Appeals Court Orders Consideration of DNA Evidence in Jeffrey MacDonald "Fatal Vision " Case
In 1979, Jeffrey R. MacDonald, a captain in the Medical Corps, was convicted of murdering his pregnant wife and their two young daughters in the family’s Fort Bragg home. He was sentenced to three life terms and has steadfastly maintained his innocence. He lost his direct appeal and many post-conviction motions for relief. His case was the subject of the book and movie, Fatal Vision.
A year ago, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in his latest request for relief. Today, the Court ordered the trial court to consider DNA evidence casting doubt on his guilt in conjunction with the other submitted innocence evidence. The court said the innocence evidence must be considered together as a whole, rather than piecemeal. The opinion is here.
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.
The Innocence Project says:
“Far too often the people who have been wrongly convicted uncover evidence of their innocence bit by bit, slowly over time. Courts reject this evidence claiming it wouldn’t have made a difference in their cases and then refuse to look at it again when more evidence is discovered,” added Scheck. “With this decision, courts will have to look at all the evidence as a whole when considering innocence claims, which will open up a whole new avenue defense for many people who can’t get the courts to take their claims seriously.”
The court's ruling denying relief in 2008 is here.
|< Colorado About to Tinker With Medical Marijuana Caregiver Definition | Bradley Manning to be Moved to Ft. Leavenworth >|