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Prosecutors in Utah County continue to contend that they never withheld evidence in Martin MacNeill's murder case and did not hide a "secret" early release deal with a federal inmate who testified against the former doctor at trial.

On Nov. 9, a jury convicted MacNeill, 57, of murder and obstruction of justice in the death of his wife, 50-year-old Michele MacNeill.

During Martin MacNeill's four-week trial, the inmate — who was identified only as Inmate No. 1 to conceal his identity for safety reasons — testified that the former doctor confessed to him that he murdered his wife. The inmate also testified that while he was hopeful his testimony could lead to a deal for early release, he had not been promised one from Utah investigators, as state prosecutors have no jurisdiction over federal inmates.

But in a January motion asking 4th District Judge Derek Pullan to arrest judgment in the case or grant a new trial, defense attorney Randall Spencer argued that the inmate lied on the stand and knew that a deal with Utah County prosecutors was in the works in exchange for his testimony. Spencer also argued that the Utah County Attorney's Office did not disclose this deal before trial.

Spencer said the inmate had recently been released from federal prison, well ahead of his expected 2016 release date.

But in a 168-page response, prosecutors claimed that no "secret deal" had been planned, and implied that the inmate may have been released, in part, due to concerns for his safety after Spencer apparently addressed the inmate by name inadvertently during the trial — which was being broadcast live by CNN.

A signed affidavit from federal prosecutor David Jennings said that when he considered requesting a sentence reduction for the inmate, he took into account a letter from investigator Jeff Robinson indicating that the inmate had provided "truthful, important testimony," as well as the fact that the inmate's name had been mentioned in court.

Deputy Utah County Attorney Chad Grunander wrote in his response that after the trial, Robinson wrote a letter of recommendation for all four federal inmates who testified, each letter stating that the inmate was an "important" witness in the case. Grunander chalked up claims of a "secret deal" to a "conspiracy theory."

Inmate No. 1 testified at MacNeill's trial that the former doctor confessed to him that he drugged his wife and then drowned her in the bathroom at their Pleasant Grove home on April 11, 2007.

MacNeill will be back in court on Feb. 20 for oral arguments in the case. On March 3, a competency evaluation is scheduled for MacNeill in an unrelated sexual abuse case.

Twitter: @jm_miller

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