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Colorado Court Says Death Row Inmate Got Fair Trial

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Sir Mario Owens, left, and engaged couple Vivian Wolfe and Javad Marshall-Fields (credit: CBS)

Sir Mario Owens, left, and engaged couple Vivian Wolfe and Javad Marshall-Fields (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (AP) – The Colorado Supreme Court refused on Monday to hear an appeal challenging the conviction of a death row inmate after a witness was killed.

Lawyers for Sir Mario Owens had asked the high court to consider an appeals court ruling that he had received a fair trial in 2007 when he was convicted of the first-degree murder of Gregory Vann in Aurora and sentenced to life without parole.

Owens had been given an additional 64 years in prison for trying to kill Javad Marshall-Fields and Alvin Bell, who saw the attack on Vann and were shot as Owens tried to flee. Both men survived.

Marshall-Fields was scheduled to testify against Owens in the 2004 killing, but he and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, were gunned down in June 2005 just days before he was to take the stand.

After Marshall-Fields was killed, a judge limited access by his attorneys to other possible witnesses. The move was the basis of the appeal filed by lawyers for Owens, who also claimed 17 witnesses on probation may have received special treatment.

The appeals court decision stated the judge had a right to limit defense attorneys’ access to other witnesses because of possible threats to their safety.

“To aid the defendant’s right of confrontation, an accused generally has the right to know a witness’s identity and address,” the appeals court stated, “However, this right is not absolute. Here, the trial court noted that a witness in this case had been murdered … and that charges were pending as a result.”

Owens was later convicted in 2008 in the slayings of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe and was sentenced to death.

Owens’ attorney, Keyonyu O’Connell, said Monday other appeals were pending with the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the Vann case.

“We still have options,” she said. She refused further comment, citing attorney-client confidentiality.

Owens is one three men on death row in Colorado, which hasn’t executed anyone in 15 years.

Marshall-Fields and Wolfe were stopped at an intersection in the Denver suburb of Aurora when they were shot.

Robert Ray is on death row after being convicted of ordering the slaying of Marshall-Fields. Owens was found guilty of being the triggerman. And Parish Carter was convicted in 2010 of witness intimidation after prosecutors identified him as the getaway driver.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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