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Jury selection begins in Martin MacNeill trial

Jury selection begins in Martin MacNeill trial
Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - 6:27pm

(CNN) -- Jury selection began Tuesday morning in the trial of a Utah doctor accused of using his medical know-how to kill his wife.

Prosecutors say Martin MacNeill drugged then drowned his wife, Michele MacNeill, as she recuperated from a face-lift on April 11, 2007. The doctor has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys have told reporters that their client is looking forward to the chance to prove his innocence.

If convicted of murder, Martin MacNeill could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Judge Derek Pullan began the proceedings by addressing some outstanding issues with attorneys, including whether the mental health records of MacNeill's daughter Rachel MacNeill, who testified in a preliminary hearing in 2012 that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, will be released for the defense to use during the trial, and whether to grant a defense motion to exclude two prosecution toxicology experts from testifying.

Pullan said he was convinced that the defense has a good argument there is evidence in Rachel MacNeill's mental health records that could help their case.

It is not exactly clear how the medical records could help the defense. However, he said he would rule on that issue later after conducting a hearing in his chambers to determine whether the records will be admissible.

Pullan said he will also rule later on the defense's motion to exclude the toxicologists' testimony. If allowed to testify, the toxicologists are expected to say that the combination of drugs found in Michele MacNeill's blood could have been lethal. The defense is objecting to their testimony because they say the methods of analysis used are not generally accepted in the field.

Pullan split the pool of roughly 120 potential jurors into two groups on Tuesday. The first group was made up of candidates Nos. 1 through 60, to be questioned in chambers Tuesday. The second group, Nos. 61 through 120, will be questioned in chambers on Wednesday.

Pullan's decision to question the potential jurors behind closed doors means the media is not able to witness a large part of the process of picking the jury, and may not know much about the makeup of the panel.

Pullan has said he believes a jury could be picked and sworn in as early as Thursday.


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