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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Jury convicts man of robbery, but not murder in alleged drug deal gone bad

Sept. 13, 2022 Updated Tue., Sept. 13, 2022 at 9:02 p.m.

A man was shot outside of the Brookdale Park Place senior living facility New Year’s Eve morning.  (Rebecca White / The Spokesman-Review)
A man was shot outside of the Brookdale Park Place senior living facility New Year’s Eve morning. (Rebecca White / The Spokesman-Review)

A jury convicted Joseph Gray of robbery but acquitted him of murder on Tuesday in connection with the shooting death of Chris Smith.

Gray, 30, was accused of killing Smith, then 35, on New Year’s Eve of 2020 after a drug deal gone wrong.

Gray’s attorney, Brian Raymon said he was pleased with the acquittal but disappointed his client was still convicted of robbery.

“We thought this was a clear case of self-defense,” Raymon said.

According to court documents, Smith had previously sold drugs to Gray at an acquaintance’s house. Gray left, but returned shortly after and allegedly told Smith that the drugs were garbage. Smith ran out the back door of the house.

The two men met again near the Brookdale Park Place nursing home in Spokane Valley, not far from the drug sale. According to witnesses, Gray “aggressively” began asking Smith, “Where’s my money?”

That’s when a physical struggle broke out between the two men outside of the nursing home, witnesses told police. Gray pulled off Smith’s fanny pack and the two men separated. That’s when Gray pulled out a pistol and shot Smith, the documents said.

Smith was taken to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where he died from his injuries.

Smith’s mother, Gemmerica Smith, who was present in the courtroom, said she was pleased that Gray was convicted, but recognized the hardship on his family as well.

“I’m happy with it, but neither of us wins,” she said of Gray’s mother, who was also present in the courtroom. “She just lost her son (to prison).”

Jury deliberation lasted about seven hours.

A juror who was leaving the courthouse on Tuesday told the Spokesman-Review that many of her fellow jurors weren’t happy with the parameters of the case.

“I’m frustrated and a little bit angry at the fact that we had to follow certain rules and laws to make a decision that I feel like might let him go,” Angela Hagedorn said. “I’m concerned that he’s not paying for what he did.”

Neither she nor any of the other jurors thought it was self-defense – as Gray’s defense had said – but they were unable to convict on the murder charge, she said.

“Everybody in that room knows that he shot somebody and that he took somebody’s life. All of us are feeling pretty bad for the decedent, Mr. Smith, and his mom,” she said. “It’s quite obvious he took a life and he needs to pay. My fear is that he got away with something.”

Gray is scheduled to be sentenced on the robbery conviction Oct. 12.

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