Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald


What followed was the development of a friendship between the two men where McGinniss stayed in MacDonald's condo, they drank, ate and played together.  McGinniss sat in on all of the meetings with the defense team.  Repeatedly and persistently, McGinniss volunteered to MacDonald and others, including MacDonald's mother, that he believed in MacDonald's innocence.

MacDonald with the Press in 1980
MacDonald with the Press in 1980

For the three plus years between their deal in 1979 until a few months before the publication of the book in 1983, McGinniss led MacDonald to believe that he continued to champion the doctor's innocence.  During this time, he had MacDonald surreptitiously make audiotapes in violation of prison policy about the details of his relationship with his wife and children. 

All the time, McGinniss continued to lament the unfairness of MacDonald's trial and sympathize with his plight.  "Total strangers can recognize within five minutes that you did not receive a fair trial...What the fk were those people thinking of?  How could 12 people not only agree to believe such a horrendous proposition, but agree, with a man's life at stake, that they believed it beyond a reasonable doubt?" (excerpts from McGinniss's letters to MacDonald).  McGinniss was provided with all of the exculpatory materials that were being brought to light by private investigators working on MacDonald's appeal.

The reality of the situation is that once MacDonald was convicted, McGinniss could either take the position that MacDonald had been unfairly convicted or that MacDonald was really guilty and had tricked people for nine years into thinking he was innocent.   The story of an evil monster masquerading as an upstanding doctor sells many more books than a crusade to get Jeffrey MacDonald a new trial.  While McGinniss claims that he changed his mind about MacDonald's guilt after the trial, it was a decision that was financially very rewarding.


We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'