Reputed gang leader acquitted of murder charge after 3rd trial in Connecticut

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut man who denies having led a violent Hartford gang has been acquitted of a murder charge and freed following a third trial that resulted from the state Supreme Court overturning his conviction.

Donald Raynor, now 38, broke down in tears when the state court jury announced its not guilty verdict Monday, said his lawyer, Trent LaLima. He was then freed after having spent the past decade detained on bail.

“I feel great, but I want to shine a light on how these people overreach and it’s not a fair process,” Raynor said in a phone interview Tuesday. “And how the jury doesn’t seem to understand the full duties that they have to protect the citizens from arbitrary power of prosecution and judges.”

LaLima added, “Donald Raynor has been waiting 10 years in prison for a jury to say not guilty and finally that day has come.”

Raynor was arrested in a cold case and charged with murder in 2013 in the drive-by fatal shooting of 22-year-old Delano Gray in 2007. Police alleged Raynor led the violent Money Green/Bedroc gang that had a “hit squad” and trafficked drugs in the city’s North End, while Gray was a rival gang member.

Raynor’s first trial ended in a hung jury. He was convicted of murder in a second trial in 2015 and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

The state Supreme Court in December 2020 overturned the conviction and ordered a third trial. Justices said in a 6-0 ruling that the trial judge improperly denied Raynor’s request for a hearing to challenge the ballistics evidence in the case and improperly allowed evidence of alleged crimes by Raynor for which he was never charged.

Raynor maintained his innocence since being arrested. LaLima claimed the state’s key witness was facing other murder and shooting charges and implicated Raynor in Gray’s shooting to get a better plea deal.

The state Division of Criminal Justice, which includes prosecutors, said in a statement that it “respects the jury’s decision and thanks them for their service.”

Now that he is free, Raynor said he wants to study Islam and start a dump truck company. In the meantime, he said he is getting reacclimated to society.

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