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Competency review for Martin MacNeill delayed

Published March 3, 2014 12:16 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • A competency review for Martin MacNeill, a former doctor recently convicted of killing his wife, was delayed Monday after mental health experts said they needed more time to evaluate the man.

MacNeill's attorney, Randall Spencer, asked for the competency evaluation in January, arguing that his client's mental and physical health have deteriorated while he has been on suicide watch at the Utah County jail. He questioned whether MacNeill can help him prepare for trial in a sexual abuse case unrelated to the murder case involving his wife, Michele MacNeill.

In the sex abuse case, MacNeill, 57, is charged with one count of forcible sex abuse, stemming from accusations that he put his hands down an adult female relative's pants in 2007.

In late January, 4th District Judge Samuel McVey cancelled a February trial in the sex abuse case and ordered for two mental health experts to evaluate the former doctor. But on Monday, McVey said the Department of Human Services reported that they needed 35 more days to complete the evaluation.

An April 28 date was set instead for the competency review.

Competency issues in Martin MacNeill's sex abuse case also has halted all court proceedings in the murder case. Although it's been almost five months since Martin MacNeill was convicted of first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice in the death of his wife, a sentencing date has not been set because of the competency evaluation.

This latest delay in the sex abuse case, which was filed nearly five years ago, has been frustrating for Michele MacNeill's family.

"I'm just tired of it," said Linda Cluff, Michele MacNeill's sister. "I'm getting fed up with it."

Spencer wrote in a motion that Martin MacNeill — who has suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder since his late teens — has been kept in isolation since he attempted to cut his femoral artery on Dec. 5.

"Frankly, I think it's miraculous he wasn't successful," Spencer said outside of court.

Spencer said his client is only given a robe to wear and sleeps on a thin mat under bright lights while kept in isolation. These conditions have led to Martin MacNeill's deteriorated mental and physical health, according to the attorney.

In the murder case, Spencer filed a motion to arrest judgment, arguing 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 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.

Arguments regarding the motion to arrest judgment were cancelled last month, and an April 3 date was set instead for oral arguments.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller