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Innocence group seeks DNA testing in 'Fatal Vision' case

Posted September 21, 2011
Updated November 11, 2011

— The North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, which has worked to free inmates believed to be wrongfully convicted, has offered to help pay for DNA testing in a high-profile triple murder on Fort Bragg 41 years ago.

But federal prosecutors say there's no reason to test items, even though defense attorneys say DNA evidence found at the crime scene doesn't match their client or anyone else involved in the case.

Jeffrey MacDonald, 67, a former Army doctor, is serving three life terms for the 1970 murders of his pregnant wife and two young daughters that spawned the book and television miniseries "Fatal Vision." He has maintained that he and his family were attacked by three men and a woman.

In June, a federal appeals court ordered U.S. District Judge James Fox to consider DNA and other evidence that raise questions about MacDonald's guilt. The court ordered DNA testing in the case in 1997, but Fox had refused to review the test results on procedural grounds.

They were the matters addressed before Fox in a Wilmington courtroom Wednesday. The matter could be decided later on this year.

"It's bittersweet, because it's been a very long haul, and it's way overdue," Kathryn MacDonald, MacDonald's wife since 2002, said Wednesday. "When you take it in the light of the evidence as a whole, there's no doubt you have an innocent man in prison."

Defense attorneys say a hair was found under the fingernail of one of Jeffrey MacDonald's daughters and contend that DNA helps prove the theory of intruders.

Christine Mumma, executive director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, said advances in DNA testing in recent years could produce more evidence in the case.

MacDonald's 'Fatal Vision' case back in court MacDonald's 'Fatal Vision' case back in court

The center agreed to help pay for more tests in the case, partly because MacDonald agreed that all the evidence at the crime scene should be tested again.

"It's not just about the legal issues. It's about shining light on all the evidence," Mumma said.

Defense lawyers also argued Wednesday that a sworn statement by former deputy U.S. Marshal Jimmy Britt also casts doubt on MacDonald's guilt.

Britt, who is now dead, said James Blackburn, the original prosecutor during MacDonald's trial threatened a witness who said she was at the MacDonald home with other people when the murders occurred.

That witness, Helena Stoeckley, died in 1983, but affidavits from her mother and other witnesses also support the marshal's claim.

Fox set a hearing for Oct. 31 regarding the affidavits. He could decide that the case should be retried or vacate the conviction.

Mumma has two weeks to file with the court a list of evidence that she wants to be tested. Prosecutors, who said they plan to challenge Mumma's request, have until Dec. 1 to file a brief on the matter.

"I believe that the truth is there, whether you want to look at it or you don't, and the government's strategy from Day 1 has been to keep all the evidence apart, suppress the evidence that they didn't want the jury to hear," Kathryn MacDonald said.

"Things that we've uncovered have been through the Freedom of Information Act or people coming to us with the information," she added.


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  • michaels29072 Sep 23, 2011

    Blackburn, the DA who threatened Helena, was the ex-son-in-law of Judge Dupree - the Judge removed after a large amount of cash showed up in an account in a bank in Raeford after being assigned the case.

  • Disabled Vet Sep 21, 2011

    Evidently a jury of HIS peers figured they had enough evidence to find him guilty. Of course, even though they were taken to the crime scene, they too were not there when it happened.

  • skinnygranny Sep 21, 2011

    Test him. I dare you.
    Then pay him for all these years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

  • skinnygranny Sep 21, 2011

    All these comments about the murder weapons, who did what, who said what, what MacDonald did, yada yada yada. Please raise your hand if you were there that night.


    No one? Well, then your "evidence" is heresay that you were told by the media or some reporter. And we all know....lies sell news stories.

  • skinnygranny Sep 21, 2011

    I've always felt like he didn't do it.
    This is the problem with the Ameican justice system. They don't care who they convict as long as SOMEONE is convicted.
    Cops lie, lawyers lie, the judge is a good 'ol boy who plays golf with them both, and the system is a self-serving system, not a public-serving system like it was intended to be.

    I am anxious for the DNA tests so he can get out and sue the state, the county, and the city like the guy in Goldsboro did who spent 20 years in prison for the rape someone else did.

    Ka-Ching Ka-Ching. TAXPAYERS, PAY UP!

    Oh yeah, I remember now, he didn't have to sue. They settle out of court for "an undisclosed amount". Seems afterwards though, he bought a home in florida, a corvette, and a yatch. All on an inmates salary of $2.50 per day. You do the math.

  • Ambygirl Sep 21, 2011

    He got the whole drug crazed hippie story from the Sharon Tate murders. Pretty lame really. I truly believe he did it.

  • michaels29072 Sep 21, 2011

    How's that NC Herion trade doing today? Ya know it appears that Ike was supplying both Watts and Harlem. Remember Dupree was taken off the case because of an account opened at a bank in his name with an enormus amount of money in it. How's business in NC.

  • michaels29072 Sep 21, 2011

    Ah that wasn't the case, Helena stated that they were going to make him suffer for a long time. Well they've certainly done that. Go read about the Herion addicts he was forced to treat. Most of them were from Psyops.(psychological warfare). He refused to perscribe methodone.

  • kikinc Sep 21, 2011

    Mitchell's confession was never substantiated. Mitchell and Stoeckley's DNA, when tested, was not found on any of the evidence tested. However, everything else, but 3 hairs, could be traced back to either MacDonald, or his family.

  • michaels29072 Sep 21, 2011

    you know it may suprise you that the detectives on this case were traveling to air force bases near LA with the CID. Who was it, Ike Anderson - Aka superfly that was bringing the smack in? If it was coming into Pope from Cambodia, the bases in CA would have been a logical stop over.