By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com December 04 2002 1:00 AM ET
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a lower court's ruling on the appeal of William L. Gray, who was convicted of two murders in Idaho Falls, Ida. In February a three-member panel from the San Francisco-based ninth circuit court of appeals overturned Gray's conviction for the 1989 killing his wife, Betty, and her alleged lesbian lover, Reeda Roundy. The appeals court ruled that Gray's rights had been violated when he could not present hearsay evidence in his defense at his trial and that he should either be retried or released from prison. Idaho law allows the introduction of hearsay evidence before jurors. Generally, hearsay is gossip or rumor. In Gray's case, the appellate court found, the trial judge allowed important hearsay for the prosecution but did not do so for the defense.
Betty Gray's sister testified at trial that her sister told her she was having an affair with Roundy and wanted to divorce Gray. She also testified that William Gray became angry after he learned of the affair, helping prosecutors establish a motive for the killing. William Gray maintained that he did not kill his wife and that Roundy's boyfriend committed the killings. Yet the court did not allow Roundy's children to testify that their mother was afraid of her boyfriend and that he had allegedly threatened to kill her.
Writing for the three-judge appeals court panel, Judge Marsha S. Berzon said the "asymmetrical application of evidentiary standards is unconstitutional." The state maintained that Gray's theory was speculative because the only available evidence indicated that Roundy's ex-boyfriend was out of state on the night of the murders.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a one-sentence order, struck down the ninth circuit court of appeals' ruling and told the court to reconsider the case in light of a November Supreme Court decision, which addresses unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented.