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September 10, 2001

Landlord Declared Unfit For Trial Related to Apartment House Tragedy


Accused Landlord Is Held On Bail…Politically Motivated Case?

A judge has ruled that landlord John Gray, 63, is incompetent to stand trial for six murders, including those of four children, in a West Philadelphia apartment house that was rife with building code violations when it caught fire. Gray’s lawyer, Ronald Greenblatt, of Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores, argued that his client is suffering from brain damage that will never improve. While the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office disputed the claim of incompetence, the court disagreed with the District Attorney’s Office in holding Mr. Gray incompetent to stand trial.

The case shows the importance in using high quality expert testimony. Mr. Greenblatt had Dr. Allan Tepper, a nationally recognized psychologist and lawyer, and Dr. Kenneth Weiss, a Board Certified Neuropsychologist, testify that Mr. Gray was incompetent. While the prosecution had expert witnesses, Mr. Greenblatt’s successfully undermined the Commonwealth’s expert witnesses.

The prosecutor conceded that Gray has a five-year-old brain injury, but insisted that he’s now faking serious illness to avoid trial. Common Pleas Judge Carolyn E. Temin gave the prosecution 30 days to decide whether to appeal her ruling. Gray, of Lawnside, New Jersey, was facing third-degree murder charges for the fire deaths of tenants living in a property on 42nd Street near Lancaster Avenue.

Mr. Gray was held after failing to post the $200,000 bail. While the District Attorney’s office said it was satisfied with the bail, Gray’s lawyer, Ronald Greenblatt, attacked it as excessive and politically motivated.

“Mr. Gray is a very sick man of 65, who has all his family in the area and holds other properties in the city,” Greenblatt said. “Bail is supposed to make sure the defendant will come to trial, and there is just no possibility that Mr. Gray will flee.”

Greenblatt charged that Abraham’s office was prosecuting Gray – and asking for a high bail – as part of an effort to curry political favor with the black community.

“This whole case is about Lynne Abraham trying to save her political skin in the black community,” Greenblatt charged. “There have been protests in West Philadelphia about the fire at Mr. Gray’s property, and she is just trying to respond to them.”

Abraham, who has clashed with City Council President John F. Street and other African American leaders during her administration, was up for re-election at the time.

Greenblatt said that Gray would plead not guilty to the six counts of murder, and other related charges.

Licensed to practice in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores LLC specializes in the areas of criminal law, traffic law violations, civil law, corporate law, family law and employment law. With over 100 years of combined legal experience, the multi-disciplinary, full service law firm represents individuals, families and businesses with cost-effective counseling and litigation, including homicide and assault, traffic offenses, DUI/DWI, juvenile law, domestic relations, divorce, custody, employment and employee benefits issues, civil rights, domestic abuse, federal criminal defense, white collar crimes, sex crimes and cyberspace crimes. Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores LLC has law offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Haddonfield, New Jersey. For more information on Attorney Ronald Greenblatt, please access his profile.

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