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New York physician Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted in 1979 for murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters, but questions remain about his guilt.
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In other cases, uncorroborated evidence against MacDonald was held back and only presented during the trial, therefore preventing the defense from being able to address the issues.
What the jury also never heard was that no hairs from any of the victims were found entwined with fibers from MacDonald's pajamas.
Various pieces of evidence against MacDonald proved highly damaging,
but the greatest was perhaps the 'character assessment' of the suspect presented by Dr. James Brussel. Brussel was selected by government officials and was known as a celebrity psychiatrist who used 'psychic' abilities, often without even seeing the prisoners or suspects in custody. Brussel claimed that MacDonald was a psychopath.
Despite various psychiatric reports on MacDonald's personality, including one by the respected forensic psychiatrist Dr. Seymour Halleck, stating that the suspect was stable and a non-pathological personality, none of these testimonies were presented in court. Brussel's analysis, however, was admitted for the jury to hear.
The jury delivered its verdict on one of the most protracted court cases in American legal history. MacDonald was convicted of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. He was given three life sentences.
MacDonald was imprisoned at a federal prison in Maryland. In 2005, the parole board recommended another 15 years to be served before another parole hearing.
The woman in the floppy hat, Helena Stoeckley, died in 1982 from liver failure. Years after the trial concluded, MacDonald's defense team claimed to have discovered that Stoeckley had contacted the FBI and informed them that she was involved in the MacDonald killings. However, Stoeckley had given contradictory accounts throughout the case.
In a highly contentious book, Fatal Vision, written about the case, the author Joe McGinnis suggested that MacDonald killed his family in a drug-induced rage. MacDonald had agreed to be interviewed for the book, not knowing the influential book would play a role in turning public opinion against him.
A few years later MacDonald, feeling heavily betrayed by the author who benefited from large sales and a movie deal, instigated a civil suit against him for breach of contract. McGinnis agreed to pay just over 325,000 dollars, the bulk of which went to pay MacDonald's legal fees.
One theory proposed by MacDonald's supporters is that Stoeckley and her companions chose to punish MacDonald for refusing to give out methadone to drug addicted soldiers. Army policies required physicians to report soldiers who were using drugs and MacDonald was known for his unsympathetic attitude towards drug users. Around the time of the murders, Fort Bragg had been experiencing problems and crime associated with with drug-addicted soldiers returning from Vietnam.
One of Stoeckley's friends, and the man she implicated in the killings was Greg Mitchell, a drug addicted teenage soldier who served in Vietnam. Stoeckley claimed that Mitchell targeted MacDonald and killed his wife Colette.
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