Jeffrey MacDonald Seeks New Trial in 'Fatal Vision' Murders/Federal Judge to consider 'new' DNA evidence Monday 9.17.2012

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Post by CritterFan1 on Thu Feb 03, 2011 8:33 am

There was one wig hair found in the apt. LE never knew who it belonged too. More than likely it belonged to Collette. She could have had a "fall" at some point, one of those long things that made you have a long ponytail.
He is guilty as dirt , IMHO.

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Normal Re: Jeffrey MacDonald Seeks New Trial in 'Fatal Vision' Murders/Federal Judge to consider 'new' DNA evidence Monday 9.17.2012

Post by Guest on Thu Feb 03, 2011 2:10 pm

Thanks for the info, Raine & Critter!

I checked out that website that you posted, Critter, and it helped "fill me in" on what happened. I also googled his name last night & found lots of interesting info about this case!

One website seems to be proclaiming his innocence, so I checked that out a bit too. It's interesting to hear both sides of the story!
http://www.themacdonaldcase.org/

I haven't spent as much time analyzing this case as some of you have, but from my limited knowledge of it, I have some observations:

1. There is evidence to suggest intruders murdered his family. A woman with a floppy hat was seen by police around the time of the murders, and eventually "admitted" to them. However, she was a known drug addict, so her testimony is questionable.

2. There is also enough evidence to suggest that Jeff MacDonald commited these murders himself. It is interesting to note that he is the only one who survived this massacre, and with limited injuries. There is also an interesting analysis of the statement that he gave to police after the murders, which seems to show deception. http://www.statementanalysis.com/macdonald/

3. I'm not sure if this has already been mentioned by anyone, but this is my own personal observation:

The words "PIG" were scrawled in blood on the head of the bed. Colette was pregnant, and he was apparently having numerous "flings" with other women. I wonder if he could have been upset with the fact that she was pregnant, and it was his way of scorning her for her weight gain. (I remember that it was said that OJ Simpson called his wife Nicole a "fat pig" when she was pregnant)

So... I have also come to the conclusion that Jeffrey MacDonald murdered his wife & kids! Almost unbelievable that a husband & father could be so cold & cruel (the autopsy photos were very shocking), but it is very possible!! I believe that prison is where he belongs, and I hope he stays there for the rest of his life. JMO!!


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Normal Re: Jeffrey MacDonald Seeks New Trial in 'Fatal Vision' Murders/Federal Judge to consider 'new' DNA evidence Monday 9.17.2012

Post by Sue61 on Thu Feb 03, 2011 4:26 pm

Right from the beginning he lied. His first statement, he said it was Kristen that wet their bed... and it was Kimmy.
The list goes on and on about his lies. Lies

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Normal Re: Jeffrey MacDonald Seeks New Trial in 'Fatal Vision' Murders/Federal Judge to consider 'new' DNA evidence Monday 9.17.2012

Post by CritterFan1 on Thu Feb 03, 2011 8:42 pm

Sue, you are right on the money. Everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie...it is all about "me,me, me", was never about his murdered wife and girls.
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Normal Jeffrey MacDonald DNA: Army Doctor Convicted Of Killing Pregant Wife, Kids Could Clear Name

Post by raine1953 on Sat Sep 15, 2012 2:40 pm

RALEIGH, N.C. — Jeffrey MacDonald, a clean-cut Green Beret and doctor convicted of killing of his pregnant wife and their two daughters, is getting another chance at trying to prove his innocence – more than four decades after the slayings terrified a nation gripped by his tales of Charles Manson-like hippies doped up on acid slaughtering his family in their own home.

The case now hinges on something that wasn't available when he was first put on trial: DNA evidence. A federal judge will convene a hearing on Monday to consider new DNA evidence and witness testimony that MacDonald and his supporters say will finally clear him of a crime that became the basis of Joe McGinniss' best-selling book "Fatal Vision" and a made-for-TV drama.

It's just the latest twist in a case that has been the subject of military and civilian courts, intense legal wrangling and shifting alliances.

"This is Jeff's opportunity to be back in court almost 33 years to the day of his conviction," said Kathryn MacDonald, who married him a decade ago while he's been in prison.

MacDonald, now 68 and not eligible for parole until 2020, has never wavered from his claim that he didn't kill his pregnant wife, Colette, and their two daughters, 5-year-old Kimberley and 2-year-old Kristen. He has maintained that he awoke from a slumber on their sofa in their home on the base of Fort Bragg in the early morning hours of Feb. 17, 1970, as they were being attacked by intruders – three men and a woman.

In an October 2000 letter MacDonald wrote to Kathryn MacDonald, provided by her to The Associated Press, he wrote: "It would be a dishonor to their memory to compromise the truth and `admit' to something I didn't do – no matter how long it takes."

The gruesome stabbing and beating deaths, coming just three months after the Manson-family slayings in California, the pregnant wife and MacDonald's description of the woman attacker chanting "acid is groovy, kill the pigs" all fed into fears that Manson-type killers were on the loose in North Carolina. The word "pig" was written in blood on a headboard – the same word that was written on the door of Manson victim Sharon Tate's house in Los Angeles.

The Army charged the Ivy League-educated MacDonald with murder, then dropped the charges months later after an Article 32 hearing. By December 1970, MacDonald was not just a free man but also had received an honorable discharge.

But his father-in-law, Alfred Kassab, who initially believed in his innocence, changed his mind and eventually persuaded prosecutors to pursue the case in civilian court. In 1979, MacDonald was charged, convicted and sentenced to life in prison, a sentence he now serves at the federal prison in Cumberland, Md.


MacDonald has stood by his innocence claim so strongly that he refused to apply for parole for years, and when he did, he refused to acknowledge any guilt and was rejected. MacDonald and his supporters have continued to pursue legal avenues over the years to try to clear his name.

U.S. District Court James Fox will consider two types of evidence: three hairs that don't match the family's DNA and a statement from Jimmy Britt, a deputy U.S. marshal when the case was tried. Britt, who has since died, gave a statement to defense attorneys in 2005 that he heard prosecutor Jim Blackburn threaten Helena Stoeckley, a troubled local woman whom MacDonald had identified as one of the attackers.

A previous MacDonald attorney has said Stoeckley was prepared to testify she was in the MacDonald home the night of the murders until Blackburn threatened to charge her with the slayings. She later testified she couldn't remember where she was that night.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted MacDonald's request for the hearing. It's expected to last up to two weeks, and Fox will determine whether to order a new trial.

"This is the first time the judge is having to consider all the evidence in the case as a whole," said Chris Mumma, head of the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence, which has a pending request for DNA testing on other items found in the home. "Pieces of evidence were considered in the past. Now the 4th Circuit has told the judge to consider the evidence as a whole, whether admitted at trial or not."

A lab was able to get DNA testing from the roots of hair, so Mumma is optimistic that other evidence can be tested if the judge agreed. The center has asked that 40 items be tested, but hundreds of bloodstains were collected, along with the weapons, the eyeglasses the children wore and pieces of the gloves used to write the word "pig."

In 1979, only blood typing existed, not DNA testing. Jeffrey, Colette and their daughters all had different blood types, so prosecutors could recreate which people were in which rooms together.

But, Mumma asks, what if the blood types belonged to people outside the MacDonald home?

"There's evidence that I think would be worth testing to determine if there's DNA evidence not tied to family members – or that does," she said. "The DNA testing may completely confirm the government's theory."

Fox will consider the statement of Britt, who accused former prosecutor Jim Blackburn of threatening Stoeckley. Blackburn later went into private practice and was found guilty of several ethical violations. He was disbarred and served a prison sentence. Because he's a likely witness, Blackburn can't talk about the case. He does, however, support the trial verdict. "We prosecuted the case to the best of our ability," he said. "We still believe the verdict was correct."

Like the Manson murders, the MacDonald killings led to books, most famously "Fatal Vision," which also was the basis of a television miniseries that concluded MacDonald was guilty. Earlier this month, documentary filmmaker Errol Morris' book, "A Wilderness of Error," was published.

There will be some familiar faces at the proceedings. But others who have played central roles in the case will be missing: Stoeckley died in 1983 at age 32 of pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver; Britt, the U.S. deputy marshal who said the prosecutor threatened Stoeckley, also has since died. Jeffrey MacDonald's father-in-law, Kassab, also has died.

Now Colette MacDonald's brother, Bob Stevenson, will be there to fill his role

"The truth is, there is nothing new out there," said Stevenson, 73, who declined to say where he lives, saying he receives death threats. "There is nothing. Do you know how much DNA is in my home and your home? The mere discovery of DNA has nothing to do with a man's guilt."

Stevenson said he promised Kassab before he died in 1994 that he would continue to pursue MacDonald.

"Until he is dead or I am dead, we will be battling as adversaries," he said, adding later: "I will never lose interest. I will never lose zeal. I will never lose faith."
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Normal Re: Jeffrey MacDonald Seeks New Trial in 'Fatal Vision' Murders/Federal Judge to consider 'new' DNA evidence Monday 9.17.2012

Post by Nama on Sat Sep 15, 2012 2:55 pm

Those poor babies would be in their 40s now if they hadn't been snuffed out by their father. I read Fatal Vision and believe that McDonald is guilty as sin. The author, Joe McGinniss, thought McDonald was innocent until he started interviewing him to write the book and his opinion changed.

From the book:
MacDonald speaking: "Colette, sort of in a sentence, was to me soft and feminine and beautiful, big brown eyes, very intelligent, quiet sense of humor, not very aggressive, but a magnificent woman. Without any question the neatest woman I ever met. I still see her as the epitome of womanhood. A fatal vision."

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Post by Nama on Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:11 pm

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Kathryn MacDonald knows the visitors' drill at the Federal Correctional Institution here in the hills of western Maryland: Relinquish the driver's license, take off the black pumps for the metal detector, get the ultraviolet stamp on top of the hand.

Accompanied by a guard, she walks into the large, noisy visiting room, and there waiting for her, smiling and waving, is her husband, Jeffrey MacDonald — the former Green Beret doctor who continues to insist he did not kill his young family nearly 35 years ago.

When Kathryn Kurichh, who owns a children's drama school in Howard County, Md., married Jeffrey MacDonald, now federal Inmate No. 0131-177, she also took on an infamous, disturbing and stubbornly enduring legal case.

The marriage permitted one of America's best-known federal convicts — the subject of three books and a TV miniseries — to transfer 18 months ago from a California prison to the Maryland facility, to be closer to his new home of record. It also gave Kathryn MacDonald a new role as her husband's chief supporter, spokeswoman and backup expert on the case.

"I certainly didn't see myself married to someone in prison," said Kathryn MacDonald, 44, who has operated the Young Artists Theatre in West Laurel for the past 10 years. "There's no glamour in it. It's not fun at all. I hate it. But I love the person."

Seeking parole

And she believes, with an intensity that equals her husband's, that he has been wrongly accused and convicted and will be freed someday. Jeffrey MacDonald — who is serving three life sentences for the February 1970 murders of his pregnant wife, Colette, 26, and two daughters, Kimberley, 5, and Kristen, 2 — recently applied for parole for the first time since he became eligible in 1991. A parole hearing is scheduled for March 2.
The couple also are hoping that DNA tests being conducted on hair and blood samples will confirm what MacDonald has claimed all along: that a group of intruders wounded him and killed his family.

Prosecutors, however, remain convinced of his guilt.

Kathryn MacDonald, 44, who runs a youth drama school in Howard County, Md., married Jeffrey MacDonald in August 2002 at a federal prison in California. She has become her husband's chief spokeswoman.
Now 61, MacDonald has spent more than half his life declaring his innocence. He is fit in his khaki prison uniform — he works out an hour each day, he said — but the young man in his 20s in the green Army beret, the oft-described "golden boy," is gone.
Weekdays, he works as a prison orderly, mopping floors and cleaning toilets. He reads avidly, subscribing to 26 publications, including medical journals. After nearly 24 years in prison, he concentrates, he said, on "the next achievable goal."



"I try to compartmentalize and stick to that," he said in a recent interview at the prison. "I'm really not very good at answering philosophical questions like 'Why?' and 'Why you?' I'm just not good at it, and I find that, mentally and emotionally, I do a lot better if I don't answer those questions."

The difference in his life now is his wife, he said, "because I can talk to someone that I trust."

Prison wedding

The couple were married in August 2002 at a federal prison in California. They had met briefly many years ago in Baltimore, but it was not until Kathryn wrote Jeffrey a letter in 1997 to ask what she could do to help his case that a friendship developed.
As much as the circumstances allow, they try to make their marriage a partnership: When Kathryn needed a new vehicle, Jeffrey did the consumer research and produced a 14-page report on the pros and cons of each model. When her drama students put on a new play, he receives photographs of the costumes and a copy of the script so he can imagine the performances. She is "the creative one," he said, while he is "the fact guy."

"Several years into this, we realized we had become basically a couple," he said, "despite me being in prison and Kathy being in the real world, working for a living. ... When we realized that we were the single most important person to each other, then it seemed like a no-brainer. We wrestled with this for a long time and it finally came down to, what are two decent, sane, normal, loving people going to do in a bad situation?"

In its time, the MacDonald case was big news, unfolding on the Fort Bragg Army base in North Carolina at the height of the Vietnam War, coming six months after Charles Manson and his followers had left a trail of blood in California. Kathryn MacDonald, then a young girl in Baltimore, remembers seeing Jeffrey's photo on a magazine cover.

Debate still flourishes

The case had staying power; even today, Internet chatters continue to debate MacDonald's guilt or innocence. Why would a young doctor with no history of violence slaughter his family? Why would a group of hippies do it? The case's many twists and turns compounded the mystery.
As other families mill about, Jeffrey and Kathryn MacDonald sit in the prison visiting room of the medium-security facility in western Maryland. They greet each other with brief hugs and kisses and often hold hands — the extent of the contact permitted.

Kathryn MacDonald drives here from her Howard County home as often as three times a week, putting more than 1,000 miles on her car each week, joking that the vehicle can find the facility automatically. Known as "Miss Kathy" to the hundreds of young students who have attended her drama school, she is a small woman with a ladylike demeanor and a self-deprecating sense of humor.

A performer since childhood, Kathryn MacDonald worked on USO tours and other productions and received a master's degree in video and film from American University. After her marriage to MacDonald — her first marriage ended in divorce — she added a paralegal degree to better assist her husband.

At her drama school and theater, she holds acting seminars, stages pajama parties and writes all the plays her students perform; the recent Christmas production involved confused Halloween characters who wandered into the wrong holiday.

Early in her correspondence with MacDonald, she was touched, she said, by the kindness and advice he offered as her mother struggled with a terminal illness. And she found "that we could talk to each other about everything."

"Completely committed"

"As time went on, we were completely committed to each other," she said. "He said, 'I want to get married, I want to have that lifelong commitment and I want that with you, but I don't ever want to put you in a situation where your life is not as good as it could be because of my situation.' "
It was hard for others to understand. When she decided to marry MacDonald, a lawyer friend of her deceased parents whom she calls "the dad figure in my life" was concerned.

"Once a week, he would bring it up — 'Have you reconsidered this?' He said: 'All I want is what is best for you. I know you love him. I know he's a good man ... but why can't you just wait until he's exonerated?' And I said I didn't want to be telling Jeff, 'When everything is perfect — and it's never going to be perfect — then I'll marry you. Until that day, I'm keeping my options open.' That's not total commitment."

She said the friend, as well as her sister, who had expressed similar concerns, have come around. "Those are the first people who say now, 'You know, I've never seen you happier, despite the hardships.' They were just worried, that's all."

The wedding took place in another prison visiting room in California. It took nine months of red tape to pull off, she said, including finding a minister willing to perform the ceremony and to stand in for Jeffrey as they applied for a marriage license. Although several of Kathryn's girlfriends offered to accompany her on the trip, "I wanted to go alone," she said.

The couple wrote their vows, she in the rental car on the drive to the prison, while her husband-to-be labored over his words for days. Another inmate, who was authorized to take photographs, snapped the couple's picture as they embraced, then tossed a few kernels of rice he had managed to sneak in.

"That was his present to us," she said.

Later, Kathryn MacDonald returned to her hotel room. There was a gift basket waiting from her friends. She decided to save the bottle of wine, she said, "for when Jeff comes home."

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Normal Jeffery and the second Mrs McDonald (2007 or 08)

Post by Nama on Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:16 pm

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Normal Joe McGinniss

Post by Nama on Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:26 pm

While the case made national news at the time, many people know about the case because of Fatal Vision, a book Joe McGinniss wrote about the case in 1983. McGinniss claimed he believed in MacDonald’s innocence at the time he began research for the book. He suggested he was initially enamored with the good-looking, all-American former Green Beret and doctor who had been unable to protect his family from the group of hippies who invaded the house that night.

McGinniss was granted complete access to MacDonald and his legal team during the time period prior to MacDonald’s trial in 1979, in fact becoming a formal member of the MacDonald defense team, and he reportedly shared living quarters with MacDonald during the trial. While it is unclear exactly when McGinniss began to doubt MacDonald’s innocence, he certainly had no doubts as to MacDonald’s guilt at the time he completed the book.

LONG article....Read More at:
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Normal Helena-Stoeckley-Confession

Post by Nama on Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:41 pm

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Normal Re: Jeffrey MacDonald Seeks New Trial in 'Fatal Vision' Murders/Federal Judge to consider 'new' DNA evidence Monday 9.17.2012

Post by Wrapitup on Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:48 pm

Author: New MacDonald info should be heard in court

By Michael Gordon
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Posted: Thursday, Sep. 20, 2012

A Charlotte couple’s assertion this week that they heard an acquaintance confess to the murder of Jeffrey MacDonald’s family is the latest proof that MacDonald deserves a new trial, writer Errol Morris said Thursday.

Morris is the author of “A Wilderness of Error,” a new and critical look at MacDonald’s 1979 conviction for murder. The writer and film-maker was in Wilmington for much of the week, sitting in on a federal court hearing in which MacDonald sought a new trial.

MacDonald, a former Green Beret and Ivy League-educated physician, was sentenced to three life terms for the 1970 massacre of his pregnant wife and two young daughters at Fort Bragg.

This week, John and Chris Griffin of Charlotte told the Observer that they heard another man confess to the crimes more than 30 years ago. They say Greg Mitchell, whom they hired to do electrical work, made a sobbing admission while drinking heavily at their former Lake Wylie home. The Griffins believe Mitchell was telling the truth.

Morris said the Griffins’ information should be heard in a courtroom.

“Is this the only confession out there? No. But what’s so significant about this piece of information and what makes it important is that it corroborates another confession Mitchell made,” Morris said during a phone interview from New York. “We’re talking about multiple confessions by Helena Stoeckley and Greg Mitchell.

“So what’s infuriating is this: What do you have to do to get this kind of evidence before a jury or a judge?”

Stoeckley was Mitchell’s girlfriend when both were living near Fort Bragg at the time of the killings. Mitchell grew up in the Anson County town of Polkton. He was a Vietnam veteran who married and moved to Charlotte in 1972.

For more than 40 years, MacDonald has claimed that four intruders – three men and a woman – attacked him and then killed his family.

Mitchell and Stoeckley apparently told friends and family that they had been involved in the killings. Helena Stoeckley’s brother testified in court this week that his mother told him Helena had been in the MacDougal home the night of the attacks.

The Griffins told the Observer this week that Mitchell made his drunken confession during the summer of either 1980 or 1981.

Yet, a former prosecutor in the case testified Thursday that, when interviewed before the trial, Stoeckley never confessed to the crime or said she was in the MacDougal home. In 1971, Mitchell passed an Army polygraph test indicating he had no connection to the murders.

Mitchell died in 1982; Stoeckley in 1983.

After some 20 years of investigating the MacDonald case, Morris said he still does not totally believe that Mitchell and Stoeckley did the killings. “But I do believe that this material should have been presented to the jury.”

Instead, he accuses police and the prosecution of investigating Mitchell and Stoeckley only as far as it took to discredit them.

“I believe this case has been terribly handled,” he said. “Part of that is a jury was never effectively able to learn about the number of confessions made, principally by Stoeckley and Mitchell.

“We’re talking about reasonable doubt here, or should be.”

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Normal Re: Jeffrey MacDonald Seeks New Trial in 'Fatal Vision' Murders/Federal Judge to consider 'new' DNA evidence Monday 9.17.2012

Post by Wrapitup on Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:49 pm

BJ wrote:Those poor babies would be in their 40s now if they hadn't been snuffed out by their father. I read Fatal Vision and believe that McDonald is guilty as sin. The author, Joe McGinniss, thought McDonald was innocent until he started interviewing him to write the book and his opinion changed.

From the book:
MacDonald speaking: "Colette, sort of in a sentence, was to me soft and feminine and beautiful, big brown eyes, very intelligent, quiet sense of humor, not very aggressive, but a magnificent woman. Without any question the neatest woman I ever met. I still see her as the epitome of womanhood. A fatal vision."
That seems to be the general consensus. I must admit I don't know that much about this case nor have I read the book to form an opinion. duct and run

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Normal Re: Jeffrey MacDonald Seeks New Trial in 'Fatal Vision' Murders/Federal Judge to consider 'new' DNA evidence Monday 9.17.2012

Post by Nama on Thu Sep 20, 2012 7:01 pm

The book IS worth the read, Wrap!

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Normal Re: Jeffrey MacDonald Seeks New Trial in 'Fatal Vision' Murders/Federal Judge to consider 'new' DNA evidence Monday 9.17.2012

Post by Wrapitup on Thu Sep 20, 2012 7:03 pm

Thanks! Of course I've heard of it. Will get it from the library.

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Normal Re: Jeffrey MacDonald Seeks New Trial in 'Fatal Vision' Murders/Federal Judge to consider 'new' DNA evidence Monday 9.17.2012

Post by raine1953 on Thu Sep 20, 2012 9:58 pm

You need to read that book for sure Wrap!!! In fact it's been so long I should re-read it. I think he's guilty as sin although if it's true about Mitchell and Stoeckley then yes I think it should be heard. IF there's DNA that's evidence then I think it should be heard too. I've always thought he's guilty as sin.
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Normal Errol Morris Takes On the Jeffrey MacDonald Murder Case -- Before Joe McGinniss Gets the Last Word

Post by Nama on Fri Dec 07, 2012 8:31 pm

Film director Errol Morris is, as they say in Hollywood, bankable. He's made some of the best, most critically acclaimed documentaries of the last 25 years, including The Thin Blue Line, in which Morris proved that a convicted Texas cop killer was innocent and got the real murderer to confess.

In his new book, A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald, Morris recounts how he pitched several studios on a film that would raise the possibility that MacDonald, the Green Beret doctor convicted of killing his pregnant wife and two daughters back in 1970, was innocent.
He met a stone wall of resistance.
"We can't make that," he recalls one studio exec telling him. "He's guilty. The man killed his family."
Such is the enduring power and influence of Fatal Vision, the 1983 best-seller by Joe McGinniss that delved deep into the MacDonald murders. After signing a contract with MacDonald to write a book about his case, McGinniss shocked the doctor by concluding that the jury was right to convict him -- and wrote just that.
But rather than Fatal Vision being the final word on the matter, the MacDonald case became a cottage industry for lawyers and writers. MacDonald felt betrayed by McGinniss' book, and from his prison cell sued the writer for breach of contract. The 1987 civil suit was settled out of court, with McGinniss' insurance company paying MacDonald $325,000 -- money that eventually went to MacDonald's father-in-law, who'd lost his daughter and grandchildren in the murders.
MacDonald's suit against McGinniss inspired the New Yorker's Janet Malcolm to write The Journalist and the Murderer in 1990. Her book explores the issue of whether McGinniss betrayed MacDonald and opens with a line that has become infamous in journalism circles: "Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible."
Presumably, she wasn't talking about Errol Morris. The filmmaker started out as a private investigator and has never actually worked as a journalist, although his documentaries have a distinctly journalistic feel.
Joe McGinniss lived with MacDonald during his 1979 trial, sat in on defense meetings and had access to MacDonald's private papers. Armed with all that inside information, he told the chilling story of how MacDonald was found guilty of murdering his family in the early morning hours of Feb. 17, 1970, in their home at Fort Bragg, N.C.
He even came up with a motive, something the prosecution had been unable to do. MacDonald, McGinniss wrote in Fatal Vision, was a psychopath who wanted out of a troubled marriage and had been taking diet pills, leading him to erupt in a fit of amphetamine-fueled rage over a minor domestic incident -- a child's bed-wetting.
From the very beginning, MacDonald insisted that the brutal murders were committed by a group of four drug-addled hippies, one of whom held a candle and chanted, "Kill the pigs. Acid is groovy." The word "PIG" was written in blood on the headboard of the bed in the master bedroom. But there were few signs of the ferocious struggle MacDonald described, and no explanation for why the hippies would kill his family in such a savage manner but leave MacDonald with only a few injuries, so minor they could have been self-inflicted. MacDonald currently is awaiting a ruling on his latest motion for a new trial.
Following McGinniss' book, the 1984 miniseries Fatal Vision featured Karl Malden and Eva Marie Saint as MacDonald's crusading in-laws, who refused to rest until MacDonald was finally convicted and sent to prison. And if perpetual good guy Malden and the aptly named Saint were sure their cinematic son-in-law had killed his wife and his two little girls, well, that was good enough for most Americans.
Not Morris. After following the MacDonald case for more than 30 years, the filmmaker pitched Hollywood. When he was turned down all over town, he set out to write his own book. A Wilderness of Error argues that, from the start, MacDonald was the victim of a rush to judgment, which later influenced everyone who handled his case, from investigators to prosecutors to judges.
After more than 500 pages of a dense slog dissecting the forensic evidence that led a jury to convict MacDonald after only six hours of deliberation, Morris concludes: "We may never be able to prove with absolute certainty that Jeffrey MacDonald is innocent. But there are things we do know: that the trial was rigged in favor of the prosecution, that the CID, the FBI and the Department of Justice pursued an unethical vendetta against Jeffrey MacDonald, that evidence was lost, misinterpreted and willfully ignored. We know that Jeffrey MacDonald was railroaded."
Morris has only contempt for McGinnis, describing him as "a craven and sloppy journalist who confabulated, lied and betrayed."
McGinniss soon will publish in Byliner a 27,000-word piece titled, ironically, "The Last Word on Jeffrey MacDonald." He denied all of Morris' accusations. "He wasn't able to point out a single, factual error in Fatal Vision," McGinniss told the Weekly. He claimed that Morris never even attempted to speak with him.
"That's appalling," he said.
Morris didn't respond to requests for comment. While McGinniss admitted that Morris' lofty reputation is a big boon to MacDonald's claims, he insisted Morris' book will backfire: "It will end up diminishing Morris' own credibility. He was looking for another Thin Blue Line but picked the wrong case."
As for betrayal, McGinniss notes that MacDonald gave him complete editorial control over the book. And it was only after the trial, as McGinniss continued his own investigation while MacDonald was in prison, that he decided MacDonald was guilty." Look, the better story would have been an innocent man wrongly convicted," he said. "But it was clear he was guilty."
After reading all three books -- McGinniss on MacDonald, Malcolm on McGinniss and MacDonald, and Morris on McGinniss, MacDonald and Malcolm -- the only thing that's clear is that the verdict isn't clear. Yes, McGinniss was right: MacDonald almost certainly killed his family. But Morris is also right: MacDonald was railroaded by the justice system. It's hardly an earth-shattering conclusion to anyone who pays attention to the way law enforcement works.
The real moral of the Jeffrey MacDonald story, then, may be this: If you want your story told your way, don't ask a journalist. Do it yourself.

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Normal Maybe Jeffrey MacDonald was innocent after all

Post by Nama on Fri Dec 07, 2012 8:49 pm

In a rare interview, co-counsel Wade Smith reflects on the murder case that's long captured America's imagination

Remember the perceptual illusion where you look at a picture and you’re certain that you see the bust of a young woman? Then, if someone draws your attention to certain details, suddenly the picture transforms into the profile of an old woman. It’s a disorienting trick. You think you know what you’re seeing, but then you aren’t so sure.

The Jeffrey MacDonald murder case is one of the most disturbing in living memory. There are only two possible pictures, both nightmares.

Picture No. 1. Jeffrey MacDonald, a Princeton-educated Green Beret doctor with no history of violence and a sterling record, butchered his pregnant wife and two young daughters using a knife, ice pick and club. Then he injured himself and set up the scene to make the crimes appear to be the work of intruders. He claimed they chanted, “Kill the pigs! … Acid is groovy!” and scrawled the word “PIG” on the wall in his wife’s blood.

Picture No. 2. Jeffrey MacDonald, a bright young man with everything in life to look forward to, lost his wife and children to senseless, horrific violence. A military hearing found charges against him “untrue,” but he was convicted nine years later in a civilian trial. He has been imprisoned for three decades for a crime he did not commit.

Two possibilities: MacDonald is a monster, or he is a victim of terrible injustice. Young woman; old woman.

Until recently, most people saw Picture No. 1. So did I. I grew up in Raleigh, N.C., about an hour from the Fort Bragg army base in Fayetteville where the murders occurred on Feb. 17, 1970, in the middle of the night. I was born in May of that year, and would thus be the same age as the child Colette MacDonald was carrying when her life was snuffed out. In the early ’80s, I whipped through a dog-eared copy of “Fatal Vision,” Joe McGinniss’ sensational true-crime novel about the killings. It was almost as scary as ”Helter Skelter” – the story of the Charles Manson murders in California that are said to have inspired Jeffrey MacDonald in the coverup for his homicidal rampage.

In 1984 I was glued to the TV, like millions of other Americans, watching the popular miniseries based on McGinniss’ book. McGinniss made the murders sound like the work of a diabolical genius, a man who could transform in a moment from a loving father to a homicidal maniac, and again, in the blink of an eye, to a calculating con man. I thought of devils that lurked in human flesh, like in “The Exorcist,” another popular based-on-a true-story-book-turned-movie of the period that floated around our house. When the show was over, I retired to the safety of my bed, safe from unpredictable evils.

A Shifting Picture

McGinniss’ stark rendering of Picture No. 1 stuck in my mind until recently when a friend from North Carolina told me that Errol Morris had published a book suggesting MacDonald was innocent. That got my attention: the Oscar-winning Morris, whose film “The Thin Blue Line” exonerated a Texas man wrongfully convicted for murder, is one of the world’s great documentary filmmakers. He is both a careful researcher and a profound investigator of the human condition.

My friend and I sat around in her backyard, tossing up what facts about the case we could recall. I even laughed at the idea of hippie murderers in North Carolina. Of all places! But then I felt uneasy. “You sure Errol Morris wrote the book?” She was sure.

Soon I was reading Morris’ “A Wilderness of Error,” feeling skeptical and wondering why this reputable man would involve himself in a case that everyone and their mother (including mine) knew the truth about.

But it didn’t take long to realize that something was wrong. Enough somethings to fill the long, solitary chapters of a man’s life unfolding behind prison walls.

Morris researched the MacDonald case for 20 years and knows each labyrinthine turn of its progress through the criminal justice system. Even before bureaucratic stalling and federal machinery overtook the search for truth, things were working against Jeffrey MacDonald. A crime scene was left open to bystander traffic. Inexperienced military police failed to pick up a woman near the house who fit MacDonald’s description. Many think this woman could have been Helena Stoeckley, a drug abuser and professed member of a witchcraft cult who repeatedly confessed to having been at the MacDonald house the night of the murders, but recanted her story whenever she seemed to fear prosecution. Now deceased, she remains a pivotal figure in the case.

As I read Morris’ meticulous examination the evidence, the picture in my mind became less clear. I began to see that Joe McGinniss’ creation of Picture No. 1 might be just that: a creation. Some of the “facts” I thought I knew began to look more like ideas conjured by eager prosecutors and a journalist who had dealt so disingenuously with Jeffrey MacDonald in writing ”Fatal Vision” that he was sued after publication. McGinniss’ publisher settled with MacDonald out of court, after the judge called the author a “con man.” (This story, in its own right, became a famous book about journalistic ethics by Janet Malcolm.)

The story many of us think we know tells that MacDonald’s wounds were superficial. But he had multiple bruises and puncture wounds, and two stab wounds, including one that collapsed his lung — a serious injury that left him falling in and out of consciousness. The popular story says there was no evidence of intruders. But there was, including wax drippings (MacDonald insisted that one of the intruders carried a candle), fibers and hairs that did not belong to the household or family members.

McGinniss drew on pop-sociology to render an image of a psychopathic killer in the guise of the friendly doctor-next-door; the kind we know from endless horror movies. He theorized that diet pills caused MacDonald to fly into a fit of rage. McGinniss had to be creative, because the man’s character never fit the crime. MacDonald had no history of violence or temper. When the initial military hearing was conducted in 1970, no one in his life could be found who had a bad thing to say about him. Psychiatric professionals on both sides pronounced him incapable of having committed the crimes. On the evening of the murders, Jeffrey MacDonald had taken his kids to ride the pony he had bought them, fed them dinner while their mother took a night class, and put them to bed. It didn’t make sense.

But did hippie intruders make sense? Maybe more than I would have thought as a teen. Vietnam-era Fayetteville was not sleepy Raleigh in the 1980s. There was violence. Soldiers’ corpses arrived at Fort Bragg stuffed with heroin. In 1970 America was gripped by the horror of the Manson murders – a fact used against MacDonald because he subscribed to Esquire magazine, which had run a story about the dark side of hippie culture. The Esquire story, for all its salaciousness, touched upon real issues that plagued many communities outside of California. In Fayetteville, an Army town, strong tensions existed between Army types like Jeffrey MacDonald on one side of the war, and hippies and protesters on the other. Helena Stoeckley confessed many times that MacDonald’s willingness to turn heroin addicts in to the police infuriated local drug dealers. She knew this world, and was herself a police informant. According to her, they wanted to teach MacDonald a lesson and rough up his family the night of the killings. But things got out of hand.

In October 1970, following an investigation and hearing, the military dropped its case against MacDonald, and he was honorably discharged from the Army. He moved to California to become the director of emergency medicine at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Long Beach. But an unfortunate thing happened in the following years. MacDonald’s relationship with his father-in-law, originally a staunch supporter, became strained. Freddy Kassab had inserted himself into the 1970 military hearing and made himself the center of a media circus, holding news conferences and firing off letter to members of Congress. He wanted his son-in-law to stay on the East Coast and pursue the killers. Eventually, he turned on the man he had once so ardently defended. Through his aggressive pursuit of the case, MacDonald was indicted.

MacDonald was tried in a civilian court in 1979. Many felt that his acquittal would be a cinch, but much more was to go wrong. The nine-year lag between the murders and the trial is extremely unusual; experts consider such a lag to pose a great danger of wrongful conviction. Appearances didn’t help MacDonald, either. He looked angry on the stand. Worse still, Judge Franklin Dupree seemed to have his mind made up before the trial began. Some said he should never have taken the case because his former son-in-law was the prosecutor in the original Army hearing. Dupree would not admit overwhelming psychiatric testimony in MacDonald’s favor, nor the testimony of witnesses to whom Helena Stoeckley had confessed her involvement. Bernie Segal, a long-haired Jewish lawyer from Philadelphia, took the lead in the case and managed to alienate the entire courtroom. Segal took up nearly all the time in the critical period for closing remarks and left only a few minutes for co-counsel Wade Smith, an eloquent native Carolinian who understood the jury.

One thing about this case is never in doubt no matter who’s talking: If Wade Smith had been able to lead and give his closing remarks, MacDonald would be a free man today.

The list of misfortunes goes on: exculpatory evidence withheld; possible prosecutorial misconduct; and fallible humans who twisted the MacDonald story to fit their own agendas. MacDonald was convicted twice, both in the courtroom and in the all-important court of public opinion, which was sealed by McGinniss’ book and miniseries.

Since 1979, the MacDonald case has continued to trouble those who delve beneath the surface of the media narrative. The social justice movement is now involved; the Innocence Project, a prestigious nationwide network dedicated to exonerating the wrongfully convicted, has worked strenuously for MacDonald’s conviction to be overturned. In a 2011 press release, the Innocence Project stated:

Since MacDonald was convicted of the murders in 1979, considerable evidence of his innocence has come to light. Most recently, retired US Marshall Jimmy Britt came forward with information that another suspect in the case, Helena Stoeckley, admitted to the prosecutor that she was in the house on the night of MacDonald’s murder and that he treated to indict her for first degree murder if she admitted that in court. In addition, DNA testing on evidence that was recovered from the fingernails scrapings of one of the victims and a hair found under another victim did not match MacDonald. Earlier, evidence came to light that a FBI forensic examiner mislead the jury about synthetic hair evidence. MacDonald claimed the hairs were from the wig of one of the murders, but the forensic examiner incorrectly claimed they were from one of the children’s dolls.

None of this has set MacDonald free. By now, many members of the original hearing and 1979 trial are dead, including Judge Dupree. Judge James Fox, a close friend of Dupree’s and quite elderly himself, has taken over and has dismissed appeals. Recently, the 4th District Court of Appeals ordered Fox to consider new evidence, and to examine all the evidence as a whole. On Sept. 17, 2012, in Wilmington, N.C., a crowd of familiar faces assembled for a new hearing. Jeffrey MacDonald, Joe McGinniss, prosecutor James Blackburn (who went to prison himself for defrauding his clients), Wade Smith and others newer to the case gathered once again to testify.

MacDonald now waits to see if the federal judge will vacate his 33-year-old conviction. He could get an answer by the end of this year.

Wade Smith rarely grants interviews. I contacted his office, and to my surprise, he was willing to talk to me. What follows is the transcript of our conversation.

Interview: The Spookiest Case Wade Smith Ever Encountered

Lynn Parramore: In all your years as a lawyer, what makes this case stand out?

Wade Smith: It’s a very spooky case. It’s a case that if you were telling scary stories around the dining room table and you had all your family gathered, people could hardly believe it. It’s a scary, spooky story that sounds made up. It has witchcraft in it. It has Helena Stoeckley, the dominant person who continues to play a remarkable role. She’s haunting this case. In the hearing we just had in Wilmington she played an important role, decades after her death. It is also a Manson-like killing. It has Charles Manson written all over it. It’s hard to imagine now, but in the late 1960s and early ’70s there were spooky, weird people on acid — back then it was believable.

LP: Then why did MacDonald, the emblem of law-and-order, the Green Beret, become a suspect? Why did people in the community believe he did it?

WS: In every murder of a spouse, the remaining spouse is the No. 1 suspect and is almost always charged. Often, the spouse turns out to have committed the murder, so it’s not surprising that the case turned to McDonald. The crime scene was so messed up that you couldn’t depend on it. So MacDonald was the logical choice. And yet there are thousands of people in North Carolina who do not believe he did it.

Even back then, if you polled Fayetteville folks, you might have found that a lot of people did not believe that he did it. The military hearing found that the charges against MacDonald were not true. He was given an honorable discharge. He could have gone on with his life, and he should have. But he taunted the police. He made fun of them. He did interviews. When Victor Worheide, who was a federal prosecutor, later became interested in the case at the urging of the parents of Colette MacDonald, the case was gone.

LP: In Joe McGinniss’ book, ”Fatal Vision,” Freddy Kassab, MacDonald’s father-in-law, was presented as the protagonist. What do you recall of the in-laws in the trial?

WS: They were a very normal-looking mama and daddy. Nothing unique in any way. I think that one of the problems MacDonald had was that they expected him to undertake to find these killers, to go on a mission to find them. He didn’t do that. He continued to work as a doctor and moved to California. Some people would say that was the wrong thing to do. Others would say that that was a healthy thing to do. But his mother- and father-in-law did not want him to do that.

LP: Did anything new come out in the Wilmington hearing in September?

Oh, yes. Back in the 1979 trial, a lawyer named Jerry Leonard represented Helena Stoeckley. No one ever knew what it was Helena told him because of attorney-client privilege. He was the lawyer she was talking to one-on-one who had been appointed to advise her of her rights. I used to joke with him when I saw him around – “Hey Jerry, isn’t there something you want to tell us?” But he couldn’t, and he likely would have gone to his grave carrying the secret of what Helena told him had it not been for that hearing. Finally, in Wilmington, Jerry Leonard was ordered to tell what she had said to him 30 years ago. And she told him she had been there, at the MacDonald home, the night of the murders.

LP: She said that to her lawyer at the time of the 1979 trial? Thinking that he could never reveal it?

WS: Yes.

LP: One of the things that struck me in reading Errol Morris’ book was the use of the “psychopath” diagnosis in court and how problematic that is. Wherever you see the label “psychopath,” you could almost substitute “monster” or “vampire” – you’re talking about an unnatural person who does not behave according to normal human rules, and with that label, you can believe anything of them. What’s your sense of this?

WS: It’s an enormous problem. Take a guy like MacDonald. He’s the guy that lives next door. The loving husband and father. You trust him. If he could have a psychotic episode and destroy his family – stab them with an ice pick and a knife 100 times, beat them with a stick, then Billy Graham could. Anybody could. That was my closing argument.

LP: The one you never got to make?

WS: Yes. I would have told the jury that it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense that this man, with no history of violence, went crazy like that. It all was intruders. I would have said to the jury: they were not there, and neither was I. They don’t know the truth any more than I do. The idea that people that were so certain who don’t know any more than I do — I don’t believe I’ll ever understand how they could be so sure.

LP: What has this case revealed about the flaws in our judicial system?

WS: We all depend on excellent, honest detective work. And police officers knowing how to take care of a crime scene and preserve it. The walls will tell you what happened if you keep it pristine. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. That didn’t happen here. And so there are going to be cases where there is a reasonable doubt as to what actually happened. That is the way our legal system is set up. The defendant has no obligation to prove anything whatsoever. That huge standard protects us from miscarriages of justice.

LP: Judge Fox is a close friend of Judge Dupree, who presided over the 1979 trial. Is it possible that Jeffrey MacDonald will get justice under these circumstances?

I thought the world of Judge Dupree. He was a true gentleman, even though there were things in the trial and there were decisions he made that I disagree with. Judge Fox is also a good man. I’ve had many cases in court. I don’t know what the odds are. But I’m an optimist generally about our system of justice, and I hope that MacDonald get a break.

LP: Is Jeffrey MacDonald innocent?

WS: For me to say that he is innocent would require magic. I don’t have that magic. I wasn’t there that night. But there is a reasonable doubt, and because there is a reasonable doubt it is absolutely clear that he should be set free.

Why the MacDonald Case Matters to Everyone

I have read transcripts, articles, books, opinions, blogs and bizarre rantings about psychopaths on Joe McGinniss’ website to help me more clearly see the picture of the MacDonald case. Like Wade Smith, I’ve been struck by how many people speak of absolute certainty about what happened that February night over 40 years ago. As if they had seen it with their own eyes. Such is the power of a good story.

Or maybe there’s something else at work: Picture No. 2 is even more awful to see than Picture No. 1. When a terrible crime is committed, society comes together to find someone to blame and to pay for the collective sense of violation. When you accept Picture No. 1, you’re deciding that Jeffrey MacDonald is the Person Who Must Pay. To dislodge an idea reinforced by a popular book and TV phenomenon would be hard enough, but to add the sickening sense that the wrong man has been paying is nearly unthinkable. It implicates us all.

Harvey Silverglate, a renowned civil liberties advocate, has been an appellate attorney for MacDonald. He is outspoken about MacDonald’s innocence, and when I called him, I could hear the years of outrage in his voice over the way the case has proceeded. Silverglate believes that Jeffrey MacDonald has been railroaded, and that this railroading exposes disturbing trends in our federal criminal justice system. He worries that we are moving into a period in which the finality of verdicts is so zealously protected (a legacy, in part, of 9/11) that new evidence offers little hope of challenging them. MacDonald has had mostly good lawyers, though not always the appropriate ones. But Silverglate points out that those lawyers have been up against an increasingly perverse system in which ancient legal rights like habeas corpus have been tossed aside in the name of preserving convictions at any cost. (See Silverglate’s article on the case in Forbes.)

Out of all the evidentiary and procedural twists and turns, I asked Silverglate to name the one that bothered him the most about the MacDonald case.

“The one thing that sticks in my craw above anything else is this: There were lab results. There was a re-examination of the fibers found on the bodies of Collette and the children. These fibers on the bodies didn’t match any fibers found in the MacDonald house. There were fibers from a blonde wig that matched the description of Helena Stoeckley. The FBI lab guy turned over two copies to Brian Murtaugh, the prosecutor. There’s a note attached. This note says: ‘Brian, I’m giving you this lab report. I’m giving you an extra copy for Bernie Segal [the defense counsel]. You can give it to him.’ Brian Murtaugh says, ‘Sure, I’ll give it to him. I’ll be seeing him.’ Well, Bernie Segal told me that he never saw it.”

In other words, an FBI lab technician trusted exculpatory evidence to a member of the prosecution team. Evidence the defense never saw.

Silverglate predicts that even after examining the new evidence, Judge Fox will not grant Jeffrey MacDonald a new trial. But he is hopeful that the Fourth Court of Appeals, located in Richmond, Va., will take a careful look at the case and as a whole be more favorable to MacDonald. There may be hope that MacDonald will eventually gain his freedom and at least be able to live the last few years of his life outside of a prison cell.

After traveling a months-long journey that has led me from certainty to doubt to horror at a grave injustice, I’m going to turn in this article and then go run some errands and make myself a bite to eat. Mundane things that Jeffrey MacDonald has not been able to do for over 30 years. The simple acts of coming and going as I please and caring for my own basic needs have been denied him. His wife, Colette, and his children have also been forever denied these things — but not, I have come to believe, by the man who is currently serving three consecutive life sentences.

Tonight when I retire to my bed, I will not feel as safe from unpredictable evils as I did when I was a teenager reading scary stories. Even scarier stories, I’ve found, can be true. Stories about the innocent caught in a machine that perverts every possibility of justice. That kind of story never ends. There is no finality in injustice.

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