Poll ranks Granich trial top story of 2009

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Trinity Site developments came in second, with 31.2 percent of the vote

By Carol A. Clark

Recently, a poll was posted on the Monitor Web site, asking readers which story they thought was the number one story of the year.

Voters in the poll ranked the Penny Granich vehicular homicide trial as the number one story of the year. The story received 40.6 percent of votes cast in the poll. Trinity Site developments came in second with 31.2 percent, while Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Roadrunner supercomputer weighed in at 12.5 percent. Max Baker’s resignation as county administrator got 9.3 percent of the votes and Los Alamos Public Schools’ bond election rounded out the top five with 6.2 percent of the vote.

On Oct. 13, the eight women and four men who comprised the jury deliberating in the State v. Granich case found Penny Granich not guilty on all counts.

The 35-year-old Los Alamos woman was charged with vehicular homicide, DWI and reckless driving after the truck she

occupied with her husband, Thomas Edward Granich, 32, plunged to the bottom of a canyon near Overlook Park in White Rock on Dec. 4, 2005. Her husband did not survive the crash.

Defense attorneys Mark Donatelli and John Day represented Penny, with Day presenting closing arguments in the trial, which began Oct. 5 in First District Court in Santa Fe.

The state sought to prove she was the driver of the couple’s 2004 Dodge truck. The jury deliberated over a Friday evening and Tuesday morning before returning a verdict of not guilty on all three counts.

“Two experienced district attorneys reviewed the case and rejected it as not prosecutable,” Day said during an interview following the verdict. “It’s been a four-and-a-half-year nightmare for Penny. We respect the jury’s decision and now Penny just wants to get on with her life.”

Los Alamos Police Lt. Reggie Briggle expressed his disappointment regarding the jury’s not guilty verdict. Briggle led the investigation that resulted in vehicular homicide charges.

“I’d like to express my condolences and apology to the family of Thomas Granich, which had to relive the anguish of the details of his death four years ago all over again in court. The stoicism and perseverance of this longtime Los Alamos family is admirable,” Briggle said at the time. “I would like to thank Assistant Attorneys General Carlos Gutierrez, Mary Helen Baber and Jody Curran and their assistant Elora Martinez, all of whom expended many long hours in preparation of the case, especially Mr. Gutierrez.”

Briggle described Tuesday’s decision in Santa Fe as, “nothing less than overwhelmingly disappointing.”

“We felt we had prepared a good case. But thanks to the legal wranglings of the defense counsel, certain crucial information never got to the jury,” Briggle said. “Their clouding of the facts of the case and their presentation of completely improbable alternate scenarios successfully muddled the minds of the jurors. I know beyond any doubt who is responsible for Thomas Edward Granich’s death, but the jury never got the whole story. I feel that a jury should have all of the information available in order to make a fair and just determination of guilt or innocence.”