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State v. Grantley

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

November 28, 2016

Erwin Grantley.

         Providence County Superior Court P1/09-2498A Susan E. McGuirl Associate Justice

          For State: Lauren S. Zurier Department of Attorney General

          For Defendant: George J. West, Esq.

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.


          Gilbert V. Indeglia Associate Justice.

         On May 3, 2012, a Providence County Superior Court jury found the defendant, Erwin Grantley (Grantley or defendant) guilty of one count of assault with a dangerous weapon in a dwelling house (domestic), in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-5-4 and G.L. 1956 § 12-29-2(a)(2); guilty of one count of breaking and entering of a dwelling house (domestic), in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-8-2 and § 12-29-2(a) and (b);[1] not guilty of one count of driving a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 31-9-1; and not guilty of larceny under $500 in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-41-1.

         On September 6, 2013, the trial justice sentenced Grantley. With respect to the assault with a dangerous weapon conviction, defendant was sentenced to thirty-two years, with sixteen years to serve and sixteen years suspended with probation. For the breaking and entering conviction, Grantley was sentenced to fifteen years to serve, to be served consecutive to the assault sentence. The trial justice also sentenced Grantley as an habitual criminal, per G.L. 1956 § 12-19-21, to an additional eight years, to run consecutively to these two sentences.

         On appeal, defendant raises three issues. With respect to the breaking and entering count, Grantley argues that the trial justice erred in denying his motion for a judgment of acquittal brought pursuant to Rule 29 of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure and his motion for a new trial brought pursuant to Rule 33 of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. Specifically, he asserts that the state failed to meet its burden of proving lack of consent because he had implied consent to enter the complaining witness's home. The defendant also contends that the trial justice erred in denying his motion for a new trial on the first count, assault with a dangerous weapon in a dwelling house. He maintains that the verdict on that count was against the weight of the evidence. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.


         Facts and Travel

         The defendant's conviction arose out of an incident between defendant and the complaining witness, Crystal Bruce (Bruce), on the morning of May 28, 2009. The defendant was subsequently charged with the aforementioned counts, and a jury trial was held in the Providence County Superior Court on April 24 through May 3, 2012. Below, we summarize the relevant testimony adduced at trial.

         Bruce, the first witness to testify, discussed her relationship with defendant that began in 2004. She described it as "on again, off again, " noting that "it was good, but then it was bad, it was like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde relationship." Bruce testified that she and Grantley often fought; and, when asked if any of the fights were physical, she replied "yes." During the course of their association, Bruce noted, she moved to 134 Houston Street in Providence in December 2007 and Grantley lived with her for about eight months. Grantley's name was placed on the mailbox when they moved in together, and his name remained there through the date of the incident. Around the summer of 2008, Bruce ended her relationship with defendant. She stated that she returned the engagement ring Grantley gave her to the store and kept the money. However, Bruce and Grantley remained friends and attempted to improve their relationship.

         In her testimony, Bruce discussed the days leading up to the incident. She said that she saw Grantley two days before, when she gave him a ride to fill out a job application. That day, Grantley wanted to go back to her house to see her dogs, but she refused. Also during the week before the incident, Bruce stayed overnight at defendant's home. She acknowledged that she slept with Grantley, but she stated that it was because she "didn't want to hate him or be enemies with him."

         At the time of the incident, Bruce still resided at 134 Houston Street with her four children. She testified that she arrived home at 8:30 a.m., after spending the night at a male friend's house in Connecticut. Upon entering her bedroom, Bruce saw Grantley come in and shut the door behind him. She said that she did not know Grantley was at her house, she did not invite him there, and he did not have a set of keys to the house. After closing her bedroom door, Grantley questioned Bruce about her whereabouts the night before, and "[h]e just said if I was going to be a whore, it wasn't going to be while he was around." Bruce testified that defendant then punched her and she fell towards the bed. Grantley began choking Bruce and told her, "[I]f he couldn't have [her], wasn't nobody else going to have [her]." Before passing out, Bruce asked, "You're going to kill me with my kids upstairs?" She testified that she awoke to find Grantley holding a wire around her neck, which she managed to remove. She said that defendant then took her keys and cell phone and left.

         Bruce testified that two of her children, Christopher and Jonathan, were home at the time of the incident.[2] She screamed for her sons and made her way toward their rooms. After she told them what had happened, Christopher called 9-1-1. She was taken to Rhode Island Hospital, where she stayed for four days. Bruce said that she suffered from a collapsed lung, a stab wound, bleeding in her brain, and bruised ribs.

         On cross-examination, Bruce was asked about an IRS check addressed to Grantley that she received while he was in prison. Bruce testified that she sent the check to defendant in prison, he signed it, sent it back to her, and after cashing it, she ultimately used the check's proceeds. When Bruce talked with an investigator working for defendant's attorney, however, she told him that she deposited the check into Grantley's account. In her testimony, Bruce acknowledged lying to the investigator because she "was tired of speaking to [him]."

         Bruce was also questioned about other letters she had written to Grantley while he was in prison. In the letters, she called herself defendant's "wife, " and said, "I want you home with me where you belong, " "I want to be your wife more than anything in this world, " and "I just really wish I could have your baby, our baby." Bruce testified that she and Grantley were still trying to work on their relationship at the time she wrote the letters.

         The state also presented Paul Casey, an EMT for the City of Cranston who responded to Bruce's home after the incident.[3] Casey testified that, upon arrival, Bruce was conscious and alert and appeared panicked and anxious. He stated that Bruce informed him that she had been assaulted and stabbed.[4] Casey testified that Bruce's left eye was swollen shut, she had a laceration on her cheek, multiple ligature marks, and signs of blunt trauma on her arm and torso.

         Bruce's sons, Christopher and Jonathan, each testified. At the time of the incident, both were at home sleeping. They testified that they were awakened by their mother. Christopher helped his mother onto the bed and called 9-1-1. After his mother told him what happened, Jonathan said, he looked outside of his bedroom window and saw Grantley driving away in Bruce's vehicle.

         Jonathan also testified that on the day of the incident, he found a knife blade wrapped in a bloody towel underneath his mother's bed. After finding it, he called the investigating detective. Jonathan testified that the detective came "right over"; however, on cross-examination, he said that the police did not retrieve the towel and the knife until June 1, 2009. He acknowledged that he was originally mistaken about the date. When asked whether he recalled defendant being at his house the day before the incident and whether defendant left that day, Jonathan responded affirmatively. Both Christopher and Jonathan were also asked if they invited Grantley to the house, if he had permission to be at the house the day of the incident, and if they knew he was in the house on that date. They testified in the negative to each.

         Jay Baruch, M.D., an emergency room physician at Rhode Island Hospital, testified next.[5] Doctor Baruch was working when Bruce came in and was part of her treatment team. He testified that, when he initially saw her on May 28, 2009, there was concern that Bruce's condition was life-threatening. Doctor Baruch testified that Bruce had a "potential stab wound to the chest." After reviewing the medical records, Dr. Baruch stated that Bruce had abrasions and tenderness on her face, redness around her neck, a ...

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