Provo • Prosecutors in the Utah County Attorney’s Office and attorneys for physician Martin MacNeill are trading accusations of misconduct in the murder case against the Pleasant Grove man, accused of killing his wife in 2007 so he could continue an extra-marital affair.
MacNeill’s attorneys, Randy Spencer and Susanne Gustin, filed a motion to dismiss the murder case or disqualify the Utah County Attorney’s Office from overseeing it based on their allegation that prosecutors intentionally withheld nearly 1,000 pages of documents, some of which they say could support MacNeill’s innocence.
“It just smacks of disingenuous conduct,” Spencer said Tuesday during a hearing in 4th District Court.
But Deputy Utah County Attorney Sam Pead blasted the filing in court Tuesday, saying the attorneys didn’t provide sufficient grounds for dismissal. He described the motion as “tedious,” “burdensome” and “scandalous,” and said much of it was irrelevant.
He accused defense attorneys of having “unclean hands,” alleging they shared the motion to dismiss with news media before filing it to the court.
Judge Samuel McVey, ruling that there is no basis in the law to dismiss a murder case, struck that motion. But he left the motion to disqualify the attorney’s office on the table, saying that MacNeill’s lawyers deserve a chance to present evidence to support their claims of misconduct.
No hearing was immediately set to address that issue but MacNeill is due back in court on March 25 for oral arguments on a different matter.
On Tuesday, McVey took the opportunity to reprimand both sides for flinging insults, calling it a distraction.
“Attributing bad faith to each other doesn’t really help the court,” he told the assembled lawyers.
MacNeill’s wife, Michele MacNeill, was found dead in her bathtub on April 11, 2007, but charges were not filed against the husband until August 2012.
According to court documents, MacNeill was having an affair at the time of his wife’s death and devised a plan to kill her in order to continue the affair.
On the day his wife was found in the tub, MacNeill called 911, but allegedly lied to the dispatcher about performing resuscitation and lied to police about events surrounding her death in an effort to hinder, delay or prevent any investigation, according to the charges.
After an autopsy in 2007, Michele MacNeill’s manner of death was ruled “natural,” the result of chronic hypertension and myocarditis. However, after a review in 2010, the manner of death was changed to “undetermined,” and attributed to heart disease and drug toxicity.
In early February, prosecutors asked the judge to seal all the documents related to MacNeill’s motion to dismiss the case. McVey temporarily granted the seal, which blocks public access to 22 documents related to the original motion to dismiss. The original request for the files to be sealed is also no longer publicly available.
Deputy Utah County Attorney Chad Grunandar has declined to discuss why prosecutors wanted the documents sealed.
However, in their motion to disqualify the Utah County Attorney’s Office, filed on Feb. 27, MacNeill’s attorneys wrote that prosecutors want to suppress the documents because they believe if the public continues to read or hear “disparaging and unfair remarks” about the case it could harm the investigation and may jeopardize MacNeill’s rights to a fair trial.
MacNeill has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and obstruction of justice. A trial date has not yet been set.