in Oregon wins DNA testing
rules are set for tests that could clear former Green Beret doctor
Jeffrey MacDonald of killing his wife and daughters
March 24, 1999
By Gary D. Robertson of The Associated Press
WILMINGTON, N.C. -- A federal judge set ground rules Tuesday for
DNA testing that defense attorneys believe could erase former Green
Beret doctor Jeffrey MacDonald's convictions for killing his wife
District Court Judge James Fox told lawyers for MacDonald and the
government that they had two weeks to pick an independent lab able
to perform the tests. The lab also will determine which samples
of blood, hair and fibers saved from the killing scene could spare
a sample to be tested.
requests by Barry Scheck, MacDonald's lawyer, to allow the defense
team's representatives to oversee the unsealing of evidence stored
at the FBI's crime lab in Washington, D.C.
55, is serving three life sentences at a federal prison in Sheridan,
Ore., for killing his wife, Colette, and daughters Kimberly and
Kristen on Feb. 17, 1970, at Fort Bragg.
physician claimed a band of drug-crazed hippies attacked his family,
chanting "Acid is groovy. Kill the pigs." The case inspired
the book "Fatal Vision" and a television film based on
is trying to show that intruders were in MacDonald's home around
the time of the slayings.
think he's innocent. Science will speak," said Andrew Good,
a Boston defense attorney who is working for MacDonald without pay.
said the DNA tests also carried risks for the defense, because the
results could present new evidence pointing to MacDonald's guilt.
That's the expectation of Special Assistant Attorney General Brian
Murtagh, who was the government's lead lawyer at the hearing.
found in a bedroom of the MacDonald home has not been previously
tested, Murtagh said. The hair was found on top of a bloodstained
bed. Tests found the blood was of the same types as MacDonald and
DNA testing, which has identified the remains of missing servicemen
and Czar Nicholas' family in Russia, could be helpful in finding
a new suspect in the murders on a new national DNA database of convicted
felons, Scheck said.
results "could come back to some killer or serial killer or
could return to some unsolved murder that occurred while Mr. MacDonald
was in jail," Scheck said.
said in a telephone interview from prison Tuesday the hearing was
an attempt to force the government to produce the exhibits for testing.
government's case is predicated on there's no evidence of the presence
of outside assailants," he said. "There were other people
in the apartment that night murdering my family."
team is especially eager to test hair he said was found in Colette
MacDonald's hand, MacDonald said.