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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Former Army Surgeon Jeffrey MacDonald Convicted of Killing Pregnant Wife and Two Daughters;
Aired December 14, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, exclusive dramatic news on one of America's most notorious murder cases. Could former Army Surgeon Jeffrey MacDonald go free after a quarter of a century in prison for the brutal stabbing and beating deaths of his pregnant wife and their two little girls?
His current wife speaks out on what he calls new evidence. Kathryn MacDonald is exclusive and next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Front page story today in "The Wall Street Journal," Jeffrey MacDonald who seems never to leave us. Briefly in the early morning hours of February 17th, 1970, Captain MacDonald's pregnant wife Colette (ph) and their two young daughters were beaten, stabbed and bludgeoned to death at their home on the Army base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
It took nine years but nine years later he was convicted, an Army surgeon and a Green Beret captain found guilty of killing the family. He's always maintained his innocence claiming his family was attacked by a drug-crazed band of hippies.
He's now 62. He's imprisoned in Cumberland, Maryland. He's appeared on this program twice since being in prison, once in Oregon and once two years ago in Maryland.
Now, comes this rather startling story, a latest twist in the case, what have we learned, Kathryn?
KATHRYN MACDONALD, MARRIED CONVICTED KILLER JEFFREY MACDONALD IN PRISON IN 2002: It's a really amazing development, Mr. King, the most significant happening in this -- in this long saga since the trial.
A very respected, unimpeachable law enforcement official, a former U.S. Marshal, 22 years experience guarding the judges, the prosecutors, the witnesses in North Carolina, comes forward of his own volition to our attorney because his conscience was gnawing at him that for 25 years he knew information that would blow this case apart.
KING: What did he know?
MACDONALD: He witnessed the key prosecutor, the lead prosecutor in this case, James Blackburn threatening the key witness in this case.
KING: He saw it?
MACDONALD: He was in the room and a U.S. Marshal would be often invited into a room. They're sort of a trusted confidante.
KING: Now, this was a girl, a woman, who is since deceased right?
MACDONALD: This is the woman that when my husband was resuscitated, found unconscious and stabbed on the floor of his home and he was revived and he described the people that he saw in his home, a woman with a floppy hat and long, stringy blonde hair and there just happened to be such a woman who met that description, who had no alibi for where she was during that time.
KING: Did she speak to the marshal? Is it she said -- as we understand it, the story I read in the paper, she said to the prosecutor "I was in the house" right?
MACDONALD: That's right.
KING: The marshal was present at this?
MACDONALD: Yes, he was in the room.
KING: And she even identified a hobby horse.
KING: As being in the house, right?
MACDONALD: Yes, that she remembered the hobby horse and a spring being broken on the horse, which would be a detail you wouldn't know unless you were there.
KING: OK. Now let me just get -- we invited the prosecutor in the case, Jim Blackburn, who is now the focus of these new allegations to appear with us tonight. He declined. However, he did give us this statement.
"I have read the affidavit of the deputy marshal and the allegations contained therein about me and Helena Stokley (ph) are not true." That's the woman. "These things never happened. I still believe Jeffrey MacDonald is guilty of murdering his family.
And in the interview in "The Wall Street Journal" Blackburn also denied Mr. Brit's (ph) claim. The paper quotes Mr. Blackburn as saying, "It's absolutely not true. It blows my mind that he thinks she told us that."
Now, we invited Mr. Brit to appear tonight. He declined. Why doesn't he come forward the man who's breaking this news?
MACDONALD: He has a very quiet strength about him and he basically -- he's a very no nonsense person and once he made this decision to come forward and tell what he knew basically breaking rank with everyone he'd ever worked with for 22 years, he said "I don't want to talk to anyone but a federal judge." I respect that.
KING: So, he's saying that this woman told the prosecutor "I was in the house." Did she say there were others in the house? Did she say there was a -- they participated in a murder?
MACDONALD: My understanding from the affidavit is that Mr. Brit recalled her saying "and there were others with me. I was in the house" and then she was cut off by the prosecutor.
KING: Who then said apparently "I will charge you with murder."
MACDONALD: If you so testify in front of a jury, I will indict you for first degree murder. He threatened her. He threatened a witness, the key witness in this case. He threatened her and frightened her into going on the stand and lying. He's since been disbarred for 12 other counts, felony counts of dishonesty.
KING: This prosecutor?
KING: Can you tell me, I'm still a little befuddled, why knowing an innocent man is sitting in prison Mr. Brit waited all this time. That's hard to conceive.
MACDONALD: I think the fraternity among law enforcement officials is so strong that he felt very conflicted and I don't spend a lot of time asking why. Neither does Jeff. It's more what if he hadn't come forward? Thank God he came forward.
KING: All right, so your lawyers have now what filed what?
MACDONALD: Our lead attorney, Tim Junkins (ph), has written a motion and submitted that to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which basically states that we have newly discovered evidence that could not be known at the time of trial, which is a standard you must meet if you are trying...
MACDONALD: ...to prove your factual innocence. And that if you take this newly discovered evidence in light of the evidence as a whole that's been brought forward since my husband's conviction, wig hairs from -- that are 22 inches long that aren't matched to anything in the house, black wool fiber that doesn't match any garment in that house, candle wax that doesn't match any candles in the house.
You add all these up, new affidavits from people who say that Greg Mitchell (ph), her boyfriend, confessed to them that he was the one who killed my husband's family. You add all this up and there you have in totality evidence that shows actual innocence. It can't be denied at this point.
What we need is for all of this evidence to be allowed in all at once because when you take it in its totality there is no denying you have an innocent man in prison.
KING: You have a problem that the woman is dead though so it becomes he said. Do we trust Mr. Brit or do we trust Mr. Blackburn?
MACDONALD: It's certainly an issue of credibility.
KING: One of them is not telling the truth right?
MACDONALD: Well, I'll tell you this, Mr. King, Jim Brit came forward on his own. He has -- he has no vested interest. In fact, this is not in his best interest to go to stand up against everything he believed our government stands for and all the people he worked with and to put himself out there because his conscience told him it was the right thing to do. He took a polygraph. He passed it. Does Jim Blackburn want to take a polygraph?
KING: Do you think Jim Blackburn despite this evidence wanted to convict your husband? I mean why would a prosecutor -- and we'll have -- after you leave a prosecutor, a former federal prosecutor is going to join us, why would a prosecutor want to put an innocent person in jail?
MACDONALD: I think the government pursued my husband for nine years. They invested...
KING: Congress got involved. (INAUDIBLE).
MACDONALD: Well, careers were on the line and they were not going to lose. In fact, I had a very fascinating opportunity to sit and talk with Mr. Blackburn. I asked him to meet me and talk with me and I talked to him up at...
KING: How long ago?
MACDONALD: Just a couple months ago, recently.
MACDONALD: Because I felt that he knows the truth and wanted to say something.
KING: What did he say to you?
MACDONALD: he told me that when the judge did not allow in six people who were ready to testify that Helena Stokely had confessed to them that she was in the house. That was not allowed. The jury was not allowed to hear that. He said that the judge handed them the trial on a platter when he did that.
KING: But that was appealed and was upheld that the judge had a right to do that right? You did appeal that?
MACDONALD: Judge Mirnahan (ph) said that it made him extremely uneasy and that if he had been the judge he would have allowed the witnesses because the jury should be allowed to make their own decision about who is trustworthy or not. It's sort of a circular argument. If she had said what the defense believes she would say on the stand, which she would have if she hadn't been threatened, then would she have been believable?
KING: What did your husband in was basically his father-in-law, right, who turned on him, who loved him at the beginning and then tracked him and got mad at him and really urged Congress to get involved, urged the Army to reopen it, right?
KING: That's the book "Fatal Vision."
MACDONALD: It was sort of a fake gauntlet that he held up is the best way I can describe it.
KING: Let me get a break and we'll come right back. As we go to break, a portion of our last interview with Jeffrey MacDonald in 2003 in Cumberland, Maryland.
KING: So you're now cut and hit and you're lying on the couch?
JEFFREY MACDONALD: I didn't know I was being cut. I was -- all of a sudden in this struggle I'm trying to push these people away and get up at the same time. I finally got my left leg on the floor and that gave me a little leverage and I started to move forward.
And I finally grabbed the black male's arm as he swung it and he kept jerking his arm away to pull the weapon away and my hand kept sliding down on a weapon, which is how I know it was a baseball bat because it was smooth.
KING: (INAUDIBLE) and then they left?
J. MACDONALD: Well, the next thing I knew I was tumbling towards the floor and I saw the bare knee of what I took to be this white female and I saw the top of boots. At the time they were called go-go boots. They were light in color and they were glistening like they were wet.
When I came to the house was silent and my first memory, as strange as it sounds, is the smell of Johnson's floor wax. My face was on the floor and to this day if I walk in a room that's recently waxed I get a very weird feeling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRED KASSAB, MACDONALD'S FATHER-IN-LAW: My wife and I both would much rather that it had been drugged hippies than the person that Colette loved so much. We would much rather it had been complete strangers but anybody that is not willing to face facts and the insurmountable evidence involved in this case you'd have to be a complete fool. You'd have to just be an ostrich and stick your head in the sand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That's the late Fred Kassab. He passed away. He was the father-in-law, the stepmother -- he was the stepfather of Colette and the father-in-law to Captain MacDonald. How's he taking this, this new news?
MACDONALD: Well, when he -- I was the person who had the opportunity to tell him. I sat in the visiting room and told him about Jim Brit coming forward and he became very emotional and just said "Thank God someone is doing the right thing."
KING: Is your attorney confident they're going to give you the motion? I mean when are they hearing the motion do you know?
MACDONALD: Well, the Fourth Circuit has a -- the Appeals Court has 30 days to make a decision about whether they'll hear us and...
KING: Where do they sit the Fourth Circuit?
MACDONALD: It's in Richmond, Virginia.
KING: Now, you said you've met, you were telling me during the break you've met Mr. Blackburn on other occasions?
MACDONALD: I met him on two occasions, yes.
KING: And what did he -- what else did you discuss?
MACDONALD: Well, I, as I said I had a feeling that he -- he really wanted to do the right thing and tell someone what he knows. It was ironic...
KING: Why would he do the wrong thing?
MACDONALD: I think he is not an evil person but a malleable person and he -- he -- he has psychiatric issues. I don't know when they started. I know that...
KING: Do you know that for a fact?
MACDONALD: Well that's what -- that's what the basis of his felony convictions was that he was driven to...
KING: The prosecutor was convicted of felonies?
MACDONALD: Twelve felony counts and he spent time in federal prison.
KING: This was after the case?
MACDONALD: After the case.
KING: What's he doing now?
MACDONALD: He actually gives seminars on what you should not do as a lawyer -- what is -- to avoid trouble.
KING: Ethics of the lawyer?
MACDONALD: What is unethical, yes. KING: And what is Mr. Brit doing now the marshal?
MACDONALD: He is retired and his best friend Lee Tart (ph) who also gave us an affidavit says that he's a changed man since he's come forward with this, gotten this off his chest. It just gnawed at him all these years.
KING: And you met Mr. Brit?
MACDONALD: Yes, I have.
KING: What does he say to you? Is he apologetic for not coming forward sooner?
MACDONALD: I think he felt that way at first but I assured him that we were just so grateful that he did come forward. To think what might have happened if he hadn't come forward, which he could have easily done but, you know, the right thing to do is -- and the hard thing to do are often the same thing to do and this is a man who had the courage to do it.
KING: Now you married Jeffrey much later, right?
MACDONALD: We've been married three and a half years.
KING: Right. You met him when you were a kid, right?
KING: But how did you come to marry him?
MACDONALD: Well, we developed a friendship. It's been about eight or nine years and sort of just we got closer and closer. You get to a point where you just realize if you're lucky enough to meet a person that you would do anything for that you believe in wholeheartedly that you understand their suffering and that you know you would do anything, they would do anything for you, you grab onto it.
KING: You knew there was strong evidence the other way, I'm sure. Had you read "Fatal Vision" or seen the teleplay with Karl Malden?
MACDONALD: Well, I'd have to respectfully disagree about strong evidence. All the evidence in this case is circumstantial and can...
KING: Well, most evidence is circumstantial unless there was an eyewitness.
MACDONALD: Well there were eyewitnesses and they confessed but they weren't believed. The judge decided that they were not believable.
KING: That sounds uncanny.
MACDONALD: It is unbelievable.
KING: People confess to a murder and no one believes them. MACDONALD: That's right. How many times do you have a murder case where you -- where you describe the people who were in your house? They existed. They had no alibi. They burned their clothing and they're not believed.
KING: Was Jeffrey's private life, the fact that he had affairs that they've kind of proven that he had rages as I'm trying -- I'm working from memory here...
MACDONALD: No, they never proved that he -- in fact, all his psychological evaluations have shown the opposite that he's not capable of such a horrendous crime.
People sometimes kill their wives but very, very, very rarely do they kill their children and when they do there's always a background that leads up to it. You don't just snap for five minutes never to be seen before or ever again and that's what they would have you believe (INAUDIBLE).
KING: We're going to have, by the way at the bottom of the hour after Mrs. MacDonald leaves us an outstanding panel to discuss this including a former federal prosecutor, an attorney who has represented Jeffrey MacDonald, Cyril Wecht the famed forensic pathologist and the chief investigator for the U.S. Army in this case. They'll all be with us at the bottom of the hour.
And we'll be back with Kathryn and we'll take a few calls for her right after this.
KING: Are you optimistic?
J. MACDONALD: I'm optimistic if the tests are done legitimately, yes. There is no way that those people were in that house and didn't leave evidence and the government record shows the evidence. It shows wig fibers from Helena Stokley's wig. It shows brown hair in my wife's hand that was secretly tried to match to me.
KING: And you're saying the government knew this.
J. MACDONALD: Knew it.
KING: And still went ahead.
J. MACDONALD: Still went ahead and prosecuted me.
KING: We'll take a couple calls for Kathryn MacDonald. But she wanted to point out a few other things.
MACDONALD: I wanted to mention that one of the crucial, the most crucial point of this case is whether there were other people in that house or not.
MACDONALD: And we have the opportunity to present that all the information that shows that there were people in the house and my husband will come home. And I think one of the really remarkable things happened.
Not only have we had three independent witnesses contact the defense recently, this is after 20-some years all saying independently of each other that this man, Greg Mitchell, Helena Stokely's boyfriend, confessed to them that he killed my husband's family. I met Greg Mitchell's relatives and they told me they had always been tortured by the knowledge that their brother may have been involved.
KING: Where is he?
MACDONALD: He's dead just like Helena Stokely. Independently of each other they said she said she was drinking herself, taking drugs because she couldn't stand the guilt and he was telling his friends he couldn't -- he couldn't stop drinking because of the guilt because he killed my husband's family. We have these three new affidavits and we also have his own flesh and blood, his brother and sister saying "We want closure. We want a court to hear this."
KING: Why are you so sure he didn't do it?
MACDONALD: It's like asking if you're a male or a female, you know it and you look at everything that goes on around you and you say I know the person intimately. I'd lay my life down on it.
KING: Norfolk, Virginia for Kathryn MacDonald, hello.
CALLER FROM NORFOLK, VIRGINIA: Hi, Larry. I always believed that Dr. MacDonald was innocent. Also, I wanted -- my question is whether there was any blood DNA evidence from the crime scene that could be tested at this point.
KING: They didn't have DNA then. They do now.
MACDONALD: They did not have DNA then and we do have -- the judge in this case allowed 15 exhibits to be DNA tested. They're mainly hair not the blood. The prosecutor was against having the blood evidence brought in. We wanted all the evidence tested so most of the blood has been kicked out.
KING: So what happened from that with the hairs?
MACDONALD: We're still after eight years waiting for results.
KING: Eight years?
MACDONALD: Yes, it's pretty unbelievable.
KING: Well, I'm going to ask Dr. Wecht because he's a forensic pathologist why would it take so long to get a DNA from a hair? The question is does the hair belong to anyone in the house or people who weren't, who were not living in the house right?
MACDONALD: Right, are they un-sourced? Do we know whose they are? My husband lived there but there were obviously other people in the house.
KING: And also I guess a lot of people just couldn't buy the concept of hippies breaking into a house at an Army fort. What were they looking for drugs?
MACDONALD: Well, the post was open, number one and, yes, I mean they said that they didn't come there to kill anyone that they came there to try to teach Jeff a lesson and looking for drugs. They were on five or six different drugs themselves.
KING: Teach Jeff a lesson about what?
MACDONALD: Well, he was -- he worked at a hospital there on the base and one of his responsibilities was to inform about people who -- officers who were on drugs. This is what Greg Mitchell said.
KING: I see. It's also that he was a Green Beret, Jeffrey right?
MACDONALD: Yes. There's some misconception about that. He was in the Special Forces but he went to paratrooper school for two weeks. He didn't have his marshal arts training or whatever. He then became a group surgeon. They needed surgeons.
KING: And was a captain.
KING: Yes, Waco, Texas, hello.
CALLER FROM WACO, TEXAS: Yes, I'm wondering how she can still proclaim the innocence of her husband when you look at the crime situation and two innocent children there was an overkill of innocent children and a woman and he had non-fatal injuries.
KING: That, of course, hurt him a lot. His injuries were non-fatal. They were pretty much topical weren't they?
MACDONALD: No, that's another myth of this case that they were topical. My husband was in the ICU for nine days. He had a punctured lung. He required two surgeries and he -- and several doctors have testified that no one, including a doctor, would stab themselves in such a place because it was so precariously close to the liver.
He had multiple stab wounds, head contusions. The fact that he didn't die, you have people in the house, you're unconscious on the floor, they're whacked out on drugs that they would think you're dead or alive. In fact, they stated that they didn't know whether he was or not.
KING: There was a time he was cleared right?
MACDONALD: Yes and the... KING: He was out free. He was practicing medicine right?
MACDONALD: Yes and the supreme irony there is that he -- he went to an Article 32 hearing, which is the precursor to a court martial and the colonel, the presiding colonel said that the charges against him were not true and that the whereabouts of Helena Stokely should be investigated. They weren't.
KING: It all started when the father-in-law turned on him right, didn't it?
MACDONALD: That was a big turning point yes.
KING: And Joe McGinnis hurt him but that was after the trial when the book came out.
MACDONALD: Yes and he was then sued in a civil suit and my husband won a very significant settlement.
KING: Yes, suing him for?
MACDONALD: This is another thing I want to clarify because people always say that Jeff sued him because he found him guilty or he didn't believe he was innocent after all. That wasn't it. He signed a contract saying he would tell the truth and he didn't. He took sentences from here and there, transcripts. Jeff trusted him. He thought of him like a best friend and he transposed these things to make a fabricated story that's hurt my husband terribly.
KING: Why -- why do you exist in a marriage when there's no physical contact?
MACDONALD: Well we have some physical contact but it's certainly not the big...
KING: There's no sex.
MACDONALD: That's correct not at present. That's something I -- I look at as icing on the cake but the bond that we have is so much deeper and so much more valuable. I would never trade it.
KING: Do you think you're going to win this?
MACDONALD: I have every confidence that if there is justice, if someone will just listen to us, let all this evidence out what do they have to lose? Why are they hiding it? We want everything out there. Then we will win and Jeff will come home.
KING: Thanks, Kathryn.
MACDONALD: Thank you so much.
KING: Kathryn MacDonald, the wife of Captain Jeffrey MacDonald.
When we come back an outstanding panel will take a look at this. Don't go away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Army investigated MacDonald for the murder of his family, then released him. The story might have ended there except for MacDonald's in-laws, Mildred and Freddie Kassab. They believe MacDonald killed Colette and the kids and that belief became an obsession.
KASSAB: No one should be able to commit three murders and be found guilty and through a technicality of some kind be allowed to go off Scott free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It may be an extraordinary development in the ongoing case of Captain Jeffrey MacDonald.
First, before I introduce the panel, let me again read the statement from the prosecutor, Jim Blackburn. Now the focus of the new allegations, Mr. Blackburn -- the charge is that he knew one of the women was at the scene and said he would prosecute her for murder if she testified. And he says, "I've read the affidavit of the deputy marshal and the allegations contained therein about me and Helena Stokely are not true. These things never happened. I still believe Jeffrey MacDonald is guilty of murdering his family." He says, "It is absolutely not true. It blows my mind that he thinks she told us that," referring, of course, to the marshal, Mr. Britt, who has come forward to reveal this.
In San Francisco is Bernie Segal. Bernie was Jeffrey MacDonald's defense attorney from 1970 to 1984. He's still involved with the defense. He's professor of Law at Golden Gate University Law School in San Francisco.
Here in Los Angeles, the return visit for Mary Fulginiti. She is a former federal prosecutor.
In Pittsburgh, Dr. Cyril Wecht, the forensic pathologist who has worked for the MacDonald defense team. He's the coroner of Allegheny County, and author of his latest book, "Tales from the Morgue."
And in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Peter Kearns, chief investigator for the U.S. Army's reinvestigation of the MacDonald case. He wrote the final Army report, identifying Jeffrey MacDonald as the murderer. He once interrogated MacDonald.
On the phone is Bob Stevenson. His sister was Colette, the wife of MacDonald, who was murdered.
What is it like, Bob? We'll spend a few moments with you. Based on what you've heard tonight, does this change your mind at all?
BOB STEVENSON, BROTHER OF JEFFREY MACDONALD'S MURDERED WIFE: No, as far as I'm concerned, this is just one more of the examples of the writhing and twisting of the MacDonald camp. Nothing has ever changed. It kind of reminds me of the old saying about the new Nixon, the new new Nixon -- there's always new evidence, there's always something they're waiting for, there are always excuses, there are always allegations, there are always half-truths.
The fact is that they're unhappy with their eight years on the DNA blood evidence study. The fact is they themselves picked the laboratory it has been conducted in. Nothing that the government has done has slowed that down.
The fact that Jeffrey was convicted is because of his mouth. It's his arrogance, it's the fact that he told too many conflicting stories, including the changing wounds.
KING: But do you know, Bob -- are you a little concerned that a federal marshal would now come forward and say that the prosecutor met with one of the people who might have been a witness and handled it incorrectly? Does that bother you at all?
STEVENSON: No, it doesn't. I think that usually you find in the aftermath that there has been some form of opportunism (ph) on the party of one or another party, someone who wants to write a book, included in something new.
In fact, I'm told that there was a period of time -- and I don't wonder that the MacDonalds are frustrated with their witness gone wrong. You see, it's the matter of fact that a considerable amount of time was spent by a man named Ted Gunderson in a motel in California in which Helena Stokely and her husband were coached as to what kind of testimony would be appropriate.
KING: Do you think Mr. Britt is lying?
STEVENSON: I don't know anything about him. I only know that the MacDonalds are heavily vested in having Helena Stokely be found to have usable testimony. The fact is she was coached. There is evidence to that. And she merely recanted her statement.
KING: All right, Bernie -- thank you very much, Bob Stevenson.
Bernie Segal, the lawyer for Jeffrey MacDonald. What do you make of Mr. Britt's affidavit?
BERNIE SEGAL, ORIGINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR CONVICTED KILLER JEFFREY MACDONALD: It is an astonishing revelation. This is just one more in a 35-year litany of attempts by the government to suppress really key evidence. Holding out the fact that they threatened Helena Stokely with indicting her for murder is only the latest of a tremendous list of failures by the government. It is stunning, it is shocking. I think it has the basis for giving Jeffrey MacDonald some relief in this case.
KING: Mary Fulingiti (mispronounces the name) -- Fulginiti --
MARY FULGINITI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Fulginiti.
KING: -- former federal prosecutor.
FULGINITI: You know, I disagree. I think what we have here is information that's coming forward 25 years after the fact. I think anyone will concede that when somebody doesn't come forward before that fact, and then they're trying to give you specifics of conversations that occurred 25 years earlier, that information is not only stale, but somewhat suspect.
KING: Are you bothered by the fact that it is a federal marshal saying it, and two, that the prosecutor has had, apparently, according to Mrs. MacDonald, had convictions of felonies?
FULGINITI: Well, with regard to the federal marshal, it certainly is somewhat disconcerting, obviously, that a federal official is coming forward years later. And a federal marshal, as opposed to some other witnesses -- in comparison to Miss Stokely -- has a lot more credibility, I think in this particular case.
But the problem is is that -- you know, it is not like he wrote down what was said 25 years ago. Witnesses' memories fade, their recollection of events change as time goes on. So the context that some of these statements were set in, if altered slightly because of recollection, as opposed to a threat could actually just be an accurate statement of fact, which isn't necessarily prosecutorial misconduct.
KING: Dr. Wecht, what do you make of all this? You once worked for the defense team.
DR. CYRIL WECHT, FORENSIC EXPERT, ALLEGHENY COUNTY CORONER: I like to deal with some facts. You know, the first thing that homicide detectives look for are motives -- what's the motive here? And let's look at these brutal killings. Kristen, the 2-year-old was stabbed 17 times and speared 15 times with an ice pick. Kimberly, the 5-year- old, was stabbed multiple times and struck on the head with some kind of a club, an instrument, by the way, which nobody to my understanding has ever found. And Colette was speared 17 -- 21 times with an ice pick and brutally beaten on the head, producing a fractured skull.
Jeffrey MacDonald had multiple stab wounds, a couple in the abdomen, the forearm, one into the chest that did produce a pneumothorax. He was in the hospital for seven days. To say that because he was a doctor, he can calculate exactly the depth of the penetrating wound and be sure that he will survive that, that is absurd. No doctor, including a thoracic surgeon, is going to undertake that kind of a situation. This is a man that did not have that kind of a brutal past.
A graduate of Princeton, a graduate of Northwestern Medical School, at or near the top of his class, a man who was respected, considered to be someone most likely to succeed down the road. You know what the motive was Larry, that they said, that the child, Kristen, had wet the bed, Colette having taken her to the bed, and that Jeffrey was so angry that his side of the bed had been wet by his 2-year-old daughter, that he proceeded to murder his wife and murder the two children. Now, that's the motive. KING: What do you make of the DNA taking so long with the hair?
WECHT: That I do not understand. You know, I've been contacted by other attorneys, subsequent to Bernard Segal, an outstanding attorney who first contacted me back in '79 and I've lost track of that, Larry. I have no answer as to why DNA tests should take eight years. There's no reason, technically speaking, for tests to take 8, 8-and-a-half years.
KING: All right, I want to bring in Peter Kearns. We'll take a break. And Peter Kearns was the chief investigator. He did write the final Army report. He'll be a key here, and we'll ask him about it right after this.
KING: What happened between you and your father-in-law?
JEFFREY MACDONALD: Well, there were two versions. There's one that is documented in facts and records, and that is that when I moved to California, his wife -- my mother-in-law -- and my father-in-law, threatened me. They said, you're abandoning us, you're abandoning the family.
I said, Look, the tragedy has destroyed me and my life. I've lost Colette, Kim and Kris forever. I'm going to try to rebuild my life. They said, If you move to California, you will live to regret it. You're abandoning us. I said, I'm not -- this is in front of witnesses. There's other people who were at this meeting. But what Mr. Kassab said --
KING: That was his name.
J. MACDONALD: That was his name. Alfred and Mildred Kassab were my in-laws.
KING: They're both gone now?
J. MACDONALD: They're both gone now. They had passed away in the '90s. But what they said years later was that a lie that I did in fact tell Alfred, tell Freddy (ph) -- which he knew at the time wasn't really true -- he said that is what changed his view of me.
KING: OK. In Fayetteville, North Carolina is Peter Kearns, chief investigator of the U.S. Army's reinvestigation into the MacDonald case. He wrote the final Army report identifying Jeffrey as the murderer. He wants to interrogate MacDonald.
Peter, what's your read on all this?
PETER KEARNS, FORMER ARMY INVESTIGATOR IN JEFFREY MACDONALD MURDER CASE: Well, initially I can tell you that most of what Mrs. MacDonald is talking about with Mitchell and Helena Stokely (ph) it's all been before the appeals court. There's nothing new here.
The only thing new is this statement by Brit (ph), which I haven't read. Except I've had people call me and tell me what's in it. And I've heard what's in it some more tonight.
KING: Does it cause you concern that a federal marshal would say this, if what is said is true, does it bother you?
KEARNS: No. No. Because I know Brit, not well, but I know him. And we're not on good terms, and we weren't on good terms the last time I met him. In fact, we had a verbal altercation. Most of the verbal came from me.
KING: So you don't believe him? Is that what you're saying?
KEARNS: I believe that there may have been statements that he could assume after 30 years or 20 years that he heard this. But Brit doesn't impress me. He didn't impress me in 1971 when I first met him. In fact, we had verbal...
KING: You told me.
When you interrogated MacDonald, did you ever get at the why? Why did he do this to his family?
KEARNS: No, because Mr. Siegel's (ph) there. And he knows what happened. We had two interviews with him. Jack Pruett was the colonel, my boss and myself. And we never even got that far as to motive.
And by the way, that's the last thing that criminal investigators look for is the motive. First, we look for the evidence. No, I know why he did it.
KEARNS: Because he was screwing around on his wife. And he got caught.
KING: So you kill a 2-year-old daughter?
KEARNS: It's very simple. Yes. She's a witness. Simple. This is very simple.
KING: OK. Bernie, how do you respond to what Peter just said?
BERNARD SEGAL, ORIGINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR CONVICTED KILLED JEFFREY MACDONALD: Larry, it's preposterous.
Let me digress for a moment, please. Cyril Wecht said something very important. The way these people were killed four weapons used to slaughter children and the wife, this is an act of someone in a monstrous psychiatric rage, a psychotic episode.
One of the things the trial judge did not allow us to show the jury was the psychiatric evidence from 1970, 1975, and 1979. Army doctors, defense doctors all agree, Jeffrey Macdonald did not kill his family. He did not show signs of a psychiatric breakdown of any sort.
That was critical evidence that should have been heard by the jury. And it was one more of a long litany of things that a very evilly-minded trial judge kept out of this case.
KING: OK. Hold it right there, Bernie, because Mary is shaking her head.
MARY FULGINITI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I just want to say the reality of it is that prosecutors don't always know the why. Even though you'd like to know definitively the why.
KING: Well, wouldn't it puzzle you?
FULGINITI: Well, it does.
But look at the Scott Peterson case puzzles many people. And O.J. Simpson to the extent you believe that he committed the crime puzzles many people as to the why.
So I think the why really isn't the issue here. The issue here is this new information sufficient to really meet the extraordinary burden?
KING: So the prosecutor doesn't say why would a guy do this to his 2-year-old daughter?
FULGINITI: Oh, no, the prosecutor when they're doing the case and they're working it up they are definitely trying to figure out the why. Although the investigator, you're right, they're gathering the information.
We want to understand the whole story because what you want to be able to do is present that story to the jury to make it believable.
KING: So does it right now puzzle you?
FULGINITI: Yes, it does puzzle me. Because when people have no history of violence or criminal activity and they commit such a brutal act, it does puzzles me, but that certainly doesn't mean that they didn't do it.
KING: Peter said it was due to adultery. You'd kill a 2-year- old daughter if you were an adulteress?
FULGINITI: You know, it depends on somebody's anger issues.
KING: But we got to take a break.
But before we go to break let's go Iraq. How about that for a line? I throw countries at you. I am name dropping. We'll go to Iraq and check in with Anderson Cooper, who is in Iraq all this week.
What's up tonight at the top of the hour--Anderson?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, it's going to be a remarkable day here in Baqubah in Iraq and all over this country. Historic elections, a milestone in the history of this nation in the fight for the soul and the future of Iraq.
The polls open here in a little bit more than an hour. Iraqis coming to vote in parliamentary elections that are going to determine what happens here for the next four years and perhaps how quickly American troops can come home. We are going to bring you all the action live, Larry, right from a polling station.
KING: Anderson Cooper, nobody better on the scene than A.C. He'll host "A.C. 360" at the top f of the hour.
And we will be right back with more. Don't go away.
KING: Bob Stevenson, the brother of Colette, the wife who was killed, has contacted us back. He wants to add something about motive, Bob.
BOB STEVENSON, BROTHER OF JEFFREY MACDONALD'S MURDERED WIFE: Thank you Larry.
Over the years, the most often asked question that's ever come to me even by friends wanting to sew this up in their minds as what could the motive have been? What could it have been?
Fred Kassab developed a theory, but frankly nobody has had the guts to print or to air his theory. Fred Kassab always believed that Jeffrey MacDonald is a child molester.
You see, one of the key facts that he lied about is the urine stains. As secretors and each of them having different blood types, it could easily be shown whose urine that was. That urine did not belong to the youngest child. It belonged to the oldest child.
Why would a man create a lie that doesn't need to be created? Even a clever liar only changes those facts that need to be changed for a reason. Fred thought about the many reasons that could be possible and in his mind, there is only one.
He believed that this narcissistic rage and fury came about because Jeffrey was caught in some form of a sexual act with his oldest child by my sister. In a very chilling report done by one of the psychiatrists, Dr. Hirsch Lazaar Silverman, it shows MacDonald to be a man who under the proper stimulation could easily have created such a crime and committed those acts.
KING: OK. Bob, I have got a problem here with time. But I'm glad you brought that thought on the speculative parts.
Dr. Wecht, what do you make of that?
DR. CYRIL WECHT, FORENSIC EXPERT, ALLEGHENY COUNTY CORONER: Well, there was no evidence of any kind of sexual activity. All the injures that the two little girls sustained were clearly from the knife and the ice pick and from some kind of a club.
Let me point out a couple of historical facts that haven't been mentioned this evening. Just six months before the Mansons had struck with Sharon Tate and the La Bianca and killed a pig. The pig was written in book, and in this case pig written in blood was there.
And Helena Stokely was heard to say, acid's groovy, kill the pigs. Helena Stokely was seen just a couple of blocks away by the military policeman, Kenneth Mica, who is driving to the scene having been called. And there she was in the rain with that wide brimmed hat and that long stringy blond hair.
Did Jeffrey MacDonald make up the whole thing about Helena Stokely and three men, two whites and a black guy? That all just came to him and he that whole scenario all planned? These were known hippies. These were known drug abusers. She was on mescaline, which is a hallucinogenic drug. These are the exact kinds of people who would commit these kinds of crimes.
Just look at the Manson Sharon Tate situation. This was very much a copycat murder just occurring six months after those brutal killings in Hollywood.
KING: Peter Kearns do you ever have a doubt?
KEARNS: Let me tell you, Larry, Dr. Wecht knows as much about this case as his son did when he did the research for Wecht's book. Wecht didn't do it. Let me tell you that right now. He has no idea what went on in that house, none whatsoever. He's never talked to an investigator. He's never visited the house. He has no idea what went on. He's just spouting what he believes and what the defense attorneys have given him.
KING: You don't have any doubt?
KEARNS: There is no doubt in my mind Jeffrey MacDonald murdered Colette. He murdered Kimmy and he murdered Chrissy (ph). And he should stay right where he is.
KING: Mary, what do you do as a prosecutor when and if you have a doubt?
FULGINITI: You should explore it. I mean, look, there's a number of cases that we have where people come forward with information that is contrary sometimes to what you believe occurred.
And in seeking out what justice is, you should be trying to confirm or deny if you believe it's credible in any way, whether or not that information is correct.
And I assume here, since it took nine years to actually prosecute Mr. MacDonald, that there was a lot of that going on by the prosecution.
KING: He was cleared for a long time, wasn't he? FULGINITI: Yes, he was. He wasn't necessarily even a suspect for a many years. So it took them a quite a long time to build this case and finally focus on him. And I think in the interim, they were clearly looking for who they thought committed the crime.
KING: We'll be back with more.
Bill Maher tomorrow night. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You were convicted at a seven-week trial in 1979. But the U.S. Court of Appeals a year later reverses and frees you.
JEFFREY MACDONALD, FEDERAL PRISON: Yes.
KING: Reversed on what counts?
MACDONALD: Speedy trial. I won two different speedy trial appeals. Both were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Until my case came up the U.S. Supreme Court...
KING: So the prosecution appealed the court of appeals ruling in your favor to the Supreme Court?
MACDONALD: Correct. Yes. And the Supreme Court reinstated the conviction. They said that the years 1970 to 1975 didn't count towards speedy trial because I wasn't under indictment from a federal grand jury.
KING: What did you do that year you were out?
MACDONALD: I practiced medicine in Long Beach. I am an emergency physician. I had a circle of friends in my family. And I practiced medicine at St. Mary Medical Center.
KING: They just came and rearrested you and brought you back to prison?
MACDONALD: March 31,1982.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Bernie Siegel, do you think the 4th Circuit will hear the appeal, will hear the motion?
SIEGEL: Larry, I wish I had a crystal ball to say that. But if ever there was a motion which cried out for relief, this is one of them. And I think that Jeffrey MacDonald's case is as strong as you can make for a chance to be heard again. And I think it should be done.
But will you allow me to say one thing, Larry? And that is to say you and your audience have just seen an example of what happens when you try to fight for Jeffrey MacDonald. The unacceptable character assassination of Dr. Wecht by Peter Kearns just seems to me--just shows the way the government proceeds. It is not upon facts. It is done by assault.
KING: You want to make a statement, Peter?
KEARNS: Sure. It was intended. I called Wecht about ten years ago. And told him how he was making errors and that it was not science. He knows it.
WECHT: Larry, I have no recollection of such a conversation. And number one I wasn't brought into the case until 1979.
KEARNS: Well, I do doctor.
WECHT: I'd like to see a memo on that. There was no crime scene.
KING: Running close on time.
KEARNS: I called you.
KING: Mary, do you think they will hear the motion?
KING: They won't hear it?
FULGINITI: I don't think they'll hear it. The standard just to hear it because this is called a successive habeas corpus petition is that the facts if proven, when viewed in light of the totality of the evidence, there would be no reasonable juror who would have found the defendant guilty. That's a very high standard and it's extraordinarily high, and I think that alone could be a reason for defamation.
KING: Well, if she had testified, I was there with four others. I saw the hobby horse. I did these other things. I saw someone write pig on the wall. That wouldn't be conducive?
FULGINITI: You're assuming that she would have testified to that, first of all.
KING: I'm assuming the motion is correct.
FULGINITI: Yes, and I think there could be a very vigorous cross-examination of her given that she was an avid drug user. You know, even in the defense's own papers, she was part of an LSD cult. She'd would have been vigorously crossed and whether she would be believed is another issue.
KING: Curiouser and curiouser. We thank you all very much for participating. We've run out of time.
Bill Maher makes his annual -- not annual. He is with us four times a year. Bill Maher tomorrow night, never dull. Another man who is never dull is Anderson Cooper, and he is in a place that is not going to be dull today at all. Anderson Cooper in Iraq to host "A.C. 360"--Mr. Cooper. Big day.
COOPER: It is going to be a remarkable day, Larry. Thanks very much and good evening everyone for joining us.
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