MacNeill sex abuse trial delayed

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PROVO -- In his first appearance in court since being convicted of his wife's murder, Dr. Martin MacNeill sat, chatting with other inmates until the judge called his case.

Then, his lawyer surprised the court by asking to withdraw from the forcible sex abuse case, where Dr. MacNeill is accused of groping a woman.

Randy Spencer said that while working on Dr. MacNeill's murder trial, he became privy to his client's emails. He found an email that he believes is exculpatory for his client -- and it puts him in the position of being an attorney and a witness.

"I'm not saying I don't want to represent my client," Spencer told FOX 13 outside of court. "Not at all. I was just raising an issue that could potentially cause me to be a witness."

Fourth District Court Judge Samuel McVey refused to let Spencer withdraw from the case, ordering both prosecution and defense to stipulate how the email would be used at trial. He did, however, grant Spencer a break -- delaying the trial until February.

Spencer said outside court that the trial had been "grueling" for him.

Deputy Utah County Attorney David Sturgill said he respected the judge's decision.

"The alleged victim in this case has been anxiously waiting for this case to be resolved for five, six years now. We're a little disappointed it's been continued," he said.

The forcible sex abuse case was filed before Dr. MacNeill was charged with murder. It was then dismissed and refiled in 2009. Sturgill denied that the Utah County Attorney's Office was continuing to prosecute it, just in case Dr. MacNeill's murder conviction was overturned on appeal.

"No, it's not an insurance policy at all," Sturgill told reporters outside court. "The evidence hasn't changed at all, it was just looked at with new eyes."

Dr. MacNeill was convicted two weeks ago of murder and obstruction of justice in the 2007 death of his wife, Michele, so he could continue an affair with another woman. Prosecutors alleged he drugged her as she recovered at home from plastic surgery, lured her to a bathtub and drowned her.

Asked by FOX 13 how his client was doing, Spencer said: "Not well."

"It's very tough on him to be convicted of something that he has always professed he did not do," Spencer said.