Martin MacNeill asks appeals court to overturn murder conviction

SALT LAKE CITY -- An inmate witness who had an agreement with investigators and circumstantial evidence is why Dr. Martin MacNeill believes he should be entitled to a new trial.

The Utah Court of Appeals took up MacNeill's murder case on Tuesday, grilling attorneys about the agreement and whether it unfairly prejudiced the Utah County physician. His attorney, Kent Morgan, argued that the evidence was circumstantial and at least one witness' testimony was not truthful.

"You say solely?" Judge Frederic Voros asked.

"Yes, your honor. Do you have another piece of evidence I've missed? That showed somebody witnessed somebody giving pills to Ms. MacNeill or somebody pushing Ms. MacNeill underneath the water? Did you find something that I missed?" Morgan replied.

"It's not my duty to marshal the evidence in support of the jury's verdict," Judge Voros replied.

Defense attorney Randy Spencer, center, speaks with Martin MacNeill as he is removed from the courtroom following his sentencing Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Provo, Utah. MacNeill, a Utah doctor convicted of killing his wife in a trial that became a national true-crime cable TV obsession has been sentenced to 17 years to life in prison. MacNeill was found guilty of giving his wife drugs prescribed after cosmetic surgery and leaving her to drown in the bathtub of their home in 2007 so he could begin a new life with his mistress. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Defense attorney Randy Spencer, center, speaks with Martin MacNeill as he is removed from the courtroom following his sentencing Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, in Provo, Utah. MacNeill, a Utah doctor convicted of killing his wife in a trial that became a national true-crime cable TV obsession has been sentenced to 17 years to life in prison. MacNeill was found guilty of giving his wife drugs prescribed after cosmetic surgery and leaving her to drown in the bathtub of their home in 2007 so he could begin a new life with his mistress. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

MacNeill is serving up to life in prison for the 2007 murder of his wife, Michele. Utah County prosecutors alleged he drugged and drowned her as she recovered from plastic surgery, so he could carry on an affair with another woman.

At trial, prosecutors had an inmate testify that MacNeill confessed to killing his wife. But Morgan argued that testimony came with an agreement that investigators did not disclose, that a letter of recommendation would be written if he provided good testimony. He said prosecutors at trial had a duty to correct any falsehoods the witness made on the stand.

But assistant Utah Attorney General Tara Peterson argued to the court that there were 45 witnesses, including another inmate who claimed MacNeill confessed. She said the jury ignored the inmate witnesses when they deliberated and reached their verdict.

"There was a mountain of evidence that found Dr. MacNeill was guilty," Peterson told the judges.

Michele MacNeill (photo provided by her family)

Michele MacNeill (photo provided by her family)

Outside court, deputy Utah County Attorney Chad Grunander -- who prosecuted MacNeill -- acknowledged more should have been done to disclose an agreement.

"We own that. We own that didn't occur, but that should not upend this jury's verdict. We feel confident the conviction is going to stand," he told reporters.

In court, Michele MacNeill's daughters and prosecutors who worked on the case sat together and hugged each other. Alexis Somers told reporters she believed her father's conviction would stand.

"These were people that cared about my mother, cared about my family," she said. "My father, who is a very dangerous man, is in prison today because of them."

Grunander told FOX 13 that if MacNeill's murder conviction is overturned, they would likely re-try him. Somers said she would testify again.

The Utah Court of Appeals took the case under advisement. A ruling is expected in a few months.