I’ve been following the Martin MacNeil case for years, way before it became popular in the media, and just knew that his legal team would try to poke holes in the testimony of his children because of their witness recollections.
His children have testified in the case and it seems that some of the things they have said in the past to police and the media are different that what they are saying now.
These differing accounts are providing MacNeils’s defense team with the opportunity to insinuate that the children are lying and can potentially convince a jury not to convict the Utah doctor.
That’s tragic since I know from past experience that witness recollections can change over time.
Just because their witness recollections are now different from what they initially said, does not necessarily mean that they are lying, and I’d like to share an example with you.
When I was 11-years-old, one day I walked alone to school.
Usually I walked with a group of children, but, that fateful morning I was late.
I was still a few blocks from the school and a car pulled up. I remember being a teeny bit wary, more of a wondering why type of thought, because the car was on the wrong side of the street.
Before I could really comprehend the danger I was in, the man had gotten out of his car leaving his door open, walked around to the passenger side, opened that door and approached me.
He walked right up to me and said something to me that I didn’t understand and I said, “What?”.
Next thing I knew he had picked me up with one hand on me and one hand on my backpack, and threw me in the passengers seat.
I was laying across the front seat with my legs sticking out of the passenger door absolutely terrified and I was weighted down by my heavy backpack.
I just knew that I could not let this man get back into the car and drive away with me so I started screaming.
Somewhere, somehow I had heard that you should not scream “Rape’ and instead scream “Fire!” so that people would start to leave their homes.
At the top of my lungs I screamed, “FIRE, FIRE”, while kicking and trying to slap, punch and pinch the man attacking me.
He ripped my button down shirt completely open and was grabbing at my legs trying to throw my legs in the car. I kicked wildly, thankfully landing a hard kick where it counts most.
He doubled over and I jumped out of the car still screaming “Fire, Fire”.
As I was running, and by now hysterical, I heard a door slam and then another and then the screech of tires.
He was gone.
I was standing on the street crying and shaking with my once tidy catholic school uniform in complete disarray.
My hair, which was initially in a bun was loose and my head hurt from him pulling my hair. My shirt was completely ripped open including my bra and my skirt was halfway down.
I started to run, trying to get as far away as I could from danger.
An older man came out of his house and approached me asking me what was wrong. He said that he saw me every morning walking with the other children and again asked me why I was crying and what happened to me. He was trying to comfort me but I wouldn’t go near him and started to run away from him.
Bless his soul, he went and got his wife who ran out of their home herself half-dressed, calmed me down, hugged me and assured me I was OK and safe.
She convinced me to go with her into their home and we called my parents.
The police were also called and took a statement from me.
That statement was not very helpful. I could not even describe the man, let alone the car he was driving, other than to say he was white and big and drove a big car. I am not really even sure what I said at the time.
And you know what?
Weeks later, I remembered more. Much more.
I was able to tell them that the car was a Green LTD and I even provided the last 4 digits of the license plate number that I remember to this day. I provided an excellent description of the interior and exterior of the car and was able to provide a good description of the man who attempted to kidnap me, including what he was wearing, and he was apprehended.
Perhaps my nerves interfered in my ability to recall important details. Perhaps I was scared and could not think clearly.
Whatever the cause, I was able to remember many more details than I could initially recall.
The police realized this and, never once, did they doubt my new and improved version of events.
The end result is that the kidnapper went to jail for a very long time.
I did not have to testify because the man had a prior record, admitted that he tried to kidnap me and a plea deal was reached.
If I did have to testify, I imagine that I would faced intense scrutiny and similar tactics that have been used against the MacNeil children would have been used against me, because, my later memory was more clear
I think about the children of Dr. MacNeil and I really feel for them because I truly know firsthand that witness recollections can change over time and should not necessarily be equated with untruthfulness.