John Green
John Green

January 19, 2017

The state’s highest court will review whether Sac County law officers should have advised a killer of his right to an attorney before they arrested him.

John David Green, 57, was convicted of second-degree murder in 2015 for choking to death his longtime friend and burying the body in the friend’s basement in Sac City in 2009.

Green claimed he killed Mark Koster, 58, in self-defense after Koster attacked him with a baseball bat during an argument about dinner.

Green covered Koster’s body in cat litter and other objects and left a note on the house’s door that made it appear Koster had left town for the winter.

Five years later when investigators identified Green as a suspect they went to Florida to question him.

Sac County Attorney Ben Smith, who prosecuted the case, accompanied the two police officers who interviewed Green. Smith listened to the interview from another room and occasionally conferred with the officers during the talk.

The officers are required by law to notify suspects of their rights against self-incrimination and to have an attorney when they are detained. But the officers did not officially detain Green. They asked him to join them for an interview and said he could end it and leave at any time.

In the interview, Green admitted to killing Koster.

He argued in his appeal last year that his right to an attorney is triggered in the Iowa Constitution “when the prosecution becomes so heavily involved in the case that the accused is confronted by an expert adversary.”

The Iowa Court of Appeals rejected that argument last year.

Green is held at Anamosa State Penitentiary in eastern Iowa. He is tentatively set to be released in 2057, when he is 98.

The Iowa Supreme Court announced Wednesday it would take up Green’s appeal. It’s unclear when the justices will rule on the matter.