Elderly inmate denied clemency for his role in five Seattle murders

By | December 7, 2012 | Comments

In a closely split decision, the board that makes pardon recommendations to Gov. Chris Gregoire denied a request from a man who was present more than 30 years ago when five people were murdered in Seattle, including two small children who were shot execution-style in the head.

Henry Grisby and his friend Raymond Frazier went to an apartment in March 1978 to confront people whom Frazier believed sold him bad heroin. Frazier then shot Grisby and six people in the apartment, including a 5-year old boy and 3-year old girl who was hiding in a closet.

One survivor testified that it was Grisby who shot him. Grisby denied it, but both he and Frazier were sentenced to life without parole.

A polygraph test showing that Grisby was telling the truth prompted the former prosecutor in the case, Roy Howson, to make the highly unusual move of asking for Grisby’s clemency in 2006, which the state Clemency and Pardons Board denied.

On Friday, longtime appeals lawyer and Washington Supreme Court justice-elect Sheryl Gordon McCloud asked the board to reconsider.

Grisby is 72 and in poor health. He’s a role model and mentor to young inmates, including one who calls him “dad,” McCloud said.

“I don’t think anybody believes he poses a threat to anyone today,” McCloud said.

Speaking by phone, Grisby apologized for his role in the crime.

“I am truly sorry and I have been since 1978 for the incident and the part I played,” Grisby said. “It has never left me. I can’t get over it. It was horrible and I’m sorry all the lives it touched.”

The board voted 3-2 to deny the request. Board member James McDevitt called it “one of the most horrific crimes the state has ever seen” before voting to deny the petition. Board members Cheryl Terry and Raul Almeida also voted no.

“Bottom line, he was there,” McDevitt said. “He participated.”

Board chair John Turner voted no six years ago, but reversed his decision on Friday. He said he doesn’t believe Grisby is a threat to society, and he will only be a burden to taxpayers if he stays in prison.

“If it is true that Grisby was not a shooter, that both weapons were fired by the other person, then 35 years is a very extensive sentence for his involvement in this crime,” said Turner.

Board member Jennifer Rancourt joined Turner in voting yes, saying that there are “serious doubts” stemming from the polygraph test and the way the case was prosecuted.

TVW taped the hearing and we’ll post it here once it’s available online.

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