March 12, 2018 / 1:44 AM / 2 years ago

Colorado investigator relents after being jailed for refusing to testify in death-row case

DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado criminal defense investigator, jailed for refusing to testify in a death row inmate’s appeal because of her religious beliefs, has agreed to comply with a prosecution subpoena that could set her free, her attorney said on Sunday.

Greta Lindecrantz, 67, was jailed for contempt of court nearly two weeks ago by Arapahoe County District Judge Michelle Amico after she declined to testify in the case of Robert Ray because her Mennonite faith opposes capital punishment, her lawyer, Mari Newman, said.

“Based on her firmly held faith-based beliefs which do not allow her to assist those who are seeking the death of another, Ms. Lindecrantz refused to testify as a witness for the prosecution seeking to kill Robert Ray,” Newman said in a court filing.

But Newman said on Sunday that Lindecrantz had agreed to testify after appellate attorneys for Ray notified her that Lindecrantz’s refusal to testify may hurt the inmate’s chance to have his death sentence overturned.

“That has changed everything,” Newman said by telephone.

Newman said she filed a motion seeking her client’s immediate release, but was unsure if the judge would rule over the weekend.

Lindecrantz was a court-appointed private investigator in the murder trial of Ray, who was sentenced to death in 2009 following his conviction for a double killing.

Ray’s lawyers are appealing his sentence, arguing in part that his defense was ineffective. Prosecutors subpoenaed Lindecrantz in an effort to prove Ray received a competent defense.

Attorney-client privilege, which attaches to all members of a defense team during trial, can be waived if the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel is raised on appeal.

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, whose office is seeking Lindecrantz’s testimony, said on Sunday that Ray’s lawyers raised 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,” he told Reuters.

In 2001, Mennonite Church USA, to which Lindecrantz’s congregation belongs, passed a resolution opposing capital punishment.

Ray is one of three men on Colorado’s death row. One of the other condemned inmates was convicted and sentenced to death for the same murders as Ray.

Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney

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