"A Wilderness of Error"

Friday, September 21, 2012


In 1970, the wife and daughters of a Green Beret doctor named Jeffrey MacDonald were stabbed to death, and MacDonald himself was found guilty of the crime. In his new book A Wilderness of Error, Errol Morris writes a revisionist history of the case, suggesting that MacDonald may actually be innocent. Brooke speaks to Morris about why, for him, the facts of the original case just didn't add up.

UNKLE - Cut Me Loose


Errol Morris

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [5]

Klug from Oregon, USA

I am terribly suspicious of people who are really, really sure of themselves. Errol Morris' confidence makes me nervous, and makes me want to read more about the case...

Sep. 28 2012 05:47 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Mr. Surkamp has a style that reminds me of a Gabriel García Márquez novel and thus reminds that there are cultural biases and predispositions. One of ours is lynching.

Meanwhile, I am old enough to recall this case as it developed from the time of the crime and have always felt that a serious miscarriage of justice occurred here at the hands of an incompetent justice system, which is little better than the one pictured in Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, where the bully boys become the cops. Luckily over the years justice advocates, mostly students it seems, have exposed this brutal system and freed innocent victims of it. Even disgraced Governors have changed their tune about it.

As Thelonius Monk titled my most favorite of his songs, "Free Cell Block A, 'Tis Nazi USA".

Sep. 27 2012 05:16 PM
Terry McKenna from Dover, NJ

As a person who has done all manner of insurance claims, I know 2 things for sure. The first suspect in any homicide of a wife within the home is the husband. The second is that only on TV is motive that important. After 30 years of insurance work, I know that there is much behavior for which there is simply no explanation.

Finally, the "acid is groovy" comment is just the sort of statement that a square would have made about "hippies" who were as different from McDonald as Martians.

None of this says that, in the end, the investigation could have been botched. But I won't hold my breath waiting for an acquittal.

Sep. 23 2012 05:30 PM
Joshua Northey

I am a little confused about the tone of this piece. It appeared to be casting doubt on McDonald's guilt quite strongly, despite the fact that anyone familiar with the particulars of the case knows he is guilty as sin. Were there some minor mistakes the police/prosecutors made, yes. I assume you also make a mistake or two in your job?

The standard for the criminal justice system cannot be "Did the police/prosecution perform flawlessly?". Then no one would go to jail.

There about a hundred elements of the case that make it clear this man murdered his family in the most brutal way imaginable, and about 2 or 3 minor things which cast any doubt upon that.

Those doubts are not reasonable, as the courts have found. Using precious OTM airspace to help someone spread an uninformed, biased, and frankly irrational perspective on the case is disturbing. Did you guys even review the information from the trail before you made the piece? You certainly did not mention any of the most serious pieces of evidence the prosecution had while focusing on few flimsy shreds the defense has.

Yes wrongful convictions are exciting and make good radio, but it does a disservice to the rest of them when you focus on this rather uninspiring case.

Sep. 23 2012 12:00 PM
Jim Surkamp

as a one time investigative reporter and also as a reforming elected official - this whole program especially the erol morris segment is terrific and very very important. living in "the prison of the false narrative" is everywhere and oddly invisible (thanks to the complicit media/internet juggernaut - i have much more appreciation of all the people who have been wrongly convicted for serious crimes - who are convicted by crappy dumb media who prejudged a criminal proceeding and encourage law enforcement etc to fuge their facts to "finish the false narrative" the media has abetted.

big big problem . and a terrific set of segments. do more. it's a deeper more pervasive problem than the media - of course - would wish to admit. philosophically the greatest hypocrisy of even the "good" news media is its inability to repudiate one of its own fostered false narratives. too big a sin, too damning.

Sep. 22 2012 07:27 AM

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