Let's cut to the chase on Wednesday's testimony at Doug Grant's first-degree murder trial in downtown Phoenix: Grant (pictured) certainly has some major issues, or we (and a slew of national media types) probably wouldn't be sitting in court watching this proceeding slowly unfold.
But key prosecution witness Chad White, a physician assistant who is one of this unique case's pivotal players, boldly refuted the grand jury testimony of Gilbert police detective Sy Ray and prosecutor Juan Martinez's opening statement in one critical area.
White calmly told the jury that he, not the defendant, onetime Phoenix Suns nutritionist Grant, came up with the notion of prescribing the sleep aid Ambien for Grant's wife Faylene (the alleged murder victim) at the couple's Gilbert home back in September 2001.
Sorry, readers, but you'll have to refer to our recent two-part series on this case if you care to know the implications of White's testimony. If you don't care to delve further, suffice to say that Detective Ray told a grand jury that Grant had practically chased White -- an acquaintance on a house call -- to the front door urging the physician's assistant to write a scrip for the Ambien.
In his opening statement, prosecutor Martinez, who often seemed on the verge of attacking White (his own witness) like an angry cage fighter, also promised jurors that they would hear testimony of how Grant had swayed White into writing what turned out to be the fatal scrip of the sleep drug. (Faylene Grant drowned in a bathtub off the master bedroom after ingesting enough Ambien to knock her out).
This is what our notes say that Martinez told the jury:
"[White] is about to leave, the defendant comes up to him and says, `Well, can you give her some Ambien?' He wants some sleeping pills for her. According to Mr. White and according to his notes, he says, `Well, that's not a good idea.' And according to his notes he said that he strictly advised Mr. Grant, because Mr. Grant is the one who's requesting this, not to take the Ambien with any other medication."
To the contrary, White swore under oath that he had written the prescription of his own volition after examining Faylene at her home -- a few days after she claimed to have tumbled off a Utah cliff (please check out our linked stories -- wild stuff!) and sustained a host of cuts and bruises.
"It was at nobody's request -- it was my recommendation," White said, to Martinez's visible chagrin. "They [the Grants] had asked me, `What if this [muscle relaxant Soma] doesn't help tonight?'' I told them I could [write a] scrip specifically for sleep."
That prescription, he said, was for Ambien, though he stressed to the panel that he had instructed the couple "not to fill the prescription unless the Soma fails to assist with sleep...I did not expect her to take the Ambien that night."
Instead, as it turned out, Doug Grant did go to a pharmacy that night and had several prescriptions filled, including the one for five tablets of Ambien.
About 12 hours after that, Faylene Grant was dead, with all of the recently secured Ambien in her body. Trying to determine how the drug got there -- intentionally (as in homicide or suicide), or accidentally is what this trial is about.
However, the county Medical Examiner's Office couldn't even choose among these options, officially ruling that Mrs. Grant's manner of death was "undetermined."
Though the prosecution of Grant seemed to take a hit with the bulk of Chad White's testimony, Martinez did make points at the end of the day.
White testified that Grant frantically had called him (and not 911) at home on the morning after the house call, advising the physician assistant that Faylene had overdosed and was in bad shape at the couple's home.
The prosecutor played (and not for the first or last time in this trial) the 911 call from White in which the medical man anxiously had told the operator that Grant hadn't called because "he's afraid to, he's afraid to."
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White told the jury he didn't know why Grant had said that, other than to speculate that "he had gone against some of my orders [not to fill the Ambien scrip], I don't know..."
The day ended with White about to tell jurors what happened after he arrived at the Grant residence on the morning of September 27, 2001. But he won't return to the witness stand until Tuesday, another day of important testimony from a gentleman who seems to be as straight as they come.-- Paul Rubin