December 3, 2014
A man sentenced to die for murdering a South Richmond family is suing over conditions on Virginia’s death row.
Ricky Gray is one of five death row inmates suing the Director of the Virginia Department of Corrections and the warden of the Sussex State Prison. They claim they aren’t given enough freedom as they spend their days in solitary confinement. Gray was sentenced to death for the murders of the Harvey family in their Woodland Heights home on New Year’s Day 2006 in one of the most gruesome crimes in Richmond history.
“Horrendous!” cried Richmond native Cynthia Erdahl. “Just the saddest thing you could ever think of.”
Gray remains on death row pending an appeal.
He, and the other death row inmates, complain they are kept in solitary confinement for the majority of the day. Gray is only occasionally allowed out of his cell to cut the hair of other inmates, according to the lawsuit. They also claim the one hour of outdoor recreation they receive five days a week is insufficient, because they are not allowed to use exercise equipment, not allowed in the gym or prison yard, nor given exercise equipment to use in the pod. They are also allowed out of their cell for a 10-minute shower three days a week and can purchase a TV and CD player, as well as request books from the library, according to the lawsuit.
The inmates also complain about being barred from vocational, educational,or behavioral programming, and group religious services. They are only allowed visits from immediate family members on weekends in a room with a glass partition.
“They just killed all those people,” said Erdahl. “How can they file a lawsuit? That’s ridiculous.”
They claim the treatment is unconstitutional.
“You have sentenced us to death, but you are not allowed to torture us in the meantime. That’s what they are saying in this lawsuit,” said NBC12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin.