Thursday, March 08, 2018

Appeals Court Says Mennonite Woman Must Remain In Jail Until She Will Answer Prosecution's Questions

A Colorado appeals court. after expedited consideration, has rejected religious liberty arguments raised by a Mennonite woman who refuses to testify on behalf of the prosecution in a capital case.  Greta Lindekranz was an investigator for defense attorneys. The prosecution wants her testimony to rebut arguments that convicted murderer Robert Ray received ineffective assistance of counsel.  Lindekranz, who opposes capital punishment on religious grounds, argues that answering questions on direct examination by the prosecution would make her a tool in the prosecution's efforts to execute Ray.  The trial court held that her refusal to answer questions put forward by the prosecution placed her in contempt, and it ordered her held in jail until she elects to answer the questions. (See prior posting.)  In People v. Ray and Concerning Lindekranz, (CO App., March 8, 2018), the appellate court refused to reverse the contempt citation.  It held that even if strict scrutiny applies, the state has a compelling interest in ascertaining the truth and rendering a just judgment in accordance with the law.  The court rejected Lindekranz's alternative of answering questions from the court, with the prosecution and defense then cross-examining her.

The court concluded:
Ms. Lindecrantz is in a tough spot — caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. We take no pleasure in declining to extricate her. But the state of the law being what it is, decline we must.
Colorado Public Radio, reporting on the decision, says that an appeal will be filed with the Colorado Supreme Court.

UPDATE: AP reports (March 10) that Lindekranz will now testify because her refusal to do so is hurting Ray's appeal. According to her lawyer: "Based on this dramatic change in circumstance, she has concluded that her religious principles honoring human life now compel that she must testify."