You Be the Judge The Jeffrey MacDonald Court Case Part 2

About the Jeffrey MacDonald case of murder, history of the trial. Read the facts and decide for yourself.


The Jeffrey MacDonald Case (1979)

The Prosecution's Points: Federal prosecutors set out to prove that MacDonald had killed his wife during a heated argument and, while still in a rage, murdered their older daughter, perhaps accidentally. When he had calmed down, he concocted the tale of drug-crazed hippie intruders, a fabrication inspired by the Charles Manson cult slayings the previous year. To bolster his story, prosecutors charged, he entered his younger daughter's bedroom and in cold blood stabbed her to death. After scrawling the word pig on his wife's headboard, he allegedly drew on his medical knowledge to stab himself repeatedly without inflicting any permanent damage. The prosecution placed on the stand Paul Stombaugh, a former FBI forensic expert, who testified that MacDonald's blue pajama top had been lying over his wife's torso while she was being stabbed and that the number of holes in the pajama top corresponded to the number of stab wounds suffered by Mrs. MacDonald. Investigators testified that a bloody footprint leading from the younger daughter's bedroom could have been that of the defendant. Richard Tevere, one of the military police who responded to MacDonald's emergency call that night, told the court that he had discovered on the scene a bloodstained issue of Esquire magazine, which contained an account of the Manson murders, thus encouraging the belief that MacDonald had sought to simulate a cult slaying. During cross-examination prosecutors confronted MacDonald with the club used to strike his wife and scored points with the jury when the accused was unable to offer any explanation as to why threads from his pajama top were found on the club and in the bedrooms.

The Defense's Points: Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald consistently maintained his innocence and stuck to his story that four intruders surprised him as he lay sleeping on the living room sofa. The defense contended that the footprint leading from the younger daughter's bedroom had been made by a careless investigator, not the defendant. As for the pajama top, it had been torn during a brief struggle with the intruders, and MacDonald later placed it over his wife's body to cover her wounds. The jury was impressed with the testimony of James Milne, Jr., who was a neighbor of the MacDonald's in 1970 and who told the court that he had seen a blond girl with a candle in her hand walking near the MacDonald home about 12:00 A.M. on the night of the killings. Then the defense called a surprise witness, Helena Stoeckley, who testified that she had been high on mescaline on Feb. 17, 1970, and could not account for her whereabouts or actions that evening. She stated further that she vaguely recalled seeing a man sleeping on a couch and admitted owning a blond wig, a hat, and a pair of boots similar to those described by the defendant. With the jury out of the courtroom, six other witnesses testified to the credibility of Stoeckley's story. Each witness had personally talked to Stoeckley about the murders. But the accounts varied greatly. As a result, Judge Franklin T. Dupree, Jr., put restrictions on further testimony concerning Stoeckley's "out-of-court" statements, saying that she was a chronic drug user and a "tragic figure."

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