A jury has found ex-Toronto pastor Philip Grandine guilty of manslaughter in the drowning death of his 29-year-old pregnant wife Karissa Grandine.
The jury’s decision comes after two days of deliberation following Philip Grandine’s second trial over his wife’s 2011 death.
Prosecutors told the jury Grandine, 32, played “Russian roulette” with his wife’s life by secretly drugging her with the sedative lorazepam, after which she drowned in a bathtub in their Scarborough home.
Grandine, a nurse at a retirement home, had access to the sedative and wanted to keep his wife incapacitated or confused so he could continue an affair even after it was discovered and he was forced to step down as a pastor, prosecutors argued.
Grandine’s defence lawyer argued Karissa Grandine’s death on Oct. 17, 2011, was a tragic accident or a suicide stemming from her husband’s continued affair with a woman from their church who she had considered a friend.
A jury acquitted him of first-degree murder at his first trial in 2014, but found him guilty of manslaughter. The judge at that trial found that while jurors did not believe Grandine intended to kill his wife the night she drowned, he was planning to kill her in the future.
However, the Court of Appeal overturned Grandine’s manslaughter conviction and ordered a new trial after ruling the trial judge made an error in answering a question from the jury.
The appeal court found the judge had introduced a new theory not previously raised at the trial — that Grandine could be guilty of manslaughter even if he did not drug his wife, but knew she had consumed the sedative. This theory was introduced by the Crown at the second trial.
Grandine has been on bail since he was sentenced to serve 15 years for manslaughter in 2015.
“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,” Superior Court Justice Robert Clark said in his sentencing decision. He also deemed Grandine’s emotional 911 call “an elaborate charade” and found his distress to be “feigned and insincere.”
Since the Crown did not appeal the manslaughter conviction, Grandine could only be retried on a charge of manslaughter, not the original charge of first-degree murder.
The jury had three possible ways to reach a verdict of manslaughter, Superior Court Justice Faye McWatt said: First, they could find that Grandine put his wife at risk of serious bodily harm or death by drugging her with the lorazepam. Second, they could find he put her at risk by making the drug available to her. Or, third, they could find he was criminally negligent because he failed to stop her from getting into the bath despite knowing she had taken the drug and knowing the serious symptoms it caused in her, including disorientation and fatigue. That would show a “wanton disregard” for her life, McWatt said.
The jury heard Grandine had taken his wife to hospital two days before she died, after she showed symptoms of fatigue, disorientation and dizziness. A blood sample taken that night was later found to contain a therapeutic-level dose of lorazepam. The amount was slightly lower than the amount found in her system during her autopsy — also a therapeutic-level amount.
Karissa Grandine was not found to have a prescription for the drug, which is not usually prescribed for pregnant women.
Her mother testified she was present when her daughter asked Philip Grandine if he gave her a pill, an accusation she said he denied. Karissa Grandine’s sister testified her sibling said she was scared because she didn’t know what had caused her symptoms.
The jury heard evidence someone had used the Grandines’ shared home computer to search the questions “would 100mg of Ativan be fatal” and “would you die from 100mg of lorazepam?”
The Crown argued evidence that searches about the drug were closely followed or preceded by searches for female escorts and body rubs suggested Philip Grandine conducted the searches
Prosecutors also argued Grandine uninstalled a pornography blocker on the computer 40 minutes before he called 911 about his wife’s death.
Defence lawyer Amit Thakore argued Karissa Grandine could have obtained and researched the drugs, and also could have uninstalled the pornography blocker using the “forgot my password” function.
The blocker had been put on the computer as a condition of the couple’s marriage counselling.
“I submit that Mrs. Grandine knew she was about to end her life and didn’t want to burden Mr. Grandine with those restrictions once she was gone,” Thakore said.
At the end of the Crown’s case, Thakore asked the judge to grant a directed verdict to acquit Philip Grandine because the Crown had not provided enough evidence to prove Grandine committed manslaughter.
McWatt dismissed that application, finding the Crown had a strong circumstantial case and that the jury should make the decision.
Grandine is suspended by the College of Nurses pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings.
After the first trial, 34 victim impact statements were submitted to court about Karissa Grandine. She was remembered as a kind, generous person who was thrilled to become a mother and had nicknamed her unborn baby “Jellybean.” She had been working towards a graduate degree in human biology and archaeology from the University of Toronto, on top of her day job as a casualty underwriter. She was 20-weeks pregnant when she died.
Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati