Provo • It took five years for Martin MacNeill to be charged with murder in connection to his wife's death. However, the case should be resolved in under a year, prosecutors and defense attorneys said Tuesday.
A five-week trial has been set in March for Martin MacNeill, charged in 4th District Court with first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice in relation to the 2007 death of his wife, Michele MacNeill. The trial comes seven months after MacNeill was formerly charged in August. As they gear up to argue their cases, neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys expect delays.
"[MacNeill] wants a quick trial," defense attorney Susanne Gustin said outside the courtroom after a status conference for MacNeill. "We're going to be ready to go."
Deputy Utah County Attorney Chad Grunander said there should be plenty of time for preparation, and said he doubts the date will be moved because of the logistical difficulty of getting a number of out-of-state expert witnesses to Provo to testify.
At Tuesday's hearing, Judge Samuel McVey decided that 120 potential jurors will be called, with eight jurors and four alternates selected. A jury questionnaire will be distributed prior to selection in an attempt to call only jurors who have not already formed an opinion about the case.
Before the case goes to trial, however, defense attorneys will argue on Dec. 17 that they want a detailed list of the alleged criminal acts leading to Michele MacNeill's death.
In April 2007, Michele MacNeill , 50, was found dead in her bathtub.
According to court documents, MacNeill was having an affair at the time of his wife's death, and devised a plan to kill her in order to continue the affair.
MacNeill picked up one of his daughters from school on April 11, and when they returned home, the girl found her mother in a bathtub that was a quarter full of reddish-brown water, charges state. MacNeill called 911, but allegedly lied to the dispatcher about performing resuscitation and lied to police about events surrounding her death in an effort to hinder, delay or prevent any investigation, according to the charges.
After an autopsy in 2007, Michele MacNeill's manner of death was ruled "natural," the result of "chronic hypertension and myocarditis, which are capable of causing acute unexpected arrhythmia and sudden death."
But investigators say MacNeill called the medical examiner multiple times and gave misleading information. In 2010, in a new investigative report, Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey changed the cause of death to the combined effects of heart disease and drug toxicity. The manner of death was changed to "undetermined."
In recent years, other experts have also reviewed the case. A University of Utah professor of pharmacology and toxicology said he believed Michele MacNeill had taken a potentially lethal dose of medication. A medical examiner in Florida determined the immediate cause of death was drowning and that, contrary to the Utah medical examiner's findings, there was no evidence of acute or active myocarditis.