Jury begins deliberations in Utah doctor’s trial
PROVO, Utah (AP) — Jurors have begun deliberating whether a Utah doctor is guilty of murder in the death of his wife after a three-week trial that featured testimony from mistresses, prison snitches and daughters of the disgraced physician.
The case was handed over to the panel of five men and three women Friday afternoon after attorneys laid out their cases for the final time during closing arguments.
Prosecutors argued that that there’s a mountain of circumstantial evidence showing Martin MacNeill, 57, pestered his wife to get a face lift, then drugged and drowned her in a bathtub six years ago to start a new life with a mistress.
A lawyer for MacNeill countered that the prosecution has cherry-picked evidence in a case full of reasonable doubt. His wife, Michele MacNeill, died in 2007 as a result of her many medical complications, not because she was killed, said attorney Randy Spencer.
“The evidence doesn’t add up the way the prosecution wants it to add up,” Spencer said.
Earlier, Deputy Utah County Attorney Chad Grunander said Martin MacNeill’s erratic behavior the day of his wife’s death and shortly afterward was “dripping with motive.”
He reminded jurors about testimony that MacNeill stood in the bathroom yelling, “Why did you do this? All because of a stupid surgery,” as paramedics tried to revive his wife.
“He’s putting on an act in front of people to deflect suspicion away from him,” Grunander said.
The cause of death was never established, and MacNeill wasn’t charged with murder until August 2012, nearly five years after his wife was found in bathtub of the couple’s Pleasant Grove home.
The case shocked the Mormon community of Pleasant Grove, 45 miles south of Salt Lake City, and captured national attention because the defendant was a doctor, father of eight and former bishop in his local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Spencer acknowledged Friday that MacNeill had multiple mistresses and sometimes acted oddly, but said the prosecution’s theory that MacNeill drugged and drowned his wife just doesn’t add up.
“There’s simply no proof,” Spencer said. “The prosecution has presented to you their cherry-picked portion of the evidence.”
Spencer highlighted Michele MacNeill’s many medical problems from an autopsy: She had an enlarged heart, a narrowing of the heart arteries, fatty liver disease and kidney deterioration. All of it increased her odds of having a heart attack, he said.
Grunander emphasized how quickly MacNeill moved on to a life with his mistress, Gypsy Willis, hiring her as a nanny and proposing marriage within weeks of his wife’s death. MacNeill was swapping out his wife for his mistress, the prosecutor said.
“Martin MacNeill murdered his wife, Michele. Her death was not the result of an accident, and certainly not the result of a heart condition,” the prosecutor said. “Make no mistake, the defendant’s fingerprints, if you will, are all over Michele’s death.”
It was “almost perfect murder,” Grunander said, except for the way MacNeill “left a number of clues that point to him as the murderer.”
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