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Cast of Characters Expected For Martin MacNeill Murder Trial

Martin MacNeill's long awaited murder trial is slated to begin on October 15, 2013 in Provo, Utah. Prosecutors and family members have long suspected that MacNeill was responsible for drugging and drowning his former wife, 50 year old Michele in their Pleasant Grove Utah bathtub, and finally - MacNeill was arrested and charged after being released from serving time in a Federal Prison for a slew of white collar crimes including fraud, writing phony checks, identity theft to name a few.

The witness list includes a cast of characters straight out of a bad romance or crime novel. Here's a partial list of names we can expect to become familiar during the estimated 5 week long trial:

Michele MacNeill (HLNTV.com)
Michele MacNeill:  the victim of murder, although a judge has ruled she cannot be referred to as the victim at trial. 50 years old at the time of her death, Michele was a devoted mother, a former beauty queen who certainly did not need to undergo the face lift her husband Martin pushed her to have. Michele was allegedly preparing to divorce Martin, and told her daughter Alexis "if anything happens to me, make sure it wasn't your father". She feared her husband was preparing to kill her, she even tried to identify the pills he was giving her by feeling each one when her face was bandaged and she couldn't see well.

Martin & Michele
Martin MacNeill:  Michele's husband, and the defendant in her murder trial, charged with first degree murder and obstruction of justice. MacNeill was a physician and held a law degree, although an investigator discovered MacNeill gained entry to medical school in Mexico using falsified college transcripts. This calls into question his entire 30 year medical career. MacNeill used a phony transcript to get into a medical college in California, where he graduated after 3 years with a degree in osteopathic medicine. In 1984, he landed a residency at a New York hospital and built a 30 year career as a doctor. But don't call him "the good doctor". His resume includes a stint at BYU Health Clinic, but a complaint from a former patient caused him to resign from that position. Was this one of the several alleged sexually inappropriate relationships he had with female patients? Investigator Doug Witney also uncovered more dirt on MacNeill, after the fake credentials came to light. He found that MacNeill served in the US Army for less than 2 years in the mid 1970's before being discharged for a psychiatric disorder. Martin MacNeill collected more than $100,000 in disability payments from the Veterans Administration. At the time of that discovery, MacNeill was collected around $3,000 per month from the VA! His record of white collar crimes dates back to the 1970's. In 1977, he was on felony probation for 3 years for writing phony checks in California.  Prosecutors and Michelle's family believe Martin MacNeill arranged for his wife's plastic surgery in order to obtain a lethal cocktail of powerful pain medications and sedatives which he used to drug her and drown her in the bathtub.


Gypsy Willis
(HLNTV.com)
Gypsy Willis:  Former mistress to Martin MacNeill, she moved into the MacNeill home weeks after Michelle's death and became the children's "nanny". A former roommate of Willis told investigators that Willis once said she wanted to cut Michele MacNeill's brakes.  She did time in Federal Prison for stealing the identity of one of MacNeill's adopted children!


Alexis Somers
(HLNTV.com)
Alexis Somers: One of the MacNeill's oldest children, 29 year old Alexis has long believed her father killed her mother. As an outspoken woman who questioned her father from the start, she was "banned" from the family after Martin decided he no longer wanted her speaking to her siblings, because she stood firmly against her father. Alexis and sister Rachel would team up with Michele's sister Linda Cluff to begin building a "file" against Martin MacNeill. They would later present their findings to the Utah County Attorney's office, where investigator Doug Witney agreed to review the file and the official reports. Witney is the one who discovered MacNeill used somebody elses transcripts to gain entry to two colleges, including a medical school in Mexico Alexis was at her mother's side in the days following her face lift procedure, and began questioning her father when it was clear her mother was being over medicated and appeared "listless".  Alexis had to return to Las Vegas on April 10, 2007 where she was attending medical school. Just a day later, her she received the call that her mother was dead. She immediately suspected her father had killed her mother.

Doug Witney: Investigator with the Utah County Attorney's office, Witney is the one person who agreed to take another look into Michelle's death and the file compiled by Alexis, Rachel and Linda Cliff. He uncovered many skeletons in the "doctor's" closet.

Linda Cluff:   Michele MacNeill's sister, who joined forces with her nieces to get the goods on Martin MacNeill and find justice for her sister Michele.

Rachel MacNeill
(HLNTV.com)
Rachel MacNeill:  The oldest of the MacNeill children, now 33 years old. Rachel was taken to a Mormon Temple with her father to "pray" for a nanny, when out of nowhere Gypsy Willis appeared. She would move in and become the nanny just weeks after Michele's death. What kind of scumbag father would do this to his own daughter? 


The MacNeill Family
(HLNTV.com)
Damian MacNeill:  Martin & Michele's only biological son, Martin had Damian and his girlfriend remove and dispose of evidence relating to his mother's death. MacNeill asked his son to remove all of Michele's medications following her death, and Damian complied. In January of 2010, Damian MacNeill is believed to have committed suicide by taking an overdose of prescription medications. Anybody sensing a dark theme in the MacNeill family yet??

Rufus "Roy" MacNeill:  Older brother to Martin MacNeill, Roy was found dead in the family's New Jersey home - an apparent suicide. Several of Martin's former girlfriends told investigators that Martin MacNeill confessed to killing Roy after he found him in the bathtub with both wrists slit - he allegedly drown his brother because he felt suicide was a family embarrassment. Although investigators have confirmed Roy MacNeills' death, it is not known if Martin was involved.

Randall Spencer & Susanne Gustin:  Martin MacNeill's defense attorneys; they filed a successful motion to disqualify Judge Samuel MacKay, and have filed motions that prosecutors withheld evidence they were entitled to (prosecutorial misconduct) and fought to have the murder charge dismissed. That motion was denied.

Chad Gruander & Sam Pead - Utah County Attorney's Office, says their office was "sideswiped" by the defense's motion that the Utah County Attorney's office be disqualified from prosecuting the case against Martin MacNeill for withholding evidence, including information that the County Attorney's office informed Damian MacNeill's law school that he was believed to be "a dangerous" individual, among other allegations. Gruander said that his office hand delivered a letter to the defense inviting them to come to their office and review any and all evidence. The defense motion claims a thumb drive was given to the defense by one of the state's own witnesses in the case.

Judge Samuel V. MacKay - the first judge assigned to the case, he was later disqualified from the case as a result of motions filed by the defense.

Judge Derek Pullan - the new judge assigned to the MacNeill case, after Judge MacKay was disqualified.

Dr. Todd Grey:  A medical examiner who testified during a preliminary hearing that he was surprised the State was filing murder charges because he didn't believe there was enough evidence to support the finding. The State has filed a Motion to preclude his testimony. Prosecutor Sam Pead argued that Grey is not a legal expert, and it is inappropriate for him to speculate to a jury during a trial. The judge found that Grey could testify, but not about the prosecution of the case.

Michelle Savage & Brandi Smith:  Both women testified at the preliminary hearing that they overheard Gypsy Willis talking about wanting to sever the brakes on her boyfriend's wife's car.

Inmate #1 and Inmate #2:  Expected to be key witnesses for the prosecution, the judge ruled these witnesses identities will remain secret to protect them from retaliation in federal prison where both are serving time - and served time with Martin MacNeill. Cameras will not be allowed to record their faces and their names will not be disclosed during the trial.

I will be adding to this list and updating the information as the trial unfolds. This case has so many scandal-like stories tied to it, it could fill 10 blog entries just to get up-to-date. 


A Look Into Jodi Arias' 2011 "Settlement Conference Memorandum"

As the October 4, 2013 status hearing for convicted (but unsentenced) murderer Jodi Arias has come and gone without any real progress made, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the "Settlement Conference Memorandum" filed by the Arias defense in July of 2011. To me, it reads like thinly veiled threats to destroy Travis Alexander's reputation if she were taken to trial. The document makes many assumptions on how the jury will view the evidence, and calls into question if a guilty verdict on first degree murder is even possible.

This probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone following this case. Although this document has been around for quite some time, it's interesting to look back on these issues a few years later - given we know more about what happened, and what Arias said happened. I am going to post the link to the full court document, which I located on grahamwinch.files.wordpress. Before I get caught up in writing this post and forget to post the link, here it is: 

http://grahamwinch.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/jodiariasngfile.pdf

The document begins by stating the following:  In advance of the settlement conference currently scheduled for July 15, 2011, Ms. Arias submits the following memorandum which details her position relating to resolving this case short of trial.  Ms. Arias submission of this memorandum and her willingness to participate in this settlement conference is done with the understanding that this court will order the State to comply with the dictates of Rule 408, Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure....the opening basically says that all participants in the settlement conference are prohibited from discussing anything that occurs during the conference with any listed witnesses/and or in any public forum.

OK, that is the shell of the document - let's get to what's inside. 

1.  Facts Relevant To Resolution  - Ms. Arias is confident that this court has a firm grasp of the facts of this case, thus they will not be relayed herein. Instead, she will focus on the facts she views as relevant to resolution of the matter.  (uuhmm...focusing on only the "facts" she views as relevant to resolution? That's a new way of dealing with criminal murder issues)
On October 26, 2010, Ms. Arias submitted a plea proposal to the State wherein she pointed out;

  • Jodi is charged with First Degree Murder under two theories, premeditation and felony murder. She is not facing any other charges. 
  • After an evidentiary hearing, the only aggravator remaining is cruelty. (it only takes ONE aggravating factor, Ms. Arias & Mr. Nurmi)
  • While felony murder is a legal and factual possibility, the probability is the State will have a difficult time convincing a jury to find Jodi guilty of capital murder. It will require quite the feat of mental gymnastics to get a conviction under this theory. (does the defense have a crystal ball? Arias' lie about the gun being Travis' is about to come back and bite her on the ass...at least a few of the jurors didn't have an issue with the mental gymnastics she referred to)
  • Understanding this dynamic, if the state focuses on the "easier sell", premeditation, this too is full of difficulties, and here is why:
  1. Expert testimony will be presented regarding the extremely demeaning, degrading and abusive behavior Travis exhibited towards Jodi and it's effect on Jodi. (said "experts" were shown to be prejudiced towards Arias, having spent more time with her than necessary and relying on her word at the expense of all others. Experts for the State would bring forth testimony on Arias' stalking-like pattern of behavior and her borderline personality disorder.)
  2. Not only will expert testimony be provided, Travis' own words will paint a tawdry picture not of a choir boy steadfastly practicing his faith, but of a playboy expert manipulator and sexual deviant. Even if the letters are precluded, Travis' own words through texts and voice mail/recordings will show the dynamic. (notice the language they use "tawdry picture", "choir boy" and "sexual deviant"? Travis' own words could only be used against him if they were taken out of context - and the audio recording they were counting on for it's shock value was obviously recorded without Travis' consent or knowledge. This made Arias look like the sexual deviant, drawing him into a sexual conversation and having him repeat the pieces of conversation that were most damaging)
  3. Once the factual information about Travis's behaviors and thoughts regarding Jodi come into play, the expert testimony regarding the effects of Travis' thoughts and actions on Jodi's psyche will become that much more relevant and compelling. (what Arias' defense refers to as "factual" information was proven to be completely false - such as the alleged incident where Arias walks in on Travis pleasuring himself to a photograph of a young boy dressed in underwear. Remember her dramatic testimony about the way the pages on the bed around Travis fell "in the chaotic way"? Did anybody in the courtroom buy that story? I don't think her attorneys believed that story)
  4. Given the timeline of the incident, the premeditation angle becomes more difficult for the State to prove. (actually, just the opposite. The timing of the gun being stolen from the house Arias shared with her grandparents, her trip to Utah to see Ryan Burns - showing up a day late, with hair color changed - cell phone turned off while in Arizona state lines, the purchase of the gas cans at WalMart? And the State didn't really ever push the concept of the June 10, 2008 Cancun trip on the jury, that Travis was taking Mimi Hall and not Jodi. Premeditation was not a difficult sell, once the jury heard Jodi testify for those 18 days)
The memorandum goes on to say:  If we look at the other evidence, that evidence can realistically lead to a conviction of a lesser included charge of manslaughter. Certainly the judge will have to give the jury lesser included offense instructions and there is evidence to support that:

  • Text messages between Travis and Jodi show that while he was upset with her and told her to get out of his life and called her names, he also wanted her for sexual purposes as evidenced by their encounter on June 4, 2008 (Jodi Arias brought a gun, and a knife to that sexual encounter. She wasn't invited to Travis' house, she showed up unannounced, and according to her the stop was not planned. Who wanted the sexual encounter in this scenario? Was it Travis who drove to Yreka? I don't think so)
  • During the unaired portion of his interview with CBS, Detective Flores makes admissions that there is anger involved in this. (what are they referring to? The crime scene photos show that there was a great deal of anger involved in the murder of Travis Alexander. Defensive wounds to his palms and hands show the one-way nature of this "fight to the death")
  • We have an e-mail from Travis to Jodi wherein he tells her the only thing she is good for is oral sex and he calls her a "three holed wonder". (again, they use his statements without giving any context. Travis had been harassed and stalked by Arias, there was just as much evidence to show HE felt used by her for sex as vice versa)
This is where the memorandum gets outright ridiculous. They cite case law (State v. Baylee White CR2010-113971 and State v. Dwight Wesley CR2010-1122333). Ms. White stabbed her boyfriend once in the chest during an argument, she was charged with Second Degree Murder and was offered a plea to Manslaughter as a dangerous offense and was sentenced to 12 years. OK, the Baylee White case, as described is not remotely similar to what Jodi Arias did to Travis Alexander. White stabbed her boyfriend ONCE in the chest during an argument. Jodi stabbed Travis more than 28 times, slit his throat and shot him in the face! 

In the Dwight Wesley case, he stabbed his wife several times and drove her body to the Phoenix Police Department and was charged with Second Degree Murder and it appears he plead to the court. Again, not remotely close to the circumstances of State v. Arias. Jodi Arias lied to investigators, not once, not twice, but I believe all three stories she told police were false. First, she wasn't in the state of Arizona, had nothing to do with killing Travis. She acted like she was shocked that he was killed. When backed into a forensic corner after evidence began coming back, she switched to the 2 masked intruder story - she stuck to the second story for several years, before the battered woman's/self defense story. They are comparing apples and watermelon with their case law. Even in State v. Wesley, he drove his wife's body to the Phoenix PD and turned himself in! Arias was deceptive throughout, and remains deceptive.

You can read the document's contents, there is too much to comment on in this blog post. But throughout the sophomoric writing, there are threats to tarnish the memory of Travis Alexander - almost to the point of extortion. There is a reason that we don't negotiate with terrorists. Here are a few other examples of the threats:

  • One of the things that struck me is the amount of collateral damage to others that would occur during a trial....
  • ..marriages would be effected, standing within the religious community would be effected, personal relationships would be effected, and most of all the cherished memories of Travis would be tarnished...
  • e-mails sent to Travis by Chris and Skye Hughes demonstrate their concerns over how Mr. Alexander treated Ms. Arias have been discovered..
  • e-mails sent to Travis by his onetime girlfriend Lisa Andrews demonstrate that not only was he dating Ms. Andrews at the same time as Ms. Arias, but that she had concerns over the way he was treating her and how the sexual aspects of their relationship made her uncomfortable....(Lisa Andrews testimony clarified the context of this e-mail. She testified that Travis never forced himself on her and he respected her wishes concerning having a sexual relationship outside of marriage)
Did the defense really believe that these relatively normal relationship problems, in which one person wanted more of a commitment that the other one did rose to the level of explaining away such a savage attack and murder? The evidence did not support any such theory. That is why Jodi Arias had to insert the physical abuse incidents, the photo of the little boy incident - complete fabrications that were invented in her head during her long incarceration in an attempt to fit a battered woman's profile or support a self-defense theory. We cannot forget that if not for the camera's memory card, and if not for the palm print that would link Jodi Arias to the crime scene, I have no doubt Jodi would have EVER admitted to being Travis' killer.

There was concrete evidence that she was there on June 4, 2008. She concocted much of her defense from behind bars, there is little doubt in my mind. How else can you explain the three very different stories she has told the police about Travis' murder? She only came up with self defense after her other lies failed her. If this last "settlement memorandum" is any indication of what we may see on or around the October 24, 2013 hearing, here is what I expect her defense to argue - they will argue that Jodi Arias cannot and will not get a fair trial in the Phoenix area. They will argue the difficulties and expense of empaneling a new jury, they will argue the likelihood of a young woman such as Jodi Arias being sentenced to death - and the time and expense of the appeal process makes a strong case for life and not death. 

I'd expect them to argue that Arias has been a model prisoner, who donates her hair and teaches other inmates English, Spanish and sign language. They may even refer to her "online book club" website as an example of her putting her courtroom proposals during the mitigation phase of her trial to use. They will argue that Arias should have the possibility of release after serving 25 years, based on her age at the time of the crime, her lack of prior criminal record and her childhood family trauma - and the alleged trauma suffered as a victim of domestic violence (choking out those words, you know I don't believe that). I can just hear Kirk Nurmi and Jennifer Willmott still going with the Jodi-as-a-victim theme.

I don't know what will happen when October 24 rolls around, I have no idea what to even expect. I don't know if settlement conferences are commonplace for convicted murderers. The only thing I do know is that Judge Sherry Stephens will be sitting the settlement conference out. The trial judge does not hear settlement conferences.  What does Arias have to bring to the table? It's doubtful that the Alexander family or Juan Martinez would entertain anything less than life without the possibility of release - ever. That's IF they would even consider taking death off the table. I can't envision a scenario that sees Arias outside a prison setting during her lifetime, but hey - stranger things have happened.

Considering Kirk Nurmi has been pushing for no media, review of juror Twitter accounts, I find it ironic that his client continues to tweet to her hearts desire from her jail cell. Her latest tweet was just a few days ago:

Oct 1  "Canteen/commissary, known by short as "store", known in jest as "ex-store-shun"....

Sept 30   "The hardness of God is softer than the kindness of men, and his compulsion is our liberation".... -C S Lewis

Sept 25   "When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself".....Dr.Wayne Dyer

I noticed a long time ago that Arias' tweets are often times quotes of other people. Does she believe that quoting other people makes her sound more intelligent? It just makes it painfully obvious that she has a lot of reading time on her hands, and she doesn't seem to have an original thought in her head.  Just like with the artwork, several pieces have been identified as less than original.

So there you have it.  The 2011 settlement memorandum has the tone of an extortionist.  It has that "settle or else" feel to it, I guess the last card she had left to play was the sex/scandal card. That didn't work for her either, so what does she have left?

Have a great weekend!




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