People often think that once a criminal conviction for a crime is obtained, the case is over, but that is often far from the truth. One case that proves this point is that of Jeffrey MacDonald, who was convicted of murder in 1979 and has been in federal prison ever since. The notorious case has spawned best-sellers, a popular television miniseries and numerous appeals.
Yet another appeal has led to more court proceedings that were scheduled to take place in late September. For his part, MacDonald continues to assert that he did not murder his pregnant wife and two daughters on that night in 1970.
The North Carolina murders occurred in February 1970. MacDonald has claimed he awoke on the living room couch to discover four intruders standing over him. They purportedly attacked him, causing him to lose consciousness. When he awoke, he discovered his wife and two daughters dead and, after unsuccessfully trying to revive his wife, ultimately called authorities.
Prosecutors have told different story. They claimed MacDonald committed the murders, staged the entire scene and inflicted the injuries on himself. However, they never established a motive. Now modern technology is taking center stage, and an appeals court has ordered a review of DNA evidence that indicates that hair found underneath the fingernails of MacDonald's daughters does not match anyone who was part of the investigation. The trial court has been ordered to consider that evidence in conjunction with additional evidence advanced by MacDonald's defense team.
It remains to be seen what the result of the trial court's review will be. Nevertheless, the North Carolina federal case underscores the point that representation of someone convicted of a federal crime does not always cease with the finding of guilt, particularly when modern technology may provide new avenues of criminal investigation.
Unfortunately, there are individuals who are convicted of crimes they did not commit, and they have every right to continue to fight to correct any injustice that occurred. In MacDonald's case, he and his defense hoped to convince the trial court that compelling evidence exists to vacate the conviction.
Source: The Bellingham Herald, "Jeffrey MacDonald revives push to prove his innocence," Anne Blythe, Sept. 17, 2012