Man wins appeal in 'Fatal Vision' case
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
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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