Former Utah doctor accused of killing wife found competent
Courts • Trial date set in unrelated sex-abuse case involving defendant’s relative.
Published: May 5, 2014 04:49PM
Updated: May 6, 2014 09:39AM
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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.

Provo • With reports from two mental health experts in hand — both finding that convicted wife-killer Martin MacNeill is competent to proceed in an unrelated sex abuse case — a judge on Monday scheduled a trial in the sex abuse case for July 2.

The competency ruling means that sentencing in the murder case, which is presided over by a different judge, can also go forward. Oral arguments in the murder case — on motions for a new trial and to arrest judgment — are set for June 12.

In the sex abuse case, 4th District Judge Samuel McVey scheduled a two-day trial over the objections of MacNeill’s attorney, Randall Spencer.

Spencer asked to delay setting a trial date, telling the judge that he had a number of motions to file, including several motions to dismiss the case or disqualify Utah County prosecutors from handling the case.

But McVey pushed forward with setting the trial.

“We have victims out here that have rights,” McVey said.

Outside of court, daughter Alexis Somers told reporters that she was not shocked that her father was found competent.

“I want this to be over with,” she said, noting that the case was filed seven years ago.

MacNeill, 57, 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.

A competency evaluation was ordered in January after Spencer filed a motion saying he didn’t think his client was competent to stand trial in the sex abuse case. He argued in the motion that MacNeill’s mental and physical health have deteriorated while he has been on suicide watch at the Utah County jail.

On Nov. 9, a jury convicted MacNeill of first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice in the 2007 death of his wife, Michele MacNeill.

But MacNeill has not yet been sentenced for the murder conviction because Spencer filed a motion to arrest judgment in the case. In the motion, Spencer 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.

Fourth District Judge Derek Pullan had ruled that arguments on that motion can’t go forward until the competency issue is resolved in the sex abuse case.

Prosecutors have said in court papers 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 50-year-old wife, then drowned her a bathtub at their Pleasant Grove home on April 11, 2007.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller