Citing pretrial publicity and a pending motion to change the trial venue, a 4th District Court judge banned television crews from photographing Martin MacNeill during a court hearing Tuesday.
"The court wishes to avoid current pictures of the defendant on television pending trial," Judge Samuel McVey wrote in a pool photographer request filed in 4th District Court. "I will allow video of trial, however."
The timing of the order seemed somewhat odd, considering scores of photos and hours of video footage have been shot of MacNeill since his 2012 arrest. (According to a search of The Salt Lake Tribune photo database, 397 photos are on file for MacNeill’s month-long murder trial, including 175 images of MacNeill himself.)
Despite the abundance of photos and video that the media already has, the judge ruled that he did not want the former doctor photographed so close to a trial for an unrelated sexual abuse charge —a trial that was ultimately delayed after a competency evaluation was ordered during Tuesday’s hearing.
MacNeill’s appearance has changed dramatically in the two months since he was convicted of murder. According to his attorney, he has lost 17 pounds and has not been allowed to shave or be shaved since he attempted suicide by cutting his femoral artery with a jail-issue razor in early December. In court, he appears disheveled compared to his usually well-groomed appearance.
In his motion for MacNeill’s competency review, attorney Randall Spencer also argued that MacNeill’s current appearance would not be favorable for him at trial.
"The physical appearance of a defendant unquestionably affects a jury," Spencer wrote. "Due in large part to the suicide watch regimen that Mr. MacNeill is currently subjected to at the Utah County jail, the government has caused his appearance to significantly deteriorate."
Spencer has also filed a motion to change venue, arguing that extensive media coverage of MacNeill’s murder trial may have tainted potential jurors. That motion, however, can not be argued until the former doctor’s competency issues are resolved. MacNeill will have a competency hearing on March 3.
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