Prosecutor Adds "Assisted Suicide" to Charges in Doug Grant Murder Case
Sometime later this week, the Maricopa County County Superior Court jury of 12 men and women finally should begin deliberations in the murder case of sports nutritionist Doug Grant.
The high-profile case has been especially contentious on every level -- family vs. family, prosecutor vs. defense attorney, judge (often) vs. defense attorney.
We won't go over the basic facts here: You either know the deal by now from having read our series on the Grant case and the occasional blog during the four-month trial, or you don't.
But check this out:
Deputy county attorney Juan Martinez, the fellow to the left who really doesn't look that bad in real life, threw a major-league curveball at the defense last week.
For years, the police and prosecution theory of this unusual case was that Doug Grant had murdered his wife Faylene in about the most heinous manner possible:
First, according to authorities, he drugged the mother of four with sleeping pills, and then carried or led her to the bathtub adjacent to the master bedroom in their Gilbert home.
There, he allegedly had proceeded to drown her.
Though the alleged motives for homicide have shifted over time, Martinez seems to have settled on "the other woman" theory, that Grant longed to resume his steamy relationship with a young lady (currently his wife, Hilary) whom he dated after his first divorce from Faylene (see the linked stories for all the details).
Despite the shifting theories, prosecutor Martinez remained steadfast until last week that this was a first-degree, premeditated case, period.
But Martinez surprised his counterpart, defense attorney Mel McDonald, during a hearing about proposed jury instructions, asking Judge Meg Mahoney to allow jurors to also consider both second-degree murder and manslaughter during their deliberations.
The manslaughter instruction in this instance deals with a defendant who "recklessly" caused another person to die by "intentionally" assisting them to commit suicide.
Usually it's the defense attorneys who ask judges to approve so-called "lesser" charges in murder cases, hoping (fruitlessly, more often than not) that jurors will compromise among themselves and settle on a less-serious conviction that prosecutors seek.
Not this time.
Mel McDonald and his associate Jay Adelman argued strenuously to Judge Mahoney not to grant Martinez's request for the lesser charges. They wanted an all-or-nothing, instruction --guilty of first-degree or not guilty.
But the prosecutor won the day -- and, maybe in the end, the trial.
After deliberating a few days, Judge Mahoney announced that she will read the assisted-suicide instruction to the jury.
The prosecutor's 11th-hour move is a wild one, perhaps born out of a sense (one that he'll never admit publicly) that a first-degree conviction beyond a "reasonable doubt" may be too much in this difficult case for jurors to wrap their heads around.
Now, a compromise verdict seems like a good possibility, despite the paucity of any solid evidence against Grant other than he had trouble for long stretches of his adult life keeping his you-know-what where it should have been (translation: he cheated on Faylene and on a previous spouse).
If the jurors decide that Faylene Grant indeed did commit suicide for some reason (perhaps Heavenly Father was calling her to leave this "mortal coil," as she once wrote), they also may conclude that her husband aided and abetted her sadly successful effort.
The jurors probably wouldn't know that a manslaughter conviction could bring up to 21 years in prison for Grant, of which he would have to serve 85 percent.
Prediction: Juan Martinez screams loud during his closing arguments later this week for a first-degree murder conviction, and mentions the assisted suicide only in passing, if at all.
But the seed will have been sown.