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Appeal filed in 'Fatal Vision' murder case

Posted February 19, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— Attorneys for an Army doctor convicted almost 30 years ago in the slayings of his wife and two daughters at Fort Bragg filed an appeal asking for the case to be sent back to District Court.

The paperwork was filed late Thursday with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

Jeffrey MacDonald fatal vision murder case Attorneys file appeal in MacDonald case

Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted in 1979 of the Feb. 17, 1970, murders of his pregnant wife, Collette, and their two daughters, Kimberly and Kristin. He is serving a life sentence in prison at a facility in Cumberland, Md.

MacDonald has maintained his innocence, claiming a group of drug-crazed hippies broke into his home and attacked his family.

The case inspired two books, "Fatal Vision" and "Fatal Justice," and a television miniseries that carried the name of the first book.

MacDonald’s attorney Hart Miles said the appeal could open the door to a new hearing about evidence uncovered since the conviction, including witness statements and particularly DNA evidence.

“What we found was some unsourced hair in very significant places – most significantly under Dr. MacDonald’s youngest daughter’s – Kristen’s – fingernails and also on her bedspread,” Miles said.

Miles says that DNA did not match his client or any other member of his family.

MacDonald remains optimistic that he will one day clear his name, Miles said.

Since his conviction, MacDonald has filed numerous appeals, arguing new evidence and prosecutorial misconduct should allow him to have a new trial.

In November 2008, a federal judge denied a motion by MacDonald’s attorney seeking a new trial on the grounds that MacDonald failed to prove that new evidence he purported to have in the case would have convinced jurors to acquit him.

In 2006, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to give the case another look after a retired U.S. marshal swore in an affidavit that a woman told him she was in MacDonald's Fort Bragg home on the night of the murders. The marshal also said he heard the woman make the same claim to federal prosecutor Jim Blackburn and that Blackburn threatened to indict her for murder if she made the claim on the witness stand.

Blackburn has denied the allegations.

The retired marshal, Jim Britt, died last year.


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  • johnsod27330 Feb 23, 2009

    Myra, Let me explain what I was saying but didn't say well. When the Article 32 was conducted not all the evidence had been analyzed. For instance it was not shown that the Pajama Top had been placed over Colette and she was stabbed through it (contradicting Jeff's story); the urine stain in the bed was not identified to Kimberly instead of Kristen (contradicting Jeff's story); the bed sheet had not been shown to have been used to move Colette from Kristens room to the Master Bedroom, The pajama top had not been shown to have been ripped after Colettes blood was on it; the wooden club was not traced to the house at that time. There was much more evidence that was not available at the Article 32 but was ready at the trial.

  • Myra Feb 20, 2009

    johnsod27330, I am confused. First you say a crime that happened on Fort Bragg couldn't be tried on Fort Bragg due to "Lack of Evidence". Then you said "The physical evidence is overwhelming in his case. The blood trail, moving of bodies, his PJ Top evidence, etc, etc." Overwhelming evidence from a contaminated crime scene -- Way too many people contaminated the crime scene for any of the evidence to be viable in a court of law. So, how on earth did civilians, long after the incident, get the evidence when the crime scene had been so horribly contaminated and trampled over by a multitudes of people on day one? This contaminated crime scene has to be the worst one recorded that I am aware of. You cannot un-contaminate a crime scene.

    Fatal Justice was written by highly respected lawyers who would NOT risk disbarment by lying, creating evidence, suborning perjury, etc. I find it hard to believe they weren't sued if what you say is correct.

  • johnsod27330 Feb 20, 2009

    Comparing these two cases is like comparing oranges and apples. I think that if Hennis is convicted at courts martial when he appeals it will be thrown out. In Hennis's civilian trial the evidence obviously did not support a conviction. MacDonald was never tried by the military. In the MacDonald case the evidence is overwhelming against him. If DNA becomes the sticking point then his hair (which was forcibly removed from his arm), clutched in his wife's dead hand tells you all you need to know. How many times should a defendent be allowed to appeal a conviction. If one reads the transcripts and all the appeals, MacDonald has done nothing but keep tossing in the unreliable evidence that is inadmissible. The physical evidence is overwhelming in his case. The blood trail, moving of bodies, his PJ Top evidence, etc, etc.

  • Myra Feb 20, 2009

    Ft Bragg finds 'new DNA' over 20 years after Eastburn murders and is trying a man acquitted by 2 civilian trials - Sgt Hennis. But you believe that no such evidence exists for Capt MacDoanld because you choose to belive which book or website is valid. The extreme rude nasty hatred posted is evidence of this town's inabiity to 'feel' or have compassion. Doesn't surprise me

  • johnsod27330 Feb 20, 2009

    Jeffrey MacDonald was not tried by a Military Courts Martial. He only received an Article 32 hearing. The officer in charge of the hearing felt that the evidence presented then would not be enough for a conviction. Fatal Vision has been proven to be the definitive book on the case. Fatal Justice has been proven to mis-state the facts of the case. The website maintained by the "rabid female" contains most of the evidence in the case including: transcripts, interviews, evidence reports and statements.

  • Myra Feb 20, 2009

    Jeffrey MacDonald was found NOT GUILTY by a Fort Bragg Court Martial based on the evidence. Subsequently it seems that Evidence was kept out of the civilian court case. Too much 'dealing' between the Bragg JAGs and the local Prosecutors for reasons other than truth and justice. There are several websites; one is maintained by a rabid female whose mind is closed to evidence and details; and I have read both books Fatal Vision and Fatal Justice; Fatal Vision was written for money. Fatal Justice was written to give the facts. Imagine being in prison for over 30 years because CID or whoever has the DNA and evidence refuses to release it. Isn't this AMERICA? Justice for all !!!!! FREE JEFFREY MACDONALD!!

  • Panther Feb 20, 2009

    OMG this guy will do anything to get attention.

  • Drakula_I_G Feb 20, 2009

    I don't think he really is even trying to win - he knows he's not going anywhere - he just likes to see his name in the news and like most condemned murderers, just likes to use the system to cause a ruckus.

  • oneday8035 Feb 20, 2009

    It was the owl with the tire iron in the staircase...sorry wrong murderer. I read the books and saw the movie about this case and it still seems just as far fetched that he didn't do it.

  • XLAW Feb 20, 2009

    I remember all the marvelously safe wounds on his body that caused no serious injury and the cuts in his shirt, through which the "wounds" were made, that lined up with each other when the shirt was folded. Using his medical knowledge he seems to have staged his injuries.