Sunday, September 23

Um, No.

LAURA Miller, high on some primo Errol Morris:
MacDonald claimed that he has been sleeping on the living room sofa because his half of the marital bed had been wet by one of his daughters. He woke up to find four intruders at his feet, three men and a woman. Two of them assaulted him. After a struggle, he lost consciousness for a while. He came to in the hallway and called the police. The intruders, he said, looked like hippies. The woman had long blond hair, a floppy hat and boots, and was carrying a candle. They were, he claimed, chanting “Kill the pigs. Acid’s groovy.”

As outlandish as MacDonald’s account sounds today, it seemed plausible at the time, less than a year after followers of Charles Manson had committed the Tate-LaBianca murders in Los Angeles. 
Trust me, darlin'; it sounded just as ridiculous then. In some ways even more so, since your notion of the "outlandishness" of such of claim is based on the benign stupidity of shag carpeting and on a complete absence of insane, homicidal, acid-gobbling hippie avengers in the ensuing forty years. Whereas at the time it was based on, oh, the absurdity of the story. 

We know who murders families, particularly when "intruders" beat the wife to a bloody pulque and give the husband a first-degree paper cut. We knew it then.

And we knew--at least a lot of us did--that LSD didn't make people kill people, or jump out windows thinking they could fly, or stare at the sun until their eyeballs melted. It was an easy, shoddy, risible cover story. It was more apparent then than it seems to you today, and it underlined more at the time than now, even, that MacDonald was a liar and a con man. Blaming the murder on hippies was like Susan Smith blaming her carjacking on a large colored man. It could've been true, in the sense that it described something physically possible, but once you determined that it almost certainly did not you understand immediately how deep the lie went.

Did you happen to see Morris on Colbert? Colbert is someone wise enough to understand what a laughable pile of horseshit MacDonald's story is. Morris, on the other hand, is old enough to've understood what an obvious lie it was on the face of it, at the time. And when Stephen hit him with the Acid is Groovy quote Morris had the look of a fighter who's been hit on the button, in the millisecond between recognition and falling flat.
Nevertheless, as Morris details, there was evidence supporting MacDonald’s version of events. An MP responding to the call saw a woman matching the description of one of the attackers (long, light-colored hair, floppy hat, boots) standing on a nearby street corner. A narcotics detective for the local police had an informant, Helena Stoeckley, who sometimes wore a long blond wig, floppy hat and boots, and he had seen her get into a car with three men several hours before the murders. He sought out Stoeckley the next day and alerted the MPs that she was available for questioning, but no one was sent to interview her or examine her belongings. Stoeckley later destroyed her wig and hat, and until her death in 1983, she would often talk of being present during the murders, although when called upon to testify to this in court in 1979, she denied it.

So there was someone who might've matched the description who possibly existed in the general vicinity in the hours beforehand. Y'know, we do not require apodictic certainty or metaphysical assurance to convict anyone. Beyond a reasonable doubt.

I will admit that, had I been on the jury, the fact that someone in the early 1970s did actually wear a floppy hat, outside the pages of Vogue or one of those awful Hollywood Generation Gap misadventures starring Jimmy Stewart, cast against type as a befuddled middle-ager, I might've had a moment's reconsideration. (Now if you, or Morris, could have proven that anyone in those days said "Groovy", unless they were singing backup at a Holiday Inn lounge in a band covering "The 59th St. Bridge Song", I would have held out for acquittal.)
MacDonald was the most logical suspect for the crime, but he had no discernible motive and no history of violent behavior or mental illness.

Which are not required to file charges, let alone grounds for a reversal.
As a result, the case against him — first examined in a military hearing — relied entirely on physical evidence.

That sentence is so remarkably insensate I double-checked the logo to make sure I wasn't reading Slate.
However, the crime scene had been hopelessly contaminated by inexperienced MPs and incompetent investigators. Key pieces of evidence were moved, lost, destroyed, mislabeled, stolen, overlooked or simply uncollected.

None of which, none of it, manages to suggest in any way that MacDonald's story could be true. Inexperienced and incompetent investigators did not manage to erase evidence of a cadre of psychedelic assassins tripping balls and awash in pig blood. Military investigators did not plant evidence under Mrs. MacDonald's fingernails, nor accidentally erase all evidence of the life and death struggle MacDonald claimed happened downstairs.
Morris is careful to state that he does not know whether MacDonald is the killer.

Yeah, for good reason. Does MacDonald deserve a new trial, something no one's seen fit to agree to in the last thirty years (since an appellate decision, later reversed, that his right to a speedy trial had been violated) ? Maybe. That can, and should, be argued before the bar at this point. Is there any reason, after all this time, to question the wisdom of the original decision? To be "open-minded" enough to reconsider it?



Sharon said...

I remember reading the story in the paper and my first thought was: Bullshit.
"Kill the pigs. Acid is groovy."
I took lots of acid in the sixties and knew people who took a whole lot also...The quote was so preposterous that I was sure he did it. Haven't seen anything yet that would convince me otherwise. "Acid is groovy." Yeah, right.

Jim Heartney said...

The candle strikes me as preposterous. What is this, the 1860's? Who would bring a candle to a home invasion? I'm reasonably certain they'd invented flashlights by the sixties.

hells littlest angel said...

Yeah, Morris looked and acted like a real dipshit on the Colbert show. Too bad. To me, he not only discredited his silly theory, but put a bad light on every other thing he's ever done.

R. Porrofatto said...

If only MacDonald had access to O.J.'s crack investigation team we'd know who the "real killers™" are by now.

Anonymous said...

To be fair to the noble word "groovy", it would have sounded just as suspicious if they had said "acid is awesome, dude."

Iko said...

Morris is obviously trying to do a hit on Joe McGinniss, but anyone having doubt about McDonald's guilt should pick up McGinniss' book and read only the portions that are transcripts of the author's interviews of McDonald, which are included in long sections between portions of the well-written narrative. After reading that any reasonable person should be convinced of McDonald's guilt. McDonald himself is the best witness for the prosecution.