The county pathologist who performed the autopsy on alleged murder victim Faylene Grant in 2001 told a rapt jury yesterday afternoon that he could find "no evidence to support this being a homicide."
Dr. Arch Mosley, a former Maricopa County assistant medical examiner now working in Coconino County, made the startling comment at the end of an hours-long cross-examination by Mel McDonald.
The veteran barrister is representing former Phoenix Suns nutritionist Doug Grant in this high-profile first-degree murder case, now in its third month and the end nowhere in sight.
Grant is accused of murdering his wife at their Gilbert home in September 2001 by drowning her in a bathtub after plying her somehow with an overdose of the sleep aid Ambien.
According to prosecutors, one of Grant's alleged motives for homicide was to free himself to hook back up with a onetime love interest (and current wife), Hilary.
We explored the ins and outs of this tragic and fascinating case in a two-part series before trial, and plan to publish a postmortem, as it were, after the jury finally determines Grant's legal fate (hopefully before the temperature hits 100 again).
Speaking of real postmortems, jurors were compelled to study several autopsy photographs of the 35-year-old mother of four taken at the Medical Examiner's Office back in 2001.
The disturbing photos accompanied Dr. Mosley's testimony, which was especially crucial because he officially deemed the manner of Mrs. Grant's death "undetermined" instead of calling it a homicide, suicide or accident.
However, he had no such uncertainty ruling on the cause of death, saying it was a combination of drowning and an Ambien overdose.
For Mosley to stick with his "undetermined" ruling said a lot about the shortcomings of the prosecution's case against Doug Grant. Almost apologetically, the pathologist testified that the evidence he has become aware of over time "begs the question, is this a suicide?"
That evidence includes a slew of so-called "farewell letters" penned by Mrs. Grant in the days and weeks before she died--"The notes in the hand of a dead person are critical," Mosley said.
But the doctor said he decided not to change his official opinion on the manner of Mrs. Grant's death because "if a detective tells me his gut is saying it's a homicide" (which Gilbert police detectives certainly did), dubbing it a suicide might impede an ongoing investigation.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez tried to deflect his own witness's words by noting that defendant Grant himself told police that Mrs. Grant had wanted the good-bye letters destroyed shortly after she survived a horrific fall from a cliff near American Fork, Utah, during the couple's second honeymoon. (She died less than three days after the curious, near-fatal fall.)
"Would that affect your [opinion]?" Martinez asked the pathologist.
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"Yes," Mosley replied.
The doctor stayed with his earlier-expressed opinion that Mrs. Grant surely would not have been able to pour her own bath shortly before she drowned, because of the excessive amount of Ambien that turned up in her blood drawn at a Mesa hospital shortly before she officially was pronounced dead.
To steal Mosley's turn of phrase, that "begs the question" of whether Doug Grant, with diabolical intent, drew the bath himself and then placed his drugged wife into the water as part of a premeditated murder.
The outcome of this one is up for grabs.