cover image A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald

A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald

Errol Morris. Penguin, $29.95 (544p) ISBN 978-1-59420-343-5

Even readers who begin this mesmerizing and disturbing book convinced of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald's guilt in the 1970 murders of his wife and young daughters in Fort Bragg, North Carolina will emerge with serious doubts about his culpability and the fairness of his trial. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Morris, whose 1988 film The Thin Blue Line led to the freedom of a man wrongfully accused of murder, is well-equipped to sort through the reams of evidence amassed over the years; yet despite the volume of testimony and physical evidence, he makes crystal-clear how mistakes made by the responding military officers contaminated the crime scene, and how fact-finders were repeatedly misled about the circumstances of the killings. While the brutality of the murders is disturbing, what is even more troubling%E2%80%94and what Morris makes distressingly evident%E2%80%94is the possibility that MacDonald "had been made to witness the savage deaths of his family and then was wrongfully convicted for their murders." Morris has been researching the case for over two decades, and the result of his inquiries is a thorough and compelling argument for the incarcerated doctor's innocence, a sobering look at the labyrinthine justice system, and a feat of investigative perseverance. Illus. (Sept.)