Martin MacNeill, a former doctor recently convicted of murdering his wife in 2007, will appear in court Thursday as attorneys argue whether a separate sexual abuse case against him should be dismissed.
Defense attorney Randall Spencer filed a motion earlier this month asking 4th District Judge Samuel McVey to dismiss a charge of forcible sexual abuse against MacNeill, 57, or bar Utah County prosecutors from handling the case.
The motion is nearly identical to one Spencer filed prior to MacNeill’s October homicide trial, where the former doctor was found guilty of murdering his wife, Michele MacNeill. Because the motions are so similar, Deputy Utah County Attorney David Sturgill asked for the most recent request for dismissal to be thrown out.
In Sturgill’s motion filed Tuesday, he argues that because McVey had denied Spencer’s motion to dismiss in the murder case, Spencer should not be allowed to make the same motion in the sex abuse case — where Martin MacNeill is accused of putting his hands down an adult female relative’s pants in 2007.
“The parties completely, fully, and fairly litigated the same issue in the prior case,” Sturgill wrote. “...[MacNeill], therefore, should be precluded from relitigating this issue again.”
Spencer argues in his latest motion that the county attorney’s office released non-public information about his client to the media from 2009 through 2012 in order to generate leads in the investigation of Michele MacNeill’s death. Spencer said that stories published by various media outlets insinuated that Martin MacNeill was a “sexual predator” who raped multiple women and got away with it. The defense attorney alleges the information was an “extrajudicial statement” that prejudiced Martin MacNeill’s due process rights. Because of this release of information, Spencer said any potential jury pool is now tainted.
Spencer has also filed a motion asking that the two-day trial, now scheduled for February, be moved to a different county. In the change-of-venue motion, Spencer wrote that Martin MacNeill’s status as a “prominent physician” in Utah County and the publicity related to the murder trial — which garnered daily coverage in local and national media — would make it impossible to seat an impartial jury in Utah County.
Sturgill responded in court papers that there is no basis to believe MacNeill has ever been a “prominent” physician in the county. He also argued that the extensive media coverage was equal at a local and national level, making it no less difficult to seat a jury in Salt Lake County as in Utah County.
“To suggest that Salt Lake County was any less exposed to the media’s coverage of [MacNeill’s] murder trial, and would be more likely to panel an ‘untainted’ jury is ridiculous,” Sturgill wrote in his motion.
Sentencing in the murder case — where a jury found Martin MacNeill guilty of murder and obstruction of justice in his wife’s 2007 death — was put on hold after Spencer filed a motion asking 4th District Judge Derek Pullan to arrest judgment in the case or grant a new trial. MacNeill’s attorneys argue in the 30-page motion that a federal inmate lied on the stand about a possible early release he received in exchange for his testimony, and that prosecutors did not disclose that a deal was in the works.
Arguments in that case will be held on Feb. 20.
The federal inmate testified during Martin MacNeill’s four-week trial that the former doctor confessed to him that he drugged his wife and then drowned her a bathtub at their Pleasant Grove home on April 11, 2007.
Michele MacNeill was found unconscious in her bathtub by her 6-year-old daughter, Ada MacNeill, that day. The child was sent by her father to a neighbor’s house to get help, and eventually Michele MacNeill was pulled from the bathtub by a neighbor and Martin MacNeill. The two attempted CPR before medical crews arrived.
Michele MacNeill, 50, was pronounced dead at American Fork Hospital.
MacNeill has been housed in the Utah County jail since his 2012 arrest, though he was briefly hospitalized in early December after he attempted suicide.