“The struggle is not over: I’m still going to pursue my innocence.” -Ray Gray
Four-time Golden Gloves champ convicted of 1973 murder of Ruben Bryant at age 21, despite eyewitness and alibi testimony, lack of physical evidence
“He is innocent!”–Private investigator Bill Proctor, former Ch. 7 News anchor, after covering case for 15 years
Affidavits from two eyewitnesses identified another man as killer, but WCPO says third eyewitness ID key
Master artist “painted portrait of my godson Amir, as if his face was actually on the canvas”–VOD field editor Ricardo Ferrell
By Ricardo Ferrell, VOD Field Editor
With Editor Diane Bukowski
May 28, 2021
DETROIT–Raymond Gray, now 69, walked out of a western Michigan prison in Muskegon May 25, after serving 48 years for the first-degree murder of Ruben Bryant in Detroit in Feb. 1973, a crime he has always sworn he did not commit. Many supporters have vigorously campaigned for his exoneration during the decades since his conviction.
Gray’s attorneys Gabi Silver and Philip Comorski entered into a deal with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Conviction Integrity Unit director Valerie Newman to allow Gray’s immediate release in exchange for his nolo contendere (no contest) plea to a lesser charge of second-degree murder in the case.
Crying with joy, Barbara Gray (neé Rinehardt), Gray’s wife of 37 years who is reportedly ill, and other family members folded Gray into their arms as he left the prison. His wife was an art instructor at Jackson Prison when they met, and has spent her life fighting to free Gray, an acclaimed artist himself. Gray told reporters that he loves his wife “very much,” and that she is the main reason he is now free.
“It’s a dream come true, one of the best days of my life,” Gray said. “But the struggle is not over. I’m still going to pursue my innocence.”
In a terse release, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said, “Given the passage of time, the ensuing inability to substantiate the claim of innocence, eyewitness Marie Clark’s trial identification testimony and her recent interview identifying Ray Gray as one of the two robbers, this is not an exoneration.
“However, this case does present many questions that cannot be answered. Looking at the time Mr. Gray has been incarcerated, we agreed to allow Mr. Gray to enter a no contest plea to Second-Degree Murder with a sentence agreement to time served. We wish him well.”
Worthy said the plea means that he “is not admitting guilt but will not contest the charge of the crime. He receives a conviction and accepts punishment from the judge in the case. A no contest plea cannot be used as an admission of liability in a civil case.”
During a virtual hearing on Zoom May 25, Wayne County Third Circuit Court Judge Margaret Van Houten re-sentenced Gray to a term of 25 to 40 years, and ordered him immediately released with time served. Gray was not present until the very end of the hearing, after Judge Van Houten had already stated on the record that she was accepting his voluntary plea.
Newman relayed Clark’s alleged feelings to Judge Van Houten, but did not present a written statement.
“[Gray] needs to be recognized as a kind, gentle, talented man who has suffered since February of 1973 for something he had absolutely, positively nothing to do with,” said private investigator and former Channel 7 News reporter Bill Proctor, now with Proctor and Associates, LLC, in an interview with Detroit’s Channel 4 News.
Proctor has spent 15 years researching Gray’s case. He said Gray’s conviction posed some very serious questions surrounding the 1973 homicide, including misconduct by “government officials.” Gray and the one of the killers, now deceased, each had “Fu Manchu” mustaches, but Gray was the only man in the police line-up who had facial hair, Proctor said.
Two eyewitnesses including Charlie Matthews and Barbara Jean Hill signed affidavits swearing Gray was not the killer. Hill rented the apartment that two armed robbers broke into and opened the door to them. She identified Matthews as the shooter, but Matthews swore his accomplice was the shooter. Five friends and relatives testified Gray was with them at the time of the killing.
(Listen to Metro Times interview of Proctor on April 7, 2021, below.)
Despite this evidence, Gray still remained behind bars, hoping, praying, crying and pushing and fighting to prove his innocence. He even submitted to a polygraph examination years in 2012, and passed it, yet he remained in a prison cell.
Earlier this year, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Newman stated they couldn’t substantiate Gray’s claim of innocence, but said they would support a commutation request to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Raymond Gray is the perfect example of someone exercising patience, strength, fortitude and faith. He kept holding on to hope, even at times when his plight seemed to be filled with hopelessness and despair. Nevertheless, he found solace in his artistic creativity, by becoming one of the most talented artists to ever pick up a paint brush inside the World’s Largest Walled Prison in Jackson.
That talent led to him meeting his amazing wife Barbara (nee Rinehardt) Gray, who was previously an MDOC art instructor. She has remained in Gray’s corner, relentlessly and tirelessly fighting non-stop to get her beloved husband freed.
Ricardo Ferrell: Special thanks to Gray’s attorneys Gabi Silver, Phillip Comorski, Bill Proctor, other advocates, and Ellis Stafford, deputy director of Detroit’s Crime Commission who was also convinced that Gray didn’t commit the crime, and believed in his innocence, as well as family, friends and the many supporters who pushed to:
Free Ray Gray.
See 2015 article by reporter Fred Rosen detailing the Gray case: Ray Gray: 43 Years and Counting for a Murder He Didn’t Commit (the-line-up.com)