Attorneys for Martin MacNeill, a former doctor convicted of killing his wife in 2007, are asking once more for charges against him to be dismissed or that he be granted a new trial.
On Nov. 9, a jury convicted MacNeill, 57, of murder and obstruction of justice in the death of his wife, Michele MacNeill.
He was scheduled to be sentenced in the case next week, but last Friday, his attorneys filed a motion asking for 4th District Judge Derek Pullan to arrest judgment in the case or grant a new trial. They argue in the 30-page motion that prosecutors failed to give them all of the evidence about a federal inmate who testified that Martin MacNeill confessed to him that he drugged his wife and then drowned her in the bathroom 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.
During Martin MacNeill’s four-week trial, the inmate, who was only identified as Inmate #1, testified about the former doctor’s alleged confession and also testified that he understood that he would not receive a deal or early release for his testimony, as state prosecutors have no jurisdiction over federal inmates.
However, defense attorney Randall Spencer wrote in the motion that Inmate #1 has since been released from federal prison, ahead of his expected 2016 release date. Spencer wrote that he received more evidence in the form of emails and phone conversations in early December from federal authorities, which implies that the federal inmate did in fact believe his testimony in the Martin MacNeill trial would grant him early release.
Spencer further accused the Utah County Attorney’s Office of failing to disclose those emails and phone conversations he received from federal authorities, and also failed to disclose that a deal was in the works for the inmate, pointing to a letter sent by UCAO investigator Jeff Robinson to a United States Attorney that said Inmate #1 was "a very important witness" in the MacNeill case and recommended and encouraged leniency for early release. Spencer argued that this evidence could have been used to discredit the inmate’s testimony at trial.
"If MacNeill had the newly discovered information available to him during the trial, he could have definitely demonstrated that not only was [the federal inmate] untruthful, but also that the UCAO concealed the truth about consideration given to [the inmate]," Spencer wrote.
Though other inmates testified during Martin MacNeill’s trial, Inmate #1 was the only one who testified that MacNeill told him specific details about how he allegedly murdered his wife. Without that testimony, Spencer argues that prosecutors failed to prove that Michele MacNeill died due to the actions of another. Because of this, Spencer asked the judge to dismiss to the case, or alternatively, grant a new trial.
Deputy Utah County Attorney Chad Grunander said Thursday that his office is confident that MacNeill’s conviction will stand. He declined to comment specifically on Spencer’s new allegations of prosecutor misconduct, saying that his office will respond in court papers.
"As always, we have attempted to be open and transparent in this case," Grunander said. "We aren’t afraid of the facts, we aren’t afraid of the truth. We’ve made every attempt to be open and share all the information we have."
Grunander and Spencer filed a joint motion on Thursday asking for next week’s sentencing to be postponed, and requested a telephone conference in early January. Grunander said Thursday that prosecutors need time to respond to Spencer’s motion, and the judge will need to rule on the motion before a sentence is handed down.
This isn’t the first time Martin MacNeill’s attorneys have accused prosecutors of misconduct and asked for the case to be dismissed. Before trial, they alleged prosecutors withheld more than 1,000 pages of documents from defense attorneys that may have aided in Martin MacNeill’s defense. Fourth District Judge Samuel McVey denied the dismissal motion and also denied a motion to have prosecutors disqualified from the case.
Though MacNeill likely won’t be sentenced next week, he is still scheduled to appear in a Provo courtroom on Monday for a pretrial conference on an unrelated sexual abuse case from 2007. In that case, he is charged with forcible sexual abuse, after an adult female relative alleged that in October 2007 — six months after Michele MacNeill had died — Martin MacNeill put his hands down her pants and then asked her to sign a statement saying he did not touch her, according to court documents.
That case was filed in October 2007, but dismissed six months later. It was re-filed by prosecutors in January 2009. A two-day trial has been set to begin in early February.
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.
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