Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Strong pushback against idea that Jeffrey MacDonald is innocent

with 2 comments

I blogged earlier a review of an Erroll Morris book that made the case that Jeffrey MacDonald is innocent. Gene Weingarten had a long story in the Sunday Washington Post about the prosecutor, who continues to believe that MacDonald is guilty and is fighting against MacDonald’s appeal. Today Weingarten follows up with more thoughts on the issue:

Welcome to an unscheduled Flash Chat about my Sunday magazine story on the Jeffrey MacDonald murders and the prosecutor who is still on the case.

This is an odd thing to say about a 6,400-word story, but I found myself without the space to tell it as completely as I’d have liked. The introduction to this chat is mostly for those of you who have read the story and are still not persuaded, beyond a reasonable doubt, that MacDonald killed his family and that “A Wilderness of Error” is a deeply flawed and manipulative book. All the rest: Feel free to plow ahead into the questions.

I remember the killings. I was an 18-year-old hippie at the time, roughly the same age as Helena Stoeckley. I didn’t do as many drugs as she did, but I did plenty, including mescaline, LSD, and heroin. When I read in the newspaper that Jeffrey MacDonald – still presumed an innocent victim – told police that his attackers had been vicious hippie intruders who chanted “acid is groovy – kill the pigs,” I knew he had done it. As did every hippie in every city who read that statement with any degree of analytical thought. No self-respecting killer hippie would ever have uttered, let alone chanted, that uncool, anachronistic thing as late as 1970. That was exactly what some ramrod-straight 26-year-old Ivy League frat-boy doctor who was contemptuous of the counterculture would have thought a hippie would say.

Not to mention that hippies, um, didn’t kill people, at least not while stoned in drug-induced trances. The Manson gang were not hippies. They were weirdo murderers. They went around murdering people, not just Sharon Tate and her friends. They did not come out of the dark, descend on a house, do their savage thing, and then disappear back into the world never to be heard of again. That’s not how it works with murderous gangs who would kill sleeping children. Oh, and hippies also don’t arrive at a house intent on mass murder without remembering to bring along any weapons, relying on whatever knives and pieces of wood they might happen to find inside the house. The Manson people brought a shotgun.

But, okay. Forget all that. That’s just me bloviating. Maybe the MacDonald killers were different from all other killers. Maybe they were really disorganized, absentminded murderous hippies who talked funny and only killed just this once. Oh, and who came to hassle the doctor for drugs because they were drug addicts, and who killed his family, but never opened a closet to discover a big stash of syringes and drugs, including amphetamines. Or maybe they saw that stuff but didn’t steal it because murder may be one thing, but stealing is just plain wrong.

So, fine. I’m just bloviating. Let’s just go to the evidence.

It is true that the cops focused on MacDonald almost from the beginning. They did not do this because they were lazy and wanted to go home early and pop a brewski, or because they had a grudge against the handsome, arrogant, smug doctor. They focused on MacDonald because just about every single thing they found suggested that his story was a desperate, audacious lie, from beginning to end. Some of these things were in my story; some I didn’t have room for. You’ll get a few of that second group here.

One of the first things Jeffrey MacDonald told police when they arrived was that he had pulled out of Colette’s chest a short, dull knife with a bent blade. But that knife had not inflicted her chest wound, nor the knife cuts to her pajama top; the forensics were very clear on that. She had been stabbed only by the ice pick and the Old Hickory knife, not by the Geneva Forge knife with the bent blade. Why did MacDonald volunteer that odd lie, then, not once but twice, as medics were working on him? Brian Murtagh’s guess: because the doctor suddenly remembered that the curved-blade knife had his fingerprints on it – it was the one he likely grabbed from Colette as she was trying to defend herself — and he had to account for those prints.

Do you know where they found the knife and ice pick and club used in the murders? The murderous hippies didn’t carry them away, to ditch the evidence where it couldn’t be found. No, they left them right outside the back door of the house, in a bush, a place that someone could reach by opening the back door and leaning out and pitching them there, without having to step out into the rain and getting your feet and shoes and clothes wet, or leaving your own footprints in the dirt, all of which might have made police suspicious. So, see, they were outside the house — suggesting intruders who left — but not so FAR outside the house you’d have to walk in the rain to get there, or maybe be seen by a neighbor disposing of them. So.

Much of the so-called exculpatory evidence produced by the defense over the many years of this case has been focused on various fibers and hairs and fuzz and other detritus found in the house that cannot now be linked to any of the people living in the house on the night of the murders, any of the people who lived in the house or to the household items which had been collected and retained in evidence. Each and every such item, it seems to the defense, is evidence of intruders that night. The prosecution has always made the reasonable argument that these things are proof of nothing more than the fact that this is a rental apartment used by many, many families over the years. Stuff accumulates. Both the original jury and countless appellate courts have agreed with this repeatedly over the years.

The hero of the original investigation was a 30 year old Army investigator named Bill Ivory, who Jeffrey MacDonald really didn’t like at all. Bill was not Ivy League educated. He was plodding and methodical. He was the guy who discovered that MacDonald’s pajama top, when shredded down a certain seam, had leaked highly distinctive v-shaped seam threads all over the crime scene, most notably in the master bedroom where prosecutors contend the violence began – where they think Colette, trying to ward off Jeffrey, had reached out and torn his top. The most notable place there were NO seam threads? Anywhere near the sofa on which MacDonald claims he was sleeping when attacked into unconsciousness — the place where he says his pajama was torn.

So what about “A Wilderness of Error”? Didn’t the methodical Errol Morris deal with all these seemingly inculpatory things? The answer, in a nutshell, is no. Errol Morris doesn’t like the physical evidence. He basically dismisses all of it as unreliable, or so compromised by bad police work as to be useless. And it is true that if your attitude is that no physical evidence is of any value – why, the case against Jeffrey MacDonald suddenly seems pretty weak! . . .

Continue reading. He picks more holes in Morris’s case in favor of MacDonald.

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2012 at 5:40 pm

Posted in Books, Law

2 Responses

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  1. So much disturbs me about this case. The evidence. The brutality of the crime. And for every piece of evidence an alternative is offered. But our laws are based upon a presumption of innocence until proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” So based on that, Macdonald is guilty as he had his day in court. However, the question is, did the jury hear all of the evidence? Was the prosecution forthcoming in sharing all the evidence with the defense? Has new evidence come to light that would or could sway a jury to find him not guilty. These are the questions that need to be answered. First, the jury did not hear all the evidence. That’s a fact. The Judge made rulings that precluded psychiatric examinations by respected experts regarding Macdonald that might have raised “doubt” and he disallowed the inclusion of the Helena Stokely theory as her testimony was deemed as unreliable as she used drugs. Shouldn’t the jury have been allowed to consider the validity of her testimony and then made a judgment of credibility? Second, the prosecution withheld facts from the defense. Third, DNA evidence proves the fact that unidentified persons were in the house at some time before or after the murders. And finally, Officer James Britt swore he witnessed the prosecution threaten Stokely with a charge of murder if she testified. And just as important, the lead prosecutor was later found guilty of felony charges for falsification of legal documents and lost his license to practice law. So that throws into question his entire involvement and credibility. And in spite of the prosecution never establishing a motive for these crimes we still have people believing the concept that he murdered his wife and two children over a bed wetting issue! How did “motive” get removed from this case? So while many just accept the theory of Joe Mcginnis, any reasonable person might have doubts if they heard all the evidence. Key word; “Might”. So why not retry him and include all the evidence? If the evidence on retrial results in another verdict of guilty then so be it. But if it results in a verdict of not guilty then we can put this to bed. I ask; Why not retry? If he is truly guilty beyond a reasonable doubt then the evidence will prove that. Because this will continue to go on forever or until Macdonald dies. I ask; What is the prosecution afraid of?



    21 July 2014 at 12:45 pm

  2. Every day when I wake up it makes me happy to know he is in prison.


    Jody Higinbotham

    9 July 2017 at 6:12 am

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