A Special Report by Ty Treadwell
When you put the word “mock” in front of something, it’s supposed to be simpler and faster than the original. You’ve got your mock NFL draft, your mock turtle soup, your mock debate…well, you get the idea. So when I volunteered to serve on the mock jury for the murder trial of Dr. Martin MacNeill on HLN After Dark, I thought it would be a walk in the park. Who would’ve guessed that our mock jury would actually see more, hear more, and do more than the real jury—including hauling mock dead bodies out of a mock bathtub at a mock crime scene?
If you’ve been following the MacNeill murder trial, you already know the basic story. Martin MacNeill’s wife Michelle supposedly drowned in a bathtub in 2007. Michelle had recently undergone plastic surgery and was taking several prescription drugs at the time, which were thought to contribute to the accidental drowning. But prosecutors claim MacNeill urged his wife to get the plastic surgery, hand-picked her prescriptions afterward, then fed her a lethal combo of pills while she was already weak and incapacitated, which led to the accidental drowning. Dr. MacNeill made himself look even guiltier by claiming that he couldn’t remove his wife from the bathtub in order to perform CPR. By the time a neighbor helped MacNeill get the body out of the tub, Michelle was far past saving.
I served four stints on the MacNeill trial’s mock jury, and each program shed new light on the shady doctor’s secret doings. We learned details about MacNeill’s former crimes, including check fraud and identity theft. We heard damning statements that were tossed out as hearsay. We even heard allegations that MacNeill had molested and possibly attempted to kill other family members. Words like “excluded” and “inadmissible” didn’t mean a thing to us. Our jury’s evidence was as gritty as it comes.
We were also asked to perform physical actions, something the real jury definitely wouldn’t be doing. The crew of HLN After Dark had built a mock-up of the bathroom where Michelle MacNeill died, complete with a replica bathtub and a life-sized mannequin that weighed 150 pounds, just a few shy of the actual victim. The hosts of the show asked if one jury member would try removing the body from the tub, and that one member was me. Was it because I’m nearly the exact same height and weight as Dr. MacNeill? Was it because I wanted to do it so badly I was practically salivating? In the long run, who cares? After spending nearly 20 years researching and writing about murder cases, I was finally about to step into one—literally.
Cheered on by the hosts, the guest panel, and my fellow jurors, I climbed into the tub and grabbed the mannequin in a bear hug. I had a few advantages over Dr. MacNeill; there was no water in the tub, and the dummy was a little lighter than the actual body. On the other hand, I was wearing a suit and tie and had the added distraction of performing for a national audience. But I still had that mannequin out on the ground in a minute flat, a feat MacNeill claimed he couldn’t accomplish in any amount of time.
The shady doctor might end up feeling the crushing weight of justice, but I can now say I’ve felt the crushing weight of a crime scene dummy—and I’ve got the sore muscles to prove it.
Ty Treadwell is the author of “Death Row’s Oddest Inmates” and “Last Suppers”, you can read more here http://lastsuppersbook.blogspot.ca