District Court, Provo Department The Honorable Darold J.
McDade No. 141400517
Margaret P. Lindsay and Douglas J. Thompson, Attorneys for
D. Reyes and Christopher D. Ballard, Attorneys for Appellee
Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K.
Orme and Kate A. Toomey concurred.
This appeal arises from a crime spree that left one police
officer dead and another gravely injured. The deadly rampage
ended when Jose Angel Garcia Juaregi (Garcia) was shot and
killed by police. His teenaged girlfriend, Meagan Grunwald,
was charged and convicted as an accomplice to the aggravated
murder of Sergeant Cory Wride (Count One); the attempted
aggravated murder of Deputy Greg Sherwood and felony
discharge of a firearm resulting in serious bodily injury
(Counts Two and Three); felony discharge of a firearm for
shooting at Trooper Jeff Blankenagel (Count Five); felony
discharge of a firearm and criminal mischief for shooting and
damaging a semi-trailer truck (Counts Six and Seven); and
aggravated robbery for carjacking a vehicle from another
motorist (Count Eleven).
At trial, the jury was incorrectly instructed on the elements
of accomplice liability. After carefully reviewing the
evidence presented at trial, we hold that the error was
harmless with respect to Counts One and Eleven and therefore
affirm those convictions. With respect to Counts Two, Three,
Five, Six, and Seven, however, there is a reasonable
probability that the result would have been different if the
jury had been correctly instructed on the law. As a result,
we must vacate those convictions and remand for a new trial
on those counts.
In June 2013, when Grunwald was sixteen years old, she was
introduced to Garcia by a mutual friend. Garcia had been
previously convicted of manslaughter and was on parole.
Although Garcia was almost ten years older than Grunwald,
they became romantically involved. By September, Garcia had
moved into the Grunwald family home in Draper, Utah.
Garcia's presence in the home and his intimate
relationship with Grunwald resulted in friction between
In January 2014, Grunwald's parents decided to separate,
and Grunwald planned to move with her mother to St. George,
Utah. Garcia told his parole officer that he wanted to
transfer his supervision to St. George so that he could stay
with Grunwald. His parole officer directed Garcia to stay
with his brother in Provo, Utah and to report in on January
27. When Garcia failed to report, the parole officer applied
for an arrest warrant.
On January 30, Grunwald and her mother were packing their
belongings when Garcia asked Grunwald to "go on a
ride" with him so they could talk. Grunwald agreed, and
she and Garcia drove away in her truck, with Grunwald behind
At some point during the drive, Garcia told Grunwald that
there was a warrant out for his arrest. The circumstances
surrounding this announcement were disputed at trial, but
Grunwald became sufficiently upset to pull off to the side of
Highway 73 and turn on her hazard lights.
Sergeant Cory Wride, with the Utah County Sheriff's
Office, noticed the truck on the side of the road and
notified dispatch that he was conducting a "motorist
assist." He approached the driver's window and asked
Grunwald if she was okay. Although she was crying and her
face was red, Grunwald told him she was fine. He asked for
her identification and car registration and then went back to
his vehicle to confirm her information with a police
dispatcher. When Sergeant Wride returned to the truck, he
gave the documents back to Grunwald and asked her again if
she was sure she was okay. When she assured him that she was,
he turned his attention to Garcia. Garcia provided a false
name and birthdate, and Sergeant Wride again returned to his
vehicle to verify the information.
According to Grunwald, Garcia told her to put her foot on the
brake while he shifted the truck into drive. With a gun in
hand, Garcia announced to Grunwald that he was "going to
buck [the officer] in the fucking head." Grunwald held
her foot on the brake with the car in drive for more than
three-and-a-half minutes. During this time, a passing
motorist noticed that Grunwald was checking her driver's
side mirror. When there was a significant lull in traffic,
Garcia slid open the truck's back window and fired seven
shots at Sergeant Wride as he sat in is patrol vehicle.
Immediately after Garcia fired the shots, Grunwald
accelerated back onto the road and drove away.
Two bullets struck Sergeant Wride, one piercing his forehead
and the other puncturing his neck. When Sergeant Wride did
not answer his radio or calls to his mobile phone, another
officer drove to his last known location. The officer found
Sergeant Wride dead. He notified the dispatch center, and
other officers began searching for Grunwald's truck.
About an hour and a half after the shooting, police first
spotted the truck travelling southbound on I-15 between the
two Santaquin exits. When police gave chase, Grunwald pulled
into an emergency turnaround and made a U-turn to head
northbound on I-15.
Another officer, Utah County Sheriff's Deputy Greg
Sherwood, spotted Grunwald's truck as she exited the
interstate at the Santaquin Main Street exit and began to
follow. When Deputy Sherwood activated his siren and overhead
lights, Grunwald suddenly reduced her speed, which closed the
gap between the two vehicles. In that instant, Garcia fired
at Deputy Sherwood through the truck's back window. One
bullet struck Deputy Sherwood in the head, causing serious
injury. Fortunately, Deputy Sherwood survived the shooting.
Immediately after Garcia fired at Deputy Sherwood, Grunwald
made another abrupt U-turn and headed back to the I-15
on-ramp. Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Jeff Blankenagel spotted
Grunwald's truck once it was back on the interstate. As
Trooper Blankenagel followed the truck, Garcia fired two
shots in his direction from the truck's back window.
Trooper Blankenagel reduced his speed to create a safe
following distance between his vehicle and Grunwald's
truck. Ahead on I-15, other officers had deployed a spike
strip to stop the truck. Grunwald maneuvered around it, but
the spike strip disabled Trooper Blankenagel's vehicle.
As Grunwald continued driving, she crashed into another
vehicle, resulting in damage to the front end of the truck
that impaired her ability to steer and brake.
Undeterred, Grunwald continued driving and passed a
semi-trailer truck traveling southbound on I-15. As they went
by, the truck driver saw Garcia lean out of the truck's
passenger window and fire shots at his semi-trailer. The
truck driver pulled over to examine his vehicle and found
that the gun shots had damaged parts of the truck.
Shortly after passing the semi-trailer truck, Grunwald took
the Nephi Main Street exit off of I-15, and she and Garcia
abandoned the disabled truck. Garcia ran down the middle of
the road away from the truck, and Grunwald followed. Officers
yelled at them to "stop" and "[g]et
down." Ignoring these commands, Garcia fired at an
officer while Grunwald ran directly toward a moving car
waving her arms. The driver saw Grunwald flagging her down
and stopped her vehicle. While Grunwald opened the passenger
side door and climbed in, Garcia opened the driver's
door, waved his gun at the driver, and ordered her to get
out. The driver asked if she could get her daughter out of
the back seat, to which Garcia replied, "[Y]ou better
hurry." As soon as the driver retrieved her daughter,
Garcia drove away with Grunwald in the passenger seat.
Garcia returned to I-15, but police successfully deployed
tire spikes, slowing the vehicle and eventually causing a
tire to become dislodged. When the disabled vehicle came to a
stop, Garcia abandoned it, running toward another vehicle
with Grunwald following him. Officers yelled at them to stop
and get down. As Garcia neared the other vehicle, gunfire
erupted. Grunwald stopped and dropped to her knees.
Garcia continued to flee and aimed his gun at an approaching
officer. The officer yelled, "Show me your hands."
When Garcia failed to do so, the officer fired two shots.
Grunwald saw one bullet strike Garcia in the head, and she
began to scream. The officer who fired heard her yell,
"You shot him in the fucking head." A bystander saw
Grunwald pacing frantically, acting distraught and
hysterical. She appeared angry at the police and screamed,
"You fucking ass holes, you didn't have to shoot
him. You fucking shot him. Oh, my God, you fucking shot
Garcia, on the ground but still conscious, continued to
struggle as officers wrestled away his gun and placed him in
handcuffs. Once he was subdued, officers attempted to
administer first aid. Garcia asked them for water then said,
"Why don't you let me kiss my girlfriend with my
last dying breath?" Garcia died later that day.
After Grunwald was arrested and placed in a patrol vehicle,
she claimed that Garcia had threatened to shoot her and her
family if she refused to go with him and that she "tried
to get him to stop."
The State charged Grunwald with twelve counts associated with
these events. On Counts One through Seven and Count Eleven,
the State charged Grunwald as an accomplice. She pled not
guilty to all charges and the case proceeded to trial.
Between April 28 and May 9, 2015, the district court held a
nine-day trial, during which Grunwald raised the affirmative
defense of compulsion. At the end of trial, the jury
convicted Grunwald of eleven of the twelve counts, acquitting
her of Count Four, attempted aggravated murder for
Garcia's shooting at Trooper Blankenagel.
On July 8, 2015, the court sentenced Grunwald to various
prison terms of zero-to-five years to twenty-five years to
life. The court imposed a sentence of twenty-five years to
life on Count One (aggravated murder) to run consecutively
with a sentence of five years to life on Count Eleven
(aggravated robbery). The court ordered the sentences on the
remaining counts to run concurrently with all other counts.
Grunwald appealed. Pursuant to Utah Code section
78A-3-102(4), the Utah Supreme Court transferred the appeal
to this court. Utah Code Ann. § 78A-3-102(4) (LexisNexis
AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
Grunwald contends that she received ineffective assistance of
counsel because her attorney failed to object to erroneous
jury instructions on accomplice liability. "When a claim
of ineffective assistance of counsel is raised for the first
time on appeal, there is no lower court ruling to review and
we must decide whether [the] defendant was deprived of the
effective assistance of counsel as a matter of law."
Layton City v. Carr, 2014 UT App 227, ¶ 6, 336
P.3d 587 (alteration in original).
An accused is guaranteed assistance of counsel for his or her
defense under the Sixth Amendment to the United States
Constitution and article 1, section 12 of the Utah
Constitution. "[T]he right to counsel is the right to
the effective assistance of counsel." Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 686 (1984) (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted). To establish a
constitutional claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a
defendant must demonstrate both "that counsel's
performance was deficient" and "that the deficient
performance prejudiced the defense." Id. at
687; see also State v. Litherland, 2000 UT 76,
¶ 19, 12 P.3d 92 (following Strickland's
two-prong test for ineffective assistance of counsel). To
satisfy the first element, a defendant must show that
"counsel's representation fell below an objective
standard of reasonableness, " which "overcome[s]
the presumption that, under the circumstances, the challenged
action might be considered sound trial strategy."
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688-89 (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted). The second element
requires that the defendant establish that "a reasonable
probability exists that, but for counsel's error, the
result would have been different." State v.
Millard, 2010 UT App 355, ¶ 18, 246 P.3d 151
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
In this case, counsel's performance was deficient because
counsel failed to object to serious errors in the jury
instructions relating to accomplice liability. As to
prejudice, we conclude that there is a reasonable probability
that the result would have been different on some counts but
To assess deficient performance in this case, we must
evaluate whether the instructions provided to the jury
correctly stated the law. Because the jury instructions at
issue concerned accomplice liability, we begin with a review
of Utah law on that subject.
Under section 76-2-202 of the Utah Code, "[e]very
person, acting with the mental state required for the
commission of an offense who directly commits the offense,
who solicits, requests, commands, encourages, or
intentionally aids another person to engage in conduct which
constitutes an offense shall be criminally liable as a party
for such conduct." Utah Code Ann. § 76-2-202
(LexisNexis 2017). Under this statute, "accomplice
liability adheres only when the accused acts with the mens
rea to commit the principal offense." State v.
Calliham, 2002 UT 86, ¶ 64, 55 P.3d 573. To prove
the requisite mens rea,  "the State must show that an
individual acted with both the ...