John Green
John Green

June 12, 2017

The 57-year-old Georgia man convicted of killing his longtime friend in Sac City was not entitled to an attorney in his first interview with police officers, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled last week.

John David Green admitted in that 2014 interview that he killed Mark Koster, 58, during an argument about dinner. He said Koster attacked him with a baseball bat that he wrestled away and used to choke Koster to death.

Green’s court-appointed attorney later argued that the officers should have given him the choice to have an attorney present because he was the sole suspect and because the Sac County Attorney, who would later prosecute the case, monitored the interview and suggested questions the officers should ask. Criminal defendants have constitutional rights to counsel and against self-incrimination.

But the Supreme Court said that right did not extend to Green in that initial interview because he was not under arrest. Green could have ended the interview at any time and walked out.

“The constitutional right to counsel is essential to ensuring a fair trial but has no application without a prosecution or case with which counsel could aid the accused,” Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote. “There was no prosecution or case at the time of Green’s interview.”

Green was arrested and charged shortly after his interview.

Green separated from his wife in 2009 and went to live for several months with Koster. He claimed Koster was mentally unstable and attacked him one night with a baseball bat as they argued about dinner.

Green said he choked Koster to death with the bat and buried the body in the basement because he didn’t think local law officers would believe he was defending himself.

It was about five years later — after someone bought the house and found the body — that investigators suspected Green was involved in Koster’s death, and they sought to question him in a casino parking lot in Florida, where Green had parked his camper.

They asked Green to go with them to a local sheriff’s office for the interview. He brought his Pomeranian dog along.

Green’s admission in that interview that he killed Koster was instrumental for his prosecution. There was no other concrete evidence that tied him to the crime.

Jurors found him guilty in 2015 of second-degree murder, punishable by up to 50 years in prison with a mandatory sentence of 35 years.