Meet the Exonerees

Paula Gray

State: Illinois
Date of Birth: 1961
Incident Date: 1978
Age at Arrest: 17
Conviction Date: 1978
Age When Exonerated: 41
Exonerated Date: 2002
Time Served: 9
Conviction: Murder, rape, perjury
False Confession: Yes
Implicated by Another Youth: No

Case Details

Paula Gray, a troubled seventeen-year-old, confessed to the rape and murder of Carol Schmal and the murder of Lawrence Lionberg, and also falsely implicated four other individuals who later came to be known as the Ford Heights Four. Gray initially recanted her confession and stood trial, but she was convicted and sentenced to sixty years. Three of the other members of the Ford Heights Four –- Kenneth Adams, William Rainge, and Dennis Williams -- were also convicted based on the testimony of Charles McCraney. Without Gray’s testimony, the fourth member -- Verneal Jimerson –- could not be prosecuted. However, after Rainge and Williams won new trials, Gray agreed to testify against them and against Jimerson in exchange for her early release from prison. Seventeen years later, it was discovered that the prosecution had withheld evidence exculpating all five of them. Subsequent DNA testing also exonerated all five defendants.