A Wilderness Of Error

Brent Mccoy
• Thursday, 19 November, 2020
• 8 min read

Edit Examines the evidence in the case against MacDonald, who was convicted in 1979 of murdering his pregnant wife and two daughters. A Green Beret physician, MacDonald claimed that the murders were committed by drug-crazed hippies.

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Season year 2020 Purchase rights Stream instantly Details Format Prime Video (streaming online video) Devices Available to watch on supported devices A Wilderness of Error : The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald Author Errol Morris IllustratorNiko Kurtis, Pentagram (design studio) LanguageEnglishGenre True crime, Journalism Publisher Penguin Press (U.S.) September 4, 2012 (U.S.) Pages544 A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald is a book by Errol Morris, published in September 2012.

It reexamines the case of Jeffrey MacDonald, the Green Beret physician accused of killing his wife and two daughters in their home on Fort Bragg on February 17, 1970, and convicted of the crime on August 29, 1979. On September 25, 2021, FX is set to premiere A Wilderness of Error, a five-part television series based on the book.

Morris's original intention was to direct a film based on the MacDonald case that would challenge the story presented by government prosecutors at the 1979 trial, and by Joe McGinnis in his 1983 book on the case, Fatal Vision, which proposed that MacDonald was a psychopath who had overdosed on the diet pill Patrol and tried to cover up the crime. However, no studios were willing to finance the film, and Morris wrote a book instead.

I would wish them to seek out for me, in the details I am about to give, some little oasis of fatality amid a wilderness of error. A Wilderness of Error covers the entire history of the case, arguing that mistakes made by investigators in the first hours after the call were compounded over the years by prosecutors, judges, and journalists, and revealing the problems in the public perception of the case.

In conversation with David Carr of The New York Times, Morris argued that his book aimed to correct the earlier versions of the story. McGinnis's relationship with MacDonald, he argued, was opportunistic and deceptive, and “Malcolm wrote about Joe McGinnis as if he were representative of journalism per se, and I respectfully disagree...

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A Wilderness of Error has received positive reviews from critics. In The Wall Street Journal, the investigative journalist Edward Jay Epstein strongly recommended the book and wrote, “Mr. Morris's tone is temperate and fair-minded.

Laura Miller at Salon wrote that A Wilderness of Error is a beautifully produced book, with chapters set off by line drawings of crucial objects in the case: a toppled coffee table, a flower pot, a rocking horse. It’s reminiscent of the recurring images in The Thin Blue Line, iconic and mysterious, always on the verge of revealing the secrets they stand for but never quite yielding them.

The disappointing truth is that MacDonald was proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in 1979 and his lawyers have been grasping at straws ever since. A Wilderness of Error : The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald.

“Since 1979, Brian Murtaugh Has Fought to Keep Convicted Murderer Jeffrey MacDonald in Prison”. “Errol Morris's 'A Wilderness of Error Revisits Jeffrey MacDonald Case”.

Wilderness of Errol: Two Heavyweights Square off with New Works on the Jeffrey MacDonald Murder Case”. ' A Wilderness of Error Trailer Revisits the Jeffrey MacDonald Triple-Murder Case 40 Years Later (Video)”.

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“Emmy Winner, 'All Good Things' Writer-Producer Marc Sterling Launches Truth Media”. Summary: Early on the morning of February 17, 1970, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a Green Beret doctor named Jeffrey MacDonald called the police for help.

As MacDonald was being loaded into the ambulance, he accused a band of drug-crazed hippies of the crime. So began one of the most notorious and mysterious murder cases of the twentieth century. Drawing on court transcripts, lab reports, and original interviews, Morris brings a complete forty-year history back to life and demonstrates how our often desperate attempts to understand and explain an ambiguous reality can overwhelm the facts. A Wilderness of Error allows the listener to explore the case as a detective might, by confronting the evidence as if for the first time.

Along the way Morris poses bracing questions about the nature of proof, criminal justice, and the media, and argues that MacDonald has been condemned not only to prison, but also to the stories that have been created around him. In this profoundly original meditation on truth and justice, Errol Morris reopens a famous closed case and reveals that, forty years after the murder of MacDonald's family, we still have no proof of his guilt.

Laughing Place is not endorsed by or affiliated with the Walt Disney Company, or its subsidiaries. Sorry, no dates yet for A Wilderness of Error. The show is either on a break or the new season is yet to be scheduled.

FX has officially renewed American Crime Story for Season 3TrackYou have no rights to post comments In Part, I, I explored how Errol Morris intends to rewrite the case, to save Jeffrey MacDonald from the narrative in which he's become imprisoned.

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Morris has always been great with parsing minutiae and, while mentioning his past as private detective in the context of his art has become a cliché, it's easy to feel his former occupation in the systematic dismantling of the shaky evidence presented at trial and the borderline incompetent investigation. The unsatisfying aspect of Morris' reinvestigation (and its striking contrast to The Thin Blue Line) is that while he's able to tear down, he's not able to build up.

He doesn't uncover anything exculpatory and can't fit the unexplained, ambiguous evidence he finds into anything resembling a conclusive narrative about what happened that night. A Wilderness of Error seeks to write a convincing counter-narrative, the “Hippie Thrill Killers” story or the tale of the “Junkies Losing Control,” but nothing ever materializes.

MacDonald initially reports a stabbing (no mention of a home invasion) and police arrive at the scene believing they are coming to a domestic disturbance. They collect physical evidence while more or less disregarding MacDonald's on-site claims that a cabal of hippie lunatics showed up and in a drug-fueled orgy of violence brutally killed his entire family while leaving him significantly less harmed.

The major pieces of evidence collected at the scene include a three-foot piece of lumber found in the backyard likely used as a bludgeon, a kitchen knife likely used in the stabbings, a magazine found on the coffee table with an article on the Manson family, a t-shirt that MacDonald claimed to have used to defend himself from an ice pick-wielding attacker, the word “PIG” scrawled in blood on a bed's headboard and the ice pick believed to have been used to both puncture the t-shirt and stab MacDonald's 2-year-old daughter fifteen times. These pieces of evidence are “major” in the sense that they are the ones that most clearly factor into the dispute between MacDonald's version of events and the various case made by prosecutors.

There is also some important testimony from emergency responder Ken Mica, who claims to have seen a suspicious young woman hanging elsewhere on the base. This makes the investigators even more disinclined to believe his story: a gaggle of raucous drugged-out murder hippies probably should have been seen or heard by any of the neighbors.

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MacDonald's behavior after the trial upsets Alfred and Mildred Kansas, his wife's parents: he moves to California without telling them, buys a sports car and marries a young woman. The idea used to convict him goes: he lied about the shirt, he lied about defending himself from a home invasion, he wasn't gravely injured (suffering from a single stab wound that appeared calculatedly self-inflicted), he scrawled “PIG” on the headboard and the whole idea is a confabulation conjured up from the magazine found on his coffee table.

In Morris' telling, the table most convincingly serves as an illustrating that the investigators didn't know what they were doing, weren't paying attention and took confusing, contradictory notes. What causes MacDonald's involvement in his family's murders to be reconsidered comes earlier: his behavior after the military trial in which he was found innocent.

The parallels to The Thin Blue Line are once again unavoidable: Randall Adams' lack of remorse is cited in his sentencing as evidence of his danger to society and the need for him to be put to death. You can understand Morris' interest in MacDonald: here we have a man investigated for a crime and cleared by the Article 32 hearing, but unable to escape the shadow of suspicion simply because of how unsatisfying he is to others playing the role of surviving husband and father.

In the New Yorker's seminal investigation of Cameron Todd Willing ham's case, where a man was almost certainly erroneously put to death for the murder of his daughters, one of running themes is how Willing ham's behavior gets interpreted differently by witnesses when they believe he's the victim of a tragedy versus when they have been led to believe by investigators that he's guilty of murder. It's easy to draw comparisons between Willing ham and MacDonald, both cases where a sloppy initial investigation slams into a prosecution tainted by post-crime behavior.

* One thing that bugs me deeply about A Wilderness of Error is how fast and loose it plays with the relationship between public perception of MacDonald and his conviction. In Part, I, I mentioned how Fatal Vision came out after the conviction (which makes it nearly meaningless in the overall scheme of things, despite how much time Morris devotes to tearing it down).

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The judge didn't want the trial to be derailed by that sort of thing coming from either side, so one of Morris' biggest bugaboos doesn't even apply to the actual conviction.

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