Utah man to face obstruction charge for role in murder case
A man who reneged on a promise to testify against his friend during a Box Elder County murder trial will now face an obstruction of justice charge, the Utah Supreme Court ruled.
The court's June 25 decision says Wade Garrett Maughan can be prosecuted on the charge because he repeatedly refused to testify against Glenn Howard Griffin during Griffin's murder trial in 2008. Two lower courts had previously refused prosecutors' requests to order Maughan to trial for obstruction, but the decision explains that the court of appeals "jumped the gun" when it came to conclusions on factual issues that should instead be left to a jury.
Prosecutors charged Griffin with murder in 2005 after DNA evidence tied him to the 1984 slaying of 22-year-old gas station employee Bradley Perry. During the investigation,Maughan who had been friends with Griffin admitted to helping during the killing.
The state subsequently charged Maughan with murder but in an effort to use him as a witness against Griffin agreed not to use his testimony against him. However, when the time finally came for Maughan to testify, he refused.
The Supreme Court ruling notes that Maughan and his attorneys cited concerns about the constitutionality and scope of Utah's immunity laws. Defense attorney Richard Mauro said he believes Maughan's confession was coerced and that he wasn't involved in the crime. As result, Mauro said, Maughan had no information to provide prosecutors.
"It wasn't that my client didn't want to cooperate," Mauro said. "He just didn't have any information that would be of use to them."
A jury ultimately convicted Griffin, now 55, and a judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Maughan, now 57, was acquitted of a murder charge, which according to Mauro, supports the idea that he wasn't involved in the crime.
Mauro said he was disappointed by the decision.
In the aftermath, prosecutors filed obstruction of justice charges against Maughan for refusing to testify, but a magistrate threw out the charge after a 2010 preliminary hearing. State attorneys appealed that decision.
The case subsequently focused on Maughan's intent and whether he was trying to obstruct the prosecution of a former friend or simply protecting his constitutional rights. For the obstruction charge to stick, Maughan had to be doing the former.
The decision hands a victory to prosecutors. Assistant attorney general Christopher Ballard said the case emphasizes to defendants that once they have been given immunity they "have a responsibility to come forward."
"All we wanted was the opportunity to argue our case to a jury," Ballard added.