In 2013, Martin MacNeill was convicted of killing his wife by dosing his wife with drugs and leaving her to drown in the bathtub. According to news reports, MacNeill, who is 59 years old, attempted to “off” his wife, Michele MacNeill, by giving her drugs prescribed following a cosmetic surgery she had so that he could begin a new life with his alleged mistress, Gypsy Willis. Michele MacNeill was found dead in the bathtub in 2007.
The murder came as a shock to the Mormon community of Pleasant Grove in Utah, where MacNeill was a father of eight, former bishop in his local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a doctor and lawyer.
MacNeill was tried for the murder of his wife after relatives (including his daughters) were suspicious of the findings that Michele died of natural causes. Within weeks of Michele’s death, MacNeill introduced Gypsy Willis as the family’s nanny and moved her into their home.
Now, attorneys for MacNeill are appealing his conviction. Many felt the verdict troubling, as there was little evidence to support MacNeill’s conviction, and the medical examiners were not able to rule Michele’s death a homicide. For the most part, prosecutors were said to have built their case around the testimony of an ex-cellmate of MacNeill’s who would possibly get an early release in exchange for testifying that MacNeill had confessed to the murder. Jurors in the case were unaware that prosecutors had made a deal with the inmate, and that he had seen cable news coverage of the trial.
MacNeill is appealing the conviction on grounds that key testimony was tainted. Attorney Kent Morgan said that, “Whether the jury believed or disbelieved this informant was the linchpin in the prosecution’s case.” MacNeill was sentenced to up to life in prison. The opening brief in the case was filed last Friday, with MacNeill giving notice he would appeal his conviction in November.
No doubt MacNeill will be facing an uphill battle in appealing his murder conviction. While the evidence in the case may have been mostly circumstantial, appeals judges must be thoroughly compelled that errors were made or a defendant’s rights violated to make the decision to overturn a conviction. Still, it does happen on occasion.
If you are considering appealing a conviction or sentence, make certain you obtain the support of a highly experienced and capable Michigan criminal appeals attorney who is skilled in the process, and who has a proven track record of success.