State News

Hearing on 'Fatal Vision' case evidence postponed

Posted November 10, 2011
Updated November 11, 2011

— A hearing for the former Army surgeon convicted of killing his pregnant wife and two young daughters at Fort Bragg more than 40 years ago has been postponed until next year because his attorneys are withdrawing from the case, citing a conflict of interest with a potential witness.

The evidentiary hearing for Jeffrey MacDonald set for later this month in Wilmington has been postponed until April 30. It had been scheduled for Nov. 28.

U.S. District Judge James C. Fox on Tuesday rescheduled the hearing. MacDonald is seeking court-appointed counsel.

MacDonald is serving a federal prison sentence for the 1970 murders. His lawyers say he deserves a new trial because of unidentified DNA recovered from the scene and allegations that a prosecutor coerced a witness into lying. The forensic technology to test DNA did not exist in the 1970s.

Attorneys Wade Smith and F. Hill Allen IV are withdrawing from the case. They say they have a conflict of interest between MacDonald and the federal prosecutor who convicted him in 1979, James Blackburn. MacDonald contends that Blackburn coerced a witness and lied to the judge in his 1979 trial, Fox's order says.

Smith also represented Blackburn, at the time an attorney in private practice, when he was found guilty of several ethical violations. In April 1993, he turned in his license to practice law to the North Carolina Bar, which later disbarred him. He also served a prison sentence.

Both Blackburn and Smith, who represented MacDonald at his 1979 trial, may be called as witnesses at the hearing so Smith is withdrawing. Allen is withdrawing because he thinks he would violate state regulations on lawyer professional conduct if he had to cross-examine his own law partner about Blackburn.

Fox said Allen's withdrawal is to take place Dec. 6 after Fox finishes reviewing paperwork regarding MacDonald's ability to hire and pay a lawyer.

MacDonald has steadfastly maintained his innocence, claiming that he and his family were attacked by three men and a woman with long blonde hair, a floppy hat and boots who carried a lighted candle and chanted "acid is groovy; kill the pigs."

The case resulted in the book "Fatal Vision."


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  • ccmccall Nov 11, 2011

    Six months postponement for an issue that has been conspicuous and known for years (Wade and Blackburn)? If you were an innocent man serving 30+years for three murders you didn't commit, would that kind of delay and technicality be your strategy? This guy can't stop himself from taking trying to take advantage of loopholes and technicalities -- it's just pathological. He should be very careful with this strategy. at his age, he may get one continuance too many and die incarcerated, exactly as justice requires.

  • mountainlover Nov 11, 2011

    "Anyone who thinks he is not guilty should read the entire transcripts from the trial and review the evidence presented. I will bet that you will change your mind."

    What a true statement! There was blood all over that bedroom; however, a suitcase on the floor had no blood on it. It is obvious that McDonald had pulled the suitcase out to flee and then realized that he would be caught. It is small stuff like this that convicts him over and over again.

  • Wendellcatlover Nov 11, 2011

    He's been watching the news and has seen that the delay tactic is working for John Edwards and thought he'd give it a try too...looks like it is.

  • Tax Man Nov 10, 2011

    Test the DNA - then proceed to the next step if it is not his DNA or that of his family. I don't trust Blackburn and believe he would do anything to get a conviction. So please test the DNA and then let's see where it takes us.

  • Isabella13 Nov 10, 2011

    Good Grief... my father in law was one of the investigators on this case at Fort Bragg... this guy is as guilty as sin... he needs to sit down and shut up. Stop trying to get his name in the papers... geez...

  • lec0257 Nov 10, 2011

    Anyone who thinks he is not guilty should read the entire transcripts from the trial and review the evidence presented. I will bet that you will change your mind.

  • whocares Nov 10, 2011

    He is just as guilty now as he was then. All he wants is publicity so he can get his name in the paper again. He does not deserve a new trial.

  • Ambygirl Nov 10, 2011

    He's guilty, no doubt in my mind. He can profess it all he wants. He got his 'story' from the Manson killings of Sharon Tate. I don't believe he started out to kill his family, I believe he lost his temper, it got out of control and then tried to cover his tracks. Hope they keep him locked up til the day he's dead and gone.

  • Scubagirl Nov 10, 2011

    He was guilty then, he's still guilty. HE SHOULD NOT BE LET OUT!. IF and only IF they retest the DNA and it clearly points to someone else, then perhaps a new trial. I lived thru this when it happened-he's grasping at straws now.

  • jeannestone51 Nov 10, 2011

    Let him out!