An Arapahoe County jury decided Monday that Robert Keith Ray will be sentenced to die for arranging the 2005 killing of a witness to another murder committed by Ray a year earlier, the Aurora Sentinel reports.
The same jury handed down two first-degree murder convictions last month for Ray’s involvement in the deaths of Javad Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, who were gunned down at an Aurora intersection four years ago. Prosecutors said Ray ordered Marshall-Fields killed a week before he was scheduled to testify against Ray in the shooting death of Gregory Vann at a 2004 Fourth of July celebration at a city park. Another jury convicted Ray in Vann’s death and a judge imposed a 108-year sentence for that crime.
“Killing a witness undermines the very foundation of the criminal justice system,” District Attorney Carol Chambers told the Denver Post’s Mike McPhee after the jury spoke. “This will not be tolerated. We have had three death penalty cases in Arapahoe County in four years, and we received the death penalty in two of them.”
Ray becomes the third inmate on Colorado’s death row, joining Sir Mario Owens — the triggerman in the slaying of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe — who was sentenced last summer to die.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said the death sentence was proper for Ray because he was convicted of murdering a witness.
“The cases of Robert Ray and Sir Mario Owens, whom a jury sentenced to death nearly a year ago, underline the need for Colorado to have a death penalty,” Suthers said in a statement. “Murderers already facing life imprisonment deserve to face a greater sanction when they premeditatively kill witnesses against them.”
State lawmakers last month narrowly defeated a bill to repeal Colorado’s death penalty and instead direct money spent on appeals to investigate unsolved murder cases.
In addition to Owens and Ray, who will be formally sentenced July 16, only one other person sits on Colorado’s death row. The state has only executed one person since reinstating the death penalty in 1984.
Nathan Dunlap was convicted and sentenced to die in 1996 for four murders during a 1994 robbery of an Aurora Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant. The Colorado Supreme Court has upheld Dunlap’s conviction three times and an appeal on his death sentence is pending in U.S. District Court.
In 2005, the Colorado Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of Robert Harlan because jurors consulted a Bible while deliberating his sentence. Harlan was instead sentenced to life without parole for the 1993 kidnapping, rape and murder of Broomfield waitress Rhonda Maloney.
Colorado’s last execution was in 1997 when Gary Lee Davis was killed by lethal injection for the rape and murder of Ginny May, a Byers housewife abducted by Davis and an accomplice 11 years earlier. Davis’ execution was the first in Colorado in 30 years.