A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald
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Academy Award–winning filmmaker Errol Morris examines one of the most notorious and mysterious murder trials of the twentieth century
In this profoundly original meditation on truth and the justice system, Errol Morris—a former private detective and director of The Thin Blue Line—delves deeply into the infamous Jeffrey MacDonald murder case. MacDonald, whose pregnant wife and two young daughters were brutally murdered in 1970, was convicted of the killings in 1979 and remains in prison today. The culmination of an investigation spanning over twenty years and a masterly reinvention of the true-crime thriller, A Wilderness of Error is a shocking book because it shows that everything we have been told about the case is deeply unreliable and that crucial elements of case against MacDonald are simply not true.
fiber found in Colette’s hairbrush with Stoeckley’s wig. All that we could hope for was to prove the FBI wrong—to prove that saran had been used in the manufacture of wigs. And to prove that the length of the saran fiber (twenty-two inches) suggested that it had not been used in the manufacture of a doll. In 1993, Brian Murtagh, the lead prosecutor, summed up his position on the E-323 fibers in a survey of the collection of fibers and hairs in the possession of the FBI crime lab.2 His argument
dissimilar. And then Jackie Don Wolverton contacted the defense during the 1979 trial. A July 21 defense memo tells one more strange story: This morning a Mr. Jackie Don Wolverton called the Fraternity House. He said he wanted to talk to someone about the girl who allegedly was one of the intruders on 2/17/70 involved in the MacDonald murders. He told me there was a woman who had been living in a commune type lifestyle in Fayetteville. For some reason she asked Wolverton if she could live with
evidence mean that there had been no intruders? Hadn’t MacDonald already addressed this during the Article 32? BERNARD SEGAL: Go ahead and describe the struggle that took place there. JEFFREY MACDONALD: I thought I was being punched…I could feel like a rain of blows on my chest, shoulders, neck, you know, forehead or whatnot. I was just getting punched by what seemed like a lot of, what I thought was fists. While I was holding onto the club I suddenly got a very sharp pain in my chest, my right
When the vacancy in the federal bench came up, they made him a judge. He was a lawyer of no distinction, of no federal experience. And so in his view, whatever the government tells him, the government is always right. So there was a bias that we felt all the time. Also he was a moron. ERROL MORRIS: A moron? BERNARD SEGAL: An absolute moron. And a racist. A very nice young woman, about twenty-two, twenty-three years of age, was one of the speculative jurors. She was African American. She walked