If there is any justice in the world, Ricky Javon Gray has only six weeks left to live. On New Year’s Day 2006, Gray and an accomplice tortured and murdered an entire family in Richmond, Va. Bryan Harvey, 49 years old, a fairly accomplished musician (formerly with the band House of Freaks), was killed along with his 39-year-old wife Kathryn, their 9-year-old daughter Stella, and their 4-year-old daughter Ruby. The family was bound with electrical cord in their basement family room. Their throats were slashed and their heads pulverized with a hammer. The room was then set on fire, the killers leaving young Stella, still alive despite stab wounds and blunt-force trauma to the head, to die painfully in the flames.
Ricky Gray was sentenced to die for the murders (his accomplice, Ray Dandridge, received life without the possibility of parole). Gray is scheduled to be put down on March 16. Naturally, the usual heart-hemorrhaging liberals are attempting to stop the execution. For all I know, by the time you read this column, the date may have been postponed.
But for now, Gray dies on March 16.
Gray’s legal team is employing the standard tired, customary excuses. It was a drug-fueled burglary gone bad, he had a lousy childhood, his first defense team was incompetent, the trial judge was a big meanie, the system is racist (Gray is black; the Harveys were white). But Gray’s own defense“from his statements to detectives”is far more creative. He claims that he beat the bound and helpless family with the hammer because they frightened him as he was slitting their throats. They wouldn”t just sit there and obediently take it; they kept trying to get away. So Gray went for the hammer.
“Now that I think about it, it was a real nasty scene, “ Gray told investigators after he copped to the killings. “They [the Harveys] kept gettin” up and they was scaring me. I remember seeing the hammer and picking it up and then I don”t know who I hit first. I was just hittin” them all with the hammer. All I know is, nobody was moving when I left out there.” Although Gray claimed it was his accomplice who slit the throat of the father, he told investigators, “It doesn”t matter if he did or not “cause he was still alive after, till I hit him with the hammer. Then the man laid down. Then I left.”
The gist of Gray’s defense is essentially “How dare those white folks not sit still and let their throats get slit. How can I be blamed for bashing their skulls in when they kept frightening me by trying to get up?”
Now, you may be thinking that a defense like that can”t possibly work. Our nation might be screwed up, but it’s not that screwed up, right? Well, if that’s what you”re thinking, you”re quite wrong. It has worked, in a previous case.
In May 1987, Ruth Galanter, a Los Angeles City Council candidate, was brutally attacked in her home in Venice, Calif. An intruder broke in through a window in the middle of the night, accosting Galanter in her bed and slashing her throat. As the L.A. Times reported at the time, “one wound severed the carotid artery that supplies blood to the left side of the brain, and the other punctured the pharynx.” The suspect, 27-year-old Mark Allen Olds (who was described by the LAPD as Latino, although several media outlets described him as black), admitted that he had broken into the 46-year-old Galanter’s home to rob it, inadvertently waking her. But he only slit her throat, he claimed, because when she saw him standing over her with a knife, she had the temerity to start screaming. He was frightened, he told investigators. That white woman scared him. The throat-cutting was merely the defensive move of a terrified man.
At the trial, Galanter found herself having to defend the fact that she screamed. Olds” defense team argued that she screamed at the mere sight of him, thus frightening him and provoking him to cut her. Galanter claimed that she only started screaming once Olds began slicing into her. Lost in all the lunacy was the question of why the hell should it matter if she screamed before the stranger standing over her bed with a knife began slitting her throat, or after. The focus on the timing of Galanter’s scream turned the trial into a farce. How dare that racist white woman assume that the person of color who”d broken into her house in the middle of the night pointing a knife at her had ill intentions. Maybe he was a brilliant medical student so excited about a new surgical technique he”d invented, he was just trying to share the good news with a neighbor. But she jumped to conclusions and startled the poor dear.
“Agreed!” shouted the jury. Olds was acquitted of the most serious charges, including first-degree attempted murder, for which the prosecution had been seeking life behind bars. He was convicted of lesser charges, and he spent barely seven years in prison. So don”t believe for a moment that Ricky Javon Gray’s “they was scaring me” defense can”t lead to a stay of execution.
William Andrews was another poor black bundle of nerves who used the “I was scared” defense while on death row, and the left certainly rallied to his cause. Andrews and an accomplice, Dale Selby, tortured five white people, killing three of them, during the robbery of a hi-fi store in Ogden, Utah, in 1974. The victims were bound and forced to drink drain cleaner. The female captive was raped as she was convulsing from having swallowed the poison. All of the victims were shot in the head. When one took too long to die, a pen was driven into his ear.
Selby was executed in 1987, but Andrews, with the backing of the NAACP and Amnesty International, managed to fight off the needle for quite a few years. His defense was that he had merely administered the Drano to calm the fidgety captives and help them sleep (what a kind gentleman). He claimed he had become frightened and nervous when the inconsiderate whites wouldn”t stop screaming, and he just wanted them to quiet down.
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