Did the trial judge make an error in law when answering a question posed by the jury while deliberating the fate of Philip Grandine? That’s the question at the centre of the court of appeal hearing now being heard at Osgoode Hall.
Grandine, a 30-year-old former pastor, was convicted of manslaughter in his pregnant wife’s death in 2014. He has been out on bail since launching an appeal in 2015. Grandine’s lawyers argue the trial judge’s answer affected the jury’s verdict and that the 15-year sentence handed down by Justice Robert Clark was unduly harsh.
Karissa Grandine was found dead in the bathtub of the couple’s Scarborough home on Oct. 17, 2011. The 29-year-old was five months pregnant with the couple’s first child. An autopsy found she was drugged with a sedative known as Lorazepam causing her to drown.
Her husband Philip Grandine was arrested and charged with first-degree murder the following spring and in 2014 he was convicted of a lesser charge of manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years in jail.
Grandine’s appeal lawyer Michael Lacy said during deliberations when the jury asked a question of Justice Clark, Clark’s answer introduced a “new path” for the jury to convict Grandine on manslaughter even if he did not administer the drug Lorazepam. Lacy said this was a “miscarriage of justice and undermined the fairness of the trial.” The crown disagreed saying Justice Clark’s answer was “legally correct.”
Another lawyer for Grandine, Adam Posluns, told the appeal court the 15-year sentence for manslaughter was “unduly harsh” and said Justice Clark’s sentencing remarks refer to the case as being a “near murder.” Posluns argued despite the fact the jury acquitted Grandine of first and second-degree murder, Clark infers he’s sentencing as if he murdered his wife.
If the appeal judges agree with Lacy’s arguments, the manslaughter conviction could be overturned and a new trial ordered. If the appeal is denied, the judges could overturn his sentence. Grandine was required to surrender into custody on the eve of his appeal. He was not in court Thursday.
Meanwhile, Rob Steeves, a friend of Karissa, attended the appeal hearing Thursday.
“Justice will prevail here and it’s going to stand and he’ll be serving his day in jail,” he said.
The appeal court reserved its decision after hearing submissions.
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