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Federal judge denies Jeffrey MacDonald's bid for new trial

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A federal judge has denied Jeffrey MacDonald's latest bid for a new trial.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge James C. Fox ruled Thursday that MacDonald's lawyers failed to establish that he shouldn't have been found guilty of the murder of his wife and two daughters.

Fox also said MacDonald's lawyers failed to establish the merits of new evidence presented at a seven-day hearing in September 2012.

As part of his 169-page order, Fox also denied a certificate of appealability, leaving the future of the case in question.

MacDonald, 70, is serving three life sentences for the February 1970 stabbing deaths of his pregnant wife, Colette, and daughters Kimberley, 5, and Kristen, 2, in their home on Fort Bragg.

MacDonald was convicted following a seven-week trial in 1979 but has long contended that he and his family were the victims of a home invasion. He said he woke to find three men and a woman in his home and fought with the trio — described as "drug-crazed hippies" — before being knocked unconscious and stabbed once.

Investigators said MacDonald killed his family and made up that story.

"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 no reasonable fact finder would have found him guilty of the murder of his wife and two daughters," Fox wrote in the order filed Thursday. "Alternatively, the court finds that MacDonald has failed to adequately establish the merits of any of his claims."

Fox's decision came after the 2012 evidentiary hearing was ordered by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lawyers for MacDonald could not immediately be reached for comment.

Kathryn MacDonald, who had been married to MacDonald for more than 11 years, said she was not prepared to comment Thursday afternoon.

Kathryn MacDonald did not know of the judge's decision until she was contacted by a reporter.

MacDonald is a former Army captain who served as a doctor for a Special Forces unit.

His lawyers had argued that new evidence had been found, including DNA from the MacDonald home that does not match him or his family.

Lawyers also submitted statements made by a retired U.S. marshal that a prosecutor pressured a witness to lie on the stand. The retired marshal is dead, as is the witness.

Colette MacDonald had 37 stab wounds — some from an ice pick, some from a knife — and was beaten. She had two broken arms and a fractured skull.

His older daughter had a fractured skull and eight to 10 stab wounds. His younger daughter had 27 stab wounds.

Since his conviction, MacDonald has made repeated attempts at a new trial or to have his convictions overturned.

The case has long captured the nation's attention. It was the subject of the best-selling 1983 true crime book "Fatal Vision," which was turned into a television miniseries of the same name.

brooksd@fayobserver.com
 

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