17-year old Meaghan Grunwald is charged with aggravated murder even though she did not shoot Sgt. Cory Wride. The sheriff deputy was killed according to prosecutors, by Grunwald's boyfriend. The teen was a passenger in the vehicle driven by the shooter.
Her attorney Dean Zabriskie argued that Grunwald could not get a fair trial in Utah County because of the media attention to the case.
He also told the judge that Sgt. Wride was considered a "hero and a victim" and that would influence many prospective jurors.
But Juab County Attorney Ann Marie Howard argued on behalf of keeping the trial in Utah County. She says the Utah County has a population of half a million people and "8 impartial jurors" could be found amongst that large of a pool of people.
Judge Darold McDade agreed with the prosecution. The judge stated that Sgt. Wride is not a politician or celebrity and courts have ruled if there is a "probability of a fair trial" then there is no need to change the location.
The parents of Sgt. Wride were present for Monday's hearing and were satisfied with the judge's ruling.
"We feel really pleased and gratified about the decision of the judge ruling,” says Blake Wride. “We feel it was really objective and well thought out."
Grunwald's attorney doubts Monday's ruling will be appealed. But says he may use the ruling at a later date should the need for an appeal arise. But Zabriskie still remains concerned.
“There's an ongoing celebration or memoriam as it relates to the life of this dead police officer, which we're part of,” says Zabriskie. “We join in their memories. By the same token, we're concerned it may create a factor of sympathy that it might cloud someone's judgement."
The judge says Utah County has a population of a half million people and believed eight impartial jurors could be found. Blake Wride agreed.
"I don't think Utah County got any more exposure or saturation with the news than any other place else in the state,” says Wride.
Now the emphasis will be on a plea bargain according to Grunwald's attorney.
“We're looking for the walk, but that's not going to happen unless we go to trial, so we will see how close we can get to that line," says Zabriskie
He says negotiations are underway. The question is whether prosecutors will agree to reduce the aggravated murder to simple murder. By reducing it to first degree murder, Grunwald could get out of prison in the future. A conviction with an aggravated murder means a person would be in prison for the rest of their life with no chance of being released.
"You can see what our goals are, to preserve here life as we can,” says Zabriskie. “At the same time, we're fully prepared to go to trial.”
Grunwald will be back in court August 18th for a scheduling hearing.
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