David Grunwald's father takes witness stand in Johnson murder trial
Inside Courtroom 7 of the Palmer Courthouse, the third week of Dominic Johnson's trial ended with a full day Thursday, including an audio recording the defense fought to keep out of the trial, testimony from the victim's father, and an aerial look at the final crime scene.
Johnson, 18, is one of four young people accused of murder in the shooting death 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 in May.
During the first hour of Thursday's proceedings, Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak and Defense Attorney Lyle Stohler argued over evidence outside of the presence of the jury.
Kalytiak wanted to play an audio recording of a 2017 interview between troopers and Misty Johnson, Dominic's mother. The file contains statements made by Misty that are inconsistent with her testimony during the trial.
During the interview with investigators at her home, Misty was more forthcoming about how the clothes Dominic was wearing when David was killed were later burned.
Misty said Dominic came to her home on Dec. 2, 2016, after showing troopers the area where they could find David's body. She told investigators after he told her what he had been doing that day, she eventually learned from him that he was wearing the same clothes he had on 19 days prior, when David was killed. As they began to discuss what to do with the outfit, Misty said Dominic did not want the clothes to be burned because they were expensive.
When asked why she tampered with potential evidence, Misty can be heard saying, "Because I love him. That's the only reason I can give you. Because he's my baby and I was scared. I was just trying to protect him and it was stupid."
Under oath Monday, Misty said she had directed someone to take the clothes out of her home, simply because she didn't want the 'negative energy' they might have after being worn in the area where David's body was found. She also said she cleansed her home with sage, a ritual she never mentioned in the initial interview with troopers.
During the 2017 interview, troopers can be heard asking her about another piece of evidence.
"I'm just curious, when were you gonna tell me about the video/audio clip that you saw about Dom talking about bashing in David Grunwald's head?" an investigator asks.
Misty replied, "Why would I say something about that?"
She eventually told troopers she had viewed the video on someone else's phone.
"All I knew though, when she showed me that, like, my child who has always prided himself on being a pacifist and not violent... it was shocking. Like, I've never seen that kid before," she told troopers during the recorded interview.
According to investigators, they were never able to obtain that video.
Dominic's defense attorney, Stohler, argued against admitting the recording as evidence, but Judge Gregory Heath ultimately ruled jurors should hear it.
Stohler, who has launched a flurry of objections throughout the trial, also objected Thursday to any mention of gangs and the use of an abbreviated version of the N-word, which has been established through witness testimony as a term the suspects used frequently to address each other.
Perhaps the most emotionally charged portion of the 10th day of Johnson's trial happened during testimony from Ben Grunwald, as he described the day troopers visited his home with news that his son's body had been located.
"December 2, 2016, he arrived at 4:02, and told us David had been tortured, kidnapped, and murdered--," said Ben, cut off before he could finish by a verbal eruption from the defense.
"I'm going to object. Whoa whoa whoa! Objection, hearsay," Stohler said, rising from his seat.
Kalytiak criticized, "Judge, I don't know that 'whoa whoa whoa' is a legal term of art."
Ben said he was repeating a statement he made during Almandinger's trial, to which there was no objection.
When it was time for Stohler to cross-examine Ben Grunwald, he started by asking him how he was doing.
"Lousy," he replied.
Jurors viewed an aerial image of the area where David's body was found, along with the video of the route he likely traveled, against his will, to the final crime scene.
Prosecutors then began presenting a lengthy timeline of the case, but were not able to finish by the end of the day.
The trial will resume Monday morning.
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