Attorneys for Martin MacNeill call witnesses in effort to have prosecutors disqualified

Published: Wednesday, June 26 2013 5:35 p.m. MDT

Martin MacNeill, a doctor accused of murdering his wife, appears in Judge Sam McVey's Fourth District Court in Provo Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, for his preliminary hearing.

Al Hartmann, 2012

PROVO — A new trial date has been set in the case of a Pleasant Grove doctor accused of killing his wife, even as defense attorneys seek to have the Utah County Attorney's Office disqualified from prosecuting the case.

A trial for Martin MacNeill, 57, expected to last five weeks, is scheduled to begin Oct. 8.

The trial date was set Wednesday at the end of a daylong hearing during which defense attorneys called former and current investigators from the Utah County Attorney's Office, a paralegal from the office and one of MacNeill's daughters to explore alleged evidence issues.

Defense attorneys have questioned the state's conduct in the case, alleging that prosecutors failed to provide requested information that may have helped their client's case until after filing a motion to dismiss the case or disqualify prosecutors.

The defense also alleges that investigators tried to interview MacNeill despite knowing he had an attorney in a fraud case, disclosed information about the case to the media, and didn't comply with requests for evidence and information, including emails.

Prosecutors clarified in their questioning of paralegal Chelsea Crawford that she believed all of the information requested had been provided. Crawford, who typically fulfills requests for evidence from defense attorneys seeking information from the Utah County Attorney's Office, said some outdated scanners and an incomplete content list may have led to some items not being sent to defense attorneys.

She also said it was not her understanding that in-office correspondence was part of evidence that could be provided. Crawford confirmed that she had told prosecutors her belief that everything had been sent to defense attorneys and only realized later that there was additional information that hadn't been sent.

Jeff Robinson, chief of the office's investigative bureau, said he didn't provide his work product and notes because he typically doesn't do so in a case. He also said he didn't hesitate to try to talk with MacNeill about the homicide investigation because it was not a crime for which the man had been charged. Still, MacNeill declined to speak with investigators.

Robinson said he also offered to show defense attorneys their entire case file.

"I was more than happy to help you discover anything you felt was missing," Robinson told defense attorney Randy Spencer. "I felt like you and I could have done that. We had a good relationship, and we could have worked right through that."

Former Utah County Attorney's Office investigator Doug Witney said he spoke with the media about MacNeill but focused on the fraud case against him. Witney said investigators hoped the interviews would generate tips that would help in the homicide investigation.

Utah County prosecutors have asked for time to respond to the defense's most recent motion on the matter. Defense attorneys will then have an opportunity to respond.

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 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.

MacNeill will again appear in court July 15, when his attorneys will request a bail reduction. He is currently being held on $1 million cash-only bail.

Email: emorgan@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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