Jeffrey MacDonald, the former Army doctor who has argued for more than three decades that he was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, is not giving up on his quest for freedom.
In federal court documents filed this week, MacDonald again argues that his murder conviction should be vacated.
This time, MacDonald points to problems discovered with DNA evidence in his case uncovered as part of an investigation into the FBI hair and fiber section.
Norman Wong, special counsel to the U.S. Department of Justice, sent a Sept. 17 letter to Thomas Walker, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, alerting the chief prosecutor for the multi-county region from Raleigh east to the coast of some of the findings.
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As part of the review by the federal justice department and Federal Bureau of Investigation, investigators determined that “testimony regarding microscopic hair comparison analysis containing erroneous statements” was used in the case.
The reviewers reported to Walker that testimony or lab reports presented in the case exceeded the limits of science at the time.
Gordon Widenhouse, a Chapel Hill attorney representing MacDonald in his latest quest for freedom, submitted a request in federal court on Thursday asking for the verdicts in the MacDonald case to be vacated.
“At so many stages of this litigation, new information has emerged that casts doubt on the conviction of Jeffrey MacDonald,” Widenhouse argues in the latest request for relief.
The federal government argued in a filing this month that the findings are “of little consequence,” in relation to one of three FBI agents singled out, in part because the credibility of the forensic investigation already had been roundly criticized at trial and on numerous appeals.
But the defense contends otherwise.
MacDonald, 70 now and housed in a medium-security federal prison in Cumberland, Md., has maintained since 1970 that he did not kill his pregnant wife, Colette, and two daughters – Kimberly, age 4, and Kristen, age 2 – in the Fort Bragg apartment where they lived.
He contends he is a victim of a gross miscarriage of justice.
But others describe the former Army doctor as an exploitative psychopath who deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.
In July, U.S. District Judge James C. Fox upheld the conviction of MacDonald, issuing a ruling almost 23 months after a six-day hearing in Wilmington in 2012.
The 2012 hearing in front of Fox was to consider what the defense contended were new claims about DNA evidence. They also presented statements made by a former marshal and by family members of a drug-addled woman spotted by law enforcement officers near the murder scene.
The defense said in its court filing on Thursday that had Fox had the benefit of the FBI and justice department findings, he might have come to a different conclusion.
Fox stated in July that after “conducting an evidentiary hearing, receiving voluminous supplementary briefing and examining the evidence as a whole, the court finds that MacDonald has failed to establish, by clear and convincing evidence” that a reasonable juror wouldn’t come to the same verdict.”