PROVO -- Martin MacNeill is challenging a guilty verdict delivered by a jury in early November convicting him of murder and obstruction of justice for the death of his wife Michele in April 2007.
A motion to arrest judgement or to hold a new trial was filed by MacNeill's attorneys on Dec. 27 stating that evidence discovered since the trial shows that one of the federal inmates who testified against MacNeill lied on the witness stand.
The 30-page motion also states that at the time of the trial, the Utah County Attorney's Office failed to disclose a deal with Federal Inmate No. 1. During the trial, the inmate testified that he hoped his testimony would get him some time off his prison sentence but that nothing had been promised to him.
During cross-examination, Randy Spencer, MacNeill's attorney, asked the man about email messages and phone calls between himself and several family members in which the inmate had said he would be home by Christmas.
The man testified that he was referring to a different legal motion he had filed to get his sentence reduced, not any sort of deal with the prosecutors in MacNeill's case.
According to the motion, however, on Sept. 1 the inmate emailed Utah County Investigator Jeff Robinson and told him the motion had fallen through and he wouldn't be released, to which Robinson responded that he would contact the inmate's attorney and thanked the inmate for his continued willingness to testify.
The motion outlines email messages and phone calls made throughout September and October in which the man continually told friends and family members that he would be home in December. He also told family members that he had seen a little bit of the trial on TV, despite an exclusionary rule ordered by Fourth District Judge Derek Pullan barring other witnesses from watching the trial until after they had been released from their trial obligations.
According to the motion, Robinson wrote a letter to the U.S. Attorney on Nov. 15, a week after a guilty verdict was returned against MacNeill, saying Federal Inmate No. 1 "was a very important witness in the case. While I understand this is a state case and may have little impact in the federal system, I highly recommend and encourage leniency be shown to [Inmate One] for his truthful and courageous testimony in our case ... I appreciate any consideration you can show [Inmate One] as a result of him assisting in our case."
According to Spencer's motion, the man was released on Dec. 13 as a result of his testimony in the MacNeill trial.
The motion states that due to the government shutdown, MacNeill's attorneys were unable to gather the email messages and phone calls from the federal prison until after the trial and that those communications would have been helpful in impeaching the inmate's testimony and showing he was lying on the stand.
The motion also brings up a past wiretap operation by the Utah County Attorney's Office which was carried out in July 2012 prior to charges filed against MacNeill.
In the affidavit requesting the wiretap, investigators said they didn't have enough evidence to move forward with charges against MacNeill without information they would gather from the wiretap. But a few weeks after the wiretap was deemed unsuccessful, charges were filed against MacNeill anyway.
In the motion for a new trial, Spencer states the only new evidence the county attorney's office gained following the wiretap was testimony from inmates. The motion also states the other three federal inmates didn't provide any evidence that MacNeill admitted killing Michele MacNeill.
Spencer wrote that Federal Inmate No. 1 "was the only person who provided any evidence to the jury about what allegedly occurred between 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. on April 11, 2007 -- the time frame in which the UCAO argued during its closing argument -- that MacNeill must have killed Michele."
The motion goes on to state that the importance of Federal Inmate No. 1's testimony cannot be overstated.
"He said he gave her oxy and maybe some sleeping pills and then got her to get in the bathtub," Inmate One testified during MacNeill's trial. "Later on he just said he had to help her out. I asked him what that was and he said he held her head under the water for a little while."
The motion states that without the testimony from Federal Inmate No. 1, the case presented by the prosecution is so inconclusive that the court could arrest the judgement but that in the alternative a new trial should be granted.
"The newly discovered evidence renders a different result probable in the retrial of MacNeill's case," the motion states. "The UCAO relied on his testimony in opening statement, in examination of expert witnesses, in closing arguments, and acknowledged to the federal judge in [Inmate Ones'] case that his testimony was 'very important.'"
The state has yet to respond to the motion but has filed a motion to be exempt from page and time limits in responding to the motion.
MacNeill was scheduled to be sentenced for murder and obstruction of justice on Jan. 9, but the sentencing will likely be pushed back pending the outcome of the new motion.
• Daily Herald reporter Paige Fieldsted can be reached at (801) 344-2560 or email@example.com.