Confident DNA Will Win Him a Retrial
Richard Lezin Jones
It has been the subject of three decades of court proceedings, two
books, and a mini-series. But as early as next month, the long twisting
case of Jeffrey MacDonald - the Army surgeon serving three life
sentences for killing his wife and two daughters in 1970 - will
be played out yet again in perhaps its most important venue: A DNA
a two-year legal fight, lawyers for MacDonald this spring won the
right to extensive DNA testing on hair and other samples that were
culled from the crime scene in North Carolina - and locked away
for nearly 20 years. DNA testing was not available at the time of
samples, defense attorneys believe, will help win a new trial for
MacDonald, now 55, and eventually exonerate him.
certainly hope so, " said Andrew Good, the Boston lawyer who
has worked without pay on MacDonalds behalf for 10 years.
"Just as anybody who was the victim of a crime and then found
themselves convicted of it, its horrible, but hes coping."
has maintained his innocence since the morning of Feb. 17, 1970,
when military police at Fort Bragg responded to an emergency call
from MacDonalds home on the base. "Weve been stabbed,
" he told them.
police arrived, they discovered the bloody bodies of his pregnant
wife, Colette, 26, and the couples children, Kimberly, 5,
and Kristen, 2, hacked and bludgeoned in their bedrooms. MacDonald
himself was found unconscious, with multiple stab wounds.
murders and the resulting trail were the subject of author Joe McGinniss
best-selling book, Fatal Vision, and a made-for-tv movie of the
was portrayed as a cold, calculating murderer who killed his family
in a fit of rage after one of his children wet the bed. Another
book, Fatal Justice, by Jerry Allen Potter and Fred Bost, offered
a rebuttal to McGinniss finding and made a case for clearing
case is built around the story MacDonald told investigators: That
he had been sleeping on the sofa when he awoke to the screams of
his family. They were being stabbed and clubbed, he said, by three
"hippies" who appeared to be on drugs and chanted "Acid
is groovy; kill the pigs."
1979, after numerous legal twists and turns, MacDonald was convicted
of the murders based on a seeming raft of forensic evidence - including
fibers from his pajamas found on a wooden club used in the killings
- that implicated him and that produced no evidence, under the kind
of testing then available, that anyone else was in the apartment
the samples in questions - hair and flecks of what is believed to
be blood - may actually show just the opposite, MacDonalds
were hoping to establish is that these are not MacDonald family
hairs and because of their location - like under the nails of the
victims - they are the leavings of those who committed the crime,
" Good said.
samples are being looked at for how well they can withstand testing,
Good said, and are expected to be examined using mitochondrial DNA
techniques at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington.
may come by the end of the year.
the meantime, MacDonald is serving his time at the Sheridan Federal
Correctional Institution in Oregon, where he continues to lobby
lawmakers and the public about his case through letters and even
a website - www.themacdonaldcase.org.
am confident," reads a letter from MacDonald on the website,
"that sometime in 1999...I will be in court proving my innocence
and facing vindication."