Interview with Cyrus Gray
On July 20, 2023, Community Fellow Myles Martin interviewed Cyrus Gray as a part of his oral history project for Visions After Violence. Cyrus discusses his advocacy work, the corruption at Hays County, and his motivation to continue to fight against a system that is “not in the interest of justice.”
CYRUS GRAY [00:00:15] Yeah, that's me.
MYLES MARTIN [00:00:17] How you doing today, Cyrus?
CYRUS GRAY [00:00:19] I'm good, man. What's up, bro? You know.
MYLES MARTIN [00:00:26] Um, can you start by telling us about yourself?
CYRUS GRAY [00:00:29] My name is Cyrus. Cyrus Will Gray III from Houston. I was in Hays County Jail for nearly five years, wrongfully accused of capital murder. That case is over eight years old now. I spent five years incarcerated – or nearly five years, incarcerated pretrial without a bond. Went to trial in June of 2022, which lasted about three weeks. In that three weeks, everybody saw clearly how bogus these charges were against me and my friend Devonte, who is also ,who was also charged. He is currently still incarcerated. Several months after my trial, which ended in a mistrial due to the jurors catching COVID, several months after that trial, I was finally given a bond and I was able to be released. I've been out on bond for six months now, and for six months with a pending second trial date. Just two days ago, my case was actually dismissed by the state. So that's good. So now I'm technically a free man.
MYLES MARTIN [00:01:41] That's good, man. That's, that's – is really good. It's been about a year since – a little bit over a year since that first trial, right?
CYRUS GRAY [00:01:50] Yep, it's been about a year. Exactly.
MYLES MARTIN [00:01:53] So how does it feel? A year after the mistrial, and just not getting a resolution.
CYRUS GRAY [00:02:02] I mean it's good – it's bittersweet because resolution, it's not the ideal resolution. I mean, the dismissal, the way that it was dismissed is just a way of the state saving face. So, I mean, ideal resolution would have been to go to trial and be found not guilty or for the case to be dismissed with prejudice.
MYLES MARTIN [00:02:19] And what do you mean by the state saving face?
CYRUS GRAY [00:02:24] Saving face meaning the way that this case was dismissed allows the state to (clears throat) wash their hands clean of a huge mistake that they made in agreeing to prosecute this case in the first place. If I'm able to go to trial or if my case is dismissed with prejudice, then the truth comes out about all of the things that were done wrong in dealing with my case, with not just my case with everybody else's case, who the detectives in my case were involved with. So to prevent this truth from coming out, the state decided to dismiss my case, um, and reason being for pending investigation. So it's just, it's just a scapegoat for the state, because they don't intend – they don't truly intend on being done with prosecuting me. They just want to be able to continue to prosecute behind closed doors without the public eyes.
MYLES MARTIN [00:03:21] Okay. Just to kind of transition a little bit, where do you see your story starting? Like in your life, not like from, from birth, but like, where would you if you – if somebody was to write your story, where would you see it starting?
CYRUS GRAY [00:03:35] If somebody were to write my story, my current situation, my story probably would start on March –
MYLES MARTIN [00:03:40] It don't gotta be your current situation, like your story, from your perspective –
CYRUS GRAY [00:03:46] My story as in like right now? What we're talking about right now?
MYLES MARTIN [00:03:48] Like Cyrus in general. You don't got to specifically talk about this Hays County situation. If that's, if that's your focus, then cool. But I mean, just in general where do you see your story starting?
CYRUS GRAY [00:04:01] The question is very confusing.
MYLES MARTIN [00:04:02] You know how, you know how the movie start where they like, I bet you wonder how I got here. (Laughs)
CYRUS GRAY [00:04:07] Yeah, that's probably I would start.
MYLES MARTIN [00:04:09] Yeah. (Laughs)
CYRUS GRAY [00:04:10] You probably see me getting walked out of a fucking clinic in handcuffs looking confused, and they probably say, (changes tone of voice) I bet you wonder how I get here. (Laughs) I don't know (continues laughing with Myles). That's a weird question.
MYLES MARTIN [00:04:25] It was a weird question (inaudible) a little bit. (Pauses)
MYLES MARTIN [00:04:30] What would you say to, like, just describe yourself, personality-wise?
CYRUS GRAY [00:04:40] Calm.
MYLES MARTIN [00:04:40] Calm.
CYRUS GRAY [00:04:40] Chill, calm. I be chilling.
MYLES MARTIN [00:04:43] How long did you spend in Hays County?
CYRUS GRAY [00:04:46] Over four years and seven months. So nearly five years.
MYLES MARTIN [00:04:52] And what was your experience of being incarcerated?
CYRUS GRAY [00:04:55] It was trash. Like, once you've been accused of a crime and you're put in jail, you're guilty until otherwise. You have to actively fight to prove your innocence. Otherwise, the worst possible outcome is going to be your outcome, especially here in the state of Texas. There's no true justice.
MYLES MARTIN [00:05:12] What was Hays County Jail like specifically?
CYRUS GRAY [00:05:14] Hays County Jail was a different type of fucked up, cause jail is trash in general. But Hays County is more a psychological beating that you take every day for being in Hays County Jail. Because every day, the guards are going to make sure that you know, that you may never and probably are never going home. Every day you're going to get undermined, uh, grievances that you may have, which may be valid, they're going to get handled as if they don't mean anything. And the blame is constantly passed on to different departments. And you just, you just never get, you just never get true results for anything. And they make it very difficult for you to be able to defend yourself once you have been accused of something and arrested in Hays County Jail. Your mail is tampered with extensively, at least in my experience. You're just seen as a criminal, crook, and a liar. Nothing you say matters. And for a county like this, which is a small town with a corrupt legal system that's terrible, because once you're in that jail, you are voiceless.
[00:06:21] (Inaudible talk out of the camera frame)
MYLES MARTIN [00:06:22] What – What memory do you associate specifically with Hays County?
CYRUS GRAY [00:06:25] Hell. The memory I associate specifically with Hays County was one of my first days being in that jail and an officer looking at me saying, Oh, you're going to be here a while. The reason that I associate, I associate that memory mostly because in that moment I was hot. I was pissed off, like, What do you mean I'm going to be here awhile? You don't know me, you don't know no charge, you don't know nothing about my situation. But, that just lets you know that the normalcy of people sitting in Hays County Jail for a very long time. Here I am. I've been arrested and accused of something. There's no details. No. And the people that are running this facility are – freely and open enough to let you know, Oh, yeah. You're going to be here a long time. Oh, yeah. You're probably never going home. Don't know anything about you, your case, or your situation.
MYLES MARTIN [00:07:18] What was the first thought that went through your head when you heard that – when somebody told you you were going to be here for a while?
CYRUS GRAY [00:07:27] Punch'em.
MYLES MARTIN [00:07:29] Punch'em?
CYRUS GRAY [00:07:29] Because –
MYLES MARTIN [00:07:29] Stopped you from staying from doing that –
CYRUS GRAY [00:07:30] The second thought that stopped from me punching him is the reality of knowing that that's not true. I mean. At least that's what I thought. (Laughs) Five years later, I should've punched him. (Laughs with Myles) I should've punched him hard right then and there. (Laughing continues) You never know. I don't know.
MYLES MARTIN [00:07:48] So, well, um after being in there for a while, I got the – I don't want to say after you got comfortable, but got after –
CYRUS GRAY [00:07:55] After realizing I was there?
MYLES MARTIN [00:07:56] After realizing you was there, what was your day by day like? What was – Actually, what was the transition from when you first got there to when you actually started doing the routine if you had one?
CYRUS GRAY [00:08:07] Um, I don't really think I ever really developed an actual routine for doing things. I just made an effort to keep myself away from things that were not of me. Like, I tried to stay away from the bullshit. I try to occupy my time with positivity and productivity, rather than bullshit and TV.
MYLES MARTIN [00:08:33] So what are some things that you worked on?
CYRUS GRAY [00:08:36] While I was in jail, I wrote movies or created a cartoon. I worked on business plans. I worked on my own advocacy and defense. I mean, I did the most productive and positive things that I could. I mean, I helped others get through their situations, so things like that.
MYLES MARTIN [00:08:56] Can you give me an example?
CYRUS GRAY [00:09:01] I worked on myself – An example of what?
MYLES MARTIN [00:09:01] Of how you helped somebody.
CYRUS GRAY [00:09:03] Well, I helped people, like, write motions for their situations, or I gave them guidance on how they can go about communicating better with their attorneys. Um, I helped them to keep track of, like, just important things that could make a big difference now or later. When you're in a, in a matter of fighting a case and just kind of try to educate them on other options they had, other than just sitting here and waiting for something to happen. You know, there's so much you can be doing pretrial or at least the attorney is supposed to do for you. But in a town like this, where all you have is a court appointed, these things aren't happening. Cause it's not in favor of the courts and the court appointees are appointed by the courts. So you're not going to bite the hand that feeds you. So most of the time, things that could be going on to expedite your case or altogether and resolve it are not happening because it's easier for the state to try to convince you to take a plea deal or to just wait you out until taking the plea deal would get you home faster than fighting your case. And a lot of people are going to take that option.
MYLES MARTIN [00:10:15] You said in a previous question that you worked on yourself. What are some ways you feel worked on yourself?
CYRUS GRAY [00:10:21] Oh, I worked on myself. Maybe um, it was a lot. I had to get over when I got arrested. I was angry. Very, very angry. Sitting in jail for a capital murder charge that I didn't do, I'm pissed. So it was a lot of – [00:10:34]there's a lot of dying to myself that I had to do to focus and get through what I had to get through, you know? So I'm naturally a calm person. When I got arrested the first few years, that was not – I didn't have my calm. I had to find a way to get back to who I was and not allow the circumstance, situation, whatever the outcome may be, to change who I am in my core. So that's what I mean working on myself, just keeping my mind strong, keeping my mind focused and understanding who I am first before anything else. Without the understanding of self, you're not going to make through anything else. So that's what I did.
MYLES MARTIN [00:11:18] What are some goals that you set for yourself while you were on the inside?
CYRUS GRAY [00:11:22] While I was on the inside, I set myself was one, to get out, sell my movie ideas, and use that as a foundation and get back on my feet, to get back into my personal training business, build that up. To build my clothing brand and have that flourishing. And really, just to succeed. I mean, most of the things that I worked on – I lost a lot of passion being in jail. I'm not very passionate about things anymore. Most of the things I worked on was with the mindset of becoming successful. It wasn't – I worked on projects and created things, not because I was passionate about creating these things. I worked on projects and created things because in my mind, money is the way to, to succeed. And money is the thing that gets you out of these sticky situation. So what can I do to make as much money as possible once I do get out of here? So that was my motivation, as far as for the things that I was working on. My motivation with those things was to be financially stable for a better future because if I was financially stable, maybe I wouldn't have sat in jail for nearly five years, pretrial, you know.
MYLES MARTIN [00:12:35] So what are some goals that that you set yourself that you feel you've achieved?
CYRUS GRAY [00:12:39] Goals that I set for myself that I feel I have achieved – as far as my personal goals, I've been out six months now, case just dismissed, I don't feel personally that I have achieved many of my own personal goals I set before I got out. Mainly because I still have the weight of this situation lingering over me and it made it very difficult to be able to maneuver and do anything. I don't have a valid I.D. I don't even have my permanent residency card up to date. Like there's so many things because of this case that, um, limits it or completely prevented from being able to do to continue to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, you know, so now that this has been put to rest, I have the window of opportunity to actually bring those things to fruition.
MYLES MARTIN [00:13:34] So what, what are some things that inspired you?
CYRUS GRAY [00:13:36] Some things that inspired me –
MYLES MARTIN [00:13:36] While you were on the inside.
CYRUS GRAY [00:13:39] Um, in what aspect, like what do you mean?
MYLES MARTIN [00:13:46] Just in general, I mean, it could be people that inspired you. It could be something you see on TV that you feel like, Oh, I can't, I can't give up. Or it could just been like your own personal motivation. Just, I can't, I can't just give up. I got it. Like, what inspired you to keep going and stay focused?
CYRUS GRAY [00:14:02] So that's what kept you going?
MYLES MARTIN [00:14:14] You can change my question if you want to it's fine.
CYRUS GRAY [00:14:28] So anyways, um, I guess what inspired me or what kept me going was the thought in my mind, knowing that I was people on the outside that are counting on me to come home. You know, like I can't not keep going. Like if I don't make it home, what's going to happen to all of these people that really, genuinely, truly need me to be there to be present for them? You know, I really learned being away how, how important my presence really was for a lot of people around me. And not to say that in, like, a big-headed selfish way, but it really opened my eyes, to me, the role that I played in the lives of the people around me. So the biggest thing that kept me motivated and encouraged is the thought of that, knowing that I have a mother at home that needs me home. I have a little sister that needs me at home, my niece and nephew that need me home. I had a girlfriend at the time that needed me home, you know, at the time (laughs). Things change. But these are the things that kind of like encouraged me to keep going and get through that, knowing that, Hey, I know I'm going through it, but these people that I care about are going to be going through so much worse [00:15:41]if I give up, so –
MYLES MARTIN [00:15:42] So what are some things that you're doing, that you're doin' now?
CYRUS GRAY [00:15:48] Well, now, since I've been out and even before I got out, I started doing a lot of advocacy work, not just for myself.
MYLES MARTIN [00:16:12] (Pause and the background noises subsides) What are you doing now?
CYRUS GRAY [00:16:13] So, uh –
MYLES MARTIN [00:16:14] So what are some things that you're doing now?
CYRUS GRAY [00:16:15] Some things that I'm doing now is I've been doing for a little while. A lot of advocacy work around the jail, Hays County Jail, just using my story to try to make a change and an impact. I've spoken at Commissioners Court a few times about important matters, like the public defender's office in this county [Hays County]. I went to the Capitol to speak there a few times. You [Myles Martin] were actually with me one time. I don't know if you recall in front of Senator Whitmire.
MYLES MARTIN [00:16:41] (Whispers quickly) Two times, two times.
CYRUS GRAY [00:16:42] Yeah, two times in front of Senator, Senator Whitmire, and then again in front of the Jail Standards Committee. Yeah. So things like that. Just using my voice and my experience to try to make a difference. While I was in jail, I made I did a bunch of surveys to bring awareness to the truth about being in jail or what's actually going on versus what you're told on the outside world. Yeah, really just, I just been doin' a lot of advocacy work, criminal justice reform work. I've written published pieces for (background noises and conversation continues) Inquest, Harvard, a Harvard forum, um, for the Hays County Daily records and other platforms.
MYLES MARTIN [00:17:30] The Austin Statesman.
CYRUS GRAY [00:17:30] The Austin Statesman. I created a few zines just –
MYLES MARTIN [00:17:35] You do Vera, too?
CYRUS GRAY [00:17:36] Yeah, I did a piece for Vera, too. Created a few zines just bring light to the reality of what's going on in this small town, in Hays County, Texas, San Marcos, Texas.
MYLES MARTIN [00:17:48] What's the – what's your motivation right now and what's driving you to continue to do all these things?
CYRUS GRAY [00:17:53] Anger. Rage. I'm not gonna lie to you. I'm upset. But it's more than that. Yes. You know, knowing that there's a lot of wrong that has been done, not just to myself, but to others. And as unfortunate as this situation has been, it's given me the opportunity and put me in a position to right a lot of those wrongs. So with that in mind, I mean, that encourages me to keep fighting, not just for me but for the other people, like because there's so much wrong and corruption that happened in this area. And what they count on is you not fighting about to get away with it. So to change the narrative, to change the paradigm, you got to go against the grain. So that's, that's it. That's the only thing that makes sense in my mind to change that paradigm, to go against the grain, to break that chain. And who knows who else could come out. You never know. One thing we do know is a lot of people have been wronged here. So if there's opportunity to right those wrongs, why not take it?
MYLES MARTIN [00:18:56] I feel that. The next question kind of shifts gears a little bit, but I want you to think about – you're great. You're doing great. You're doing great.
CYRUS GRAY [00:19:11] (Laughs)
MYLES MARTIN [00:19:11] I really want you to think about this question. What are some things on the inside that people [on the outside] might not realize?
CYRUS GRAY [00:19:21] Oh, you, you're fed terribly. Commissary is extremely high. If you don't have a support system, you might die. Medical help is terrible. Medical mental health care, terrible. You don't get anything you need being in jail. Jail is not a place to rehabilitate.
MYLES MARTIN [00:19:42] You say this is, this is prison or jail?
CYRUS GRAY [00:19:44] This is jail. This is county jail. I've never been to prison, so I couldn't tell you about prison. But I heard it's way worse as far as like the conditions. But for county jail, Hays County Jail, specifically, that's where I was is terrible. Medical care is trash. The staff treat you bad. The people that are there that are working to treat you like a human being are ridiculed and punished more than the ones that are bad actors. They encourage violence in the jail. Um, everything – it's just, it's just terrible conditions. The living conditions is terrible. They just built a new side of the jail not even two years ago, and it's already falling apart. Yet it really has barely been like a whole year. Like it's been a year and some change, and that jail is falling apart already. So like, it just goes to show you how much they really care about the people that are in there.
MYLES MARTIN [00:20:33] Can you break that down just for people that don't understand? Because you'd be surprised how many people don't understand.
CYRUS GRAY [00:20:38] Falling apart, meaning literally, like the walls are falling apart, the sewer system is bad. Most of the jail is not even like being housed right now.
MYLES MARTIN [00:20:46] Can break down the difference between jail and prison for people?
CYRUS GRAY [00:20:49] The difference between jail in prison is if you're in prison that means you've been convicted of a crime, whether you're innocent or not. If you're in prison, that means you've been convicted.
MYLES MARTIN [00:20:58] Which means what?
CYRUS GRAY [00:20:59] It means you've been found guilty.
MYLES MARTIN [00:21:01] Okay.
CYRUS GRAY [00:21:02] Now, that doesn't mean you're actually guilty cause there are a lot of innocent people that are in prison right now. But the difference between jail and prison is if you're in jail. That's a lot of – (Myles reaches over and taps on Cyrus' forearm, which is next to the audio recorder and Cyrus looks down and moves his forearm.) The difference is in jail nine times out of ten you're still in the pretrial phase, meaning you have not been convicted of anything, meaning you have not gone to trial or had your day in court. You've just been accused of something and you can't afford to bond out. So now you're being held in jail, as your case pends.
MYLES MARTIN [00:21:30] And while you are in jail, you are under the –
CYRUS GRAY [00:21:34] While you're in jail, you're supposed to be under the assumption of innocence, until proven guilty. But that's not the reality of being in jail in the system. Once you've been arrested, accused and charged with something, you are now presumed guilty and you have to go out of your way to prove your innocence. And if you don't have the willpower or the know-how, they're gonna fuck you over. That's just bottom line or the reality of it. I had the willpower, learned the know-how, and my (inaudible) all still didn't play out the way that it's supposed to, in the interest of justice. They're going to do everything they can to get a conviction. They're going to do everything they can to cover up their mistakes and to make sure that you don't win, you know. So that's the reality of this system that has nothing to do with justice. That's the reality of being in jail. Once in you're in jail, their sole purpose is now to convict you, not to see if you're actually the right person. Now that we've arrested you, we have to justify this arrest. So we have to get a conviction at all costs.
MYLES MARTIN [00:22:38] I got, I got one. This is my last question. You know, and then I'm gonna letchu go. I really appreciate you doing this interview.
CYRUS GRAY [00:22:45] Really? I'm gonna letchu go, cause I'm gonna kick you out my house.
MYLES MARTIN [00:22:48] Okay. What? (Laughs)
CYRUS GRAY [00:22:51] (Smiling and laughing)
MYLES MARTIN [00:22:51] What have you learned about yourself throughout this situation?
CYRUS GRAY [00:22:55] What have I learned about myself throughout this situation. Oh, I really wouldn't say I've learned anything new about myself, I feel like I just kind of reaffirmed things about myself that I've already known about myself for a long time. I'm hardheaded, like, and I'm willing to go as far as possible with you –
MYLES MARTIN [00:23:20] Too far (jokingly under his breath)
CYRUS GRAY [00:23:20] I'm willing to, I'm willing to go there and further. I know that about myself, like whatever it is, I'm willing to go through it because right his right and wrong is wrong. And that's a good and a bad thing because, I mean, for me, I don't back down. So like, especially if I know I'm not wrong, I'm going to go all the way. So I wouldn't say I learn anything new about myself. It just affirmed more to me the things that I already knew about myself, and it helped me to understand better who I am deeper. But these things I wouldn't really say like it was things I learned. It was kind of confirmation.
MYLES MARTIN [00:24:06] Before we cut out, before we end this interview, is there anything that you wanted to say about yourself or about anything, or is there something that you want people out there to know?
CYRUS GRAY [00:24:15] Oh, yeah, of course. One thing I would say is about – not about myself – but just about Hays County and their legal system. Just so you guys truly understand how messed up this system is. So again, like I said, I was arrested in 2018 March for a crime that I didn't do, went to trial June 2022, the whole time up to then I'm in jail without a bond. During my trial –
MYLES MARTIN [00:24:38] When did the alleged crime happen?
CYRUS GRAY [00:24:39] The alleged crime happened in December of 2015, nearly three years before I was arrested for the crime. So this case is nearly a decade old. Spent five years in jail waiting for a trial, went to trial. My trial was three weeks long. At my trial, the first thing a prosecutor says, he puts up a puzzle piece on the projector. There's a bunch of pieces missing. And he says, I want you guys to look at this. Everybody sees what that is, right? It's a firearm, right? Cool. That's what we have here with this case. There's a bunch of pieces missing, but based off of what we think we know, you're going to be able to convict Mr. Gray. So prosecutor's opening statement was that, We don't know what happened here, but we think this guy did it. And based off of this story, we're going to tell you, you guys are going to probably think so, too. Boy was he wrong.
CYRUS GRAY [00:25:29] The lead detective on that case took the stand and testified that they lost (emphasizing) lost nearly a dozen important interviews in this case. They (emphasizing) lost a whole police report in this case. Their lead witness gets an immunity deal to testify against me. But they lost the paperwork. Nobody knows what the immunity deal is for. But it's okay he still gets to testify. He still gets his immunity deal. Two of their other witnesses were coerced into statements testified at my trial that that the tape is coerced him, threatened them, and threatened to put charges on them if they didn't tell them what they wanted to hear. So they told them what they wanted to hear, and none of it was true. But yet, this case was still allowed to be carried on.
CYRUS GRAY [00:26:14] I've been out on bond for six months now. For six months, a prosecutor went to the judge in the open courtroom and claimed that they were going to dismiss this case for six months and just needed more time to talk to the family. When in reality, they were trying to investigate more, and they offered my codefendant 15 years to testify against me in trial, which he turned down. It wasn't until I took things in my own hands and filed a motion for my case to be dismissed due to my speedy trial rights being violated that the prosecutor began to actually take my, this dismissal seriously. So in response to my motion, the prosecutor filed a motion to dismiss the case just so my motion would not be heard in court, because they're more concerned with covering up things and they're more concerned with trying to do anything to get a conviction than with justice or truth. Now, after this prosecutor filed for my case to be dismissed and went publicly in the newspapers saying, Oh, we dismissing the case. They dismissing the case because the, the investigation is further pending. But they went to the newspapers saying, Oh, we're dismissing the case against Cyrus Gray. It's a done deal. We don't think he did it. Immediately backdoored and went to Devonte, my codefendant, and begged him to give them any number just so he could testify against me in trial. The person is out on bond and the person whose case was just dismissed.
CYRUS GRAY [00:27:39] So that just goes to show you how corrupt this system is and how it has nothing to do with justice or truth. It's all about convictions, monetary and political games, and it shouldn't be that way. Devonte's still currently being held in jail pretrial. He has not had his day in court. He's filed multiple speedy trial motions himself and those have gone unheard. His lawyer refuses to do anything to help him. So he's still sitting in jail. And a prosecutor who knows this case has no merits. It's a weak case. There were a lot of mistakes made in this case by law enforcement. Still goes to the bond, say a man that has been in jail for over five years pretrial without a trial and begs him to tell them any number for a plea deal. That – any number they'll grant it, if he will be willing to testify against me, his codefendant. His codefendant in this case they just dismissed. So that doesn't say at all how – bogus this system is, how corrupt it is, and how not in the interest of justice it is, then I don't know what else goes. That's all I'll say. Pay more attention, you know.
MYLES MARTIN [00:28:51] I appreciate it, bro. Thanks for coming to his interview today.
CYRUS GRAY [00:28:53] Yeah. Yeah. So.