Judge denies bid for new trial in 'Fatal Vision' murder case

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 25, 2014 1:24 PM

By Colleen Jenkins

WINSTON-SALEM N.C. (Reuters) - An Army doctor whose conviction for the 1970 murders of his pregnant wife and two daughters prompted the bestseller "Fatal Vision" and a television mini-series has failed to convince a U.S. judge he deserves another trial.

New evidence offered by Jeffrey MacDonald's attorneys in the latest round of a decades-long fight to prove his innocence was unreliable and insufficient to warrant further jury proceedings, Senior U.S. District Judge James Fox ruled on Thursday.

"The court finds that MacDonald has failed to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that no reasonable fact finder would have found him guilty of the murder of his wife and two daughters," Fox wrote in a 169-page order.

MacDonald, a former Green Beret, is serving three life sentences for the stabbing and clubbing deaths of his family in their Fort Bragg, North Carolina, apartment in February 1970.

But he has always insisted that the crime was carried out by drug-crazed intruders who attacked him and killed his wife, Colette, and daughters, ages 2 and 5.

During a seven-day hearing in Wilmington, North Carolina, in September 2012, MacDonald's attorneys argued he would not have been convicted had a jury heard evidence gathered since his 1979 trial.

They offered testimony about a now-deceased woman who told witnesses she was in the MacDonald home during the crime and DNA test results of hair found by the bodies that did not belong to Jeffrey MacDonald or any of his family members.

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Prosecutors said a comprehensive review of new and old evidence in the case supported MacDonald's guilt.

The latest ruling is unlikely to deter MacDonald, now 70, from continuing his appeals, his lawyer said on Friday.

Attorney Gordon Widenhouse called Fox's decision disappointing but said, "certainly our litigation efforts are not at an end."

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jim Loney)