On the evening of August 24, 1989, Richard Sutcliffe picked up two hitchhikers outside of Tucson, Arizona. The two men, David Grannis and Daniel Webster, were heading to Los Angeles, California. Sutcliffe offered to let them stay at his place that night, and took them there. At around 1:30 a.m. on August 25, Sutcliffe’s neighbors heard screams coming from his house and called the police. When police arrived, they found Sutcliffe had been beaten to death, and his car had been stolen.
Police caught up with Grannis and Webster after the stolen car was sold, and in July of 1990 both men were arrested and indicted for first-degree murder, armed robbery, and other charges. They were tried together in May 1991. At trial, Grannis testified that Sutcliffe had made sexual advances to him, which Grannis went along with at first, but resisted when Sutcliffe became aggressive. According to Grannis, Webster started fighting with Sutcliffe, and Grannis ran outside and started Sutcliffe’s car. Webster eventually ran outside and the two drove away. Grannis claimed he did not know Sutcliffe had been murdered until he was arrested, and that he had taken off in the car because he thought Sutcliffe was chasing him. Webster claimed he killed Sutcliffe in self-defense. However, a friend of Webster’s testified for the prosecution, claiming she had overheard Webster bragging about the murder and that Grannis told him to shut up. The prosecution used photos of homosexual activity found in Grannis’s home to support their case. Both men were found guilty of first-degree murder, and sentenced to death on August 19, 1991.
On appeal, the Supreme Court of Arizona ruled that the prosecution had unfairly prejudiced the jury by using the homosexual photos as evidence against Grannis, and on July 25, 1995, Grannis’s conviction was reversed and remanded for retrial. In preparation for retrial, Grannis’s lawyer located a witness who was prepared to testify that neither Grannis nor the woman who testified at the first trial were present when Webster confessed to the homicide, but on November 6, 1996, an Arizona Superior Court judge dismissed the charges against Grannis, finding insufficient evidence to convict. Webster was retried separately, convicted for a second time and sentenced to life in prison.
– Alexandra Gross