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Martin MacNeill's mental competency deteriorating in jail, attorney argues

Published: Thursday, Jan. 23 2014 2:06 p.m. MST

Martin MacNeill leaves the courtroom after a hearing in his sex abuse case at 4th District Court in Provo Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014.

Mark Johnston

PROVO — The attorney for convicted killer Martin MacNeill says his client's mental competency has deteriorated in jail to the point that an evaluation is needed.

MacNeill, 57, was found guilty in November of murdering his wife, Michele MacNeill, in 2007. The former Pleasant Grove doctor is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 4 in a separate case on a charge of forcible sex abuse for allegedly groping one of his daughters in 2007.

On Wednesday, defense attorney Randall Spencer filed a petition for a competency hearing or to at least delay his client's upcoming trial until MacNeill is restored to a "reasonable degree of physical and mental health."

"The manner in which he is being housed (at the Utah County Jail) is slowly killing him, and having a significant effect on his mental health to the point that I seriously question his competency to reasonably assist me in preparing for trial and meaningfully during a trial," Spencer wrote.

On Dec. 5, MacNeill attempted suicide at the Utah County Jail by cutting his femoral artery with a disposable razor. He was returned to jail and put on suicide watch after being treated at a local hospital.

"Mr. MacNeill continues to be housed in an isolation cell in a suicide robe and in circumstances that are worse than even the medical unit. He continues to have lights shined on him 24 hours a day and to not be able to get restful sleep or receive an appropriate vegetarian meal for physical nourishment. If he is moved outside of his isolation cell even to go to the shower room, he is now cuffed and chained — a procedure that was not used when he was in the medical unit," the motion states.

While Spencer acknowledged these measures were being taken to prevent another suicide attempt, he claimed in court documents that it was affecting MacNeill both mentally and physically.

"It is my observation and belief that Mr. MacNeill’s condition is bad and worsening. He appears to have lost a substantial amount of weight," Spencer wrote. "His face is drawn; his eyes are perpetually red. He is gaunt. He is isolated from personal interaction. He has been informed that as long as he is in the Utah County Jail, he will be on suicide watch with the same treatment as described above.

"He does not seem to care about the pending trial or how it may affect him, which is a completely different mental state for him than my past experience over the last six and a half years of representation," Spencer wrote.

Spencer believes MacNeill's current appearance would "unquestionably" affect the jury in his sex abuse trial.

He also noted that his client has suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disease since his late teens or early 20s.

On Thursday, 4th District Judge Samuel McVey set a competency hearing for Tuesday, at which time oral arguments will be presented by each side.

MacNeill's sentencing in the murder case was postponed and a new date has not yet been set.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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