz's testimony, stated that the defendant's lawyers are the ones who brought up the issue about Lindecrantz's work on the case.

"We want to put her on the stand so she can say what she did or didn't do in this case," Brauchler told Reuters.

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