Jury selection to begin in Martin MacNeill trial
By Jessica Miller
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Oct 15 2013 01:01AM
Jury selection is underway in Provo for a five-week trial for a Pleasant Grove doctor accused of killing his wife in 2007.
Martin MacNeill, 57, was having an affair with a woman named Gypsy Willis at the time of his wife’s death, according to court documents, and allegedly devised a plan to kill 50-year-old Michele MacNeill in order to continue the affair. He is accused of giving his wife a deadly mixture of prescription drugs after she came home to recover from cosmetic surgery in April 2007. On Tuesday, 120 people will be called to Provo’s 4th District courthouse to potentially serve as jurors in the trial. The jury pool will be asked to fill out a 22-page questionnaire, which includes 20 questions about the jurors’ media habits and whether they have read any news reports or seen television reports about the MacNeill case.
The questionnaire also asks potential jurors how they feel toward a person who is unfaithful to their spouse, and whether the fact that MacNeill had an affair at the time of his wife’s death would cause them to be unfair. The survey asks if any potential jurors have had surgery or prescriptions for any of the several drugs found in Michele MacNeill’s system.
Another question: "How do people grieve, in your opinion?"
Testimony in the case is expected to begin Thursday.
On April 11, 2007, the couple’s then-6-year-old daughter discovered Michele MacNeill in a bathtub, her eyes open and not moving, wearing a track suit, according to the girl’s testimony at a preliminary hearing last year. The father told the girl to go to the neighbors to get help, while he called 911.
But in a recording of the 911 call, Martin MacNeill’s words are nearly inaudible as he screamed at the dispatcher for help. He gave an incorrect address and hung up on the dispatcher twice. Prosecutors believe MacNeill lied to the dispatcher about performing resuscitation, and lied to police about events surrounding his wife’s death in an effort to hinder, delay or prevent any investigation.
Though the Utah County attorney’s office began investigating Michele MacNeill’s death in 2008, charges of first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice were not filed against Martin MacNeill until 2012.
The state medical examiner has never ruled Michele MacNeill’s death a homicide. After an autopsy in 2007, her manner of death was ruled "natural," the result of "chronic hypertension and myocarditis, which are capable of causing acute unexpected arrhythmia and sudden death."
But investigators say Martin MacNeill called the medical examiner multiple times and gave misleading information. In 2010, in a new investigative report, Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey changed the cause of death to the combined effects of heart disease and drug toxicity. The manner of death was changed to "undetermined."
In recent years, other experts have also reviewed the case. A University of Utah professor of pharmacology and toxicology said he believed Michele MacNeill had taken a potentially lethal dose of medication. A medical examiner in Florida determined the immediate cause of death was drowning and that, contrary to the Utah medical examiner’s findings, there was no evidence of acute or active myocarditis.