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regi

Errol Morris questions MacDonald conviction

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Errol Morris, a filmmaker probably best known for the documentary, The Thin Blue Line, has authored a book out today in which he states his opinion that Jeffrey MacDonald was "railroaded".

He also states his opinion that "We may never be able to prove with absolute certainty that Jeffrey MacDonald is innocent."

It's reported that North Carolina federal court will hear arguments Sept. 17 re: a new review of the old evidence in the case, and to argue for DNA testing not available in the '70's.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/08/30/errol-morris-s-a-wilderness-of-error-revisits-jeffrey-macdonald-case.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/02/books/errol-morris-takes-on-macdonald-murder-case.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/story/2012-08-28/jeffrey-macdonald-book/57374484/1

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Very interesting story! The Daily Beast and the NY Times seem to find little of Morris to like while the USA Today article praises him: "Having already saved one man from an unjust conviction (The Thin Blue Line), Morris has credibility that demands attention." Will be interesting to see which way things go on the 17th.

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I appreciate your response, Lady Kasey.

I'm not sure why Morris' credibility would "demand attention"...I mean, I don't know much about Morris, only that he's made a couple of interesting docs. Personally, I don't care to know reporters opinions. I just want to know the facts, and I'll decide who demands attention. :yes:

I assume Morris has read MacDonald's statement- an account I've always had problems with.

By the way, statement analysis is offered at:

http://www.statementanalysis.com/macdonald/

...but for me, it's not even the language MacDonald used in his statement. It's what he said happened. First off, if the "people" were there in the same room as he was...wrestling with him...punching him, hitting him with a club...stabbing him...then who was attacking his wife and children when he said they called out to him? From the get go, it doesn't make any sense.

Apparently, according to reports, Morris is using the MacDonald case to demonstrate a broken system; that this case demonstrated a shoddy investigation, corrupt prosecution, inept defense, and insufficient evidence to convict.

But even if all that is true, to me, it's not been a case of an innocent man behind bars.

I think one of the most convincing aspects of his guilt is what he told his father-in-law, Freddy Kassab. Kassab was pressing hard to find out who murdered his loved ones, and to appease Kassab, MacDonald finally told him that he'd actually tracked down one of the killers and killed him! MacDonald later admitted that he'd told Kassab that to get him off his back.

I think there's some things that people just don't do, and that's one of them.

I don't know what the issue is regarding DNA testing. It sounds good to say "testing that wasn't available in the '70's" but there was a ruling in '97 that allowed not only an independent review of the evidence, but DNA testing, so either the testing was never done, or it was done and the defense wants to argue the results.

Of course, testing's better now when compared to '97.

To me, I highly doubt it will matter because I think that there will always likely be unidentified whatever...hair, fibers, and prints, in any home, and not just from the residents or by secondary transfer from them, and their visitors, but from first responders- police, investigators, coroner people, lab personnel...

I think if mistakes were made in the investigation- and there likely were as I think there are in most investigations, then I believe MacDonald benefitted from them.

American Justice profiled the case and it's available on YouTube, although part 4 was taken down for some reason. It seems part 4 is where it was explained how Kassab became convinced of MacDonald's guilt, after first standing so strongly by his side.

Colette's mother and stepfather both died in 1994. Of them, and their struggle to cope, Colette MacDonald's brother, Bob Stevenson, stated that "There was not a minute of peace for these people. He killed my mother and my stepfather because he took them down as surely as if he'd taken a club to them and put knives in their hearts."

I thought he was sufficiently eloquent when he said of MacDonald that "for 27 years, he's been blowing smoke up the ass of the American public."

Indeed, Mr. Stevenson. And he still is.

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Very enlightening post regi. Thank you for that.

What I don't understand, though, is why McGinniss will be a part of the new trial. Can you shed any light on this?

To be honest, I find Morris to be a lot like the author Patricia Cornwell when she wrote about Jack the Ripper. Both Morris and Cornwell criticised others for going about things the wrong way, yet turn around and do that very thing.

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Well, I'll be interested to find that out, too.

I know that MacDonald sued McGinniss after Fatal Vision came out- and MacDonald won. According to that American Justice program, McGinniss acknowledged that it was speculation that MacDonald was on amphetamines which contributed to the murders.

Personally, I found it a compelling factor if it were true because it's a fact that MacDonald had worked a 24 hour shift immediately prior to coming home on the night of the murders.

Anyway, besides that accusation, McGinniss' integrity was called into question because MacDonald had been under the impression that McGinniss believed in his innocence, even after the trial. Apparently, this is confirmed in e-mails from McGinniss to MacDonald.

I think McGinniss always intended to tell the truth as he saw it to be, and he placed that above all else. MacDonald wanted McGinniss' book to document the case, but primarily, of course, to demonstrate his innocence, and there came a point where that wasn't possible.

I think if it's the defense that's calling McGinniss, then he's being used as another example of the "railroading" of MacDonald.

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McGinniss had plenty to say about the proceedings of the civil trial, the nature and course of his unique relationship with Jeffrey MacDonald- both professionally and personally, and the reporter who in her book, leveled accusations aimed at attacking McGinniss' character.

He offers his perspective, and what he says the facts of the matters are, here at this website.

http://www.joemcginniss.net

(click on Fatal Vision Epilogue)

It's a long read, but contains very enlightening, necessary information for anyone genuinely interested in the record of this case.

The civil trial ended with a hung jury, and McGinniss ended up settling out of court. Primarily, McGinniss wanted to be done with Jeffrey MacDonald.

McGinniss said he never misled MacDonald, and that his e-mails after the trial DO NOT demonstrate anything of the sort.

McGinniss also had plenty to say about the reporter who leveled that accusation (among many other ungrounded accusations), her bias clearly favoring MacDonald- shown both in her language used to describe him, and demonstrated in her lack of fact-based opinions re: the trial proceedings and other issues, and the true nature of the relationship between MacDonald- subject, and McGinniss- writer.

Re: McGinniss' speculation of MacDonald's amphetamine use, a medical doctor and professor of pharmacology testified at the civil trial that "the amount of amphetamine MacDonald's own notes indicated he might have taken over the weeks that lead up to the murders would have been more than enough to precipitate rage reaction, or "amphetamine psychosis"."

An army chemist stated that given the equipment used and tests performed at the time from MacDonald's blood, the results "wouldn't have shown any evidence of amphetamine consumption."

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There may be a few journalists who are as Malcolm describes, however I think there are far more lawyers who are morally reprehensible than there are journalists. Segal is one of those who is the scum at the bottom of the barrel. "It’s unrevealing about what he really thinks about the principal subject of the book, you, and about the tone (really innocent; probably innocent; suspiciously guilty; outrageously guilty but clever and should get away with it) that the book will finally take." (Bolding was mine.) Wow. Just... wow. Are there really lawyers who think this way?? There must be because Segal is evidence of that fact.

Federal Magistrate James McMahon (could there have been any more surnames in this story beginning with M? lol) hit the nail square on the head when he pointed out that what MacDonald wanted wasn't a journalist but a PR man. LOVED this: "He added that the complaint made it “sound like MacDonald’s a spurned lover and he wants to blacken McGinniss’s reputation … This whole lawsuit smells like a grudge suit.”"

I am a bit confused as to why, during the trial, MacDonald was allowed to assert his innocence while McGinniss wasn't allowed to present proof of his guilt. Call it ignorance of the court system, but what does that have to do with a libel case? His murder conviction was upheld by the US Supreme Court so his guilt or innocence was no longer in question. Does it have to do with one being a criminal trial and the other a civil trial? Sounds like Judge Rea waffled back and forth about exactly what kind of trial it was. I hope he's no longer a judge. Sounds incompetent to me!!

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You know, I admit I'm the first to get lost amid the legal talk, and I didn't give it much thought, but thinking back on it, it's not clear to me why a suit was possible given the fact that MacDonald signed waivers designed to prevent such an action.

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I just tried to look into this difference of criminal and civil law suits, other than the obvious. I think some of this might be helpful in understanding:

The standard of proof is also very different in a criminal case versus a civil case. Crimes must generally be proved "beyond a reasonable doubt", whereas civil cases are proved by lower standards of proof such as "the preponderance of the evidence" (which essentially means that it was more likely than not that something occurred in a certain way). The difference in standards exists because civil liability is considered less blameworthy and because the punishments are less severe.

and...

Although criminal and civil cases are treated very differently, many people often fail to recognize that the same conduct can result in both criminal and civil liability. Perhaps one of the most famous examples of this is the OJ Simpson trial. The same conduct led to a murder trial (criminal) and a wrongful death trial (civil). In part because of the different standards of proof, there was not enough evidence for a jury to decide that OJ Simpson was guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt" in the criminal murder case. In the civil trial, however, the jury found enough evidence to conclude that OJ Simpson wrongfully caused his wife's death by a "preponderance of the evidence".

I don't think we can find a better comparison in this case than of OJ Simpson. LOL

Taken from FindLaw

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Thanks for that info., but to me, that's not the same thing we have here.

First off, Simpson was found not guilty in the criminal case, and was then sued by the Goldman family on other grounds.

In this case, it was the convicted who brought the suit, and on grounds of fraud. The fact that MacDonald was indeed convicted should have weighed heavily in the civil trial because yes, the burden is much less in civil trial than it is in a criminal one.

The thing was, MacDonald was attempting to equate innocence with truth, and of course, it's NOT the same thing.

(Btw, a defendant is never found innocent; that's something I see said a lot, but it's flat wrong. A defendant can only be found guilty, not guilty, or can be acquitted.)

The way I see it, the civil trial in this case should have never happened. If the waivers were worth the paper they were written on, then there should have been absolutely no grounds on which to base a civil suit. The very purpose of the waivers was defeated, and it's stunning that a judge allowed such a thing to happen.

The jury expressed confusion over lack of instruction by the judge.

The whole thing was ludicrous from start to finish.

The kicker is what McGinniss said. "So the net result was that- not even taking into account additional legal expenses- MacDonald wound up with less than half the money he would have received if he'd never sued me in the first place. Indeed, with less money than the Kassab's.* And no new and dangerously precedent governing the conduct of reporters were set."

* After the civil trial was settled, the Kassab's filed a suit against MacDonald based on the Son of Sam Law that no murderer should profit from his crime.

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I'm sorry, regi, I made the comparison between Simpson and MacDonald on the basis of having both a criminal and civil trial over the same event. I'm sure there are hundreds of civil and criminal cases for people on any given day, but nothing I know about. You are absolutely right that the civil trial should've never taken place. It did so only due to the judge's incompetence and as I said before, I sincerely hope that man is no longer a sitting judge. Even the fact that he left town and left the jury to sort things out is suspicious to me.

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Well, you know, Lady Kasey, MacDonald and Simpson really do have a lot of similarities between them, apart from their involvement in civil trials after their murder trials.

In each case, one of the victims was, or had been a spouse, who were the primary targets in the crimes which was brought about by rage.

In each case, a knife was used and the nature of the injuries is considered overkill.

Both were described as charismatic and with other appealing qualities, appeared to have lived, or had been living the "American dream", and both had a surprising number of supporters.

Both maintained innocence despite overwhelming evidence, and both gave statements contradictory to the evidence.

And...they're both where they should be for as long as they live.

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Today's the day, regi!! At least ABC news picked up on the story so perhaps they will have something either tonight or tomorrow.

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Wonder what Helen Stoeckley got for changing her tune.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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