Errol Morris on A Wilderness of Error

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Errol Morris has been investigating one of the most notorious and mysterious murder cases of the 20th century, the case of Jeffrey MacDonald, a Green Beret doctor. He was accused and convicted of murdering his pregnant wife and young daughters in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1970. Morris’s new book A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald shows us that almost everything we have been told about the case is deeply unreliable. It’s a careful, thorough investigation that looks at the myth surrounding these murders, and is a meditation on truth and justice.


Errol Morris

Comments [12]


Lisa from NYC, I saw the MacDonald interview with Larry King where MacDonald lied about the reason that his father-in-law Fred Kassab turned against him after he had been MacDonald's biggest supporter. I could tell just watching MacDonald's facial expressions and tone of voice that he was lying. (I had read "Fatal Vision" so I already knew the background of the story.)

Sep. 05 2012 03:10 PM
Also Have Read "Fatal Vision"

I think Lisa from NYC should write a book!

Sep. 05 2012 02:28 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Lisa from NYC: Thank you.

Sep. 05 2012 02:26 PM
Lisa from NYC

With all due respect to Mr. Morris, he offered no refutation to the reams and reams of actual evidence that fairly convicted MacDonald. The interview was hard to listen to as it made me embarrassed for Morris' glaring lack of journalistic skills and ethics--not to mention his pompous pauses.
Numerous people HAVE looked at the totality of the evidence again and again for decades and it did and still does point squarely at MacDonald.
Because my father was the attorney for Fred and Mildred Kassab (Colette's parents and MacDonald's in-laws), I have had the opportunity many times to read ALL of the evidence (and it is lengthy)--MacDonald's explanations are laughable and pathetic. And the evidence against him is clear and precise and solid.
For Mr. Morris to say that DNA is not always the magical answer is simply irresponsible--DNA DOES provide solid evidence. If MacDonald's DNA matches, it will be rock solid proof of something that already has been proven as solidly as was already proven even without the advantage of modern science.
Just because Mr. Morris became fascinated with this case and decided to turn it into an intellectual exercise discussing the dangers of "a public narrative" does not make the evidence go away. You cannot intellectualize this and run it through some kind of PC filter just to write a book and get press. If he wanted to write a book about the dangers of public conviction when there is no real evidence, then that would be interesting...
RIP Collette, Kimberly, Kristen, and the baby-to-be. Feb 17th, 1970.

Sep. 05 2012 02:18 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Mr. Morris: People are seeking closure less than they are seeking truth. It is difficult to conclude these cases because the evidence must be overwhelming and the perpetrators must confess and the witnesses (if any) must tell the truth. A jury (and I've sat on one of those) does its best work under those circumstances. If any one of the circumstances is off in any way, it is very difficult to come to any kind of conclusion that even approaches the truth. And, of course, as the original parties die and biological evidence degrades, it is harder and harder to get the evidence needed to prove anything conclusively. Your book, however, fails to disprove Mr. MacDonald's guilt.

Sep. 05 2012 01:59 PM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Final thought: boring, boring, boring interview.

Sep. 05 2012 01:57 PM


Sep. 05 2012 01:47 PM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Yes, Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY he is full of himself. I've had it.

Sep. 05 2012 01:47 PM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

The guest is hard to listen to with all those "pregnant" pauses.

Sep. 05 2012 01:45 PM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

What is the story here that a bunch of hippies and a black girl killed this family? What’s is his evidence to say that the accused didn’t do it?

Sep. 05 2012 01:45 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I've read Fatal Vision and from the evidence presented there, I am convinced Mr. MacDonald (I refuse to call a man who has killed his family in this brutal fashion "Dr.") is guilty. There was no evidence of anyone besides himself and his family having entered the residence and the injury he received was most likely self-inflicted. He also seemed not only less than emotional about what had happened to his family, but not to grieve.

Granted crime scene evaluation was not what it is now, but the investigation seemed pretty thorough at the time. Only if you re-evaluate all the evidence in light of technological and scientific advances, do whatever DNA testing you can, and hypnotize Mr. MacDonald for evidence, will I believe that there might have been some kind of mistake. Otherwise, I think Mr. Morris' book is more self-serving than factual.

Sep. 05 2012 01:41 PM
RWriter from Manhattan

I confess to an interest in true crime as my guilty pleasure, so of course I read the book and watched the TV movie.

But I was shocked that an intern in my office this summer, who is studying Forensic Psychology, never heard of this case. I dared not ask if she'd heard of the Lindberg baby.

Sep. 05 2012 01:36 PM

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