• Doug Tjapkes

This prize fighter deserves some prize money!

In the words of a New York umpire decades ago, I calls ‘em like I see’s em! I see Ray Gray’s victory this week as bittersweet! And here’s why. He’s now a free man, and we praise God for that! But the state’s not going to pay him a cent, and we damn the state for that! Legal scholars may scoff at me, judges and prosecutors may brush me off, but here’s how I see’s it! Raymond F. Gray, 69, of Detroit, was convicted by a judge in an armed robbery shooting death in 1973. Some legal experts have said all along that the evidence was questionable, and Ray has steadfastly maintained his innocence. Those who know him have no doubt that he is innocent. Now here’s an important point in my story. In 2016 the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act was approved in Michigan. The money’s not easy to get, but if it can be proven that a person was wrongly convicted, that person is entitled to $50,000 per year for the time spent behind bars! Are you starting to get the picture? Ray’s attorney, Gabi Silver, had filed for a new trial two months ago. 15 years ago, a group of people who specialize in wrongful convictions and I held an all-day working session in a Detroit library hoping to prove Ray Gray's innocence. It’s no secret that the case was shaky. Instead of a new trial, however, the Wayne County Prosecutor and a judge arrange a plea deal. Ray agrees to plead “no contest” to second degree murder, the court agrees to resentence him to 25-40 years, and since he has already served 48 years, he’s freed. Right now. A win for everybody, right? Attorney Wolf Mueller, who has worked with several exonerated former prisoners to get money from the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act, says in The Detroit News: "Unfortunately, Mr. Gray's plea deal will make him ineligible for compensation from the state because he doesn't meet the requirement of criminal charges being dismissed. But the most important thing is that he will not die in prison and can now try to rebuild his life." Yes, yes. The last thing the state wanted to do was pay $2.4 million to a poor black man for spending the past 48 years in prison for something he didn’t do. Free but penniless, he can now “try to rebuild his life.” Not even an apology, let alone dollars. That just sucks. Ray, a 5-time Golden Gloves boxing champ before he went to prison, said in comments to friends and family yesterday, “I feel like a boxer whose corner has thrown in the towel, but he wants to fight on.”

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