A Wilderness of Error

A Wilderness of Error

The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald

Book - 2012
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In 1979 ex-Green Beret MacDonald was convicted of the brutal 1970 murder of his wife and two children, and remains in prison today. Morris reveals that almost everything we know about it is ultimately flawed, and an innocent man may be behind bars. Drawing on court transcripts, lab reports, and original interviews, he brings a complete forty-year history back to life and allows the reader to explore the case as a detective might by confronting the evidence as if for the first time.--
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2012
ISBN: 9781594203435
Branch Call Number: 364.1523 MAC NVD
Characteristics: xviii, 524 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Skourtis, Niko
Alternative Title: Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald


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Aug 13, 2013

This is not a typical true-crime narrative -- more like a collection of evidence and information gathered by Morris (e.g., transcripts, diagrams) as he tried to get to the bottom of this enigmatic case. It's very long, and I'm not sure it needed to be so long for Morris to make his point(s). However, it's a fascinating, if disheartening, read.

JCS3F Oct 15, 2012

An excellent foray into non-fiction by documentary filmmaker, Errol Morris. To the extent possible, Morris emotionally distances himself from a highly charged case and presents the facts as the plainly as possible. Three conclusions quickly become clear: 1) The crime scene was irretrievably compromised, 2) at a minimum MacDonald did not receive a fair trial and has served 40 years as a consequence, and 3) given the confessions of Stoeckley and Mitchell and the complete lack of motive for MacDonald, odds are Jeffrey MacDonald is actually innocent. 'A Wilderness of Error' is at its finest as an examination of narrative fallacy, a favorite concept of Nassim Taleb. People are perpetually vulnerable to cohesive stories, even in the face of sometimes overwhelmingly contradictory evidence. And that is the mystery and tragedy of the case. With a compelling enough story, the evidence becomes literally and figuratively disposable.

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