Colorado bishops lambasted a judge’s decision to jail a Mennonite investigator for refusing to testify in a death penalty case and defended her religious rights.
The Catholic bishops issued their statement Feb. 28 when Judge Michelle Amico jailed Greta Lindecrantz indefinitely after Lindecrantz refused for the third day in a row to give testimony that could be used to sentence convict Robert Ray to death, according to Crux Now. Lindecrantz refused to testify because contributing to the possible death sentence of another human being would violate her religious beliefs as a Mennonite.
“Religious freedom ensures that all people have the freedom to believe and act according to their faith; it is a fundamental right and constitutionally protected in the United States. This right encompasses the ability to practice one’s faith openly, without undue interference from the government or others,” the bishops’ statement read, according to Crux.
“Ms. Lindecrantz should not be punished for her religious beliefs and convictions regarding the death penalty and the taking of human life,” they added.
Ray, who was sentenced to death for the murder of Gregory Vann and his involvement in the murders of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee Vivian Wolfe in 2005, appealed his sentence on the grounds that his defense team was ineffective. Prosecution in the appeals case wanted to question Lindecrantz, looking for her to give testimony that would help prove that Ray’s former defense team was adequate. Lindecrantz refused and continued to refuse since, as a Mennonite, she is opposed to the taking of human life.
“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,” Lindecrantz told Amico during her initial refusal, according to The Colorado Independent.
The bishops called on the judiciary to cease their efforts to force Lindecrantz to violate her religious beliefs.
“It is our hope that Ms. Lindecrantz’s right to religious freedom will be respected and upheld and that she will not continue to be coerced into behaving in ways that are contrary to her faith or into accepting an ideology that is at odds with her beliefs,” the bishops’ statement added.
Mari Newman, Lindecrantz’s attorney, went a step further and called Amico’s decision to jail Lindecrantz an “abomination.”
“For the court to imprison her until she is broken, until her will is broken, and she abandons her faith and her view that she cannot participate in state-sanctioned killing is an abomination,” Newman said, according to Crux.