Jury: Martin MacNeill's 'heartless' nature, circumstantial evidence added up to murder
The words from five jail and federal prison inmates, for example, seemed too loaded to be trusted, he said, even though one inmate said MacNeill told him that he was “getting away with murdering my wife” and another said MacNeill admitted drugging Michele and holding her head underwater so he could “help her out.”
“We actually discounted that. There was too much ulterior motive,” Lewis said, referring to the inmates' hopes for reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony. “Do I think they were telling some of the truth? Yes. But was there a real possibility that they could be embellishing? There was.”
But there was sway in the combined effect and impact of what Lewis called MacNeill’s “erratic and heartless” behavior on the day of Michele’s death and beyond.
MacNeill’s well-documented rants in front of police, paramedics and emergency workers about his wife's unnecessary surgery, the amount of medication she may have taken and professions that she must have overdosed seemed suspicious. A seemingly fake attempt at administering CPR to his wife was similarly suspicious and seemed insincere, Lewis said.
MacNeill’s directive to his son and his son’s girlfriend to count out and document the amount of medication remaining in Michele’s pill bottles and then flush the drugs down the toilet right after the death was even more distressing.
“To us, that seemed calculated and intentional,” Lewis said.
Also troubling: The use of Michele’s funeral date as a fake wedding date for MacNeill and Willis and testimony from inmates that MacNeill had said he was “glad" his wife was dead.
“There was some heartlessness there,” said Lewis, noting that his opinions about the case swung from guilty to not guilty at different times based on the testimony of the day throughout the trial.
The testimony from the state’s star witness, MacNeill’s daughter Alexis Somers, was considered factually sound but viewed by the jury through the filter of her well-stated opinions, Lewis said. Somers had said on the stand that she believed MacNeill had killed her mother.
“I knew I had to evaluate her testimony very carefully. Anything particularly damning, I wanted a second opinion on,” he said.
Randy said he felt Somers knew exactly how to answer a question without necessarily telling the whole truth.
"We didn't just buy her testimony hook, line and sinker," he said.
Jenna, another juror who did not give her last name, said text messages MacNeill and Willis exchanged shortly after Michele’s death and even during the woman’s funeral showed that MacNeill was “heartless.”
“It just showed that he had no remorse for Michele. He was just moving right on,” she said.
Jenna was also troubled by Willis’ testimony and said the woman appeared to be “unconcerned” about what she had done.
“She was cold. She didn’t want to offer any extra information,” the juror said. “It seems like she didn’t care that she’d just destroyed their whole family, and that really bothered me.”
“I definitely felt she knew more information,” a juror identified only as Steve said of Willis. “I could tell she was minimizing.”
Lewis said the jury didn’t expect MacNeill to take the stand but was disappointed by his defense. Attorneys focused too much on picking apart inconsistent testimony from witnesses and not enough explaining the former doctor’s alibi or providing a “solid argument” to the prosecutors' case.
“It didn’t lend them a very strong case,” Lewis said.
When the jurors finally reached a decision, the mood in the jury room became reflective, and Lewis said he felt simultaneously nervous and relieved.
“You realize that everybody is in agreement, so this is really going to happen,” he said.
Walking back into the courtroom and waiting for a clerk to read the verdict out loud, Lewis was overcome with the heartbreaking nature of MacNeill’s acts and avoided making any eye contact.
“It was so difficult to look at him,” the juror recalled. “He ruined so many lives. He’s ruining his own life.”
Afterward, jurors met with prosecutors, the MacNeill daughters and others from Michele’s families. Too awake to sleep, when Lewis finally got home at 2:30 a.m., he spoke briefly to a friend and then got online to pour through news coverage from the trial — something jurors weren’t allowed to do over the past month.
“It solidified that Martin had questionable character,” Lewis said. “In that respect, I’m that much more confident that he could have done it.”
Contributing: Sam Penrod
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