Grega's murder conviction vacated, new trial ordered
By Alan J. Keays
and Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITERS | August 22,2012
Len Emery Photo
John Grega, convicted in 1995 of killing his wife while on vacation in Vermont, hugs his mother, Marion Grega, outside the Springfield prison after his release Wednesday.
SPRINGFIELD — John Grega walked out of the Springfield prison Wednesday, carrying two bags filled with belongings he accumulated in his nearly two decades behind bars and wearing a broad smile.
“I'm like in shock, total shock,” Grega said as he hugged the handful of family and friends gathered in the prison's parking lot to greet the first person in Vermont sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A judge this week vacated the conviction of Grega, who was found guilty of the 1994 murder of his wife, and ordered a new trial after DNA evidence that came to light last month cast doubt on Grega's guilt.
“I always said I would walk out,” a tearful Grega told his family and friends outside the prison.
“You're out,” one of them replied as another handed him two cigars.
His friends and family spent the morning and early afternoon Wednesday on the road, driving to Springfield from their homes in Long Island, N.Y.
A day earlier they learned Grega would be freed after posting $75,000 bail. They arrived in one vehicle at the prison's parking lot in the late afternoon and waited roughly a hour before they got their first look at Grega. He walked out of the jail and into the bright sunshine and was greeted with a kiss from his mother, Marion Grega.
“You're so skinny,” one family member told him.
“I'll fatten him up,” Grega's mother replied, after pledging earlier in the day to cook some of her son's favorite meals in the week ahead, including stuffed cabbage.
In addition to his family and friends, Grega shared hugs with his legal team: Ian Carleton, a Burlington attorney who has represented Grega since 2004, and Gretchen Bennett, executive director of the New England Innocence Project.
Bennett consulted with Grega's attorneys as they went through the process of having the DNA tested and built the innocence claim that led to the judge's order earlier this week.
Grega declined to answer questions from reporters on the advice of his attorneys.
In an order dated Tuesday, Judge John Wesley of Windham County civil court agreed to a request from both prosecution and defense attorneys to grant Grega a new trial in the case that has drawn attention to DNA evidence and Vermont's legal system.
A hearing had been scheduled for Friday to determine whether Grega would be set free and granted a new trial, but it was canceled after Wesley ruled on a
motion filed Monday.
The motion was filed jointly by Tracy Kelly Shriver, the Windham County state's attorney, and Grega's attorney, Carleton.
Both sides stipulated to the request that Grega be released pending a new trial and that certain conditions be set for his release. These include that Grega not be allowed to contact his late wife's family or possess a passport, and that he must live with his mother in Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y.
The only explanation given in the joint motion is that it was filed “in light of the recently discovered DNA evidence” and that both Grega and the state “agree that this is an appropriate resolution to this proceeding.”
Grega requested that Wesley remain on the case because he had already been involved for two years. The state took no position on the request and Wesley denied it, but pointed out he was already scheduled to preside over Windham County criminal court as of Sept. 4.
The prosecution had filed a motion on July 27 asking the court to uphold Grega's conviction and deny his request for a new trial.
On Wednesday, Shriver said she had made a request for time to complete additional testing but the request was denied.
“I was faced with the hearing. I looked at the evidence,” Shriver said. “My job is to seek justice and under the legal standard, I could not go forward opposing the motion because without more information I could not meet the legal standard required for opposing the motion.”
However, Shriver said the joint motion did not mean she had changed her mind about prosecuting Grega for his wife's killing.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “The state is preparing for a new trial.”
Grega, 50, of Lake Grove, N.Y., has been in prison for 18 years. In 1995, he was convicted of the aggravated sexual assault and murder of his wife, Christine Grega, 31, whose body was found in the bathtub of a West Dover condominium where John and Christine had been vacationing with their 2-year-old son.
For the complete story, see Thursday's edition of the Rutland Herald.