Martin MacNeill’s attorneys accuse county of withholding info

Paige Fieldsted – Daily Herald

PROVO — Attorneys for a former Pleasant Grove doctor filed a motion Monday morning asking a judge to dismiss the murder charge against him.

Attorneys Randall Spencer and Susanne Gustin asked that the case be dismissed or that the Utah County Attorney’s Office be disqualified from prosecuting the case against Martin MacNeill. MacNeill has been charged in the 2007 death of his wife, Michele MacNeill.

In a 47-page memorandum outlining the reasons for their motion the attorneys wrote, “One of the main reasons for this motion is that the defense team has obtained ‘explosive’ information from a ‘thumb drive’ containing nearly one thousand pages of documents that were not provided to counsel after repeated requests for information from the Utah County Attorney’s Office.”

The prosecuting attorney says that he was side-swiped by the motion and that he didn’t know about it until a reporter called him early Monday afternoon.

“It is frustrating. We hadn’t received a hard copy or an email but every news agency in the state had it,” attorney Chad Grunander said. During the hearing, which had been scheduled to argue another motion, 4th District Judge Samuel McVey said there would be no point in arguing the motion to dismiss without allowing the prosecutors to first review it and respond to it.

During the hearing Grunander called the motion disingenuous.

“There are very serious allegations against our office that we acted in bad faith,” Grunander said. “On Oct. 22nd we hand delivered a letter to the defense inviting them to come to our office and review any and all evidence.”

The motion states that the thumb drive was given to the defense by one of the state’s witnesses in the case. Grunander says he told all of his witnesses to share any evidence he had given them with the defense, that they have nothing to hide.

The motion explains that some of the information contained on the thumb drive was that the county attorney’s office believed that MacNeill’s son, Damian MacNeill, was extremely dangerous and had homicidal impulses. The motion said the county attorney’s office went as far as to inform Damian MacNeill’s law school that they felt he was dangerous. Damian was in Pleasant Grove when his mother, Michele, died in 2007.

The motion states that because the prosecution believes Michele MacNeill was murdered that the information about Damian MacNeill would benefit the defense’s case and that it was intentionally kept from the defense. Damian committed suicide in 2010.

The document goes on to outline 33 previously undisclosed documents that were contained on the thumb drive. Many of the documents contain information shared between Alexis MacNeill and investigators in the case, including statements of events made by Alexis, statements from Alexis made by Ada MacNeill, who was 6 years old at the time of Michele’s death and who discovered Michele’s body.

The motion claims that the county used Alexis as an interviewer for Ada.

“As such investigators turned Alexis, the most important witness in the case, into a detective. This is nothing short of astounding. Not only is Ada the second-most important witness in the case against her father, she is a child witness.”

The defense goes on to explain that because of the impressionable nature of children there are very strict protocol for interviewing child witnesses, which they claim the state didn’t follow.

The motion also alleges that investigators in the case formed a very close relationship with Alexis, including writing letters of recommendation for her. The defense argues that this is grounds for impeaching the prosecutors’ “star witness” from the trial and shows that they are no longer impartial “fact-finders” but that they have aligned themselves with Alexis and against Martin MacNeill.

The majority of the information, more than 700 pages, on the thumb drive comes from the Utah State Developmental Center, where MacNeill used to practice medicine. The documents state that MacNeill’s demeanor changed after his wife’s death and that he acted depressed. The defense says this contradicts statements made by the prosecution that MacNeill was “glad to be rid of her.” The information from USDC also shows that MacNeill has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a nervous system disorder, and that it was reported that co-workers had noticed MacNeill experiencing hand tremors and having difficulty walking. The motion argues that prosecutors ignored this information and presented statements during the preliminary hearing that whatever ailment MacNeill had that prevented him from lifting Michele out of the tub was fabricated.

The motion states that the case must be dismissed because “the Utah County Attorney’s Office has demonstrated a pattern of misconduct in this case that cannot be remedied by the court. … The evidence that MacNeill has been able to uncover on his own is certainly only a small portion of the evidence that has been concealed, purged or destroyed by the county.”

The motion also states that the information found on the thumb drive is only the “tip of the iceberg” of information that the state has concealed or destroyed. The defense alleges the state has destroyed the majority of email communication between investigators and Alexis MacNeill, as well as notes and reports related to that communication.

The motion also states that MacNeill’s attorneys are not prepared for trial, which is scheduled to begin in March, because they have spent weeks checking the documents found on the thumb drive with statements already made. They say the hiding of information by prosecutors is impacting MacNeill’s right to a speedy trial.

The defense is asking that if the judge doesn’t dismiss the case that he at least disqualify the Utah County Attorney’s Office from prosecuting the case and “to appoint an impartial prosecutor to review the case who will uphold his or her constitutional obligations to MacNeill.”

Alexis Somers, formerly Alexis MacNeill was present at the hearing.

“That is there job to skew the truth,” Somers said. “We know what happened and we have faith in the prosecution and hope for justice for our mother.”

McVey ruled against the defense on a motion requesting the prosecution provide a bill of particulars saying that defense attorneys have enough details about what the prosecution is claiming happened.

The next hearing will be on Jan. 8. The defense is expected to call witnesses from the county attorney’s office to support its motion. The defense had no comment at court on Monday.

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