After seven years of appeals, a 40-year-old Cortez man will get a second chance to convince a jury to acquit him of murder.
District Court Judge Jeffrey Wilson on Oct. 22 vacated the 2005 second-degree murder conviction against Farrell Greenlee due to ineffective assistance of counsel.
He was transported from the Colorado Department of Correction to the Montezuma County Detention Center by sheriffs deputies after the court vacated his conviction.
Greenlee was accused of killing Marcie Stewart-Jacobson by shooting her in the head with a shotgun in December of 2003. He was convicted of the crime in January of 2005.
Greenlee was initially sentenced to 48 years in prison, and in 2010 that sentence was reduced to 38 years.
Greenlee raised six examples in what he thought were instances of ineffective counsel in his latest appeal, but Wilson denied five of them.
According to the court order from Wilson, witness Calinda Forristall testified that before Stewart-Jacobson was killed, Greenlee made a statement that he was going to shoot a woman and hide her body where it would never be found, and had Greenlee not written a cryptic letter to his father while in jail, the body may have never been found.
Stewart-Jacobsons body was found stuffed in a refrigerator on Greenlees fathers property,
Forristall testified that Greenlees statement was made in the presence of Randy Matthews, Frank Edwards and Charles Fish in October of 2003.
Greenlees defense attorney failed to call any of the three men to rebut her testimony.
Greenlees counsel did cross-examine Byron Fish who testified that Forristalls statement was all hogwash ... tweaker drama but admitted he was not at the October 2003 gathering when the conversation was alleged to have taken place.
The court reviewed police reports, one which Edwards told law enforcement that Greenlee was constantly talking about killing somebody, including people the defendant did not like or who owed him money.
If I ever do somebody I will bury them on the backside of my property and no one would ever find them, Edwards told police about a statement Greenlee allegedly made.
The order stated that if Greenlees defense attorney had called Edwards to the stand to refute Forristalls testimony, the results would have been disastrous.
Matthews, on the other hand, said while he did not like Greenlee and wanted him in prison, the defendant never made the statements that Forristall testified to.
Matthews had spoken to police about a discussion he had with Greenlee in the fall of 2003 but the two only discussed an issue concerning property lines.
The order said the defense attorney did not interview Matthews or have an investigator do so and no reason was given for not conducting an interview.
Forristall further testified that Greenlee heard that the murder victim was working for law enforcement as well as being told of the location of Stewart-Jacobsons body, which were strong evidence of not only the murder but premeditated murder.
Failing to call Matthews to the stand as a witness by Greenlees attorneys severely undercut the defense theory of the case, Wilson wrote in his order.
While calling Matthews to the stand may not have changed the outcome of the trial, there is a strong probability that the outcome could have been different had the defense called Matthews to the stand, the order stated.
In Wilsons order, he stated that while Greenlees defense was vastly superior to the prosecution in this trial, not calling Matthews as a witness was a significant mistake that fell below the standards required of competent counsel.
Wilson wrote it was the prosecutions burden to present evidence that there was some valid reason that the trial counsel did not call Matthews to the stand and that burden was not met.
The court therefore vacates the defendants conviction and orders that the clerk prepare a writ of habeas corpus directing the sheriff to return the defendant to the Montezuma County Jail, the order reads.
Greenlee will be held without bond until further order from the court and a status hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 27 in Durango on how the case should proceed.
District Attorney Russell Wasley said his office is reviewing the courts order.
Although the Court has vacated Mr. Greenlees 2005 conviction, the court did not specifically vacate the charges, Wasley wrote in an email.The DAs office is reviewing the judges decision.
Sheriff Dennis Spruell, who was not the sheriff when the alleged murder occurred, remembered the crime and trial, and said this was a real big deal.