New trial for pastor convicted of killing wife
Appeal centred on judge’s answer to jury’s question
A former pastor who was convicted of manslaughter in the death of his pregnant wife will get a new trial because a judge “compromised the fairness” of the proceedings, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled Friday.
Philip Grandine was accused of serving his wife, Karissa Grandine, a banana smoothie laced with sedatives, causing her to drown in the couple’s bathtub in October 2011.
He was found guilty of manslaughter in 2014 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Grandine’s lawyers appealed his conviction on the grounds that Judge Robert Clark, in responding to a question posed by the jury, had opened the door for jurors to convict Grandine based on an “entirely speculative” theory.
The Court of Appeal found in Grandine’s favour Friday, overturning his conviction and ordering that he be retried. “He’s now presumed innocent in relation to the death of his wife,” Grandine’s lawyer, Michael Lacy, told the Star. “He starts again with a clean slate.”
At Grandine’s 2014 trial, the Crown argued that, after slipping his wife the sedative lorazepam, Grandine either put her in the bath or did not stop her from taking a bath. Then he either waited for her to pass out and drown, or held her head underwater, the Crown alleged.
Grandine’s defence argued that Karissa took the sedatives herself and accidentally drowned, or that she took her own life. During deliberations, the jury asked Clark whether Grandine failing to stop his wife from taking a bath despite knowing she was drugged, was the same, legally speaking, as physically causing her to get into the tub.
Clark wrote four drafts of a response, finally telling the jury they could find Grandine guilty of manslaughter if they determined that he failed to provide the “necessaries of life” to his wife.
That answer “introduced to the jury a new unlawful act — failing to provide the necessaries of life — thereby opening a door to finding (Grandine) culpable without needing to find he had administered lorazepam to his wife,” the Court of Appeal said in its decision.
“The answer thereby undermined the crux of (Grandine’s) defence — namely, he should be acquitted if the jury could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he had administered lorazepam to his wife.”
On that basis, the appeal court overturned Grandine’s conviction and ordered a new trial.
At the end of Grandine’s original trial in 2014, the jury found that he had not intended to kill his wife on the night of her death. Clark ruled in his judge’s decision, though, that Grandine was planning to kill her eventually.
“Although I cannot say with certainty what the accused’s purpose was in administering lorazepam to his wife on this particular occasion, I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that it was, in the least, deviant, malicious and . . . in furtherance of his contemplation of murdering her at some point,” Clark said in the decision.
Grandine first drugged his wife four days before her death, causing her to be hospitalized, Clark added.
Grandine’s internet search history showed he had looked up “where to buy lorazepam in Toronto,” “would 100mg of Ativan (the brand name for lorazepam) be fatal,” and a combination of the words “autopsy,” “lorazepam” and “toxicology,” the court heard during the trial.
Grandine, who worked as a retirement home nurse, was forced to resign as pastor at the couple’s church after Karissa discovered he was having an affair, Clark noted when handing down the sentence. Grandine was also the sole beneficiary of his wife’s life insurance policy, the judge said. Grandine was released on bail pending his appeal in August 2015, Lacy said. He surrendered into custody Thursday night, in accordance with standard procedure for appeal decisions, but will probably be released on bail again to await his new trial, Lacy added.