WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — It’s arguably one of North Carolina’s biggest murder trials of all time. Monday it was put back in the spotlight several decades after Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted of brutally murdering his pregnant wife and two little girls.
MacDonald, an ex-Green Beret doctor is asking a judge to grant him a new trial in light of new evidence his attorney says will prove his innocence 33 years after being convicted. Monday was his first day back in court in the Port City.
68-year MacDonald, who is currently serving three life sentences, may get a chance to prove he did not murder his wife Collete and two daughters, one five and the other two years old back in 1970. His defense attorney, Gordon Widenhouse, hopes the judge will consider new DNA evidence several strands of hair found at the scene and on the victim’s bodies.
“We thing the judge is being very attentive and patient with everybody and we feel like our evidence is coming in the way we want it to,” Widenhouse says. “So we’re very pleased at this time.”
Wade Smith, a defense attorney for MacDonald during the 1979 trial, testified Monday. Smith told the court that in January 2005 federal marshal Jimmy Britt told him he heard Helena Stoeckley say she was threatened by the prosecutor.
“He heard prosecutors threaten Helena Stoeckley,” says Errol Morris, author of ‘A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald.'”This is the crucial defense witness in 1979 threaten by the prosecution.”
Smith says Britt, who died in 2008, told him Stoeckley, a police informant and witness in the case, was in the house the night of the murders. And that the prosecutor told Stoeckley she’d be charged with murder if she repeated that story in court.
The hearing will continue Tuesday morning. It could last a few weeks and the judge will ultimately have to decide if it is worth re-examining the case.