Crime

His conviction for killing his parents was overturned. Now he’s suing prosecutors.

James Anthony Gray during his 2012 trial.
James Anthony Gray during his 2012 trial. gkocher1@herald-leader.com

A Central Kentucky man who was tried twice for the slayings of his parents, and whose second conviction was overturned, is now suing prosecutors and members of the Scott County Sheriff’s Office in federal court.

James Anthony Gray claims deprivation of rights, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, verbal abuse and harassment, wrongful imprisonment, denial of right to a fair trial and due process, cruel and unusual punishment, conspiracy, illegal and coerced interrogation, invasion of privacy and reputation, and failure to supervise and train officers.

The federal suit filed Thursday names as defendants Sheriff Tony Hampton, former Sheriff Bobby Hammons, sheriff’s investigators Roger Persley and David C. Willis, Commonwealth’s Attorney Gordie Shaw and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Keith Eardley.

Shaw had no comment Friday. Hampton and Eardley could not be reached for comment.

James E. Gray, 63, and Vivian Gray, 55, were found shot to death in April 2007 in their home in northern Scott County.

Their son, James Anthony Gray of Carlisle, was tried twice. A jury in 2012 could not reach a unanimous verdict, so the judge declared a mistrial. Gray, now 47, was tried again in 2013 and was found guilty on two counts of murder and one count of tampering with evidence.

The prosecution argued that Gray had motive because his parents had informed him that they intended to disinherit him and leave their estate to their grandchildren.

The Kentucky Supreme Court reversed the 2013 conviction because his confession to the Scott County Sheriff’s Office “was not the voluntary product of Gray’s free will.”

“Gray’s constitutional right to due process was violated in obtaining the confession,” the court said in its written opinion. “The trial court erred by failing to suppress the confession, and it was thus erroneously admitted as evidence at trial.”

The case was then returned to Scott County for a third trial. Gray has been in the Boyd County jail since January as he awaits that trial. The federal lawsuit says he has been incarcerated for almost 10 years “for a crime he did not commit.”

Gray claims in the federal suit that the sheriff’s office and prosecutors “fabricated evidence,” misled Gray into thinking that evidence implicated him when it didn’t, and “unlawfully interrogated Gray using threats, trickery and deceit which went far beyond lawful police investigative practices.”

Those tactics resulted in a “knowingly forced and false confession which the authorities then used to convict him,” the lawsuit says. Gray also alleges that authorities suppressed or withheld evidence that tended to clear him of guilt.

The suit also alleges that the sheriff’s office and the commonwealth’s attorney’s office “failed to properly train or supervise their prosecutors, officers and agents ... to properly carry out a murder investigation or prosecution.”

Gray seeks a jury trial and punitive damages against all the individual defendants.

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