Hate For Doug Grant: Despite Scant Evidence That Grant Killed His Wife, the Jury Convicted Him Anyhow

The pivotal moment in Doug Grant's murder trial came without fanfare.

Former Phoenix Suns nutritionist and vitamin-supplement entrepreneur Grant was accused of committing the ultimate crime: the first-degree murder of his wife, Faylene, at their Gilbert home as three of their young children were in another part of the house.

The case had sex, drugs, and, if not rock 'n' roll, then the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. All the case's main players were born into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the church's tenets about marital fidelity, suicide, and spiritual revelation were central to the bizarre events that landed the 43-year-old in criminal court.

Faylene died hours after slipping underwater in a bathtub adjacent to the couple's master bedroom. The 35-year-old had ingested a large, but not fatal, dose of the sleep aide Ambien.

The hardwood pews inside Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Meg Mahoney's 13th-floor courtroom in downtown Phoenix had been at a premium for more than three months, filled with family members of the defendant and his late wife, the media, and the curious.

But the sole spectators on this late-February morning when Grant's legal fate would be sealed were a New Times writer and a producer from ABC's 20/20 — one of three national TV networks on the scene. (New Times published two stories and numerous blog items on the Grant case before the trial started, available at www.phoenixnewtimes.com.)

The 13-person jury, which included one alternate, had the day off.

The prosecution and defense were there to haggle over legal instructions that Judge Mahoney would be giving to jurors before they began deliberations about a week later.

Defense lawyers often ask judges to allow jurors in first-degree murder cases to consider less-serious murder counts, specifically second-degree murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide. But Doug Grant's veteran lawyer, Mel McDonald, didn't want this jury to weigh anything other than the sitting charge of first-degree murder.

Before trial testimony began last November, McDonald and Deputy County Attorney Juan Martinez agreed it would be an all-or-nothing affair: The jury would find Doug Grant guilty of premeditated first-degree murder or he would walk out of court a free man.

Martinez sought through the trial to nudge jurors toward an inescapable conclusion that this was a premeditated murder, though the official theory as to why Doug Grant had done it evolved over time.

Police first followed the money, primarily a $300,000 insurance policy on Fay's life that Grant later collected.

But that did not resonate with the prosecutor as much as his "other woman" theory. Martinez was claiming Grant murdered Faylene to allow for his immediate reunification with sexy, young Hilary, whom he married just three weeks later.

Mel McDonald remained confident there was no way 12 jurors could agree that Faylene was even a murder victim, much less that his client had committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

But McDonald knew that Grant's potential exposure to a guilty verdict was likely to be far greater if the word "reckless" — a key component of Arizona's manslaughter statute — slipped into the legal mix. Premeditation, which is at the heart of first-degree murder, is not an element of manslaughter.

McDonald feared jurors would consider reckless his client's decision to call a physician's assistant instead of 911 after he'd found his all-but-dead wife in the tub, especially if they wanted to convict him of something.

And no question, Grant had been morally reckless in another arena that definitely didn't help his cause.

His sexual scores with women had ruined marriages to his first wife and Faylene. His seven-year marriage to Fay, which produced two sons, ended acrimoniously in 2000. Then in July 27, 2001, the couple suddenly and surprisingly remarried in Las Vegas, exactly two months before Fay mysteriously died.

New Times wrote in its first story on the Grant case, "If the sex-fiend theory sounds flimsy, think again: Defendants, guilty or innocent, can be convicted simply because jurors don't like them."

That's what Mel McDonald was most concerned about, that the jurors would punish his client by convicting him of a lesser charge because of his historically bad character, even if they couldn't unanimously find him guilty of premeditated murder.

Since the start of the trial, Juan Martinez had tried to do everything but tattoo the words "cold-blooded killer" on Doug Grant's balding head. It seemed inconceivable that the tough-talking prosecutor would seek anything less than the maximum.

But Martinez had much better evidence that Grant was a first-degree cad than a first-degree murderer.

Martinez had been performing legal sleights of hand for months to divert jurors from focusing on weaknesses in his case, which included a slipshod investigation by Gilbert police, lack of physical evidence against the defendant, and the fact that Faylene Grant long had predicted her own premature death in diary entries and so-called "farewell" letters to friends and family.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin