Grunwald murder suspect's attorney calls for mistrial twice
As the trial for Dominic Johnson entered its third week, the teen murder suspect's mother took the witness stand, under a condition of immunity, and Johnson's defense attorney requested a mistrial twice.
Johnson, 18, is one of four young people accused in the murder of 16-year-old David Grunwald on Nov. 13, 2016, and the second teen to stand trial in the case. A jury found Erick Almandinger guilty of all counts charged earlier this year.
Misty Johnson, Dominic's mother, failed to respond to a subpoena to testify in her son's murder trial and was arrested by troopers last week on a rare material witness warrant.
Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak sought to impeach her as a witness by proving she is biased toward her son.
KTVA previously reported:
Misty testified in Erick Almandinger's trial in May. She said Dominic had been living with his grandmother.
Kalytiak asked her about a video she's seen about Dominic getting into a fight.
"He said, 'Yeah, I hit him hard," Misty said.
On Monday, Kalytiak questioned Misty about the video, text messages she had sent to various people, and whether she had Dominic's bloodstained clothes burned in order to hide evidence against him.
The district attorney read one text in court, presumed to be about the video, "There’s something else that has surfaced that’s very, very, very bad! [I don't know] if the cops have it or not. If they do, they are definitely waiting till trial to bring it out."
Kalytiak noted an emphasis on the words "very, very, very bad" and the use of multiple exclamation points in the original text.
"I knew that anything with him speaking about violence was going to make him look bad," Misty said.
Frequent starting and stopping during witness testimony has become a staple of the trial, as defense attorney Lyle Stohler raises a generous amount of objections, often choosing to approach the bench and discuss the issues rather than stating his reason for objecting in front of the jury.
Monday was no exception.
Observers keeping a tally reported more than two dozen objections before the day was over, but Stohler's objections to the proceedings intensified as he launched a request calling for a mistrial following a line of questioning from Kalytiak about whether Dominic was attending school in the fall of 2016.
Judge Gregory Heath denied the request for a mistrial, but warned Misty not to speak about Dominic being kicked out of school due to conduct unrelated to the case.
As Kalytiak attempted to prove Misty is not a reliable witness due to her loyalty to her son, Misty testified, "I’m not going to cover for him."
That's when Kalytiak chose to read a text authored by Misty and was cut off by a vehement objection from Stohler.
(Viewer warning: Explicit language)
The text was referring to David Grunwald's parents, Edie and Ben Grunwald.
Kalytiak read, "F--- them old-ass idiots who know nothing about..."
Stohler interrupted with "Whoa, whoa, whoa, objection."
As the two attorneys approached the bench, Kalytiak defended his reading of the text saying, "This goes to bias, Judge."
Judge Heath dismissed jurors for the day as the prosecution and the defense argued over the objection, and Stohler made his second request for a mistrial.
"Basically she says, 'F the parents, and F the dead kid.' That's basically her statement here in black and white," said Kalytiak, arguing for admission of the text.
Judge Heath called the text inflammatory and encouraged the DA to explain why it should be used.
"Because," Kalytiak answered, "Why does the court say you can have the evidence that's mediocre evidence of her bias, but you can't have the ultimate evidence of her bias?"
He said there were perhaps worse texts he hadn't gotten to yet.
Judge Heath denied the second request for a mistrial, but told Kalytiak to move on.
The trial will resume Wednesday morning.
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MORE COVERAGE OF THE TRIAL: