On March 29, 1978, a man visited the Alton, Illinois home of Ann Brewer, a 58-year-old Caucasian woman, inquiring about her motorcycle for sale. After looking over the vehicle, he raped Brewer at knifepoint, stabbed her, and left her for dead. Following the assault, she staggered to a neighbor’s house, where an ambulance was called and first aid administered. Amazingly, she survived.
Police identified 25-year-old David Gray as a potential suspect because of previous sex-related offenses and proximity to the crime, and included his picture in a series given to Brewer for identification. From this questionable photo array (Gray’s picture was noticeably smaller than the rest), both Brewer and her neighbor – who had also had contact with the assailant – identified Gray as the perpetrator of the crimes. Subsequently, a lineup was assembled, and Brewer again selected Gray. Gray provided an alibi which was corroborated by his parents, girlfriend, and girlfriend’s mother.
Forensic scientists compared samples of blood, hair and semen discovered at the scene of the crime with those of Gray, but could determine nothing conclusive. Fingerprints lifted from the motorcycle, which the victim asserted her assailant had touched extensively with his hands, did not belong to Gray.
Solely on the basis of Brewer’s identification, Gray was charged with rape, attempted murder, and armed robbery. His trial ended in a hung jury. At retrial, the prosecution successfully struck the only African American member of the jury. The prosecution also presented a new witness, a jailhouse informant who had shared a cell with Gray during and after the original trial and who claimed that Gray had admitted to the crime. Gray was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to 60 years in prison. Over the next 20 years, all appeals were denied.
Finally, on July 23, 1997, Illinois passed the Post-Conviction hearing Act, which allowed Gray to re-test the DNA sample on the soiled bed sheets preserved from the crime scene. The results excluded both Gray and Brewer’s husband as the donors of the genetic material, strongly suggesting that the rapist had not yet been found. Madison County prosecutors declined to retry Gray and he was released on January 26, 1999.
After evading the issue of a pardon based on innocence on multiple occasions, Governor George Ryan granted executive clemency to Gray on May 2, 2002, enabling him to pursue restitution for his wrongful incarceration. One year later, on May 6, 2003, Gray was approved to receive $143,578.05 in compensation from the Illinois Court of Claims.
— Center on Wrongful Convictions