1. The book Fatal Vision was shown in a court of law to be a fraudulent and fictional account of the MacDonald Case.
For many years, Joe McGinniss's best-selling novel Fatal Vision was viewed as the definitive book on the MacDonald case. The book, and the ensuing mini-series based on it, were accepted as fact, since McGinniss had direct access to, and cooperation from, his subject. His portrayal of MacDonald as a cold, narcissistic killer has been indelibly imprinted in the public's collective psyche over the years; the residual effects have tainted
every court proceeding since trial.
People who are new to this case may be aware of Fatal Vision and its impact, but few are aware of the fact that in 1984, Dr. MacDonald took the unprecedented step of suing Joe
McGinniss for breach of contract and fraud - while incarcerated in federal prison. McGinniss's manipulation of conversations and circumstances, conjecture, and blatant
lies were exposed in court, and MacDonald won a settlement of approximately a third of a million dollars in 1987.
It wasn't until the publication of Fatal Justice (by Potter and Bost, 1995, W.W. Norton Publishers) that the full extent of McGinniss's betrayal was documented, and many of the case myths he created were exposed as such.
2. The Destruction of the MacDonald's Apartment at 544 Castle Drive
The apartment was kept sealed by the U.S. Army and Department of Justice from 1970 until 1981. Fort Bragg fought to regain custody of the quarters beginning in February of 1981, but the Justice Department kept rigid control of them for three years following, citing that the apartment where the murders occurred and its contents might be needed as evidence to offset anticipated defense appeals.
Throughout these same years, defense investigators were denied access to the quarters, as they sought evidence that might help Jeffrey MacDonald.
During a defense appeal in 1983-84, however, court arguments by MacDonald attorneys apparently unnerved the government prosecutor. He suddenly, and without notifying the defense, reversed his stance and allowed the Army to take over the quarters, saying that the contents he had sought to preserve for so many years were now useless.
Many of the items in the apartment belonged to Jeff MacDonald. In lieu of his right to possess those items, the government acted under a regulation that allowed it to confiscate MacDonald's personal property because it was considered to be evidence in a criminal case. The government is required to pay the property holder for the property while they continue to hold it. The title to the property, however, never changes hands. Once such property is no longer required as evidence, the owner is allowed to retake possession by returning the payment. (Of course, the government had said they no longer needed the apartment for evidence, so rightfully, Dr. MacDonald should have been notified under this regulation, so that he could reclaim his possessions.)
Instead, on the night of June 7-8, 1984, everything in the apartment was completely burned and then buried at the Fort Bragg trash dump. This included all furnishings, the ceilings, walls, doors, window sills, ledges, hardwood floors...leaving nothing but a skeleton of joists and sub flooring.
The destruction also included items that, by regulation, were required to be placed for public auction by the Army - things like furniture, light fixtures, appliances, sinks, etc.
Most importantly, the burning and burying of the entire contents of the apartment destroyed everything that might have been touched or left behind by murderers.
In contradiction, to the regulation cited above, all items still in the house and owned by MacDonald were also destroyed. This was against the law and done without Dr. MacDonald's consent. He had been given no knowledge of any change in status regarding the apartment.
As a cover for this deliberate crime, the government claimed in its paperwork that MacDonald had "abandoned" his property, when in truth, he was not allowed access to reclaim his property.
The secret destruction actually occurred while MacDonald's attorneys were still trying to wrest court permission to examine the quarters. No one informed them that both the quarters and its contents no longer existed.
The Army renovated the premises for new occupants three years later, in 1987.
3. Regarding Jeffrey MacDonald's wounds
There has been much speculation regarding the extent of Jeff MacDonald's wounds, given that he survived the attacks, but his family did not. At trial, the government contended that Colette had caused all of the wounds except for one to his lung, which they said was self-inflicted.
The government contended that a surgeon would know how to injure himself "safely", and the seriousness of MacDonald's collapsed lung was minimized at trial. Five of the six doctors consulted at the Army Hearing (Article 32) testified that MacDonald could not have predicted the outcome of what they termed a very "serious" stab wound to the chest, which collapsed the lung by 40%. All agreed that the liver could have been damaged, with death resulting, and that even a doctor would not be able to predict the outcome of such a wound, should he inflict it on himself.
Interestingly, MacDonald's wounds were never photographed, while those his family suffered were rigorously documented. Womack Hospital photographer John McCaffrey waited for a request
to record MacDonald's wounds, but it never came. "Somebody goofed," he said.
However, eye witness accounts and medical records describe injuries to MacDonald that go far beyond those minimized by the prosecution.
For example, the government claimed that MacDonald had only a small bruise to the head. Doctors Paul Manson and Robert McGannboth observed and testified to seeing " a large contusion" over his left mid-forehead area, and another one over the right temple, slightly obscured by the hairline.
Friend and fellow officer Ron Harrison, when interviewed by the CID, stated that when he went to the hospital, he not only observed the bruises on the front of MacDonald's head, but lumps at the back of the head, and numerous wounds to the chest, arms and abdomen, and what he believed to be ice pick wounds to the neck.
Dr. Straub, at Womack Hospital, examined Jeffrey MacDonald's abdominal wound. He testified at the Army hearing that he "spread it apart, as I recall, and saw that it had gone through a great deal of the muscle of the abdominal wall."
The government made a point of claiming MacDonald suffered no wounds to the hands or arms. But Dr. Severt Jacobson, also of Womack Hospital, described to the grand jury in 1974 cuts he observed to MacDonald's forearms and hand "from a very sharp object". The government also claimed there were only superficial wounds to the chest, other than the stab wound, and no ice pick wounds. But Dr. Jacobson told of seeing four puncture wounds to the upper chest, and multiple punctures elsewhere (arms, abdomen). The puncture wounds were corroborated by Dr. Robert McGann and officer Ron Harrison.
Dr. Frank E. Gemma, an Army surgeon wrote a report on MacDonald's injuries upon his admission to Womack Hospital. He, too, noted "several small puncture wounds that may have come from an instrument such as
In order to protect their scenario of Colette injuring her husband in self-defense, the government ignored any and all mention of ice pick wounds in the records. It would have been implausible for Colette to have been wielding not only a knife and a club, but an ice pick, as well. The presence of three different types of wounds from three different types of weapons gave credence to MacDonald's account of multiple intruders.
Considering all the statements from medical personnel, hospital records and eye witnesses, MacDonald summarily suffered at least seventeen stab wounds to the hands, arms, and torso, stabbings through the muscle in the bicep and abdomen, a stab wound to the lung requiring a chest tube and two surgeries, and multiple contusions to the head. He required resuscitation at the murder scene. He could not save his family because he was knocked unconscious. (see Q&A section for more on this subject.)
Colette was found with a piece of gouged skin lodged under one of her fingernails. Kimberley, Kristen and their mother were all found with foreign hairs, unmatched to their father, under their nails. There were no scratch or gouge marks found on Jeffrey MacDonald.
4. Colette MacDonald's attacker is believed by experts to have been left-handed (Jeffrey MacDonald is right-handed)
Two of the nation's foremost forensic pathologists, Dr. Thomas Noguchi of Los Angeles County, CA, and Dr. Ronald Wright of Broward County, Florida, researched the fatal blows suffered by Colette and concluded that they were inflicted by a left-handed person. Greg Mitchell, the man the defense believes to have been Colette's killer, was left-handed. Greg Mitchell's blood type (O) was also found on Colette's hands, but no type B (Jeffrey's type). Despite the discrepancy in color, the CID lab tried to source the hair to Jeffrey anyway, but failed.
5. Jeffrey MacDonald was ready and willing to take a sodium amytal test.
During the Grand Jury hearing to determine whether Jeff MacDonald should be indicted for the murders of his family or not, a juror on the panel asked that Jeff undergo a sodium amytal test as further proof of his innocence. Jeff agreed to undergo the testing if Dr. Robert Sadoff (a world renowned psychiatrist who had examined Jeff and found him psychologically normal and not capable of committing such a heinous crime) could be present. He wanted Dr. Sadoff present in case of a medical problem during the test, and to ensure it was administered correctly so he would not have to undergo it again.
A Philadelphia hospital room was reserved for February 1, 1975, for the sodium amytal test. However, on January 23, Victor Woerheide (who presided over the Grand Jury hearing) made arrangements for Jeff MacDonald's arrest, even though he had not yet been indicted.
The next day the grand jury was told by Woerheide that Dr. Sadoff had made it clear that the sodium amytal examination would not benefit them in gaining knowledge about Jeff MacDonald's guilt or innocence. Sadoff had expressed no such opinion, yet Woerheide called for an immediate vote for indictment. With the assurance from Woerheide that the sodium amytal test was deemed of no use to them in making their decision, the grand jury issued their indictment to try Jeff MacDonald for murder on January 24, 1975.
This deception was part of defense attorney Bernard Segal's appeal to fight the indictment (which he won in 1976, then lost in 1978 when the government appealed to the Supreme Court.)
Since that time, the sodium amytal issue has become another myth of this case- the myth that Jeff MacDonald refused to take the test. This is simply not true- unfortunately, Victor Woerheide prevented him from taking the test, and lied to the grand jury about its value.
6. The Prosecutor's Psychiatric Examinations of Jeff MacDonald
Dr. James A. Brussel was the psychiatrist brought in by prosecutors Murtagh and Blackburn at trial. Judge Dupree insisted on a sixth psychiatric exam one evening during trial, in Wade Smith’s office.
Judge Dupree stated that he wouldn’t consider admitting the 5 previous exams (2 defense ( Drs. Sadoff and Halleck, separately) and (3 prosecution- Walter Reed doctors) unless and until Jeff MacDonald underwent this “emergency” sixth exam.
What happened next was a total sham - a fake exam. Brussel had recently had a “stroke” and was unable to tell where he was, when it was, or often even finish full thoughts or sentences. He read his “psychiatric” questions off a sheet of paper which he admitted had been typed by Murtagh. He had an aide with him, a psychologist named Hirsch Lazaar Silverman, who administered the standard battery of psychological profiling tests. The Brussel “psychiatric” questions were all case related- not psychiatric questions.
Judge Dupree then received Brussel’s report, actually entitled “Report by Hirsch L. Silverman” since Brussel couldn’t write a report or sign his name. Dupree ruled that there would be “no psychiatric reports or witnesses, because it had evolved in a “battle of the experts”. Brussel’s “conclusions” from his “exam” were not legitimate, as opposed to the conclusions of 5 previous examiners, 3 of them being government psychiatrists. Judge Dupree then publicly released the Brussel “findings” as an attachment to his refusal of Jeff MacDonald's bail request post trial.
The Brussel exam was one of the most despicable examples of malfeasance in the 35 year history of this case. At a minimum, Brussel was guilty of gross malpractice and fraud. But more obviously, he conspired, or was used by the government, to admit false evidence at trial, and prevent real evidence and legitimate findings from being seen by the jury.
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