‘Fa­tal Vi­sion’ doc­tor again de­nied new trial in 1970 slay­ings

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY DENISE LAVOIE

A for­mer Army sur­geon con­victed of slaugh­ter­ing his preg­nant wife and two young daugh­ters at Fort Bragg nearly half a cen­tury ago will not get a new trial, a fed­eral ap­peals court ruled Fri­day in the lat­est le­gal de­feat for the for­mer Green Beret.

Jef­frey Mac­Don­ald, now 75, has adamantly main- tained his in­no­cence in the 1970 slay­ings and in­sisted that his fam­ily was killed by drugged-up hip­pies, in­clud­ing a woman who chanted “acid is groovy; kill the pigs.”

Pros­e­cu­tors say Mac­Don­ald killed his fam­ily with a knife and ice pick, then stabbed him­self with a scalpel to make it look like he was at­tacked while try­ing to pro­tect his fam­ily. They say he used his wife’s blood to write the word “PIG” over their bed to mimic the Charles Man­son mur­ders six months ear­lier.

Af­ter decades of failed ap­peals, Mac­Don­ald again sought to clear his name by ask­ing the 4th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals to over­turn a fed­eral judge’s 2014 rul­ing re­ject­ing a new trial. On Fri­day, the 4th Cir­cuit court up­held that rul­ing.

Mac­Don­ald’s lat­est ap­peal was based on three hairs found at the crime scene that did not match the fam­ily’s DNA and a state­ment from a deputy U.S. mar­shal who ac­cused the pros­e­cu­tion of in­tim­i­dat­ing a wit­ness. A three­judge panel of the 4th Cir­cuit agreed with the lower court judge that the new ev­i­dence does not war­rant a new trial.

“Sim­ply put, we can­not say that the new ev­i­dence ... con­sid­ered with all the other ev­i­dence, would be suf­fi­cient to es­tab­lish by clear and con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence that no rea­son­able factfinder would have found him guilty of the mur­ders of his wife and daugh­ters,” Judge Robert King wrote for the panel in the unan­i­mous rul­ing.

The killings be­came known as the “Fa­tal Vi­sion” case, the ti­tle of a 1983 true-crime book Mac­Don­ald asked au­thor Joe McGin­niss to write to show that he was inno- cent. In­stead, McGin­niss be­came con­vinced of Mac­Don­ald’s guilt.

Mac­Don­ald is serv­ing three con­sec­u­tive life sen­tences.

His lawyer, Hart Miles, called the rul­ing “dev­as­tat­ing news,” but said Mac­Don­ald “will con­tinue to fight for his free­dom.”

“He con­tin­ues to main­tain his in­no­cence and wants to ex­press his sin­cere thanks to all the sup- porters who have stood by him,” Miles said in a state­ment.

The 4th Cir­cuit over­turned Mac­Don­ald’s con­vic­tions in 1980, rul­ing that the nine-year de­lay to bring him to trial vi­o­lated his right to a speedy trial. The U.S. Supreme Court re­versed that de­ci­sion in 1982, and Mac­Don­ald was re­turned to prison.

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