New hearing ordered in ‘Fatal Vision’ case

RICHMOND, Va. — A federal appeals panel in Virginia has ordered a judge to consider new evidence in the case of Jeffrey MacDonald, a former Army doctor convicted of killing his wife and young daughters in 1970.

MacDonald claims new DNA evidence and a witness statement show he is innocent. The former Green Beret has always contended that four drug-crazed hippies killed his family. His case resulted in the book and television miniseries “Fatal Vision.”

A federal judge in North Carolina rejected MacDonald’s innocence claim in 2008. A 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled Tuesday that the judge improperly failed to consider all the evidence, and returned the case to him for another hearing.

MacDonald is serving three life terms.


  1. I am so pleased that, after so many years, our quest for justice – asking for all of the evidence to be reviewed- has been granted by the 4th Circuit, and the lower court’s decision has been vacated. This is a highly unusual route for a Circuit Court to take, and I applaud them for their decision. During trying times, I have always held on to my strong belief that the truth matters. The 4th Circuit – notably the most conservative in the nation- has affirmed this. My husband is innocent, has never waivered from his account of what happened, and the evidence (hidden and/or misrepresented by the government at trial, and newly obtained) supports Jeff’s account. He is 68 and a half years old. The government has spent millions of taxpayer’s money to keep him in prison rather than admit to their misdeeds. For an average citizen like myself, trying to help free someone who is wrongly convicted is like a bug trying to fight the Orkin Man….but the power of the truth cannot be denied.

  2. Mrs. MacDonald–Unless the presence of Colette MacDonald’s blood on Dr. MacDonald’s pajama top *before* it was torn can be explained away, along with the profusion of fibers everywhere but where he claims the struggle with the assailants took place, I’m afraid to say his story doesn’t even begin to make sense.

  3. Hello Lanie:
    The tremendous thing about the 4th Circuit’s opinion is that it obligates the courts/gov’t to review “the evidence as a whole”…..at the 1979 trial, it’s clear (from the transcripts) that NOT ONE gov’t “expert” could opine or recollect anything more (from 9 years before) other than the evidence they “found” was “possibly showed” their findings….RE: The blood on the pajama top- the expert declined to declare when (definitely) the blood from Mrs. MacDonald (Colette) was deposited on it. Jeff said he laid his top over Colette upon regaining consciousness and trying to revive her. No one has contradicted his account (via affidavit/trial testimony) and science has advanced by leaps and bounds since 1970/1979 as I’m sure you are well aware….RE: the existence or non-existence of fibers from Jeff’s pajamas- a) There was a profusive BALL of his pajama garment fibers found in the area between the living room and the apartment hallway, but this info. was suppressed at trial (along with the fact that Jeff’s blood was found at the precise location where he said he was knocked unconscious by one of the male intruders)….I ask you to consider that Jeff’s pajamas were a “set” (top and bottom)- no one has ever proved whether the pajama fibers found (or those concealed by the gov’t) were from the TOP or the BOTTOMS….Jeff was taken to the hospital with the bottoms on- they were cut off and destroyed (!) – for the gov’t to maintain that any pajama fibers found in the house were from the top only is absurd…Jeff said he went from room to room to try to aid his family with only his pajama bottoms on- there are sworn affidavits from military police stating that Jeff’s pajama BOTTOMS were torn from “knee to crotch” by sharp object such as a knife…so clearly, the fibers found, which matched the top, could have been from the bottoms. The government picks and chooses “when” something is relevant and/or whether my husband was stupid or smart (IE smart enough to know where to STAB HIMSELF within milimeters of causing his own death via liver damage-but stupid enought to not know that he and his wife/children all had different blood types….) Then the gov’t pressed the theory that the 4 different blood types told “the tale” of what happened WITHOUT accounting (as is now possible via DNA) for WHO’S blood it actually was- again….junk science…(if all blood types were represented, why wasn’t the government required to prove who’s actual blood it was?) They were not required to do so, and with all 4 types represented, blood from an intruder would have been recognized with modern techniques, as DNA has shown that the (bloody) hair under 2 year old Kristen’s nail is not Jeff’s hair and NOT Jeff’s blood….
    Thank you for your time spent reading my response to you- best wishes to you in the meantime, Sincerely, Kathryn MacDonald

  4. Mrs. MacDonald–I’m not sure I follow you. The government expert clearly testified at the trial both on direct and cross examination that the some of the bloodstains on the pajama top were made before it was torn. I don’t believe this was countered by opposing expert testimony. And still, what you’ve written doesn’t explain the lack of fibers in the living room where Dr. MacDonald claimed he was attacked by the four assailants…for his story to make sense, there should be a profusion of fibers there as there was in the master bedroom, including some even under Colette MacDonald’s body. The symmetrical nature of the icepick holes is also a problem, and for me is another threshhold issue in finding Dr. MacDonald’s account credible on a common sense basis.

    I know there is a tremendous evidential burden ahead. And though we may have to agree to disagree, I do wish you well Mrs. MacDonald.

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