Archive for November 2012


Very nice piece by David Ulin, their book critic at,0,4914865.story

Please know that the first e-book edition, with my new introduction, has just gone on sale through

2d Letter to The New Republic about Correcting Errors


To the editor:

As yet, I’ve received no response to my request for corrections of the errors in the Margo Howard story, “Scenes from a Southern Gothic Murder Trial.”

In addition to the false statements I called to your attention last week, I’d like to point out the following additional mistakes:

–Nowhere in the Fourth Circuit opinion remanding the case to District Court for further consideration is it stated that “exculpatory evidence may have been withheld, suppressed, or destroyed prior to MacDonald’s trial.”
Instead, the Fourth Circuit found that the District Judge adopted an “overly restrictive view of what constitutes the ‘evidence as a whole.’ ” (See U.S v. MacDonald 641 F. ed 596. C.A. 4 (N.C.) 2011.  April 19, 2011)
–Wade Smith did not represent MacDonald in 1975.
–Wade Smith was not Edwards’s “lead attorney.”  That was Abbe Lowell of Chadbourne & Parke in Washington, DC.
–The 1979 prosecutor, James Blackburn, was already First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of North Carolina at the time he prosecuted MacDonald.  He later became U.S. Attorney.
–Howard writes:  “as a sequestered witness one is not supposed to be giving interviews or flogging a book.”  This is untrue.  “Sequestered” does not mean bound and gagged.
It means only that one is not permitted to enter the courtroom to listen to testimony given in advance of one’s own.  I specifically asked assistant U.S. Attorney
John Bruce whether I was permitted to tweet, blog, or give interviews during the hearing and he said I was, as long as I did not disclose the nature or scope of my
testimony before I gave it.  There was nothing improper in what I did.

I would appreciate hearing from you in regard to both this letter and my letter of November 1 as soon as possible.

Joe McGinniss

No NYC Marathon This Year…


…Nor should there have been.  How Mayor Billionaire Bloomberg and NY Road Runners could ever have tried to force this carnival down the throat of a suffering city beggars belief.

How insensitive and self-absorbed can public officials and corporate executives be?  And make no mistake:  NY Road Runners is a multi-million dollar corporation whose chairman of the board, George Hirsch, I happen to know.

George Vecsey, whom NY Times pensioned off much too soon, offers the best perspective I’ve seen:

I ran NYC three times, but with bodies of children still being dragged out of the mud this is not the time for prancers and dancers to celebrate their physical fitness in front of thousands without electricity, food, or water for drinking or flushing.



My letter to The New Republic asking for corrections of Margo Howard errors

To the editor:

 I would like to point out several factual errors in Margo Howard’s recent story, “Scenes from a Southern Gothic Murder Trial.”
First, the proceeding about which she writes was not a trial, but an evidentiary hearing.  There was no jury present.  Guilt or innocence was not a question to be resolved.
Second, Ms. Howard writes:
But in 1975 his formerly supportive father-in-law, with an assist from the writer Joe McGinniss 
(who was soon to publish a book arguing MacDonald’s guilt) succeeded in getting MacDonald indicted in a civilian court. 
I had nothing to do with MacDonald’s 1975 indictment.  I did not even meet his father-in-law until 1980,
a year after MacDonald’s conviction on three counts of murder.  I did not even know about the indictment, nor indeed,
that legal proceedings in the case were continuing.   In addition, my book, Fatal Vision, was not published until 1983, four
years after MacDonald’s conviction and eight years after his indictment.  

Third, she contends that:

Over the course of the hearing the government was forced to admit a stunning lack of professionalism 
in the conduct of the original investigation and trial—in the laboratory, at the crime scene, and in the courtroom.

This is simply not true, and Ms. Howard offers no documentation to support her claim.  Exactly who, representing
the United States government, admitted to a “stunning lack of professionalism?”  On what day?  Using what words?
Fourth, she writes that in Fatal Vision I wrote:
Eskatrol was a dangerous drug in terms of side effects: “rage reaction, psychosis, and assaultiveness.” 
(Of course, McGinniss didn’t add that he had formulated these descriptors himself!)

That, too, is false.  I did not formulate these descriptors myself.  As is evident from pp. 841-846 of the 2012 edition of Fatal Vision, the descriptions of symptoms associated with excessive consumption of Eskatrol are taken from the Physician’s Desk Reference, Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man, by Randall C. Basalt, and Goodman and Gilman’s Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, among others.
Fifth, she states:
At a parole hearing, MacDonald was told if he admitted guilt and showed remorse, he would be freed…

This is false.  It never happened.  The U.S. Attorney’s office opposed parole because to grant it would, contrary to statutory requirements, denigrate the seriousness of MacDonald’s crimes.  The government’s submissions were made in writing and were orally presented at the parole hearing by then U.S. Attorney Frank Whitney.  The proceedings were tape recorded.  Exactly who does Ms. Howard think told MacDonald he’d be freed if he admitted guilt and showed remorse?  What is her source for this assertion?

Sixth, she writes:   

It’s impossible to ignore the fact that it was…Fatal Vision, that has served as the government’s narrative for this case. 

This, too, is incorrect.  The U.S. Army and the Justice Department began their investigation of the MacDonald case in 1970.  In 1974, the Justice Department determined that there was sufficient evidence to warrant the convening of a grand jury.  Investigation continued during the four years between MacDonald’s indictment and his 1979 trial.  By the time Fatal Vision was published, in 1983, the truth of the allegations against MacDonald had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.  So to say that Fatal Vision “has served as the government’s narrative” is to display a woeful misunderstanding of the facts.
I’m calling these matters to your attention in the hope that you will promptly publish an appropriate correction.
Joe McGinniss