It has been two years since 54-year-old Prahkash Shah was shot and killed. Now, a Houston County jury has found Ray Grace guilty of Shah's murder. News 4 attended the sentencing Thursday.
The defense argued the capital murder charge should be downgraded because Grace was an accomplice to trigger man, Lameco Turner. However, Alabama law says an accomplice is just as guilty as the one who pulled the trigger.
So, the question for jurors this afternoon had to do with Grace's mental state. Is Grace mentally challenged? The decision means the difference in life in prison or a death sentence.
All 12 jurors found 20-year-old Ray Grace guilty of robbery and murder.
Grace along with two other men robbed the old southeast mini mart in Dothan, killing 54-year-old businessman Prakash Shah.
Under a gag order, prosecutors nor the defense are able to discuss the case.
But News 4 caught up with representatives from the victims of crime and leniency organization who had been with the shah family through the entire ordeal.
“Ms. Shah, do you feel justice has been served,” News 4’s Deborah Tuff asks.
”Yes,” says Mamta Shah, the victim’s daughter.
”Why is that?” Tuff asks.
“The system is very good here,” she says.
Now, those same jurors must decide if Grace is mentally competent. The defense argues mitigating circumstances surrounding Grace’s childhood should outweigh the aggravating circumstance of murder. Witness testimony from family members and his 6th grade teacher painted grace as a victim of his environment.
They say a premature birth led to intellectual deficits; in turn Grace was picked on at school.
The defense also said during Thursday’s sentencing a very abusive and neglectful father led Grace down the wrong path. However, district attorney Doug Valeska pointed out school report cards for Grace and they showed decent grades. He was also sent to alternative school several times for bad behavior.
And when Grace’s mother attempted to intervene for the then 15-year-old by taking him to Spectracare, he never reported his father's physical abuse.
And the tragedy has been somewhat turned into a treasure for one of four of Prahkah Shah's daughters. Jighna Shah received thousands of dollars in scholarship money from VOCAL to complete school at Auburn.
Jurors were not able to come up with a conclusion related to graces mental stability. They'll reconvene Friday, when they are expected to make a decision.
Grace was offered plea bargains before the trial which would have sent him to prison for life, without parole. He turned down both plea deals.