Judge: Disclosing promises to witnesses wouldn't have swayed jury in MacNeill murder trial
PROVO — A judge has ruled Martin MacNeill won't get a new trial but will be given a sentencing date next week for murdering his wife.
The Provo doctor was found guilty in 4th District Court last year of drugging and drowning his wife, Michelle, in 2007, following years of controversy and accusations.
Earlier this year MacNeill's attorneys requested the case be declared a mistrial based on promises made by prosecutors to two inmates who testified against MacNeill but not disclosed in court.
In an opinion nonetheless critical of the state's prosecutorial team, Judge Derek Pullan said in his 41-page ruling Friday it was unlikely that disclosing the agreement between the witness and prosecutor would have swayed the jury.
Pullan's decision acknowledged that state investigator Jeff Robinson failed to disclose that he had agreed to write a recommendation for the witness identified as Inmate No. 1 prior to MacNeill's trial, and that a similar arrangement was made with a second witness.
Inmate No. 1 told jurors MacNeill confessed in jail the details of how he killed his wife in order to begin a new life with his mistress, Gypsy Willis.
Pullman argued that Inmate No. 1's motives were made apparent in cross-examination when the witnesses conceded he had told Robinson he wouldn't testify unless he got the letter, an effort he had dubbed "Operation Utah" in communications with his family.
Additionally, the testimony of a man identified as Inmate No. 3, who said MacNeill denied killing his wife, was favorable to MacNeill, and knowledge of the agreement would not have impacted the outcome of the trial, Pullan said.
MacNeill's attorneys also contended the state failed to advise the two inmates of an exclusion order that prohibited them from viewing or listening to news coverage about the case prior to the hearing, an error that Pullan said "remains unexplained" but again ruled had not prejudiced the trial.
Pullan said that while Robinson's claims that he simply overlooked the need to disclose the agreements with the inmates "tests the bounds of credibility," the investigator acknowledged had not worked with inmate witnesses before and apparently "lacked experience."
The judge ordered that a sentencing date for MacNeill be scheduled at a hearing at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
MacNeill was also found guilty last month of sexually abusing his daughter shortly after his wife died. He has yet to be sentenced in that case.
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