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Darrell B. GRAYSON





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 24, 1980
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: February 26, 1961
Victim profile: Annie Laura Orr (female, 86)
Method of murder: Asphyxia due to suffocation
Location: Shelby County, Alabama, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Alabama on July 26, 2007

The United States Court of Appeals
For the Eleventh Circuit

opinion 00-15721
opinion 05-15725
opinion 07-12364


The body of 86 year old Annie Laura Orr was found by her son on Christmas Eve 1980. She lived alone and had been severely beaten and raped.

Police found a trail of playing cards leading from Mrs. Orr’s home to the home of Victor Kennedy, a known burglar.

Knowing that Kennedy and Grayson had been seen together the previous night, they eventually found Grayson hiding in bushes near his home. Jewelry from the home was found in his wallet.

On at least three instances, Grayson admitted to police that he had planned with Kennedy for a couple of weeks to rob Mrs. Orr to get money for Christmas.

They broke into her house, found her alone in bed, taped a pillowcase over her head, raped her repeatedly and beat her, demanding to know where the valuables were kept. Grayson also testified at trial and said later that he was too drunk to remember what happened.

Kennedy was also convicted of capital murder in a separate trial and was executed in 1999.


Grayson v. State, 479 So.2d 69 (Ala.Cr.App. 1984) (Direct Appeal).
Grayson v. State, 675 So.2d 516 (Ala.Cr.App.,1995) (Postconviction).
Grayson v. Thompson, 257 F.3d 1194 (11th Cir. Ala. 2001) (Habeas).

Final/Special Meal:

An egg and cheese omelette and fresh sliced tomatoes.

Final Words:

Grayson said the word "peace" and flashed a peace sign shortly before he died.


Alabama Department of Corrections

00Z393 Holman CF (Death Row) Inmate: GRAYSON, DARRELL
DOC#: 00Z419
Race: Black
Gender: Male
Date of Birth: 2/26/61
Location: Holman CF (Death Row)
Assigned to Death Row: 6/29/82
County of Conviction: ShelbyCounty


Alabama executes man for 1980 beating death

By Peggy Gargis - Reuters News

Jul 26, 2007

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - Alabama executed longtime death-row inmate Darrell Grayson by lethal injection on Thursday for killing an 86-year-old woman in 1980. It was the state's second execution of the year and its 37th since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

Grayson, 46, was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m. CDT (2316 GMT) at Atmore prison, said Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett. He asked for a last meal of a cheese omelette and fresh sliced tomatoes, said the word "peace" and flashed a peace sign shortly before he died, Corbett said.

Grayson was convicted in 1981 of burgling the home of Annie Laura Orr of Montevallo, Alabama, on Christmas Eve the previous year and beating her to death. Grayson and accomplice Victor Kennedy, who was convicted of beating and raping Orr and executed in 1999, gave details of the crime in confessions and at trial. Grayson said later he was too drunk to remember what happened that night and had passed out.

Lee Rawlings Binion, Orr's granddaughter, witnessed the execution on behalf of the victim's family, Corbett said. "The family of Annie Laura Orr has seen the final chapter of this lengthy 27-year struggle come to an end. We are grateful that justice has finally been served," said Binion.

Anti-death penalty groups appealed to Alabama Gov. Bob Riley for a stay of execution until DNA testing could be done. They said the state only provided Grayson's original lawyer, Richard Bell, with $500 to hire experts and conduct the defense. But Riley rejected a plea for DNA testing and said in a statement on Wednesday that "no new evidence has come to light that would warrant either a reprieve or a commutation." "DNA testing would not exonerate him even if there is no DNA evidence that he raped Mrs. Orr. Non-DNA evidence of the convicted murderer's guilt ... is abundant," Riley said.

"The killer's own numerous confessions, his own trial testimony where he himself admitted guilt and the overwhelming physical evidence, left a jury no doubt he perpetrated a cruel and monstrous crime upon a helpless elderly woman," he said.


Darrell Grayson dead, executed for Montevallo slaying

Darrell Grayson was put to death by lethal injection at Holman Correctional Facility this evening for the Christmas Eve 1980 murder of 86-year-old Montevallo widow Annie Laura Orr

July 26, 2007

The 46-year-old Grayson, pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m., had been adopted by activists as an example of the need for a state law mandating DNA testing for Death Row inmates.

The Innocence Project, a New York-based non-profit that represents the condemned, had argued that DNA tests not available at the time of Grayson's trial might have proved him innocent. The U.S. Supreme Court in a two-sentence order this afternoon denied a request for a stay of execution. The Alabama Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a request to postpone the execution.

Gov. Bob Riley, who chose not to commute Grayson's sentence or issue a reprieve, said attention had been focused on Grayson, and "seemingly ignored has been consideration of his victim." Riley cited Grayson's repeated confessions and his failed appeals as influencing his decision to not stop the execution. "No new evidence has come to light that would warrant a reprieve or a commutation," he said in a prepared statement.

During his execution, Grayson raised his head to look at Esther Brown, an anti-death penalty activist who had become his friend, and smiled. "I love you," she mouthed, and he answered in kind. Asked by the warden if he had a statement, he answered, "Peace" and smiled again.

Watching from a separate room, Orr's granddaughter, Lee Rawlings Binion, wiped away tears. After several minutes, Grayson turned his head to the right, closed his eyes, and took his last breath. As witnesses were escorted out of the witness rooms, Brown stood and said, under her breath, "Bloody murderers."


Grayson executed for'80 killing

Riley rejects DNA request, cites repeated confessions

Birmingham News

Friday, July 27, 2007

ATMORE - Darrell Grayson was executed Thursday by lethal injection at Holman Correctional Facility for the Christmas Eve 1980 murder of Montevallo widow Annie Laura Orr, 86.

The 46-year-old Grayson, pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m., had been adopted by activists as an example of the need for a state law mandating DNA testing for Death Row inmates. The Innocence Project, a New York-based nonprofit that represents the condemned, had argued that DNA tests not available at the time of Grayson's trial might have proved him innocent.

The U.S. Supreme Court in a two-sentence order Thursday afternoon denied a request for a stay of execution. The Alabama Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a request to postpone the execution.

Gov. Bob Riley, who chose not to commute Grayson's sentence or issue a reprieve, said attention had been focused on Grayson, and "seemingly ignored has been consideration of his victim." Riley cited Grayson's repeated confessions and his failed appeals as influencing his decision to not stop the execution. "No new evidence has come to light that would warrant a reprieve or a commutation," he said in a prepared statement.

Witnessing the execution on his behalf were anti-death penalty activist Esther Brown and one of Grayson's attorneys, Charlotte Norby. Witnessing on behalf of his victim was Lee Rawlings Binion, her granddaughter. As the execution began, Grayson raised his head to look at Brown, who had become his friend, and smiled. "I love you," she mouthed, and he answered in kind. Asked by the warden if he had a statement, he answered, "Peace" and smiled again. Watching from a separate room, Orr's granddaughter wiped away tears.

After several minutes, Grayson turned his head to the right, closed his eyes and took his last breath. As witnesses were escorted out of the witness rooms, Brown stood and said, under her breath, "Bloody murderers."

In a prepared statement, Binion said she was glad to have the ordeal over. "The family of Annie Laurie Orr has seen the final chapter of this lengthy 27-year struggle come to an end. We are grateful that justice has finally been served." Prison authorities said that in his final hours Grayson met with friends and family, read and had his last meal, an egg and cheese omelet with fresh sliced tomatoes. He had been in a good mood, laughing and joking, they said. Grayson left most of his belongings, including a TV, radio, headphones and a pair of Nike shoes, to other inmates. He left a ring to Brown.

Grayson and Victor Kennedy were convicted in 1981 of the Dec. 24, 1980, murder of Orr, who was the widow of a Montevallo University dean and the mother of a former Montevallo mayor.

According to court documents, the men played cards and drank wine with friends on the evening of Dec. 23, then, to get money for Christmas, went to burglarize Orr's home in the early morning hours on Christmas Eve. Orr was awakened by the men, who had entered her home through a basement door. After finding little money, they restrained, beat and raped her. She died of her injuries.

Later that morning Orr's son found her body and police found Grayson in the bushes with her wedding rings in his wallet and his bloody shirt nearby. A trail of playing cards led from the scene of the crime to Kennedy's home. In multiple confessions to police both men provided details of the robbery and rape, and on the witness stand at his trial Grayson again confessed, though he said he remembered few details because he had been drunk. Kennedy was executed in 1999.

Memory lapse:

In recent years Grayson claimed he had no memory of the crime, and unsuccessfully appealed to the court to order DNA testing that wasn't available in 1981. The Innocence Project and other activists said a DNA test could prove conclusively whether Grayson raped Orr. If a test found DNA belonging to a third party, but not to Grayson or Kennedy, the case against Grayson would be undermined, they said.

In the days before the execution the Innocence Project, the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other groups called on Riley to issue a stay so the tests could be conducted. Riley's office refused, saying the governor has the authority to commute sentences, but not to issue stays or order DNA tests. Innocence Project lawyers disagreed, saying the Alabama Constitution specifically grants the governor the authority to grant reprieves.

Eric Ferrero, Innocence Project spokesman, said the state of Alabama said in its own filings in the case that Riley has the authority to issue reprieves and to order DNA tests.


Ala. death row inmate Grayson executed Thursday

By Garry Mitchell - Florida Times-Union

Associated Press

Thursday, July 26, 2007

ATMORE, Ala. - Darrell Grayson was executed Thursday evening by lethal injection for the 1980 killing of an 86-year-old widow in her Montevallo home. Grayson, 46, made a peace sign with both hands and waved them at witnesses. He did not make a lengthy final statement. He just smiled and nodded at witnesses he recognized and said, "Peace."

He was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m. at Holman prison near Atmore. He was executed for the death of Annie Laura Orr, who was robbed and raped before she was killed.

The victim's granddaughter, Lee Rawlings Binion, wiped away tears as she witnessed the execution and in a statement said, "The Orr family has seen the final chapter of a 27-year struggle." "We are grateful that justice has finally been served," Binion said. A single death penalty protester kept vigil outside the prison during the execution.

More than 50 supporters of the 46-year-old Grayson, who was 19 at the time of the crime, rallied in Montgomery on Wednesday, urging Riley to intervene in order for DNA tests to determine if Grayson raped the elderly woman. Grayson's capital murder conviction did not include the rape accusation. But his supporters say it was an aggravating factor cited by prosecutors to get the death sentence and that DNA testing is warranted.

Riley, in a statement Thursday, refused requests to intervene. He said the elderly victim died a "horrifying death" and that Grayson's own testimony and "the overwhelming physical evidence left a jury no doubt he perpetrated a cruel and monstrous crime upon a helpless elderly woman."

The U.S. Supreme Court in a two-sentence order Thursday afternoon denied a request for a stay of execution. The Alabama Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a request to postpone the execution. State prosecutors opposed any delay, saying Grayson's last-minute appeals didn't warrant a stay of execution for the gruesome murder of Orr, who was attacked in her Montevallo home after midnight on Christmas Eve.

Grayson had a co-defendant, Victor Kennedy, who was also convicted of capital murder and was executed in 1999. According to the court record, the victim was raped by both men, who had pulled a pillowcase over her head and bound her with masking tape during the assault. Orr died from suffocation and was robbed of about $30 and her wedding rings.

Investigators found Grayson's blood-splattered shirt hidden under a rock near his home. The blood stains matched the victim's blood type, according to court records.

On July 16, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld a Montgomery federal judge's dismissal of a lawsuit that Grayson filed challenging Alabama's lethal injection procedures as being unconstitutionally cruel. State prosecutors told the 11th Circuit that the Orr murder was described by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals as the actions of "wild ravaging dogs of hell."

As the execution hour approached Thursday, Grayson read two newspapers and his mail and watched TV, requesting a last meal of egg and cheese omelet with fresh sliced tomatoes. He met with his spiritual adviser, his sister, two nephews and two nieces, and three attorneys. His mood was described by prison officials as good, laughing and talking with staff. He spent most of his time, however, on the telephone brought to his cell. In a will, he left his few possessions, including a radio and TV, to four fellow inmates.

Attorney Charlotte Norby and Esther Brown, executive director of Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty, were scheduled to be Grayson's witnesses for the execution.

Darrell Grayson was convicted in the 1980 beating and suffocation death of an 86-year-old widow. Grayson and Victor Kennedy were convicted of killing Annie Laura Orr at her home in Montevallo, Alabama on Christmas Eve in 1980. Her granddaughter visited her during the day of December 23rd, 1980, and found her appearing to be in good health, ambulatory, and in possession of her mental faculties.

During the evening hours of December 23rd, 1980, Darrell Grayson, co-defendant Victor Kennedy, and two other individuals met at Kennedy's residence, also in Montevallo, and a short distance from that of Mrs. Orr. They drank wine and played cards.

Sometime shortly after midnight, and after the other individuals had gone, Kennedy and Grayson left Kennedy's house on foot, walking in the direction of Mrs. Orr's house. They were armed with a .38 Caliber handgun, which belonged to Kennedy. They decided to burglarize Mrs. Orr's residence in order to get some money. They had previously discussed such a burglary, that Mrs. Orr was elderly, and where she kept her money.

They entered the Orr house during the very early morning hours of December 24th, 1980, through a rear basement door. They then proceeded through the dirt basement, up several steps, and into the main living portion of the house near Mrs. Orr's bedroom. The pair used a flashlight to illuminate their way.

Once inside the living portion of the house they entered Mrs. Orr's bedroom where she was apparently sleeping. Annie, who was only 5' 3" and weighed 117 pounds was attacked as she slept. They subdued and beat her, striking her in the head with a blunt instrument and breaking several of her ribs. G

rayson then placed a pillowcase over her head and wrapped two relatively long lengths of masking tape very tightly around her head so that when they were finished her head appeared to be that of a mummy. Then they proceeded to look for money and other valuables. When apparently they could not find a significant amount of cash, the pair began threatening Mrs. Orr by beating her further, threatening to drown her, and firing two shots from Kennedy's pistol, into her bedroom block and wall.

During their assault, the pair raped Annie Orr repeatedly. Darrell Grayson said he didn't want to rape Mrs. Orr but that he did so twice. She lived through the assault of being raped, beaten, threatened, unable to see or adequately breathe, and begging her assailants not to hurt her but to take her money and leave, for a considerable period of time. She then died.

On the morning of December 24, 1980, Mrs. Orr’s son discovered her dead body in her home in Montevallo, Alabama, and called law enforcement officers.

The officers discovered a trail of playing cards leading from Mrs. Orr’s home to the home of Victor Kennedy, a known burglar. Knowing that Kennedy and Grayson had been seen together the previous night, officers began looking for Grayson on the afternoon of December 24, 1980, and discovered him “squatting in the bushes” in a wooded area near his home.

Following his arrest, Grayson confessed. Officers also discovered Mrs. Orr’s wedding rings in Grayson’s wallet and obtained physical evidence from Grayson that linked Grayson to the crime. Grayson was taken into custody.

When interviewed by police, Grayson told the officers that he had performed yard work for Mrs. Orr in the past, was familiar with her house, and had entered her home with Kennedy in the early morning of December 24, awakening Mrs. Orr. Grayson admitted that they had repeatedly raped Mrs. Orr while searching her house for valuables. Grayson and Kennedy took the money and valuables they found, left Mrs. Orr on her bed, and left the house.

Within thirty minutes of this interview, Grayson again waived his Miranda rights and confessed to the officers again. This time, the officers tape-recorded the confession. Grayson again admitted that he had worked for Mrs. Orr in the past and knew the house, but claimed that the burglary and rape were Kennedy’s ideas. Grayson also claimed that he and Kennedy had consumed several gallons of wine the evening of the crime.

Two days later, Grayson again waived his Miranda rights and gave another recorded statement to police. This time, Grayson explained that he and Kennedy had been planning for a couple of weeks to rob Mrs. Orr to get money for Christmas. They selected Mrs. Orr as a target because Grayson had worked for her and knew where she kept money.

Grayson also stated that Mrs. Orr had begged them to take her money and not hurt her. Grayson taped a pillowcase over Mrs. Orr’s face to prevent her from recognizing him, and after that, he could not understand what she was saying.

Grayson stated that both he and Kennedy raped Mrs. Orr repeatedly and unsuccessfully searched for money and other valuables. Grayson admitted that at one point he had taken Mrs. Orr to the bathroom and then returned her to the bedroom, where he raped her again, but he could not remember why he took her to the bathroom or what happened there.

Grayson explained that Kennedy urged him to leave the house while he was raping Mrs. Orr, and Grayson left Mrs. Orr on her bed with the pillowcase taped over her head and face as he left the house. Grayson was tried for capital murder during a burglary. At trial, the officers described the crime scene, the physical evidence, including the playing cards that led to Kennedy’s house, and the circumstances leading to Grayson’s arrest. The officers also recounted their discovery of Mrs. Orr’s wedding rings in Grayson’s wallet and the bloody shirt belonging to Grayson in the woods near his home. The transcripts of Grayson’s confessions were admitted into evidence.

The State additionally presented expert testimony about the crime scene. For example, the State’s trace evidence expert testified about the comparison of hairs recovered from the crime scene and hairs taken from Grayson and Kennedy.

The expert explained that several hairs recovered at the crime scene had “negroid” characteristics consistent with Grayson’s and Kennedy’s hair and inconsistent with the victim’s, but that the hairs were too small to allow an individual comparison of them with Grayson’s and Kennedy’s samples. The expert also testified that a hair recovered from Grayson’s sock following his arrest was consistent with the victim’s head hair and inconsistent with Grayson’s, but the expert could not opine as to whether the hair was the victim’s.

The State’s fingerprint expert testified that the latent fingerprints lifted from Mrs. Orr’s home and on evidence were insufficient to allow analysis. The State’s ballistics expert testified that the two bullets found in the wall between Mrs. Orr’s bedroom and bathroom and on the floor in her bedroom were of the .38 caliber size and were fired from the same weapon, likely a Smith and Wesson revolver.

The expert further testified that the hole in a shattered clock in Mrs. Orr’s home also was consistent with a .38 bullet. However, on cross-examination, the ballistics expert testified that the police had not given him a gun that matched up with the bullets. The State’s serology expert testified that bloodstains found on a pillowcase and a bed spread in Mrs. Orr’s bedroom could not be typed; nor could urine and semen stains found on a bed sheet recovered from Mrs. Orr’s bathroom.

The expert also testified that the bloodstains on Grayson’s shirt recovered from the woods near his house were type O and could have come from either Mrs. Orr or Kennedy, both of whom were type O, but could not have come from Grayson, who is type B. The serology expert testified that a large blood and semen stain on Mrs. Orr’s nightgown was type B, which was consistent with Grayson’s blood.

Grayson provided garbled testimony in his own behalf, mainly to the effect that he was too drunk to remember anything. A jury took only two hours to find him guilty of murder and burglary. Kennedy was executed in Alabama's electric chair at Holman Prison in Atmore on Aug. 6, 1999. The trial judge said, "The court cannot think of a case it has seen, heard, or even read, that would equal the cruelty shown in this case by the defendant to Mrs. Orr."

An 11th Circuit Court of Appeals judge said, "Grayson confessed several times, testified at trial about the murder and his role in it, and does not contend that he was denied a fair trial. The non-biological evidence against him was and is overwhelming. For example, Grayson admitted that he and Kennedy planned the robbery a week before; the victim's wedding rings were found in Grayson's wallet; Grayson's bloody shirt was found in the woods near his house; and Grayson was discovered hiding in the woods after his mother told him of Mrs. Orr's death."

Darrell Grayson, AL, July 26
Do Not Execute Darrell Grayson!

The state of Alabama is scheduled to execute Darrell Grayson on July 26, for the December 1980 murder of Annie Orr. This execution must be halted because substantial doubt exists as to whether Grayson committed the crime for which he was convicted and sentenced to death.According to two sworn affidavits, Grayson was not present when Orr was raped and killed because he was passed out from drugs and alcohol in a different location. Despite originally confessing, Grayson now says he has no knowledge of what took place due to his extremely inebriated state.DNA evidence – in the form of semen found on Orr’s body – could determine once and for all whether Grayson raped Orr. But courts have refused to order the testing and the Alabama Legislature, unlike other states, refused to pass legislation mandating that inmates have access to DNA tests.Grayson’s attorneys have submitted a sworn affidavit from one of the four men present that Grayson could not have murdered Orr because he was passed out. In addition, Grayson’s trial was fraught with problems – he appeared before an all-white jury and his attorney was a divorce lawyer with no capital experience who did not investigate the crime due to a lack of funds. Finally, Alabama’s execution protocol – which has never been made public – is under legal challenge. At the very least, Grayson’s execution should be stayed until the legality of the protocol is determined.

Please write to Gov. Bob Riley on behalf of Darrell Grayson!


Darrell Grayson Execution Alert

Darrell Grayson was executed by the State of Alabama on July 26th 2007.
Thanks to all for your support and attention. Keep hope alive. Peace.

Darrell Grayson is the chairman of Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty. Darrell Grayson's execution date is set for July 26th at Holman Prison in Alabama. Below you will find Darrell's statement, talking points, court documents, and other information which will allow you to make an appeal for Darrell's life.

Message from Darrell Grayson


I want to thank all of you for your dedication to the cause of justice and for your unwavering faith in mankind.

If the Governor does not grant me DNA testing before Thursday I will die not knowing whether I am guilty or not, but I will die knowing that there are many people in Alabama and beyond its borders who will continue the struggle for justice for all. I want you to know that there is peace for me in that thought. As some of you may know, from childhood on I wanted to make a difference and leave the world better than I found it. These feelings only became stronger on death row where there is so much misery. Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty became the vehicle to strive for more and achieve it.

When I see you here today, and I do see you, when I read the letters you have sent me and keep up with the efforts of so many who have stepped up to the plate, I know not only that I have achieved my dream of making a difference but that I leave this dream in the hands of caring, dedicated people. Truly that is the greatest gift, besides life, that you could give me. I thank each and everyone of you from the bottom of my heart! Until we meet again, keep the faith and as I always say when I close my editorials, keep Hope alive!

Darrell B. Grayson
Chairman of Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty



After 20+ years on death row and acceptance of guilt, I came to question my participation in the crime of which I was convicted and for which I received the death penalty. My family, friends and acquaintances had never believed it, as I had no prior criminal record or reputation for violence.

Six years ago my belief in my guilt was shaken because a witness who had been with my co-defendant, myself and another individual that night, came forward to state unequivocally that I could not have committed the crime as I was passed out cold on the floor due to drugs and alcohol. Furthermore, the statement from the witness that my co- defendant had borrowed my jacket that night when he left and committed the crime, explained how jewelry belonging to the victim had supposedly been found in my wallet, which I always kept in my pocket. I was not present when the police found the jewelry.

It had never made sense to me how I, a non-secretor, could have my blood type identified from the semen. The Innocence Project determined that the tests used by the State would not have been able to identify my blood type, nor would they have been reliable. The argument made by the State that I could have ejaculated twice did not coincide with my sexual history, which told me that when under the influence, I would not even be able to ejaculate once, let alone twice. My total inebriation has never been in question.

In the eyes of my attorneys and the state my guilt had largely rested on my “confession” and that I never retracted it. I did not retract it because I have no knowledge of that night. Hindsight tells me that my confession was due to questionable evidence and suggested scenario presented to me, a suggestive personality, psychological intimidation with good cop/bad cop tactics and my debilitated physical and emotional state due to substance withdrawal.

In addition, my attorney advised me to throw myself on the mercy of the court and I thought that by confessing I was doing that. I had an all white jury. Over the years I have learned that no competent attorney would ever allow his client to take the witness stand, let alone confess, whether the client was innocent or guilty.

When I was arrested I was not hiding, as I had no reasons to. Reasons for arrest were that I was friendly with the co-defendant to whose house a trail of evidence led and because I was familiar with the crime scene. Not knowing any differently, I was willing to accept my culpability and was encouraged to do so as a way of mitigating consequences.

Upon my arrest, I was asked to retrieve the clothes I had worn the night before. There is no doubt that I had no clue or recollection what I wore that night were it not for this new witness who stated that I was wearing the jacket already referred to. I was at a loss, and as a result I just picked up some soiled clothes from a pile in the room I shared with my two brothers.

After testing the only possible evidence found was one hair on a sock, which was consistent with the victim’s hair, the state claimed. The defense received too little money to do its own testing and this was stated by the attorney representing me. In fact he asked my family for more money and later stated that if my case had been a civil case he would have been sued for malpractice. (My appointed attorney was a divorce attorney). The shirt which was found a couple of days later by a self admitted police informer, (see attached affidavit) was never identified by me or any family member as belonging to me.

For years I accepted what had been suggested to me because I did not have any memory of that night. When I came to death row and saw Victor Kennedy, my co-defendant who was executed in 1999, I asked him repeatedly to tell me what happened on that night. He would not tell me and was hostile. On the night of his execution, I was taken from my cell by the Lieutenant to the Captain’s office. Victor had asked his personal preacher to tell me that he, Victor, asked for my forgiveness. I asked the preacher, for what does he want my forgiveness? The preacher told me, that is not important!

It is hard to understand why my attorney in preparation for my trial never tried to interview the two other men who were there that night, my brother, Rodney and Al Naugher, (affidavits). It was no secret that we had all been playing cards together that night and drinking as reported in the newspaper at that time. The attorney did not interview these two other men nor did he do any kind of investigation. He later stated that he was denied the money by the court to do that.

It was not until 2001, when Al Naugher once more told my sister Betty Grayson that I was innocent, that Esther Brown interviewed him and others in my case. When she interviewed my brother, Rodney, who I have not seen since my arrest 26 years ago, he told her that the family wanted to put the murder on him. On checking with family members this turned out to be incorrect. Rodney is a convicted sex offender.

Esther Brown also rehired my former attorney, not because of his competency, but because of his local connections, which did turn up my evidence and led to the Innocence Project taking up my case. The State of Alabama, in denying my request for DNA testing, cited the fact that I never said I was innocent as the reason for denial. How could I have done that when I have no memory of that night? I do admit to giving a coerced false confession. DNA testing could prove that and invalidate my false confession, which to cite my original attorney, was the reason I was found guilty and convicted.

Darrell B. Grayson

Death penalty cases can be complex and difficult to summarize. We provide talking points below. However, we also believe that a thorough reading of the facts of this case, including the arguments made by the State of Alabama, will lead most citizens to have, at the very least, serious doubts about the appropriateness of the death penalty in this case.

Darrell's Innocence Project attorneys filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in Grayson v. King. ("King" here is Alabama's Attorney General Troy King.) We are encouraging you to read the petitions filed on Darrell's behalf, the State of Alabama's brief in opposition to the petition, and the reply filed by Darrell's attorney. These papers lay out the issues in the case for both sides. Here are the links to these documents, which are in PDF format (requiring Adobe Reader or another pdf reader):

...there is great question as to whether Darrell Grayson did, in fact, commit this crime.

Darrell Grayson was caught in the trap of poverty and was unable to present his defense to the jury in this case. As I once stated to the Supreme Court during oral argument, the method of funding or lack thereof in this case was tantamount to having my hands tied behind me...

Attorney Richard Bell to Gov. Riley, July 16, 2007

Alabama has refused to make its lethal injection protocol public. The 11 states that looked at lethal injection at least gave the matter pause and consideration. Alabama is doing everything possible to keep everything secret. Why this secrecy? Why not at least stop and say-let’s review as did the other 11 states?

Why Darrell's supports believe it is possible Alabama executed an innocent man.

1. Judge Watkins had set a tentative date for a 3 day trial on this for June 26th and then denied this due to pressure by the State, citing "laches." (For more about this very unusual ruling in this context, click here.) Judge Watkins had been aware of this prior to setting tentative date.

2. Darrell Grayson had an all white jury and a divorce attorney as his lawyer for his initial trial.

3. Darrell's attorney failed to investigate, citing insufficient funds from State.

4. His attorney told Darrell Grayson, 19 years of age at the time, to throw himself on the mercy of the court, ie. confess although he had been in a alcohol blackout the night of the crime with no recollection of the event.

5. A witness who was with Darrell, Victor Kennedy (already executed for this crime,) and Rodney Grayson, gave sworn affidavit that Darrell Grayson was passed out cold and did not leave with Victor Kennedy or Rodney Grayson.

6. On the night of Victor Kennedy’s execution he sent word to Darrell B. Grayson via the chaplain asking him for forgiveness. Victor Kennedy had steadfastly refused to answer Darrel B. Grayson’s questions about the events.

7. Darrell B. Grayson, represented by the Innocence Project, has been denied DNA testing of evidence, which could clear him because it would contradict his false confession of culpability. In denying testing the State argued that Darrell B. Grayson has not claimed innocence. As stated before, Darrell B. Grayson has no recollections of that night!

Please write the Governor, the media, your legislators--ask for a moratorium!!

Text of Letter from Ambassador of European Union regarding Darrell Grayson

The Head of Delegation

Washington, 1 June 2007

Ms. Esther Brown Executive Director
Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty P.O. Box 1362
Lanett, Alabama 36863

Dear Ms. Brown,

I have received your letter of 27 May regarding the case of Darrell Grayson in which you reinforce your request for me to write to Governor Riley. I want to inform you that I, in fact, had already sent a letter to the Governor about a week before I received your letter.

I told Governor Riley of my meeting with you and how you expressed many concerns about the use of lethal injections in Alabama. I also raised the American Bar Association's broader, and equally negative assessment (June 2006) of the entire Alabama capital punishment process. I urged the Governor to work to establish moratorium on all executions and to stop the imposition of new death sentences.


John Bruton


I dedicate this award to my very dear friend, the Chairman of PHADP, Darrell B. Grayson.

I do not dedicate it to Darrell because he has an execution date; I do not dedicate it to him because he came from a highly dysfunctional, poor family and was a high school drop out; I do not dedicate it to him because he had an all white jury and a divorce attorney at his trial who suggested he throw himself on the mercy of the court, a court which did not know the meaning of justice, let alone mercy. I do not dedicate this award to Darrell because when I found evidence six years ago which could clear him and the Innocence Project took his case because they too believed in his innocence, the courts denied him DNA testing, no, not for any of these reasons, although they would be more than enough.

I dedicate it to Darrell because living in the darkness and the horror of death row he decided he would leave the world better than he found it. And if this claim can be made for anyone, I make it for him. Not only did Darrell obtain a two year associate degree when that was still possible on death row but he began to write poetry which has been widely published. The Birmingham Arts Review, Axis of Logic, Right Hand Pointing, The Dead Mule have to name a few, published Darrell’s works. He also became an associate writer for the East Alabama black newspaper, The People’s Voice and has three chapbooks to his credit. But this is not all, most important of all, for the past seven years he has been the chairman of our organization and the editor of On Wings of Hope. In these roles he is the mentor and father figure for our board and has touched lives, which had never experienced a caring father, let alone one who challenged them to succeed because he believed in their god given potential.

Darrell believes in justice without ever having obtained it. He believes in service to others in a place where many curl up in the fetal position and think only of themselves. When you give me this award tonight you give it not just to me but also to my brothers on death row and especially to Darrell Grayson without whose support you would not be honoring me.

I want to leave you with this challenge. If Darrell can achieve all he has, be all he is, there is not one of us here tonight who cannot also fight for justice and change. We owe it to him, we owe it to our children, we owe it to ourselves. We cannot allow darkness and injustice to win. We must, each and every one of us embrace Hope and stand up and fight for justice now!

Esther Brown

Darrell B. Grayson was raised in Montevallo, Alabama with eleven siblings in a single parent household. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade. At age 19, and with no prior criminal history, he was convicted and received the death penalty from an all white jury. He has been on Death Row at Holman Prison in Atmore, Alabama since 1982. After some years of severe depression, which he describes as spending flat on his back, the death of his mother brought about the decision to better himself. He began to write commentary and poetry and received his GED and Associate Science degree. In 1994 he became active in Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty, an organization founded and operated by Death Row inmates. In 2000 he became its chairman. He edits and assembles Wings of Hope, the Project Hope newsletter, with primitive equipment in the prison.

Darrell Grayson’s poetry, which he describes as "a contagion of insecurities,” has appeared in Axis of Logic, Right Hand Pointing, The Dead Mule, Wings of Hope, and elsewhere. He has written three chapbooks of poetry from prison.

Glory Wings

Indeed, I recall very well,
That special feeling of being exalted,
Flying helter skelter over vast fields
My dusky heels beating a tattoo on the earth,
On my skinny youthful bottom.
The rays of the sun seemed filtered
As through clouds with golden flash-lights,
Alive with thousands of golden fingers
Caressing my damp joy infused face,
As glory wings lifted skywards,
Oh yes, to race the boundless heavens.

Darrell "confessed"
But, confessions are not always what they seem.
DNA evidence is available which has never been tested. Darrell Grayson, facing execution, has been denied the right to have DNA testing. Darrell Grayson, as a young, poor, African-American, was convicted by an all-white jury. Darrell's trial attorney had no experience in capital cases. He practiced divorce law.


Grayson v. State, 479 So.2d 69 (Ala.Cr.App. 1984) (Direct Appeal).

Defendant was convicted in the Circuit Court, Shelby Court, Harold E. Walden, J., of a capital offense involving nighttime burglary and intentional killing, and he appealed. The Court of Criminal Appeals, Bowen, P.J., held that: (1) State was not constitutionally required to provide indigent defendant with services of expert witnesses; (2) appointed counsel compensation statute did not deprive indigent capital defendants of equal protection; (3) trial judge did not abuse his discretion in denying motion for change of venue; (4) statutory limitation on extraordinary expenses of $500 did not limit defendant's ability to establish actual prejudice supporting change of venue; (5) evidence did not support defendant's claim that district attorney was given access to jury roll after it was delivered to sheriff but before defense counsel obtained copy; (6) aggravating circumstance charged in indictment may be used as aggravating circumstance for death penalty; (7) defendant's confessions were voluntary; and (8) death sentence was appropriate. Affirmed.

BOWEN, Presiding Judge.

Darrell Grayson, the appellant, was indicted for the capital offense involving the nighttime burglary and intentional killing of Annie Laura Orr. Alabama Code Section 13A-5-31(a)(4) (1975). Both counts of the indictment charged Grayson with breaking and entering with the intent to commit robbery and intentional killing. A jury found Grayson “guilty of the capital offense as charged in Count One and Two of the indictment.” After a punishment hearing, the jury “fix(ed) the defendant's punishment at death.” After a sentencing hearing, the trial judge followed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Grayson to death by electrocution.

Victor Kennedy was Grayson's accomplice and co-defendant. We affirmed his conviction and death sentence in Kennedy v. State, 472 So.2d 1092 (Ala.Cr.App.1984).

Initially, Grayson argues that his fundamental Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel was denied because, as an indigent, he was not provided funds with which to hire experts.

“The question whether an indigent defendant is entitled to state-furnished funds for investigative purposes, tests, expert testimony, and other assistance in his defense in criminal cases has been recognized as an ever-growing problem.” Annot. 34 A.L.R.3d 1256, Section 2(b) (1970). In Thigpen v. State, 372 So.2d 385, 386 (Ala.Cr.App.), cert. denied, Ex parte Thigpen, 372 So.2d 387 (Ala.1979), this Court held that the denial of funds to pay experts does not amount to a deprivation of constitutional rights, despite the contention that the right to the effective assistance of counsel is meaningless without such assistance. Despite that holding, it seems clear, under the developing case law, that both federal and state constitutional guarantees may require a state to provide an indigent criminal defendant with expert assistance. 34 A.L.R.3d at Section 3(a). However, even those cases which recognize the existence of such a constitutional right do not establish it as an absolute right in every case. The threshold question requires the showing of a need for the requested services. Ex parte Argo, 42 Ala.App. 546, 547, 171 So.2d 259 (1965). We recognized in Gwin v. State, 425 So.2d 500, 508 (Ala.Cr.App.1982), cert. quashed, 425 So.2d 510 (Ala.1983), that before determining whether fundamental fairness requires that an accused be afforded the opportunity to have an expert of his choosing examine a piece of “critical evidence whose nature is subject to varying expert opinion”, it should first be determined that the evidence is “critical”. Evidence is “critical” for purposes of the due process clause if it could induce a reasonable doubt in the minds of enough jurors to avoid a conviction when that evidence was developed by skilled counsel and experts. White v. Maggio, 556 F.2d 1352, 1357-58 (5th Cir.1977); Gwin, supra.

We recognize that due process and fair play may demand that the accused be furnished with assistance of experts in preparing his defense. Nevertheless, under the facts of this case, the State was not constitutionally required to provide this indigent with the services of expert witnesses. Hoback v. Alabama, 607 F.2d 680, 682 (5th Cir.1979).

In making his finding of facts, the trial judge found that none of the latent fingerprints found at the scene matched either Grayson or his accomplice, that semen found at the scene could be typed as consistent with that of Grayson, that the blood found on Grayson's shirt was consistent with Mrs. Orr's blood type, and that a hair taken from Grayson's sock at the time of his arrest was consistent with the head hair of Mrs. Orr. At best, the expert testimony could only negate the possibility that Grayson could not have committed the crime. Each expert testified, in effect, that there was no way that the various bodily substances could be positively identified as having come from one particular individual. The record contains no suggestion that the test results were subject to “varying expert opinion” or that there was any question about the validity or accuracy of the tests performed.

Here, the facts show that Grayson requested funds to employ experts. The trial judge granted Grayson's motion “up to the statutory financial limits of Alabama law.” See Bailey v. State, 421 So.2d 1364 (Ala.Cr.App.1982). The judge also granted Grayson's motion for discovery and ordered the State to produce, among other items, “any and all scientific reports, (and) a presentation of all the physical evidence to be presented at trial.” In addition, Grayson was given a complete physical and mental examination at state expense.

Even those cases which recognize that the effective assistance of counsel embraces the allowance of funds for an indigent defendant to obtain investigative services to assist in the preparation of his defense hold that such an allowance is far from automatic and depends on the circumstances of the particular case.

“Our reflections on this point are congruent with the standard applicable when counsel for an indigent defendant seeks funds to obtain investigative services to assist in the preparation of the defense. While in general effective assistance of counsel embraces such an allowance it is far from automatic and ‘depends on the facts and circumstances of a particular case’, with funds provided when counsel makes a showing of necessity of the specific subjects to be explored and of their likely materiality.” United States v. DeCoster, 624 F.2d 196, 210 (D.C.Cir.1976).

The circumstances of this case do not support Grayson's contention that his constitutional right to the effective assistance of *73 counsel was violated because he was not afforded funds for the hiring of experts.

* * *

Grayson argues that his confessions were involuntary upon a consideration of the totality of the circumstances that he was questioned within twelve hours after the crime was committed, was only nineteen years old with a tenth grade education, and was “under a great deal of fear, shame and duress.”

On two separate occasions, the trial judge made specific written findings that Grayson's statements were voluntarily made after knowing and intelligent waivers of his constitutional rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). Although two separate suppression hearings were held, Grayson never presented any evidence to contradict the State's showing of voluntariness. The facts are so clear that the statements were voluntary that they do not bear repeating. Suffice it to say that nothing other than sheer speculation, utter conjecture, and groundless surmise will even cast a taint on the voluntariness of Grayson's statements.

In accordance with Beck v. State, 396 So.2d 645 (Ala.1980), we make the following determinations. (1) Grayson was indicted and convicted for a crime which was in fact punishable by death. Alabama Code Section 13A-5-31(a)(4) (1975) is by statutory definition and designation a capital offense. (2) Similar crimes are being punished capitally throughout the state. Lindsey v. State, 456 So.2d 383 (Ala.Cr.App.1983), appeal pending; Clisby v. State, 456 So.2d 86 (Ala.Cr.App.1982), affirmed in part and remanded in part, 456 So.2d 95 (Ala.1983). Victor Kennedy, Grayson's accomplice and partner, also received the death penalty for his participation in this same crime. Kennedy v. State, 472 So.2d 1092 (Ala.Cr.App.1983). (3) The sentence of death is unquestionably proper for Grayson who burglarized, beat, terrorized, raped, and suffocated to death a helpless 86-year-old lady. Both Kennedy's and Grayson's crimes are more characteristic of the actions of wild ravaging dogs of hell *76 rather than even the lowest and most depraved level of humanity.

In reviewing this death sentence, we also make the following findings according to Alabama Code Section 13A-5-53 (1975). (1) There is no evidence that the sentence of death was imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor. (2) Our independent weighing of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances supports the findings of the trial judge that “the capital felony was committed while the defendant was engaged in the commission of a rape, robbery, and burglary”, that “the capital felony was especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel.” We find that the mitigating circumstances are so poor in quality and small in number as to be almost nonexistent. We further find that any single aggravating circumstance far outweighs all the mitigating circumstances. (3) Finally, considering both this particular crime and this particular defendant, we determine that death is neither excessive nor disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases.

In reviewing the proportionality of Grayson's sentence to death we have considered his argument, presented initially in his reply brief on appeal, that similar crimes throughout this state are not being punished capitally. Grayson's argument is grounded on the fact that recently within this state Jerry D. Hamilton was permitted to plead guilty to noncapital offenses involving the murder and kidnapping of twenty-six-year-old Melissa “Missy” DeVaughn.

Although no information concerning Hamilton is contained in the record of the proceedings below, the events surrounding the Alabama Attorney General's plea bargain agreement with Hamilton were well publicized and have been supplemented by the affidavit of an assistant attorney general. It appears that Hamilton was permitted to plead guilty on the condition that he reveal the location of Mrs. DeVaughn's body, which had not been located after extensive and intensive search efforts by county and state authorities.

The Attorney General asserts that, without the body, there was insufficient evidence to prove the corpus delicti of a capital murder because there was no physical or scientific evidence to link Hamilton to the murder. Additionally, part of the plea bargain was that Hamilton would plead guilty to a federal kidnapping charge.

The Hamilton case is factually distinguishable from the one now under review. However, in neither Hamilton's case nor in Grayson's was the sentence imposed in an arbitrary and capricious manner. We have searched the entire record for error and found none. That search and our review of this appeal convince us that the judgment of the circuit court is due to be affirmed. AFFIRMED.


Grayson v. State, 675 So.2d 516 (Ala.Cr.App.,1995) (Postconviction).

After his conviction and capital sentence were affirmed on direct appeal, 479 So.2d 69 and 479 So.2d 76, defendant filed petition for postconviction relief. The Shelby Circuit Court, Al Crowson, J., denied relief, and defendant appealed. The Court of Criminal Appeals, Cobb, J., held that: (1) record did not support defendant's contention that trial court improperly adopted state's postevidentiary hearing brief as its opinion; (2) defendant was not denied effective assistance of counsel at trial level or appellate level; (3) certain ineffective assistance of counsel claims could not be addressed on postconviction appeal due to inadequacy of record; and (4) other claims were barred because they could have been but were not raised or addressed at trial and/or on direct appeal. Affirmed.


Darrell B. Grayson



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