Jury still out in Granich case

-A A +A

Closing arguments focus on evidence, or lack thereof

By Carol A. Clark

SANTA FE — As of late Monday afternoon the jury was still deliberating the fate of Penny Granich. Tedious debate surrounding skid marks and asphalt shadowing continued for what seemed like hours Friday, before attorneys presented closing arguments in the State v. Penny Granich case.


The 35-year-old Los Alamos woman is charged in the Dec. 4, 2005 death of her husband Thomas Edward Granich, 32.

First District Court Judge Michael Vigil instructed the eight women and four men on the jury to deliberate and find on one of three possible verdicts for count one:

Guilty of homicide by vehicle due to reckless driving;

Guilty of homicide by vehicle due to driving under the influence of an intoxicating liquor; or

Not guilty.

Vigil instructed the jury to deliberate and find on one of three possible verdicts for count two:

Guilty of reckless driving;

Guilty of careless driving; or

Not guilty.

The judge instructed jury members to deliberate and find on one of two possible verdicts for count three:

Guilty of careless driving; or

Not guilty.

The jury was told to consider each crime separately. In their verdict they must find beyond a reasonable doubt — not beyond all doubt, Vigil said, adding that the verdict must include the considered judgment of each juror and it must be unanimous.

Noticing the weariness of the jurors after 5 p.m. Friday, the judge advised attorneys before beginning their closing arguments, “I would say brief is better.”

The state went first with prosecutor Carlos Gutierrez zeroing in on DNA evidence.

One of the issues is whether Penny was operating the 2004 Dodge truck.

“Her DNA is the only DNA on the driver’s side airbag. Her DNA places her in the driver’s seat,” Gutierrez said.

He told jurors Penny’s DNA and blood was found on top of the driver’s side airbag where the driver’s face would hit.

“There was no other third party DNA on that airbag and Mr. Granich’s DNA was excluded. To believe the defense that Tom Granich was driving you’d have to believe that he didn’t hit the airbag because there’s no DNA of his found on it,” Gutierrez said. “Her blood and her DNA is found in an area she wouldn’t have touched if she were the passenger. Tom Granich’s DNA is the only DNA on the passenger side airbag … before he deployed out the gaping hole in the windshield.”

Penny was in the driver’s seat, he said. She unbelted her seatbelt and left it lying loose on the driver’s seat, reclined the seat back and crawled between the two seats, leaving her droplets of blood as she climbed out the back window, into the truck bed where a county worker found her sitting, he said.

The defense theory is that perhaps Tom was driving. Through expert testimony of Dr. Alan Watts, owner and chief scientist of Watts-Co as well as others, the defense contends that it was possible that Tom slipped through the driver’s side seatbelt and out the back window.

“So many questions and so few answers as one witness said here earlier this week,” defense attorney John Day said. “Has the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt their case … Penny Granich lost her husband, the father of her daughter and stepfather of her son … no wonder she can’t remember what happened that night.”

Day told jurors the Los Alamos Police Department did not treat the crash as a criminal case from the beginning.

“Imagine just for a minute this is not a court room — it’s a bookstore and you’re asked to buy this mystery novel only it’s a two-page book and at the end it says Penny Granich did it — you wouldn’t buy that book,” Day said. “That’s what the state wants you to buy … This is a 300-page novel … The police did not do the work they were required to do beyond a reasonable doubt. The state wants you to fill in the gaps — don’t do the state’s work for them.”

Day told jurors that police did a “sloppy job” in losing critical measurements and failing to conduct a thorough investigation. According to the autopsy, Tom ate bananas the night of the crash, which Day, holding up a bright yellow banana in front of the jury, said could mean the couple went somewhere other than Overlook Park after leaving Cannon Bar and Grill where they had been seen drinking that evening. There were no eyewitnesses who saw what happened, what time it happened, or which Granich was driving when their pickup plunged into the canyon in White Rock. A thorough forensic examination should have been done at the crash site, he said.

“We have no video — no one did anything to memorialize the point of impact,” Day said.

In the state’s rebuttal, Gutierrez argued that the state is not required to give an exact hour or minute of when the crash occurred.

“The only thing the defense has is some fixation on a banana,” Gutierrez said. “All the evidence shows that Mrs. Granich was driving at the time of the accident.”