Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Grunwald

Court of Appeals of Utah

March 22, 2018

State of Utah, Appellee,
Meagan Grunwald, Appellant.

          Fourth District Court, Provo Department The Honorable Darold J. McDade No. 141400517

          Margaret P. Lindsay and Douglas J. Thompson, Attorneys for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Christopher D. Ballard, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K. Orme and Kate A. Toomey concurred.

          HAGEN, JUDGE.

         ¶1 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[1] (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).[2]

         ¶2 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.


         ¶3 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 Grunwald's parents.

         ¶4 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.

         ¶5 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 the wheel.

         ¶6 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.

         ¶7 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.

         ¶8 According to Grunwald, Garcia told her to put her foot on the brake while he shifted the truck into drive.[3] 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.

         ¶9 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.

         ¶10 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.

         ¶11 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.

         ¶12 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.

         ¶13 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.

         ¶14 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.

         ¶15 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.

         ¶16 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 him."

         ¶17 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.

         ¶18 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."

         ¶19 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.

         ¶20 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.

         ¶21 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 2017).


         ¶22 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).


         ¶23 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).

         ¶24 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 not others.

         I. Deficient Performance

         ¶25 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.

         ¶26 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, [4] "the State must show that an individual acted with both the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.