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Weighing Death, Did Gray Jurors Perjure Themselves?

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The jury that took just 30 minutes to find Ricky Javon Gray guilty of the brutal New Year's Day murders of Bryan and Kathryn Harvey and their two young daughters took considerably longer — 12 hours — deciding to recommend the death penalty for Gray.

One of the hurdles seems to have been religious beliefs. During deliberations, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch interview with a juror, some jurors said they weren't sure they could recommend execution because of those beliefs.

But during jury selection, potential jurors had been asked whether they were totally opposed to the death penalty on moral or religious grounds, says Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Matthew Geary, who worked the Harvey case. He says if they replied yes, they were eliminated.

So was it perjury for jurors not to reveal their religious opposition to the death penalty during the selection process?

Not really, says Geary and University of Richmond law professor Corinna Barrett Lain, a former Henrico County prosecutor.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided in Witherspoon v. Illinois that potential jurors in a capital murder trial could be barred if they said that they always oppose or always support the death penalty in every instance, Lain says. As long as jurors say they are open to recommending the death penalty, they can serve.

Though every one of the jurors selected for the Gray trial "would have answered the question [of whether or not they were opposed to the death penalty] in different ways," Geary says, "everybody on that panel had to agree that they would consider both options — life in prison or the death penalty."

Often, Geary says, it's only when a jury is actually sitting down to consider whether a defendant should live or die that some jurors discover they actually do have strong religious or moral objections to the death penalty.

In any event, the notion of perjury is a moot point in this instance, Geary and Lain agree, because the jurors ended up recommending that Gray be executed for the murders of Stella, 9, and Ruby, 4. S



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