Martin MacNeill, a Utah doctor convicted of drugging his wife and leaving her to die in a bathtub, appealed a sex abuse conviction Tuesday, saying he was refused a fair trial because he was convicted in the prior murder case of murdering his wife. The 2013 high-profile murder case was massively popular on cable TV with tales of philandering, plastic surgery, family feuds, betrayals, and even a bathtub being brought into a courtroom as evidence.
As The Washington Post reports, MacNeill was charged with sexually abusing his daughter a month after his wife died. The alleged sexual abuse came to trial a year after he was convicted of murder. His lawyers say the trial came too soon, arguing that the trial should have been moved outside the Salt Lake County.
— Ben Winslow (@BenWinslow) April 22, 2015
The Utah Court of Appeals did not issue any rulings Tuesday. Rather, the presiding Judge, Gregory Orme, questioned if changing the location of the trial would have corrected any prejudicial problems.
“I would suggest the pretrial publicity is so widespread that you’d get at least the same response on a jury panel in Salt Lake County. “
A lower court judge had declined to push the case ahead of the sexual abuse trial of 2014, claiming that potential jurors in larger counties were just as familiar with the case as the ones in the county of choice.
MacNeill has claimed he is innocent in both cases. He is presently appealing the murder conviction by arguing that testimonies obtained from jailhouse snitches were not credible. A hearing is expected later in the year.
The media does not usually identify sexual assault victims, but MacNeill’s daughter, Alexis Somers, agreed to be named so that she could encourage others to speak out about their own abuse.
“My father is a dangerous man and needs to spend the rest of his life in prison.”
MacNeill is poised to spend at least 15 years to life in prison for the 2007 death of his wife, Michele, and the sexual abuse case. He will be eligible for parole in 17 years. Prosecutors said the doctor gave his wife an overdose after her face-lift and left her to die in a bathtub because she had found out about his new mistress, Gypsy Willis. The doctor employed Willis to be a live-in nanny for his eight children two weeks after his wife died. Willis testified that she had met the doctor online and started having sexual relations with him a year later.
— Deseret News (@DeseretNews) June 24, 2015
MacNeill also had an affair with Anna Osborne. The woman said the doctor told her he had attempted to kill his mother and tried to murder his brother in a bathtub. He also offered to murder Osborne’s husband in order to help her get out of an abusive relationship. Prosecutors revealed that people close to the doctor portrayed him as a person who always talked about murdering people and getting away with it.
His legal team argued that there was not enough proof that he had killed his wife by over-medication. They said she could easily have died from natural causes. In the murder trial, no official cause of death was established. Moreover, neutral lawyers have questioned the authenticity of the verdict in a case that was bedeviled with circumstantial evidence.
The MacNeill case shook the Mormon community of Pleasant Grove, located 35 miles south of Salt Lake City, to its very foundation. The case had garnered national attention because MacNeill was a rich doctor and lawyer, and before the trial, he was also a bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
[AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune, Al Hartmann, Pool, File]