Court orders retrial in gang murder

November 23, 2012
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The state’s highest court has ordered a new trial for a Jamaica Plain street gang member previously convicted of murder in an infamous 2006 mistaken-identity killing.

Lamory S. “Lawz” Gray of 934 Parker St. in the Bromley-Heath housing development was a member of the Heath Street gang. In 2009, he was convicted of first-degree murder for the shooting of Herman Taylor III, a teenager with no involvement in gangs or drugs, in Roxbury. Prosecutors said Gray had mistaken Taylor as a member of the rival H-Block gang.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office is “reviewing our options,” according to spokesperson Jake Wark. “But as we told his family when we informed them of the high court’s decision, we’re determined to see justice done for Herman, his family and his community.”

It appears Gray will get a new trial, but the “options” could include different criminal charges. “As it stands today, we still believe the facts of this case warrant a first-degree murder charge, given the deliberate premeditation shown by the assailant,” Wark said.

Gray, who is serving a life sentence without parole, appealed the case to the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). The court ruled on Nov. 15 that Gray’s trial was unfair because the judge did not allow him to introduce a witness’s contradictory grand jury testimony as evidence, while allowing prejudicial testimony and evidence against Gray to be seen by the jury.

That prejudicial evidence included Gray’s appearance in a rap video called “Heat Life, Nothing but a P Thang.” The prosecution claimed the song, with lyrics about “pills, perps, pistols and powder,” was about the Heath Street gang. The SJC ruled that song lyrics are artistic expression, not evidence of literal, specific criminal activity.

Wark disputed the SJC’s interpretation, saying that Gray’s attorney chose not to highlight alleged problems with the grand jury testimony, and that the “prejudicial” evidence was introduced only to rebut claims made by the defense.

“This was a case of gang violence claiming the life of a truly innocent boy and not, as the high court seemed to suggest, a sociological study of rap music,” Wark said.

At the time of his arrest in the Taylor killing, Gray had a history of criminal charges in Jackson Square. Later in 2006, Gray was the driver of a car whose passenger was shot by police officers after allegedly pointing a gun at them on Heath Street. Gray faced various criminal charges in that case. He also was arrested in Bromley-Heath on charges of Class D drug possession with intent to distribute in 2006 and 2007.

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