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Blog | Jim Blackburn Seminars

Featured Image Photo Credit: Jim Erickson/Raleigh News and Observer

Maybe This Time

In a federal courtroom in late August, 1979, near the end of my closing argument to the jury, I said "It is time, ladies and gentlemen - it is so late in the day - it is time that someone speak for truth and justice and return a verdict of guilty against this man". That man was Jeffrey MacDonald.

In returning three counts of guilty, two of murder in the second degree and one of murder in the first degree, the jury rendered a verdict that now, close to forty years later, after countless appeals and motions and arguments before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court, still stands just as strong as it did that hot summer day so long ago.

After hearing oral arguments in January, 2017, on appeal from an Order of Federal District Court Judge Fox in 2014, from a Hearing in Federal District Court in Wilmington in September, 2012, based on a Motion filed by MacDonald in 2005, the Fourth Circuit, on Friday, December 21, denied MacDonald a new trial in a 154 page opinion.

The ruling of the Court does not of course give Colette, Kimberly and Kristen their lost lives back. It can only give a measure of justice, but to those who worked so hard on this case, and who are no longer here...people such as Bob Shaw, one of the two main CID investigative agents on the case, Pete Kearns, who spearheaded the reinvestigation by the CID in the early 1970's, Butch Madden, the FBI agent who worked so hard on the post-conviction investigations and who testified at the 2012 Hearing before Judge Fox, Joe McGinniss, who did not work on the case, but whose best-selling book Fatal Vision helped make the case famous, Judge Franklin Dupree, who presided over the trial and whose rulings were always affirmed by the appellate courts, Bill Ivory, the lead investigator, who is still with us but in declining health, and of course my good friends, Freddy and Mildred Kassab, the step-father and mother who passionately and tirelessly dedicated the rest of their lives for justice for their lost family, this decision is so important. It represents a review of the evidence of the case as a whole. Maybe this time, it is close to the end.

And so, after all these years, these final thoughts before the jury still seem appropriate - "If in the future, you should cry a tear, cry one for them. If in the future, you should say a prayer, say one for them. If in the future you should light a candle, light one for them".

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