Dr. Martin MacNeill: Legal Commentary
We all waited with bated breath for Gypsy’s testimony but what we got fell extremely short. Here’s what our founder and the creator of Wild About trial thinks of the prosecutor’s direct examination of Gypsy Willis:
Oct. 29, 2013 – As a trial attorney myself, I believe that the prosecutor blew a golden opportunity to prove motive. If Dr. Martin MacNeill murdered his wife, Gypsy Willis was his reason for doing so. The prosecution failed to properly question her even after the Judge ruled that she could be treated as a hostile witness. She was never made to squirm. She was never asked if she was remorseful about carrying on an affair with a married man. She was never asked if moving into the house he shared with his wife weeks after her death was wrong. She was never asked to explain why she would carrying on a text conversation with Dr. MacNeill during his wife’s funeral and how inappropriate that was. The prosecution should have more thoroughly walked her through the number of phone calls and text messages they exchanged. The prosecution should have hammered home the amount of lies they told in an effort to conceal their relationship. She was never asked about how deep her love was/is for him and that only his incarceration has kept them apart. Instead, the jury was left with the impression that this was a casual affair and that Dr. MacNeill never intended to leave his wife for Gypsy. In sum, the prosecution completely blew a golden opportunity to prove motive. An opportunity that may cost them the case.
Alison Triessl, founder of Wild About Trial
Pre-Trial Commentary – Interestingly, the Utah county medical examiner never determined homicide as the cause of Michele MacNeill’s death. After the 2007 autopsy, the cause of death was “natural,” the cause of chronic hypertension and myocarditis. In 2010, the Utah County Chief Medical Examiner evaluated Michele’s body and changed the cause of death to “undetermined,” possibly caused by the combined effects of chronic heart disease and drug toxicity. Other experts have weighed in, believing that Michele was drugged with a lethal dose of medication. But for a jury, the county medical examiner’s report will hold some real weight, and there’s a big difference between “undetermined,” and “homicide.”
One thing county prosecutors hope to prove is that MacNeill interfered with the first medical examination by providing false information. However, that still does not alter the second medical examiner’s inconclusive findings. If Michele had a heart condition, she would have been at risk for sudden death no matter what drugs she was taking – although the particular cocktail alleged certainly could not have helped.
Causation is a huge component of a murder case. Even though MacNeill appears to have a motive – getting out of the marriage to be with Gypsy – and even though he’s done a lot of strange and criminal things in his life, it might be hard to explicitly link him to Michele’s cause of death. With what we know about the case now, much of that evidence is purely circumstantial.
Kelly Sheahen Gerner
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