Former Utah doctor Martin MacNeill allegedly admitted he killed his wife because she was "in the way" and said he was glad she was dead, according to two men who testified Wednesday about the time they spent with MacNeill behind bars.
“He just pretty much opened up about it,” a man identified as inmate No. 1 said Wednesday, the 12th day of trial. “He said he had gave her some oxy and some sleeping pills and then got her to get in the bathtub. Later on, he just said he had to help her out. And I asked him what that was and he said he held her head under the water for a little while.”
MacNeill is on trial in Provo, Utah, and has pleaded not guilty to murder and obstruction of justice charges in his wife's death. Prosecutors have accused MacNeill of drugging and drowning his wife, Michele, on April 11, 2007, in order to continue an affair with his mistress. MacNeill's defense attorneys say Michele MacNeill -- who was found with a powerful cocktail of prescription drugs in her system -- died of natural causes.
Martin MacNeill was sentenced to four years in the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Texarkana in northeast Texas after being convicted on fraud charges in 2009. MacNeill pleaded guilty to identify theft after using his adopted daughter's personal information to create a new identity for his then-mistress, Gypsy Willis.
The man identified as inmate No. 1 served time with Martin MacNeill in Texarkana and testified Wednesday that MacNeill told him his wife “was in the way, that she wanted the house and the kids.”
The inmate said he wanted to testify because, “If it had happened to one of my family members, I’d want someone to come forward, too… I made some wrong decisions and I’m just trying to do right.”
On cross-examination, defense attorney Randy Spencer suggested that inmate No. 1 was only trading his testimony for a more lenient sentence. Spencer referenced an e-mail the inmate sent to his niece, in which he told her his testimony “might get me home.”
“Everybody thinks about that,” inmate No. 1 said, insisting that he never ended up getting a deal and that the main reason he came forward was because of his conscience. “I don’t want it to happen to his girlfriend. If he did it once, he’ll do it again.”
Jason Poirier, a man who served time with Martin MacNeill in the Utah County Jail, said he’s speaking out for similar reasons.
“I believe it’s the moral thing to do,” Poirier testified. “I know my morals aren’t straight, but to this extent -- yes.”
Poirier told the jury that he approached Martin MacNeill about the special shoes he was wearing and asked him how he got away with wearing something different from the jail-issued garb.
“He’s like, ‘I can get away with a lot of things… For instance, like, I’m getting away with murder,’” Poirier testified. He said he thought MacNeill was joking at first and approached him again about his wife a few days later. “I just went up to him and said, ‘Hey man, I apologize about your wife.’ And he goes, ‘No, I’m glad the b***h is dead.’”
On cross-examination, Spencer asked Poirier, “Truthfulness isn’t your strong suit, is it?” He also asked Poirier to tell jurors about how he stole a laptop from Wal-Mart, lifted ammunition from another store and sold several fake Rolex watches. Spencer suggested Poirier was also testifying against MacNeill only to get a more lenient sentence for his felony charges.
“I believed my charges would all be dismissed and I’d be released,” Poirier, who's no longer behind bars, admitted. As part of his deal with prosecutors, Poirier’s testimony can’t be used against him in the future. But he said prosecutors didn't give him what he really wanted -- a ticket out of jail -- and that he still decided to testify anyway.
At one point during Spencer’s questioning of Poirier, a portion of a newscast about the trial began playing in court.
Judge Derek Pullan immediately started yelling to try to talk over the audio, saying, "Shut that off. Who has that? Shut that off."
The prosecution said the audio came from the computer of someone on their team. The judge said he only heard a few seconds of it, including something along the lines of, "In the trial of Dr. Martin MacNeill." But the defense team said it heard more, including a reference to MacNeill's wife being found dead in a bathtub.
The judge asked prosecutors to play the audio again for him, outside the presence of the jury. After hearing it, Pullan denied the defense’s request for a mistrial, saying the news clip didn't mention anything jurors haven't already heard in the case.
The prosecution told the judge it expects to wrap its case Thursday morning, after calling one more witness to the stand: MacNeill's former mistress, Gypsy Willis. The defense said it expects to present a brief case after that and rest by Thursday evening. The judge speculated that jurors may begin deliberations as early as Friday afternoon. If a verdict isn't reached that day, the judge said he would be open to allowing jurors to deliberate on Saturday.
A jury of eight will ultimately decide Martin MacNeill's fate. The panel chosen for the case is composed of six men and five women, with three of them acting as alternates. MacNeill faces life in prison if convicted.