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Posted at 5:00 PM ET, 05/ 6/2010

Man wins appeal in 'Fatal Vision' case

By Washington Post editors

Jeffrey MacDonald's decades-long bid to prove his innocence in the 1970 slayings of his wife and two daughters has been kept alive by a federal appeals court, which is considering the former Army doctor's bid for a new trial.

In an order issued Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond denied a government request to dismiss MacDonald's appeal and asked lawyers to submit more briefs in the case. It did not rule on the request for a new trial, based on new evidence.

MacDonald's lawyer Hart Miles called the order a "breakthrough ruling" in the case, which inspired the book and TV miniseries "Fatal Vision."

"It's very, very exciting," said Kathryn MacDonald, who married MacDonald after he had been in prison for more than two decades. "It gives us so much hope."

She had planned to break the news to MacDonald later Thursday.

MacDonald is serving three life terms at the federal penitentiary in Cumberland, Md., for the slayings of his wife, Colette, and daughters Kimberley, 5, and Kristen, 2, at their Fort Bragg, N.C., home. The killings shocked a nation still reeling from the Charles Manson murders six months earlier.

MacDonald is seeking a new trial based on DNA evidence and a witness statement.

MacDonald's attorneys told judges at a hearing in March that the evidence, including a federal marshal's claim that a prosecutor in North Carolina threatened a key witness, support his assertion that four drug-crazed hippies killed his family.

The government argued that the DNA test results cannot be considered by the appeals court at this time, that the threat claim lacks merit and that MacDonald is rehashing old evidence from previous unsuccessful appeals.

The DNA test results involve hair found under Kristen's fingernail. The hair did not match MacDonald or anyone in his family.

In the court's order Thursday, further briefs were sought on the significance of the DNA test results.

"Our contention is you have to look at all of the evidence, and they're obviously willing to do that," Kathryn MacDonald said. "It's a happy, happy day."

-- Associated Press

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By Washington Post editors  | May 6, 2010; 5:00 PM ET
Tags:  Appeal, Charles Manson, DNA, United States, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit  
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What a waste of money for the taxpayers that this case is still being contested in appeals. MacDonald will never give up and hope to god he never gets another trial. That would be a travesty.

Posted by: lmcrae24 | May 6, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Jeffrey MacDonald was tried and convicted. However, I have always had this thought in the back of my mind. If he maintains his innocence that "he" did not kill his family, perhaps he is telling the truth. He may not have done it himself but, he sure knows who did! If you look at just the basic facts, why would the man, the alleged protector of the family be left alive when there are two defenseless babies and a helpless woman brutally slaughtered? I think Jeffrey MacDonald has been blowing smoke for years...he is not as smart as he thinks he is!

Posted by: eambaker | May 7, 2010 12:27 AM | Report abuse

Hello uneducated people, DNA evidence says he didn't do it. The material did not belong to Macdonald or anyone in his family. What a tragedy that he is being blocked from presenting this. You people ever heard of people being framed? wake up

Posted by: ObservantOne | May 7, 2010 1:09 AM | Report abuse

If MacDonald gets a new trial based on DNA evidence, it's still likely he'll stay in prison. That's because the DNA does not implicate the "key witness" mentioned above (whose name was Helena Stoekley) nor another one, Jeffrey Mitchell. MacDonald has been saying these two did it for years and the evidence is clear now they did not.
Several pieces of DNA, however, do point to MacDonald himself. This all amounts to trying to get off on a technicality. This page breaks down what the DNA evidence means:

Posted by: DaysofBrokenArrows | May 7, 2010 5:02 AM | Report abuse

Jeffrey MacDonald would not be a threat to anyone if he is released and enough of the taxpayers money has been spent on his incarceration. He should be paroled.

Posted by: RFRboy | May 7, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

The DNA has spoken.

Posted by: jckdoors | May 7, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

check out DaysOfBrokenArrows' link above (it's safe). the DNA doesn't help him one bit.

Posted by: JoeT1 | May 7, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

One can only imagine how incompetent the military investigators were at the early stages of the investigation...true amateurs in a challenging case.

First, I have never believed he could or would of so savagely killed his family; second, the DNA evidence now foremost in investigations could now be possibly ignored.

This man deserves a new trial..and if the jury should set CPT MacDonald free.

Posted by: LTC11A | May 7, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

The title of the news article is misleading. MacDonald didn't win an appeal. The Fourth Circuit hasn't even begun to consider the merits of the DNA evidence or the Britt evidence yet. The Court simply wants more information. I'm going to guess that they want to dot every "i" and cross every "t" so Mac can't keep doing this over and over and over and wasting taxpayer's money when he has money of his own his mother left to him.

The DNA evidence all but condemns MacDonald. The hair found clutched in Colette MacDonald's hand was sourced to Jeffrey MacDonald himself. Since 1979, MacDonald has been saying that the hair belonged to the murderer. He's right on that score.

The Britt affidavit is all but useless. Britt says he picked Helena Stoeckley up in Greenville, SC. She was in the Pickens County Jail, not Greenville. Jail records also indicate that Britt had no part in driving her to Raleigh as well. Also, Helena talked to Bernie Segal, MacDonald's attorney BEFORE she spoke with James Blackburn, the prosecutor, and her testimony was consistent with what she told Segal. In addition, during her weekend in Raleigh, Helena went to the home of the presiding trial judge, Judge Franklin T. Dupree and told him she was terrified of Segal, NOT Blackburn.

ObservantOne, some of us HAVE been awake and knowledgeable about this case for years. If MacDonald had been framed, please answer this: He claims he "came to" in the hallway, with his pajama top wrapped around his wrists. How then do the holes in his pajama top match the wounds in the already dead Colette MacDonald's chest? Why is there NO evidence of an intruder? We ALL have "unsourced" DNA in our homes. MacDonald is as guilty as a midsummer day is long.

Posted by: LillyAndGish | May 7, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

The book "Fatal Vision" details the overwhelming evidence against MacDonald, including what investigators concluded was a staged crime scene and surgeon MacDonald's own trivial wounds, which they concluded were carefully self-inflicted. We are asked to believe that a gang of crazed killers brutally murdered a young mother and her two babies, but left a Green Beret officer unconscious in a corner with what amounted to little more than a scratch. Finding a couple stray hairs on the carpet proves only that the investigation was thorough.

Posted by: none12 | May 7, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Jeffrey McDonald has already been tried twice; first by the Army who found it not guilty (due to the horribly teinted evidence) and the second by a Grand jury initiated by his ex-father in law who knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was responsible for the murder of his daughter and grand daughters. McDonald is an intelligent sociopath who is a master at manipulation and has convinced himself and some other individuals that he is innocent. Please keep this monster under lock and key in memory of Colette and her daughters.

Posted by: Crimsontide2 | May 7, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

One strand of hair does not overturn the massive amount of other evidence against this guy.

Posted by: ozpunk | May 7, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Aside from this crime scene; If some 'crazed hippies' killed his wife & children, did they just get it out of their system? Has their been any similar murders in the area in the last 40 years? Did these murderers just do it once and decide to carry peace signs instead? It just isn't logical that some random killers came in, did the murder and stopped murdering forever after that. That is a big reason that we put people away for they don't murder again, because it is highly likely they will, particularly if they are picking random victims with which they would otherwise have no contact.

Posted by: cyberfool | May 7, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Jeffrey MacDonald is a raging egomaniac with his own reality.

Posted by: ronjaboy | May 7, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

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