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Live or Let Die?

Live or Let Die?

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Just after 1 p.m. on day four of the Ricky Gray capital murder trial, the Harveys' friends and family had just wrapped up a somber picnic lunch under the shade of a few trees beside the John Marshall Courts Building.

Outside the courtroom, in a long sterile hallway of a waiting room, Gray defense lawyer Jeffrey Everhart chatted with Gray's father.

From sheriffs to court reporters and attorneys, no one strayed far from Judge Beverly Snukals' courtroom after the defense predictably rested without presenting any evidence. That's because everyone knew what was coming.

By 1:50 p.m. – after a mere 30-minute deliberation – a jury of 12 unanimously convicted Gray of five counts of capital murder. The five charges break down as follows: one charge for killing more than once in a three-year period, one charge for more than one killing in a single act, one charge for killing in commission of a robbery, and two charges for killing a child under 14 years of age. Ruby and Stella Harvey , the daughters of Bryan and Kathryn , were 4 and 9, respectively.

The meticulously crafted Commonwealth prosecution appeared to be nearly flawless, with the possible exception of two curious miscues on Wednesday morning. The first occurred when, while showing the jury a slideshow of the Commonwealth's evidence as well as autopsy photos of the Harveys, the large flat-panel monitor discreetly faced only the jury, but the smaller laptop actually feeding the images was directly facing the Harveys' friends and family in the courtroom's first few rows. One woman wept for the entirety of the slideshow.

The second instance occurred when Commonwealth Chief Deputy Matthew Geary was questioning Dr. Darin Trelka , formerly of the state medical examiner's office. When presenting the jury with photos of Kathryn Harvey's injuries, Geary held up a claw hammer – one of the murder weapons – in a gloved hand. After asking Trelka if such a weapon could produce the 12 round gashes to Kathryn's head, Geary aggressively counted to 12 aloud with increasing volume while looking at the jurors, slamming down the murder weapon each time into his opposite palm – his bare, unprotected palm. The verdict was expected and assured. Throughout the guilt/innocence phase of the trial, Everhart and co-counsel Ted Bruns acknowledged and accepted Gray's jailhouse confession that he bound, slashed and finally took a claw hammer to Bryan, Kathryn, Stella and Ruby Harvey.

"We're not surprised by the verdict," Everhart said outside the courthouse at the end of the day. "It's the verdict we expected…finally we'll be able to do positive things."

By "positive things," Everhart refers to arguments the defense can now make in the second phase of the trial, the penalty phase, in which the jury will decide whether Gray should receive a sentence of death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

If the Commonwealth can prove that Gray poses a future danger or that his crimes were "outrageously or wantonly vile," then according to Virginia law, Gray can become eligible for the death penalty. During this penalty phase, the Commonwealth will try to prove both of these factors, which are known as aggravating factors.

Meanwhile, the defense will offer what's called mitigating evidence about Gray's character to try to convince the jury that life in prison without the possibility of parole is the proper sentence.

Right after the guilty verdict was read, the Commonwealth immediately took to the attack again. Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Learned Barry explained to the jury that not only did Gray murder the Harveys, but in a 45-day span beginning last November, the defendant also murdered his wife, Treva Gray, 20 miles south of Pittsburgh. He also bound, gagged, stabbed and ultimately suffocated Percyell Tucker , wife Mary Baskerville-Tucker and daughter Ashley Baskerville on Jan. 6 in their East Broad Rock Boulevard home. Police allege that Gray's 29-year-old nephew, Ray Dandridge , assisted his uncle on their murder spree. Dandridge goes on trial in September on capital murder charges for the Baskerville-Tucker murders.

The Commonwealth called homicide detectives from Washington, Pa., and Richmond Police Department to corroborate the additional murders. But again, the most damning testimony came from Philadelphia Police Department Detective Howard Peterman . Apparently, when Gray was taken into custody after a struggle in the basement of a South Philly rowhouse, the Harvey murder confession wasn't the only one he dumped onto Peterman's lap. He also talked about the murder of his wife, as well as the Baskerville-Tuckers. A Look Back…

Where do we go from Here?

City Council to hold public safety meetings throughout Richmond In Remembrance

The Harveys were "talented, creative, intelligent" Gray, Dandridge Indicted

Trials aren't likely to begin before summer, commonwealth's attorney says A Blessing After the Curse

Harvey memorial show also celebrates Plan 9's 25th year. Things Remembered

It's been more than seven months since the grisly New Year's Day Harvey murders. As the trial for suspect Ricky Javon Gray begins, we look back…and ahead. Wanted: Nine More Jurors

As jury selection opens the Ricky Gray trial, the prosecution and defense look for open-minded potential jurors. 'A Real Nasty Scene'

Ricky Gray's candid confession to a Philly detective highlights day three of his capital murder trial, but fails to offer any real answers as to 'why? In his signed jailhouse confession, Gray told Peterman that the Baskerville-Tucker murders were only supposed to be a robbery – with 21-year-old Ashley posing as a victim to help Gray and Dandridge steal – but "things just went wrong."

"Things started getting crazy," Peterman quoted Gray. "Something so simple became so complicated…I did it. I had a little knife from the house…they was choked out, too."

Medical examiner Dr. Darin Trelka ruled that the three murder victims all died of suffocation, as they were all gagged, and their mouths and noses blocked by multiple layers of tape and plastic.

Gray also told Peterman and another Philadelphia detective that he beat his wife, Treva, in her bed with a pipe before dumping her body in some woods outside a garage bordering a ravine.

"I'm sorry and I miss her and wish we could trade places," Peterman quoted Gray. "She was stressed out and got me hooked on drugs again," he added.

After being shown multiple crime scene and autopsy photos of the Harveys in the guilt/innocence phase of the trial, the jury was again shown more grisly images of Gray's alleged victims.

The idea of being on drugs was just one part of the mitigating defense that Gray attorney Ted Bruns brought up in the defense's penalty phase opening argument. Bruns said Gray was on PCP on New Year's Day when he and Dandridge spied an open door at the Harveys' South Richmond home.

Bruns also posed the following question to the jury: "When does a murder begin?" He went on to explain that for the murders Gray was just convicted of and the ones he allegedly confessed to, the crimes might have begun when he was a child. Bruns said Gray endured "private sexual abuse," that he was hyperactive, and beaten by his father with a horse strap for everything from wetting the bed to getting in trouble in school. The attorney added that, ironically, the one place Gray has been at peace has been at prison – and that's a fitting place for him to spend the rest of his life.

The prosecution has four additional penalty phase witnesses slated for Friday morning, including testimony from Harvey family members regarding their loss. One possible witness is Steven Culp , a half-brother to Kathryn Harvey and former star on "Desperate Housewives." Culp has been at the proceedings since Tuesday. The defense has five witnesses to call, including the videotaped testimony of a psychologist who studies the effects of early abuse on later violence.

But even with these witnesses, Bruns conceded to the jury of Gray's actions, "It does nothing to address what he's done."

See the entire day's proceedings and check back for more trial updates in RBlog .

Vote in The Richmond.com Poll : Will you be following the Ricky Javon Gray capital murder trial?

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