James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Oh, It Was the Feds Who Got Him

I watched CBS's 48 Hours Mystery tonight because it covered the Jeffrey McDonald case - the one of Fatal Vision fame. I recall watching the movie in the 1980's, but remember only that he was initially exonerated for killing his wife and kids before his own conflicting statements aroused suspicions that led to his conviction.

Tonight's show refreshed my memory. McDonald was an army doctor. The murders took place at Ft. Bragg in 1970. McDonald claimed the murder was done by four hippies. McDonald himself had stab wounds and was found unconscious (or pretending to be so). Military police investigated McDonald but did not court martial him, giving him instead an honorable discharge. An independent investigation instigated by his wife's family led to a citizen's arrest in 1975, and then a federal conviction in 1979. McDonald's been in prison ever since.

I'm not going to retry the case here. Only to point out that a Freedom of Information Act file opening established that the feds withheld evidence helpful to McDonald from his attorneys. The moment I heard this was a federal case, I knew that McDonald didn't stand a chance. Whenever the Feds want to get someone, they can and they do.

Name the most decent person you know, think of a horrible crime, and the feds, if they wanted, could successfully frame that person for that crime. Nobody's safe.


  1. Could a jury use the fact that the feds were the prosecutor to conclude that the evidence was NOT beyond a reasonable doubt?

  2. I'm afraid that any juror who distrusted the government would be dismissed before the trial started.