Top state court thwarts Robert Ray’s death row appeal of 2007 attempted murder conviction

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Pictured: Robert Ray. Photo provided by the Colorado Department of Corrections.

AURORA | The state supreme court earlier this month affirmed several of the convictions rendered against Robert Ray, an Aurora man who 12 years ago was found guilty of helping to kill one man and assaulting and trying to kill two others at an Aurora music festival in 2004.

In a 33-page opinion filed on April 8, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld Ray’s convictions on charges of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and being an accessory to murder.

Attorneys for Ray, who is now 33, claimed the district court that tried the case more than a decade ago bungled jury instructions and shifted the burden of proof in the case. They also claimed the lower court botched the case by granting jurors carte blanche access to a videotaped interview with one of the most important witnesses.

The state supreme court largely rejected those arguments.

“The error was harmless,” Chief Justice Nathan Coats wrote of the court’s decision to give jurors free access to the video interview.

Ray was found guilty of assaulting and attempting to murder Javad Marshall-Fields and Elvin Bell at a music festival Marshall-Fields and others had organized at Lowry Park in Aurora on July 4, 2004, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Marshall-Fields reportedly confronted Ray about his behavior at the gathering, and a fight ensued.

During the argument, one of Ray’s friends, Sir Mario Owens, shot and killed another one of the festival’s organizers, 20-year-old Gregory Vann.

Marshall-Fields and Bell then tried to chase Owens as he tried to flee the area. Both Marshall-Fields and Bell were shot “several times,” but survived, according to the court’s opinion. 

The two men originally thought Owens had shot them, but at trial a witness said he saw Ray “calmly come around the car, put his gun under his left arm, and shoot both men repeatedly,” according to the court’s opinion.

Ray was sentenced to 108 years in prison for the shootings in 2007.

About three years later, he was sentenced to death for helping Owens shoot and kill Marshall-Fields and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, in 2005. 

Owens was sentenced to death for his role in the crimes in 2008, according to state records. 

“They wanted to make sure (Marshall-Fields) did not testify at trial,” according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Together, Ray and Owens comprise two-thirds of Colorado’s death row. All of the men currently sentenced to death in Colorado attended Overland High School in the Cherry Creek School District.

Ray’s appeal of his attempted murder, assault and accessory to commit murder charges has slithered through state courts for years.

“The appellate system moves slowly, but it moves towards justice,” George Brauchler, District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District, said in a statement issued Monday.

Brauchler also commended Marhsall-Fields’ mother, state Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, for keeping tabs on the process.

“I credit Javad’s mother, Sen. Rhonda Fields, for her patience and steadfast resolve to see the process through to the end,” Brauchler said in his statement. “She is an example to every victim of crime that our criminal justice system, though deliberately plodding, ultimately works and protects the rule of law.”

First elected to the state house in 2010 before winning a seat in the state senate in 2016, Fields has become a vocal public safety advocate.

“You cannot put a cost on justice – you can’t measure what it takes to get justice,” Fields said in a statement Monday. “I raised my son to have the values that made him want to participate in the criminal justice system. He was doing what he knew was right, and I encouraged him in that. While I wish every day he was still with me, I am proud of the example he set for others who are asked to testify to bring violent criminals to justice.”

She had condemned a recent effort from state Democrats to abolish the state’s death penalty.

“Senate introduced SB-182 to abolish Death Penalty 04MAR,” she tweeted shortly after the failed measure was introduced last month. “Bill scheduled in Judiciary Committee 06MAR. No conversations w victims like me who have been harmed. Voters and victims voices matter. What’s the rush?”

Democrats in the state senate nixed the bill earlier this month following foundering support from other liberal lawmakers.