Provo • With just a week left until Martin MacNeill’s five-week trial begins, prosecutors and defense attorneys ironed out several last minute details of what will and won’t be allowed at trial for the Pleasant Grove doctor accused of killing his wife in 2007 to continue an extra-marital affair.
Among 11 motions argued Tuesday in Provo’s 4th District Court were several filed by defense attorneys attempting to bar testimony at trial.
Defense attorney Susanne Gustin argued Tuesday that MacNeill’s youngest daughter, Ada MacNeill, should not be allowed to take the stand. The 12-year-old girl’s testimony is expected to center around when she ran into her home on April 11, 2007, to find her mother, Michele MacNeill, in the bathtub, eyes open and not moving, but fully clothed in a blue jogging suit.
Gustin argued that the child’s testimony is tainted, because her older sister, Alexis Somers, asked her questions about what the young girl remembered about the event, instead of an expert who specializes in child interviews. This was done, Gustin argued, at the direction of Utah County Attorney’s Office prosecutors.
“It was just almost unheard of,” Gustin said of Somer’s, a witness for the prosecution, interviewing another witness. “It’s outrageous … And it’s at the direction of law enforcement, which is the most disturbing thing.”
Deputy Utah County Attorney Chad Grunander agreed that it “would have been better” if Somers never interviewed her younger sister — who she has since adopted — but he argued that Somers never suggested answers for her younger sister to give to investigators, and there was no evidence that Ada’s testimony was swayed in any way. Grunander also added that the questioning from Somers occurred before charges were filed against MacNeill in 2012.
Judge Derek Pullan did not rule on the issue, but asked that Somers and the two investigators take the stand first during the trial, so they could be questioned under oath about how Ada was questioned, and why she was not interviewed by a professional.
“I do believe it’s troubling that an investigator in the case instructed a witness to interview a child,” Pullan said.
Pullan ruled on Tuesday that testimony from two federal prison inmates and a Utah County jail inmate would be allowed at trial, though he ordered that prosecutors should inform defense attorneys of any deals or plea agreements that were extended to the inmates in exchange for testimony. Defense attorneys had argued that the inmates’ testimony was unreliable, and that the inmates had been dishonest with law enforcement in the past, but Pullan said the jury can decide the reliability of the witnesses.
MacNeill, 57, was charged in August 2012 with murder, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony.
Source: Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune