Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lawrence, KS rapist sentenced to 26 years for cold case rape

A Kansas rapist who attacked a Kansas University junior a dozen years ago was sentenced to 26 years in prison yesterday, August 21. Douglas County District Court Judge Peggy Kittel inposed the 314 month sentence after Assistant District Attorney Amy McGowan read the victim's plea. “I was beyond scared, beyond terrified. My life has been changed forever. Please don’t allow this nightmare to happen to another innocent person,” the now Floridian said.

Robert Gray, now 36, was convicted of rape after kidnapping the victim from Naismith Hall, taking her to the old tennis courts at Lawrence High School in Lawrence, KS and raping her on May 11, 1997 around 11:45 PM. The victim's boyfriend saw the abduction, and while police were taking his statements, the victim drove up to the officer and said she was raped. Grey was not convicted of kidnapping because the 5 year statute of limitations had ran out and Grey was charged in 2007.

FBI's Automated Fingerprint Identification System identified Grey's prints as matching prints lifted from the victim's car back in 1997. Grey's DNA was stored by authorities after being convicted of more crimes, enabling police to match his DNA with DNA taken from the rape kit.

Before the sentencing, Grey’s attorney, Jessica Travis, argued for a new trial, claiming her client was denied his right to a fair trial. Travis went so far as to accuse the state of prosecutorial misconduct, arguing McGowan intentionally withheld information that she was required to turn over to the defense.

Travis’ main complaint had to do with a surprise identification of the defendant by the victim in court during the first day of the trial. The woman had previously never identified Grey in open court.

“There were too many things withheld,” Travis told the judge, “and in the long run, it essentially stripped Mr. Grey of his right to a fair trial.”

But Kittel ruled the evidence in the case was overwhelming and any changes would not have affected the outcome of the trial.

Grey's lawyer also said that her client should be sentenced under the more lenient 1999 Kansas sentencing guidelines rather than the more punitive 1997 guidelines. She also asked that her client's criminal history past 1997 be disregarded. Both motions were denied by Judge Kittel.

The victim wrote in her impact statement that "Time heals all wounds, but a scar never goes away.” Grey did not testify at his sentencing.

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