RICHMOND, Va. — A federal appeals court today refused a new trial for former Green Beret Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, who was found guilty of the 1970 murders of his pregnant wife and two daughters.
"In much greater detail than we, the district judge considered every contention that MacDonald advanced, . . . " said the 11-page opinion from the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. "There is no basis upon which any ruling in this case by a meticulous district judge can be overturned."
In fact, circumstantial evidence in the case implicated MacDonald in the murders, the judges said.
MacDonald, serving three consecutive life sentences for the stabbings of his wife Collette, 26, and his two daughters, Kimberly 5, and Kristen, 2, maintained that drug-crazed hippies broke into his home at Ft. Bragg, N.C., and killed his family.
He claimed that the killers chanted, "Acid is groovy" and "Kill the pigs."
MacDonald's case drew renewed national attention with the 1983 best-selling book, "Fatal Vision," by Joe McGinniss, which was made into a television movie.
He will be eligible for parole in 1991.
Alfred Kassab, Collette MacDonald's stepfather, was one of MacDonald's staunchest supporters but later became convinced of his guilt and pushed for the trial.
Kassab said today from his office in Dayton, N.J., that he had been "positive the decision would come down the way it did.
"I've been going through this for so many years now. Every time you turn around now he's filing another appeal. But I think he's going to be rather hard-pressed to come up with issues to file over," Kassab said.
Conviction Reversed Once
MacDonald's 1979 conviction was reversed by the 4th Circuit in 1980 on the ground that the defendant had been denied a speedy trial. But the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that ruling, and MacDonald was sentenced to life in prison.
Attorney Wade Smith of Raleigh, N.C., MacDonald's trial defense lawyer, said today the next step probably will be another Supreme Court appeal.
"We knew there was a possibility that we would lose. You've just got to gather up your strength and try again," he said.
In arguments before the 4th Circuit in October, MacDonald asked for a new trial, contending that the evidence in the case was mishandled and that post-trial confessions by others could prove that he was not responsible for the murders.
His appeal also sought to have the trial judge, Franklin T. Dupree, disqualified because of his relationship with Jimmy Proctor, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of North Carolina who was married to Dupree's daughter.