Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald

Enter Joel McGinniss

Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald is a man with miserable luck.  One of the more unlucky days of his life, aside from the day his family was murdered, was the day he met author Joe McGinniss.

McGinniss happened to be in California in June of 1979 and saw an article in the newspaper about a dinner dance that the Long Beach Police Officers Association was giving to raise money for MacDonald's legal defense.  McGinniss recalled the original case some nine years earlier and contacted MacDonald.

MacDonald offered an interesting proposition.  Janet Malcolm in her witty book The Journalist and the Murderer describes it:   "MacDonald asked McGinniss if he would like to attend the murder trial in Raleigh, North Carolina and write a book about the case from the perspective of the defense team, with whom he would live, and to all of whose plans, strategies, and deliberations he would be privy." 

McGinniss agreed to this proposal and to share a portion of the book's proceeds to pay MacDonald's legal expenses:  26.5% of the publisher's $300,000 advance and 33% of the royalties.  As part of this deal, MacDonald agreed that regardless of what McGinniss wrote, he would not sue him for libel.


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