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Ohio Jailer's Federal Criminal Conviction Related to Prisoner Death Upheld

Ohio Jailer's Federal Criminal Conviction Related to Prisoner Death Upheld


On August 31, 2012, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the criminal conviction of a former Ohio jailer on charges related to the homicide of a prisoner.


John Gray was an employee of the Lucas County Sheriff's Office in May 2004 when he placed Carlton Benton, a combative prisoner who had been returned from the hospital to the jail's medical unit. Because Benton threatened to fight the guards when he was released from his restraints, Gray used a "sleeper hold" on Benton, choking his carotid artery and rendering him unconscious. Benton began making gurgling sounds and another guard told Gray to stop. Instead, Gray ordered the other guards to remove the restraints, and then ordered the other guards from the room. In a later interview, Gray admitted to hearing Benton's gurgling sounds and knowing that he should have notified a nurse about the situation, but instead he left the silent and motionless Benton on the infirmary bed.


About ten minutes later, another guard making rounds discovered Benton unconscious and not breathing. Despite attempts at resuscitation, he was declared brain dead and removed from life support two days later.


Gray falsified his report of the incident, failing to mention the sleeper hold or the choking noises. Due to the lack of information, the corner declared Benton's death to have been the result of natural causes.


Four years later, a guard who had witnessed the incident was involved in a disciplinary proceeding and mentioned that "people could be killed and no one lose their job." This prompted a new investigation of the Benton death. Lucas County authorities turned the investigation over to federal authorities.


After interviewing over 60 witnesses, the FBI concluded that Benton had been killed by the hold. This information was given to the coroner, who changed the cause of death to homicide. Gray was eventually convicted of depriving Benton of his civil rights under color of law in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242 and falsifying documents in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1519. He was sentenced to 36 months in a federal prison. He appealed.


The Sixth Circuit addressed Gray's claims that the jury had not been required to find a nexus between his conduct and the FBI investigation, that he was not given a specific unanimity jury instruction, that he was acquitted facts had been used in his sentencing and that the evidence had been insufficient. Finding no error, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence. See: United States v. Gray, 692 F.3d 514 (6th Cir. 2012).

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Related legal case

United States v. Gray