Jurors began deliberations Tuesday in the murder trial of James M. Gray, a Calvert County construction worker accused of beating, shooting and stabbing his wife to death in 1995 to prevent her from divorcing him and getting a share of his rural property.
As in Gray's first murder trial, in 1998, the Charles County jury will have no physical evidence to consider, no witnesses to the slaying of Bonnie L. Gray and no murder weapon linked to her killing.
Instead, attorneys for the prosecution and defense said, jurors will have to decide whose testimony to believe.
Charles County Assistant State's Attorney Matthew R. Stiglitz said jurors should believe prosecution witnesses such as Twain B. Harrod, who said that on the night before Bonnie Gray was reported missing he saw James Gray hitchhiking on Route 231, not far from where his wife's body was eventually found.
And Richard Echard, who testified that James Gray asked him to write a fake receipt for a gun that was missing from the Gray household.
And Loren Gisselback, a retired minister who said James Gray showed little emotion the day after his wife's body was found.
But defense attorney Brian C. Denton told jurors they only had to believe one witness to acquit his client: Becky Gray, the defendant's 14-year-old daughter, who testified that she last saw her mother alive on the morning of Nov. 30, 1995, a few hours after prosecutors alleged she was killed.
"If you believe Becky Gray, Jimmy Gray is innocent," Denton said in closing arguments.
Bonnie Gray, 45, was found dead in the trunk of her car in December 1995. She was missing five fingers, had been shot three times in the head, stabbed in the heart and bludgeoned with a blunt object. A 15-month investigation yielded almost no physical evidence pointing to her husband.
Five years ago a jury convicted James Gray, 42, of first-degree murder, based largely on courtroom testimony. The Maryland Court of Appeals ordered a new trial last year, faulting evidentiary rulings made in the 1998 proceeding by Circuit Judge Christopher C. Henderson.
For the last three weeks, Stiglitz has meticulously presented more than 40 witnesses and dozens of evidence exhibits. When taken as a whole, the evidence makes James Gray the only plausible killer, the prosecutor said.
Stiglitz said Bonnie Gray wanted a divorce in late 1995 -- James Gray was drinking too much, hunting too much and hanging out with friends too much. A divorce would mean separation from his child and the loss of his 10 acres of land in Calvert County where he hunted, Stiglitz said, so James Gray killed his wife.
On Dec. 7, the day after Bonnie Gray's body was found, James Gray recounted to a friend how he said police told him she died, including one detail -- that she had been shot -- that not even officers would know about until later, according to testimony.
"How could he know on Dec. 7 unless he was the one who did the shooting?" Stiglitz said.
Denton attacked the police work on the case, saying the crime scene was "botched." Bonnie Gray was wearing pantyhose when her body was found, which meant she was probably killed in the morning, not at night as Stiglitz has asserted, the defense attorney said.
Denton said it was likely that more than one person killed Bonnie Gray because more than one weapon was used. And he said it takes more than conflicting witness testimony to convict someone of murder.
"That's not a substitute for evidence," he said.