Crazy Goings-On at the Doug Grant Mormon Murder Trial in Downtown Phoenix
It's finally in the homestretch at the closely watched first-degree murder trial of former Phoenix Suns nutritionist Doug Grant, and the whole thing almost caved in Monday.
Many of you reading this have been following this weird murder case, which we reported on in great detail before the trial started last November.
Heads up: We will be doing a blow-out on the remarkable goings-on after the verdict, if jurors are able to agree on Mr. Grant's guilt or innocence during what promises to be an intense deliberation.
Here's a brief version of Monday's events, which involved the Captain America-looking dude in the photo, Gilbert police Sergeant Sy Ray.
Ray's machinations are at the heart of this complex saga by virtue of his biased and short-sighted investigation into Mrs. Grant's tragic September, 2001 death.
A few weeks ago, three jurors complained to a court employee during a break that the defendant's brother and one of his sisters had made intimidating gestures toward the jury box during the testimony of a Gilbert cop who originally headed the investigation into Faylene's death.
The brother, Vaughn Grant, conceded later that he actually had gestured at prosecutor Martinez and case agent Ray, who sit at a table between the gallery and the jurors.
Though it may have been fomented out of frustration at what Brother Grant has come to perceive as a slipshod investigation against his little brother, acting like that in a courtroom was ill-fated.
Outside of the jury's presence, Judge Meg Mahoney, who has been no friend (to put it mildly) to the defense in this trial, properly chewed out Doug Grant's attorney Mel McDonald and then Vaughn Grant for the clearly untoward moment.
During separate questioning of the panelists, first by the judge and then by the respective attorneys, the offended jurors claimed they could remain unbiased against the murder defendant -- despite what they had perceived.
Judge Mahoney then spoke to those jurors one at a time in court and asked them not to discuss anything about the incident with their peers.
Trial testimony resumed.
Late Monday morning, Juan Martinez cross-examinied Vaughn Grant on the witness stand. In general, the prosecutor's modus operandi can be summed up in one word: Attack.
I"Speaking about being deceptive and that sort of thing," he asked Mr. Grant, "isn't it true that you were attempting to influence the jury [two weeks ago] by signaling them?"
Defense attorney McDonald jumped up and objected, as visibly angry as he has been during this exceptionally contentious trial.
The judge soon sent the jury out of the courtroom, and then heard McDonald's arguments for a mistrial. Calling Martinez's behavior "despicable," the veteran lawyer claimed that "Mr. Grant may have just lost his right to a fair trial because of the theatrics of Juan Martinez."
But after a lunch break, Judge Mahoney said Martinez had done nothing improper in questioning Vaughn Grant about the gestures, even though she had sought to keep a lid on the event (many jurors apparently hadn't noticed a thing).
Emboldened by the judge's ruling (as if the super-aggressive prosecutor needs any prodding), Martinez again snarled at Vaughn Grant, asking if he had intended to improperly influence the jury
"That is absolutely untrue," Grant replied, his voice rising with each word.
Just another vignette from a trial that is moving quickly toward its closing arguments next week and then, hopefully, a verdict.
For the record, we've been sitting at trials for three decades now, and usually have a pretty fair clue of how the river is running.
Not so here, even though the case against Doug Grant is as thin as a Necco wafer.