Those of you who know me may know that I am obsessed with true crime, and more specifically, that Fatal Vision is my favorite true crime book (which is saying a lot). Second on that list might be The Journalist and the Murderer, which is not really a true crime book* but is also about, or at least centers on, the Jeffrey MacDonald case.
If you read Fatal Vision, as millions of people did in the early 1980’s, you’ll know beyond a shadow of a doubt that former Green Beret doctor MacDonald did, in fact, brutally murder his pregnant wife and two young daughters on a rainy night in 1970 in their home in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
But if you listen to fabulous documentarian and sadly misguided soul Errol Morris tell it in last fall’s A Wilderness of Error, MacDonald didn’t get a fair trial and is probably innocent. The book, which I got on the day of its release, kind of enraged me because yes, although Fatal Vision author Joe McGinnis certainly did deceive MacDonald into thinking he was writing a book that would exonerate him, or at least advance a narrative of his innocence, that doesn’t make McDonald any less of a bald-faced sociopath and murderer. But Wilderness also kind of didn’t enrage me because I, for one (and hopefully I’m not the only one) know the truth in my heart of hearts.
In fact, I am not the only one. Federal prosecutor Brian Murtagh, who has been working to keep MacDonald in prison since he was finally convicted of the crime in 1979, is apparently STILL slogging away, thanks to a slew of new hearings that seeks to overturn MacDonald’s sentence (and apparently features Morris cheering MacDonald on from the gallery).
Last night I read a fabulous Washington Post Magazine article that profiles the dogged Murtagh and exposes Morris for the justice hack I know he isn’t really (The Thin Blue Line did, after all, help rightfully exonerate an innocent man on Texas’ Death Row), but has apparently morphed into on this particular issue. (Like I said, Morris is usually such a fabulous truth seeker, I have a feeling he just picked the wrong side of this issue and then didn’t know what to do with himself once he got in too deep.) Anyway, kudos to excellent reporter and columnist Gene Weingarten for writing the article so I didn’t have to!
Look, I don’t usually argue on behalf of keeping criminals in prison indefinitely. Lord knows I’ll get into it. But if anyone deserves to stay behind bars, it’s this creep.
*Unless you consider journalism a kind of crime, which Malcolm does.