Jury selection begins in doctor's murder trial

AP News
Posted: Oct 15, 2013 3:13 PM
Jury selection begins in doctor's murder trial

PROVO, Utah (AP) — Attorneys have begun vetting more than 100 potential jurors for the trial of a once-prominent Utah doctor accused of giving his wife a fatal dose of drugs six years ago so he could continue an affair.

There are 102 prospective jurors at the courthouse in Provo on Tuesday, said Utah courts spokeswoman Nancy Volmer. Opening arguments are set to begin Thursday in a trial scheduled to last six weeks.

Prosecutors have portrayed 57-year-old Martin MacNeill as a lying adulterer who pestered his 50-year-old wife, Michele MacNeill, to get a face-lift and persuaded her plastic surgeon to prescribe a mix of potentially lethal pills for her recovery.

Days after the 2007 procedure, the couple's then-6-year-old daughter found Michele MacNeill's body in a bathtub at the couple's home in Pleasant Grove, about 35 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Medical examiners haven't determined the cause of her death and have never ruled it a homicide.

But investigators and family members claim Martin MacNeill killed his wife to continue an affair with a woman he later moved into his home.

The couple's two oldest daughters, Rachel MacNeill and Alexis Somers, have been outspoken in their belief that their father killed their mother. They've gone on national TV with their claims and even sat in his court hearings holding up photographs of Michele MacNeill.

But MacNeill has maintained his innocence throughout. His attorney, Randy Spencer, said there is no evidence tying the doctor to the murder, telling the Deseret News that the case against MacNeill is mainly circumstantial and full of stereotypes out of a Hollywood movie.

MacNeill briefly had the support of his son, Damian MacNeill, who publicly defended his father in late 2009. But Damian MacNeill committed suicide soon after, and none of the other seven siblings have defended their father.

The sordid case is certain to draw television coverage, which a Utah judge authorized last month.

Michelle MacNeill was a former beauty queen who fell in love with a handsome doctor who also had a law degree. The couple got married, had eight children and made their home in an upscale house near the snow-capped mountains of Utah. Michelle MacNeill's life revolved around her children while Martin MacNeill established a successful medical practice. It was seemingly a picture-perfect family.

But that image was shattered when the body of Michelle MacNeill was found in April 2007.

Martin MacNeill was long under suspicion by Utah County authorities for his wife's death. But he wasn't charged until about five years later, shortly after he was released from federal prison in Texas for fraud. His children fueled the speculation as they learned about their father's hidden past full of affairs and fraud.

"His whole life was a lie," daughter Alexis Somers told The Associated Press in 2011. "Our family was a facade, just so he could do terrible things."

The woman with whom he allegedly had an affair also served prison time for fraud. The allegations included forging a document that said they were married on April 14, 2007 — the day of Michele MacNeill's funeral.

Investigators also said he used falsified records to get into medical schools in Mexico and California, and later into Brigham Young University Law School.

In 2009, Martin MacNeill pleaded guilty to three felonies for lying to investigators. Another case, in which he's charged with felony forcible sexual abuse, is pending in state court.