Monday, May 16, 2011

The Impending Execution of Rodney Gray

Rodney Gray sits on Mississippi's death row awaiting execution on this second-to-last day of his life. I offer below the summary of facts as presented by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
On August 15, 1994, in Newton County, Mississippi, Grace Blackwell, the 79-year old murder victim, drove to her local bank and proceeded to the drive-through window. Arlene McCree was working as a bank teller, and Blackwell had been her customer since 1980. McCree thought Blackwell looked “terrible.” Usually, McCree and Blackwell would engage in small talk;  however, on this occasion, Blackwell would not look at or converse with McCree. Instead, Blackwell simply stated “I need twelve hundred dollars.” McCree had to prompt Blackwell by asking her whether she wanted to cash a check or use a withdrawal slip. In response, Blackwell threw a blank check into the window tray. McCree could not see the backseat of the car because there were clothes “hanging in a very unusual manner.” Concerned by Blackwell's behavior, McCree asked Blackwell whether “something [was] wrong or ․ someone [was] in the car with her.” Blackwell did not respond to the questions;  instead, she attempted to mouth words to McCree, who could not read Blackwell's lips. After McCree made out the check for $1200, Blackwell signed it. Although McCree attempted to stall the transaction, she subsequently placed the money in the window tray, and Blackwell grabbed it. Blackwell then drove away saying “I'm hurrying, I'm hurrying.” McCree did not think that Blackwell was speaking to her. Believing Blackwell had been taken hostage, McCree called the Sheriff's Office.

A deputy sheriff was dispatched to Blackwell's home and found the front door open. Blackwell's car was not there and the “telephone wires [were] disconnected.” Meanwhile, Harry Jones was driving his car on Pine Bluff Road in Newton County and saw a brown Chrysler, which he later identified at trial as Blackwell's car, stopped in the road. He saw a man “wrestling with this lady.” Although he could not identify the woman, he identified Gray as the driver of Blackwell's car.

Later that same day, Lane McDill was driving to town on Newly Road 1 in Newton County and observed something lying “just off the bridge on the right-hand side of the road.” McDill stopped his vehicle and quickly discovered it was a deceased woman. He then drove to town and notified the police that there was a body at the bridge. As a result, law enforcement officers arrived at the scene, and the ensuing investigation revealed that Blackwell had been killed by a shotgun wound to the face. A forensic pathologist determined that Blackwell suffered a “series of injuries,” “including the presence of two shotgun wounds, as well as multiple scrapes of the skin, called abrasions, and lacerations, a cut, and contusions.” The lethal shotgun wound was a “contact shotgun wound with the muzzle of the shotgun placed against the area of the mouth.” The second shotgun wound “is consistent with having gone through an intermediate target scattering and striking the decedent over the left arm, left chest, and left cheek.” Blackwell's other injuries were consistent with either being struck by or pushed out of a vehicle. The forensic investigation also revealed that Blackwell had been raped and that the DNA analysis indicated that Gray was the perpetrator.
[Testimony regarding the DNA match: The “significance of [the] match is that there is a probability that selecting someone other than, someone unrelated to [Gray] in the population, having the same profiles as that sample, would be less than 1 in 446,000,000 in Black, Caucasian, and Hispanic populations.”]

Additionally, the Newton County Sheriff's Office interviewed Mildred Curry, who was Gray's girlfriend at the time. Curry told them that Gray had called from jail and informed her that there was money in her bathroom vent. A deputy sheriff searched her residence and found $1,123 in the bathroom vent. The search also uncovered the clothes and boots that Gray was wearing on the day of the murder.
I find no claim by anyone, even Rodney Gray himself, that he did not commit the crime. I therefore stand mute on his execution.

I was wrong when I wrote that Rodney Gray did not proclaim his innocence. This article about his execution indicates that he proclaimed his innocence until the end.

No comments:

Post a Comment