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Judge declines to disqualify prosecutors from Martin MacNeill case, another motion still pending

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 11:41 p.m. MDT

Martin MacNeill,  a doctor accused of murdering his wife speaks to his defense lawyer Susanne Gustin in Judge Sam McVey's Fourth District Court in Provo Wednesday October 10 during his preliminary hearing.  (Al Hartmann, ) Martin MacNeill, a doctor accused of murdering his wife speaks to his defense lawyer Susanne Gustin in Judge Sam McVey's Fourth District Court in Provo Wednesday October 10 during his preliminary hearing. (Al Hartmann, )

PROVO — A judge decided against disqualifying the Utah County Attorney's Office from prosecuting the case of Martin MacNeill, a Pleasant Grove doctor who is accused of killing his wife.

But 4th District Judge Samuel McVey only ruled on one of two defense motions seeking that prosecutors be disqualified during a court hearing Monday.

Attorneys for MacNeill filed a motion asking that the prosecutors be removed from the case or that the entire case be dismissed, amid allegations that prosecutors and investigators kept them from more than 1,000 pages of information — some of it "explosive" — that they argued points to their client's innocence. Fourth District Judge Samuel McVey denied the motion to dismiss the case in March, but agreed to hear arguments on the defense's request to disqualify the Utah County Attorney's Office.

Martin and Michele MacNeill. (Rachel MacNeill) Martin and Michele MacNeill. (Rachel MacNeill)

The judge has not yet ruled on that motion, but on Monday denied a secondary motion also seeking disqualification. That motion is sealed, but according to court records, sought immediate disqualification for "unavoidable conflict of interest."

The judge won't rule on the larger motion until he first determines whether MacNeill's defense attorneys can issue a number of subpoenas to attorneys in the Utah County Attorney's Office.

The state filed an objection to the subpoenas, arguing that the subpoenas place an undue burden on them, are not the proper avenue to obtain evidence and are unreasonable. McVey will hear arguments on this issue May 16.

MacNeill, 57, 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.

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) 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)

Prosecutors allege that MacNeill died after her husband allegedly pressured her to undergo cosmetic surgery despite her concerns and, as a doctor, he 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.

The defense, though, has questioned the state's conduct on the case, alleging it didn't receive requested information that may have helped their client's case until after filing their motion to dismiss or disqualify and that potential witnesses interviewed one another.

Family members of Martin Joseph MacNeill hold photos of Michele MacNeill up facing mr. MacNeill as he makes his initial appearance Monday, Aug. 27, 2012 before Judge Samuel D. McVey in Provo. Martin MacNeill is accused of murdering his wife, Michelle. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Family members of Martin Joseph MacNeill hold photos of Michele MacNeill up facing mr. MacNeill as he makes his initial appearance Monday, Aug. 27, 2012 before Judge Samuel D. McVey in Provo. Martin MacNeill is accused of murdering his wife, Michelle. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

MacNeill was ordered to stand trial following a preliminary hearing in October, but a trial date has not yet been set.

Email: emorgan@deseretnews.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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