Judge declines to dismiss Martin MacNeill murder case, but will consider disqualifying prosecutors
PROVO — A judge on Tuesday threw out a motion to dismiss the murder case against a Pleasant Grove doctor accused of killing his wife.
But 4th District Judge Samuel McVey will let attorneys for Martin MacNeill, 57, pursue an alternative course in seeking to have the Utah County Attorney's Office disqualified from prosecuting him.
"I believe the defense should be able to present their case," the judge said Tuesday, noting that he will ask defense attorneys to give a specific list of issues they want to explore. "I want to make sure this doesn't turn into a fishing expedition."
MacNeill has pleaded not guilty to murder, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, in the April 11, 2007, death of his wife, Michele MacNeill, 50. Prosecutors allege that MacNeill overmedicated his wife, administered a dangerous combination of drugs and drowned her in the bathtub of their home.
MacNeill was ordered to stand trial following a preliminary hearing in October, but his attorneys filed a motion asking for either a dismissal of the charges against their client or the disqualification of the Utah County Attorney's Office from prosecuting the case. They allege that prosecutors and investigators kept them from more than 1,000 pages of information — some of it "explosive" — that they believe points to their client's innocence.
In a hearing Tuesday, prosecutor Sam Pead argued that MacNeill failed to make a claim.
"The defense has failed to provide an adequate basis for the motion to dismiss and we ask the court to strike it," Pead said, also adding that the defense added claims after the state had responded to the motion. "The state is entitled to know the grounds when the motion is made, not after we've responded to those claims."
Defense attorney Randall Spencer reiterated some of the defense's concerns, including allegations that they didn't receive requested information that may have helped their client's case until after filing their motion, and allegations about potential witnesses interviewing one another. He said he'd be happy to file a second motion to dismiss.
"These are issues that need to be heard," Spencer said. "This is a criminal case. This is an important criminal case. This is Mr. MacNeill's life."
Another argument hearing has been set for March 25. At that point, it is anticipated that attorneys in the case will set an evidentiary hearing on the motion to disqualify the Utah County Attorney's Office.
Michele MacNeill died after her husband allegedly pressured his wife to undergo cosmetic surgery despite her concerns and, as a doctor, requested additional prescriptions the woman's surgeon said he otherwise would not have prescribed.
MacNeill had worked as a doctor and had a law degree, both of which police believe he used "to commit the murder and frustrate the investigation in an attempt to cover it up," court documents state.
Soon after his wife's death, MacNeill's longtime mistress, Gypsy Willis, moved into the MacNeill house as the children's new nanny. Prosecutors contend MacNeill killed his wife to be with Willis.
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