The 12-year-old daughter of former Utah doctor Martin MacNeill will be allowed to take the stand in his murder trial, but only after a videotaped interview she gave in 2008 is played for jurors.
Judge Derek Pullan ruled on Friday that defense attorneys will get a chance to cross-examine Ada MacNeill and then prosecutors will be able to ask her questions on redirect, but all of the young girl's testimony will be limited to what she said in the earlier taped interview.
Ada MacNeill was adopted by Michele and Martin MacNeill and is also the couple's biological grandchild by daughter Vanessa MacNeill. Martin MacNeill gave up his parental rights to his four adopted children in 2008. Another one of the MacNeill's biological daughters, Alexis, who now goes by her mother's maiden name of Somers, currently has custody of three of her adopted sisters, including Ada.
The judge agreed with defense attorneys who argued that Somers has tainted Ada MacNeill's memory since the 2008 interview she gave at the Children's Justice Center.
"Ada is highly susceptible to suggestion by Alexis and she has been intentionally prepared or unconsciously influenced by adults in her life who are biased and who is her sole care provider," Pullan said Friday.
Prosecutors say Martin MacNeill drugged and drowned his wife, Michele, on April 11, 2007 so he could continue an affair with his alleged mistress, Gypsy Willis. Medical examiners discovered a powerful cocktail of drugs -- including Valium, Percocet, Phenergan and Ambien -- in Michele MacNeill's system.
Martin MacNeill has pleaded not guilty to murder and obstruction of justice charges related to his wife's death. His attorneys say Michele MacNeill died from natural causes while recovering at home from face-lift surgery.
Ada MacNeill has taken the stand before, testifying when she was 11 in her father's preliminary hearing on October 3, 2012. She described finding her mother face-up in a few inches of reddish-brown water after coming home from school when she was 6 years old.
“Okay. So the water wasn’t covering her face?" asked prosecutor Chad Grunander.
“No,” said Ada MacNeill.
Michele MacNeill was fully clothed with her eyes open, according to her daughter. Ada MacNeill also said she immediately realized something was wrong with her mother so she alerted her father, who was in the kitchen at the time.
“Kinda just pulled him along,” said Ada MacNeill.
“And where did you pull him to?” asked Grunander.
“The bathroom,” said Ada MacNeill.
“The bathroom? Okay. Do you remember what happened next?” asked Grunander.
Watch: The defense in 60 seconds
“He told me to call 911,” said Ada MacNeill.
“Did you call 911?” asked Grunander.
“I didn’t know how to dial it,” said Ada MacNeill.
“Okay. Did he ask you to do anything else?" Grunander asked.
“After that I went -- he told me to go get the neighbors or someone to help,” said Ada MacNeill.
Next door neighbor Kristi Daniels testified earlier in the trial about hearing a child's knock on her front door. She recalled seeing the 6-year-old on her doorstep in her school uniform, very calmly asking her to go and help her father.
Ada MacNeill was picked up from school by Martin MacNeill at around 11:35 a.m. the morning of her mother's death. MacNeill was spotted earlier at a work safety fair at around 11:15 a.m. Michele MacNeill's body was discovered by Ada MacNeill at about 11:45 a.m.
Martin MacNeill's murder trial is expected to take place over about five weeks. He faces life in prison if convicted.