A Wilderness of Error

A Wilderness of Error

The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald

Book - 2012
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Early on the morning of February 17, 1970, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a Green Beret doctor named Jeffery MacDonald called the police for help. When the officers arrived at his home they found the bloody and battered bodies of MacDonald's pregnant wife and two young daughters. So began one of the most notorious and mysterious murder cases of the twentieth century. Morris, who has been investigating the case for nearly two decades, reveals that almost everything we know about that case is ultimately flawed, and an innocent man may be behind bars. In a masterful reinvention of the true-crime thriller, Morris looks behind the haze of myth that still surrounds these murders. Drawing on court transcripts, lab reports, and original interviews, Morris brings a complete forty-year history back to life and demonstrates how our often desperate attempts to understand and explain an ambiguous reality can overwhelm the facts.
Publisher: New York ; Toronto : Penguin Press, 2012.
ISBN: 9781594203435
Characteristics: xviii, 524 p. :,ill. ;,24 cm.


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Aug 30, 2018

It doesn't convince me of anything other than he will never admit to anything, and perhaps no longer knows the truth.

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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