Competency evaluation stalls arguments in Martin MacNeill murder case
Courts • MacNeill’s competency is being evaluated in a separate sexual abuse case.
Published: February 19, 2014 06:26PM
Updated: February 19, 2014 09:19PM
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Michele and Martin MacNeill, seen here in an undated family photo, were the parents of eight children, including four daughters they adopted from Ukraine.

Sentencing in the murder case for Martin MacNeill, a former Pleasant Grove doctor recently convicted of killing his wife, is on hold because of competency issues in a separate sexual abuse case.

On Nov. 9, a jury convicted MacNeill, 57, of first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice in the death of his wife, Michele MacNeill.Martin MacNeill was scheduled to be in court on Thursday for oral arguments regarding a motion his attorney filed asking 4th District Judge Derek Pullan to arrest judgment in the case. But that court date was cancelled after Utah County prosecutors asked for a stay while MacNeill’s competency is probed as part of the sexual abuse case.

In that case, MacNeill is charged with one count of forcible sexual abuse, stemming from allegations that in 2007 he put his hands down an adult female relative’s pants.Last month, MacNeill’s attorney, Randall Spencer, filed a motion saying that he didn’t think his client was competent to stand trial in the sex abuse case. He wrote that MacNeill’s mental and physical health have deteriorated while he has been on suicide watch at the Utah County jail, and he questioned his client’s ability to help prepare for trial in the forcible sexual abuse case.

On Jan. 28, 4th District Judge Samuel McVey cancelled MacNeill’s sex abuse trial, and ordered two mental health experts to evaluate MacNeill. A competency review is set for March 3.

Deputy Utah County Attorney Chad Grunander argued that until that competency evaluation is complete, they can’t go forward with arguments in the murder case.

“The state does not believe [MacNeill] can be found incompetent in one case while remaining competent in another,” Grunander wrote in a recent court motion.

Pullan granted the prosecutor’s request and set an April 3 date for oral arguments in the murder case. No sentencing date has been set.

In Spencer’s motion to arrest judgment in the murder case, the attorney argues 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.

Prosecutors countered that no “secret deal” had been planned, and implied that the inmate may have been released, in part, due to concerns for his safety after Spencer apparently addressed the inmate by name inadvertently during the trial — which was being broadcast live by CNN.

The federal inmate testified during MacNeill’s four-week trial that the defendant confessed to him that he drugged his wife, 50-year-old Michele MacNeill, and then drowned her a bathtub at their Pleasant Grove home on April 11, 2007.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller