Early on the morning of February 17, 1970, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a Green Beret doctor named Jeffrey MacDonald called the police for help. When the officers arrived at his home they found the bloody and battered bodies of MacDonald's pregnant wife and two young daughters. The word "pig" was written in blood on the headboard in the master bedroom. As MacDonald was being loaded into the ambulance, he accused a band of drug-crazed hippies of the crime.
So began one of the most notorious and mysterious murder cases of the 20th century. Jeffrey MacDonald was finally convicted in 1979 and remains in prison today. Since then a number of best-selling books - including Joe McGinniss's Fatal Vision and Janet Malcolm's The Journalist and the Murderer, along with a blockbuster television miniseries - have attempted to solve the MacDonald case and explain what it all means.
In A Wilderness of Error, Errol Morris, who has been investigating the case for nearly two decades, reveals that almost everything we know about that case is ultimately flawed, and an innocent man may be behind bars. In a masterful reinvention of the true-crime thriller, Morris looks behind the haze of myth that still surrounds these murders. Drawing on court transcripts, lab reports, and original interviews, Morris brings a complete 40-year history back to life and demonstrates how our often desperate attempts to understand and explain an ambiguous reality can overwhelm the facts.
A Wilderness of Error allows the listener to explore the case as a detective might, by confronting the evidence as if for the first time. Along the way Morris poses bracing questions about the nature of proof, criminal justice, and the media, and argues that MacDonald has been condemned not only to prison, but also to the stories that have been created around him. In this profoundly original meditation on truth and justice, Errol Morris reopens a famous closed case and reveals that, 40 years after the murder of MacDonald's family, we still have no proof of his guilt.
©2012 Errol Morris (P)2012 Tantor
"Bound to be in demand." (Library Journal)
I was always convinced Macdonald was guilty. 100%, no question. The first half of the book didn't impress me. It seemed as if if Morris was just content to spout philosophy. He brings the jackhammer down in the second half and I'm still astonished at the lack of info regarding the Macdonald case I had no idea existed. I doubt Macdonalds guilt but, even if I didn't, the things that occurred during his trials frighten me in the sense that this judicial malfeasance could actually occur in my lifetime.
If you're interested in the Jeffrey McDonald saga (the green beret emergency room doctor convicted of killing his wife and 2 young daughters in February 1970 (now in prison for >30 years), you'll enjoy this book. It's an encyclopedic, microscopic analysis of virtually every whisper and murmur that relates to the case. Every piece of evidence and many pieces that were never made available during the trial are treated with maximum scrutiny - truly no rock left unturned. It's well written. His research is exhaustive. Ultimately, you will have to decide for yourself if you think McD is guilty but Morris will be happy to prejudice you.
Methodical and fair. I still don't know who killed the family. But I know the trial was a farce. Word.
I really did not like the narrator. I found him boring to listen to, and I believe he was a big part of my dislike for the author.
While I agree that McDonald most likely should not have been convicted, I am far from convinced of his innocence. For me, the nagging issue is McDonald's relatively minor injuries. In a crime so full of 'overkill' why leave the biggest threat alive. Especially if he was the target as Morris implies. Of course that is not enough to convict him.
The sad reality is that the Justice system is not motivated by finding the truth but by building a strong case against their favorite subject.
I found the author also had blinders but in the opposite direction. He was determined to spin the evidence to McDonald's favor. By the last third of the book I was just annoyed by his bias and less disposed to give weight to his arguments.
In general, I am prone to believe in someone's innocence with only the slightest nudge. Not here.
The story jumped around way too much, it seemed as though the author just threw together some random thoughts and gave no consideration to the flow if the story.
The fact that he has it wrong, Jeff MacDonald is most certainly guilty of the crimes for which he is in prison.
He was a bit of a monotone at times.
I would have scrapped the whole project.
I went into this hoping to hear something that might make me re-think the story of Dr MacDonald and the murder of his family. I came out being more sure of his guilt. This did nothing to sway my opinion.
No. This book carefully omits evidence that contradicts its premise that MacDonald is innocent, preventing the reader from making an informed decision of his or her own. Also, either Morris doesn't understand the basics of the legal system and didn't bother to learn them, or he deliberately misleads the reader who doesn't know better. This book is written for shock value and has neither literary nor information value.
Make it about the crime and the evidence, not about the author.
Someone with a recognizable inflection in their voice.
The author, who kept including himself in the narrative.
Save your credits for a better book.
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