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Errol Morris questions MacDonald conviction


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#16    Antilles

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 06:56 AM

This makes how many attempts for MacDonald to get a new trial?

Ain't gonna happen.

MacDonald is a narcissist and quite probably a wife beater. I wouldn't be surprised he was cheating on his wife before her death. I also find McGinnis' idea that he worked a 24 hour shift, was using amphetamines and basically lost the plot and killed his family a decent explanation.

But....

I have always believed that he was not found guilty because of overwhelming physical evidence.

He was found guilty because of Fred Kassab, because of his inability to understand that people felt sorry for him because he had lost his family, not because he had lost his freedom.

OJ Simpson's mirror.


#17    regi

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 01:02 PM

Well, he very likely wouldn't have been charged if not for the efforts of Freddy Kassab....

I highly recommend McGinnis' book. It's among the best written true crime books I've ever read.
What especially appealed to me is that between ordinary chapters are chapters titled The Voice of Jeffrey MacDonald, which offers profound insight into the mind of MacDonald, in his own words, which has to be a rare opportunity in most cases to have the accused speak candidly and seemingly without boundaries...off the record, so to speak.
It's been observed before; MacDonald was his own worst enemy.


#18    Antilles

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 06:42 AM

I agree with you about McGinnis' book. But then, it's the only real book that has been written about the case.

MacDonald never understood that it wasn't about him and I think McGinnis did a great job presenting MacDonald's POV.

But, you know, the appeals are gonna drag on until MacDonald dies and he's never gonna be let out of prison. It's a kind of game he plays and the courts have to go along with it.

He killed his family, there's no getting around that basic fact but the CSI, or lack of it, remains a major factor in his appeals.

Edited by Antilles, 12 October 2012 - 06:43 AM.


#19    regi

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 12:48 PM

View PostLady Kasey, on 03 October 2012 - 02:47 PM, said:

Wonder what Helen Stoeckley got for changing her tune.

The woman simply couldn't be relied on to tell the truth.
I don't know anyone who could have seriously considered Stoeckley to have been the least bit credible, and despite that, the defense tried to use her. Why? Smoke and mirrors. Surely, they knew she wasn't credible!

It's been since the '80's that I've read Fatal Vision, but I recall that it seems it was at least suggested that MacDonald was very likely already familiar with Stoeckley, and I think that's more than plausible.
She certainly wasn't a stranger to the community...she was a known drug user, and MacDonald had counseled drug users...

I've read that there's a new addition of Fatal Vision...900 pages. I'll have to make a request for my library to order it!


#20    regi

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 01:07 PM

View PostAntilles, on 12 October 2012 - 06:42 AM, said:


But, you know, the appeals are gonna drag on until MacDonald dies and he's never gonna be let out of prison. It's a kind of game he plays and the courts have to go along with it.


I wonder if the judges decision can be appealed. It might not be.


#21    regi

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 02:28 PM

View Postregi, on 02 October 2012 - 07:22 PM, said:

It'll be late Nov./early Dec. before the judge is expected to announce his ruling on whether or not MacDonald will be granted a new trial.

http://www.latimes.c...0,7643353.story

CORRECTION! MacDonald isn't asking for a new trial...he's asking for his conviction to be vacated!
I don't know how that went over my head. I guess that prospect is so far-reaching, that it didn't register, you know?
It has to be very compelling evidence for that to even be a possibility, and as that article described the evidence, it isn't.

Yeah, Antilles. That definitely ain't gonna happen!


#22    regi

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 03:15 PM

I've read up on the legal terminology, and it appears I misunderstood and over-reacted :blush:.

From what I now understand, the conviction must first be "vacated" before a new trial is possible, and if it is vacated, then the decision is with the prosecution of whether or not to retry the defendant.
So, if the judge vacates the conviction, then MacDonald will either get a new trial, or he'll be a free man.


#23    shrewgoddess

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Posted 12 October 2012 - 05:49 PM

View Postregi, on 12 October 2012 - 03:15 PM, said:

I've read up on the legal terminology, and it appears I misunderstood and over-reacted :blush:.

From what I now understand, the conviction must first be "vacated" before a new trial is possible, and if it is vacated, then the decision is with the prosecution of whether or not to retry the defendant.
So, if the judge vacates the conviction, then MacDonald will either get a new trial, or he'll be a free man.


If the judge vacates the conviction, then MacDonald will get a new trial. If the judge reverses the decision, then the conviction will be turned into an acquittal and he'll be a free man.

This case is interesting, and I do think the investigation was flubbed. But I really don't think the trial or anything like that was crooked. Stoeckley would be a horrible choice for a witness for the defense and even if she didn't say that she wasn't there when questioned by MacDonald's lawyer, her credibility would have been easily destroyed by the Prosecution. Her story changed several times before the trial, which made her reliability questionable. Her testimony was probably a wash, but MacDonald's attorney really had no choice. Without her saying that she was there, he had nothing to corroborate MacDonald's story. He had to put her up, hope that she stuck to the right story in spite of the fact that she hadn't been able to yet, and then hope that the jurors believed her despite the Prosecutor showing that she wasn't sure she'd been there or not.

Legally, this case seems much closer to Dr. Sam Sheppard's case than it does OJ Simpson, even if Sheppard was eventually freed.


#24    regi

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Posted 13 October 2012 - 10:16 AM

View Postshrewgoddess, on 12 October 2012 - 05:49 PM, said:

If the judge vacates the conviction, then MacDonald will get a new trial. If the judge reverses the decision, then the conviction will be turned into an acquittal and he'll be a free man.


The prosecution would have a choice though, right? Isn't it possible that the if the conviction is vacated that the prosecution could decide not to pursue the case?


#25    Antilles

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Posted 14 October 2012 - 05:24 AM

View Postregi, on 13 October 2012 - 10:16 AM, said:

The prosecution would have a choice though, right? Isn't it possible that the if the conviction is vacated that the prosecution could decide not to pursue the case?

Oh, that would be like saying OJ was quietly watching TV before showering and catching his flight the night Nicole and Ron were butchered.

Ain't gonna happen. There appears to be a lot of people very determined that MacDonald never gets out of prison. There is too much 'emotion' in the deaths of Collette and the girls and MacDonald's interest in me, me, me for him to ever be set free. That's just my opinion.


#26    regi

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 02:53 PM

I wasn't asking the question because I thought it would actually happen...I was pointing out the process of the law as I understand it to be.
Personally, I don't believe MacDonald has a snowball's chance in hell of ever getting out of prison, and the reason I believe that is because of the overwhelming evidence of his guilt.
If his conviction is vacated, I don't think for a split second that the prosecution wouldn't try him again. I was just pointing out that the choice is there.

Obviously, I'm a total layman re: the law and what happened was that in looking over the latest in the case, the word "vacate" jumped out at me, and I thought that word meant an end to the case- as in "exonerate"...so, I thought MacDonald was actually asking for one of two things to happen- either a new trial, or an "exoneration".
I now know the word is a formality in the process...I mean, the conviction has to be "vacated" before anything else could happen in his favor.

I've learned that the judge's decision can be appealed, but surely, I would think that would be the last chance.


#27    shrewgoddess

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 12:52 AM

View Postregi, on 13 October 2012 - 10:16 AM, said:

The prosecution would have a choice though, right? Isn't it possible that the if the conviction is vacated that the prosecution could decide not to pursue the case?

It depends. That's usually not the case when the prosecution has already won a case and it's been vacated on appeal. That's more likely when it's a hung jury or something similar.

When the appeal hinges on the fact that there is evidence that was not heard, the judge is most likely going to vacate and remand which means he is going to vacate the prior ruling and send the case back down to be reheard with the missing evidence. It's pretty much an order that there be a new trial. In fact, in this case, it would be to MacDonald's benefit to have a new trial because he wants to be exonerated and if he gets off without his side of the story being told, it just won't happen. Not only that, but he's lost his license to practice medicine. He's not going to get that back without a not-guilty ruling.

And then there's this little fun bit of trivia. He committed these crimes on base, as a Green Beret. He can be tried again in Military court. Doing so does not violate Double Jeopardy and military standards are different than civilian burdens of proof (looser). This is one reason to pooh pooh the conspiracy theory that the military was working against him. It would have been much easier and much cleaner to try him in a military court if the military wanted to frame him and set him up. It would have been much easier to do so without bringing in any outsiders and it would have been entirely within the realm of the law to do so.


#28    regi

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 10:22 AM

View Postshrewgoddess, on 16 October 2012 - 12:52 AM, said:

It depends. That's usually not the case when the prosecution has already won a case and it's been vacated on appeal. That's more likely when it's a hung jury or something similar.

When the appeal hinges on the fact that there is evidence that was not heard, the judge is most likely going to vacate and remand which means he is going to vacate the prior ruling and send the case back down to be reheard with the missing evidence. It's pretty much an order that there be a new trial. In fact, in this case, it would be to MacDonald's benefit to have a new trial because he wants to be exonerated and if he gets off without his side of the story being told, it just won't happen. Not only that, but he's lost his license to practice medicine. He's not going to get that back without a not-guilty ruling.


Well, theoretically, if the prosecution decides not to pursue a case in which a conviction was vacated, then wouldn't that be the best scenario for the defendant...because the conviction stands as vacated?

Edited by regi, 16 October 2012 - 10:23 AM.


#29    shrewgoddess

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 01:07 AM

View Postregi, on 16 October 2012 - 10:22 AM, said:

Well, theoretically, if the prosecution decides not to pursue a case in which a conviction was vacated, then wouldn't that be the best scenario for the defendant...because the conviction stands as vacated?

It depends. If the Defendant thinks he really has a chance to be found innocent and get his life back, then a vacated conviction isn't much good at all. He's still labeled and he can still be re-tried at any time. In essence, he's still at the beck and call of the court. In a case like this, the military can try him anyway if he were to go free on a technicality.

But, it just wouldn't happen in a case like this anyway. The case would be vacated and remanded or, more likely, the appeal may be heard and the prior rulings upheld.

Appellate courts don't actually hear a case all over again. They simply read the record and hear oral arguments from attorneys and make a decision based on that. There is no problem with absent witnesses, old evidence, or anything like that because they are simply reading the transcript of the court and any briefs that may be submitted. In this case, what the court will try to do is determine if the evidence was improperly excluded and, if it was, if that evidence would have likely made a difference in the outcome of the original trial. There is a "no harm no foul" rule that states that even if something minor was done wrong, if that would not have effected the outcome, a ruling won't be overturned on it. If they do decide that evidence should have been included and that it might have changed the outcome, then they will vacate and remand the case back to the lower courts. The Prosecution already had enough evidence to go to trial once. Even if their old witnesses have passed on, the Rules of Evidence will allow them to use their testimony from the earlier case in most instances.

The problem comes when prosecutorial evidence has been excluded on appeal. If, because of that exclusion, the Prosecutor no longer has the evidence necessary to bring the defendant to trial, then he simply can't do so.

In this case, the new evidence is that Stoekley told some people one thing and the Jury another thing. She was a drug addict and she couldn't keep her story straight before, during, or after the trial. My guess is that the jury simply disregarded what she said. As soon as she said that she wasn't there, MacDonald's attorney could have sought permission to treat her as a hostile witness and probably even brought up the fact that she said she had been there. I imagine the court would conclude that, yeah, it should have been brought to like, but it didn't really make a difference and so no new trial.


#30    regi

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Posted 18 October 2012 - 01:49 PM

The new evidence is the three unidentified hairs.
"Both sides agreed that the three 'unsourced hairs' did not belong to anyone in the home..."
The prosecution said those DNA results also excluded Stoeckley and her boyfriend.





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