ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Reehahlio Carroll, 20, will stand trial next month in the 2009 murder of Sister Marguerite Bartz on the Navajo nation, but there is one thing his defense doesn't want jurors to know about the alleged victim - her faith.
Defense attorney Robert Gorence filed a motion in federal court, requesting that any references or objects to religion or to the fact that Sister Bartz was a nun should be excluded from the case.
"As tragic as this case is and as godly as she was, it's just not relevant to the case other than to enflame the passions of the jury," said Gorence. "The government doesn't allege that this was a hate crime or that there is a special penalty because Sister Bartz was in fact a nun."
Sister Bartz was brutally murdered in her convent home on the St. Bernard Parish in Navajo, N.M., just north of Gallup, on Halloween night in 2009. The FBI named the then-18-year-old Carroll as her killer. He told investigators he bludgeoned Sister Bartz to death with her own flashlight when she caught him prowling around inside her home. Investigators said Carroll was in need of money for drugs and alcohol.
In a motion filed Thursday, his defense argues any reference to religion should be barred from the courtroom for the same reason the federal authorities had Carroll locked away in solitary confinement since the crime. Gorence said inmates would have "lynched" Carroll because he's suspected of killing a nun.
"If it's that inflammatory while he's incarcerated, how could it be any less so to a jury?" asked Gorence.
Federal prosecutors denied an interview but said they will oppose the motion. The federal government wants to call two nuns to the stand in the trial, according to a witness list.
If convicted, Carroll faces life in prison without parole. Since the murder took place on tribal land, federal authorities let the Navajo nation decide if Carroll should be eligible for the death penalty. The Navajo nation decided against that option.
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