Jeffrey MacDonald, the man who inspired the book and eventual miniseries titled “Fatal Vision,” may have been wrongfully convicted and eventually be exonerated, with the help of new testimony and DNA evidence.
MacDonald was convicted in 1979, nine years after his wife and two daughters were savagely murdered in their home. MacDonald also sustained injuries, including stab wounds, which he claimed were from “hippies” who broke into his home and slaughtered his family while chanting, “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs.” However, prosecutors claimed that MacDonald’s stab wounds were more likely self-inflicted, and he may have been inspired to kill his family based on an article about the Manson Murders found in an Esquire magazine in his home. He was sentenced to serve three life sentences for the murders.
New evidence, however, may grant MacDonald a new hearing that could eventually exonerate him of these crimes.
DNA evidence comes from three hairs that do not match MacDonald’s or his family’s, as well as some blood found beneath the fingernail of one of the victims, which were found on the scene. The new trial hinges, however, on an affidavit from a now-deceased US Marshal who finally spoke out about his “moral burden” in 2005.
Then-US Marshal James Britt, along with an administrative assistant, were escorting Helena Stoeckley, who is now considered a witness to the murder, from the county jail in Greenville, SC to Raleigh, NC for questioning in the trial. According to Britt, Stoeckley began discussing facts of the case. She had been at the MacDonald house to acquire drugs and could identify a hobby horse in the house, which was considered proof that she knew the MacDonalds.
Britt then said he overheard Stoeckley testify again at the courthouse, to US Attorney James Blackburn, who then told her, “If you testify before the jury as to what you have told me or said to me in this office, I will indict you for murder.”
MacDonald’s current defense attorneys allege that it was this threat that caused Stoeckley to change her story in court, claiming that she could not remember anything about that evening.
Gordon Widenhouse, MacDonald’s lead lawyer, told US District Court Judge James C. Fox that “no reasonable juror” who heard the new evidence would find MacDonald guilty.
The hearings resume on September 18th. If he is not granted a new trial, MacDonald can again plead his case at his first parole hearing in 2020.
Exoneration and the expungement of records is a very important step in helping wrongfully convicted people move on in their lives. Criminal records stand in the way of job and education opportunities. If you have been wrongfully convicted and want to expunge your record, the attorneys at Strom Law can help. We offer free, confidential consultations, so contact us today.