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Appeal heard in '70 killings

Defense wants verdicts voided in 'Fatal Vision' case

RICHMOND, Va. -- Lawyers for former Green Beret doctor Jeffrey MacDonald told a federal appeals court that his convictions in the 1970 murders of his pregnant wife and two daughters should be thrown out after a new witness surfaced.

A former deputy US marshal now says he heard a defense witness tell a prosecutor she was in the MacDonald home in Fort Bragg, N.C., the night of the murders, according to a motion filed with the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The motion seeks the appeals court's permission to present the new evidence to the US District Court in Raleigh.

Jimmy B. Britt of Apex, N.C., part of the security detail for MacDonald's 1979 trial, said he heard prosecutor James Blackburn tell the witness, Helena Stoeckley, he would indict her for murder if she told the same story on the witness stand.

Stoeckley later testified she could not remember where she was the night of the slayings.

Britt said in an affidavit that he kept quiet for more than 25 years out of a sense of duty to people he worked with, but the secret eventually became too much to bear.

''I am currently 67 years of age and felt compelled to clear my conscience and come forward with what I witnessed, as I decided I could not shoulder the burden any longer," Britt said in the affidavit.

The MacDonald case was dramatized in the best-selling book and television miniseries ''Fatal Vision."

His lawyers said in their motion that the newly discovered evidence ''consists of facts that unquestionably demonstrate egregious government misconduct of the most disturbing sort, actions that amount to a clear constitutional violation."

Blackburn denied the allegation. ''It's absolutely not true. It blows my mind that he thinks she told us that," Blackburn told The Wall Street Journal.

MacDonald, 62, is serving three consecutive life sentences in a federal prison near Cumberland, Md., in the murders of Colette MacDonald, 26, and their daughters Kimberley, 5, and Kristen, 2.

He has always said that a group of intruders entered their apartment and stabbed and clubbed his family to death in an attack that left him seriously injured.

According to MacDonald, one of the attackers was a woman who wore a long blond wig and a floppy hat. He said he heard the woman say, ''Acid is groovy, kill the pigs."

Stoeckley, who died in 1983, fit that description, according to court papers.

Britt said Stoeckley's interview with Blackburn was not the first time he heard her say she was in the MacDonald home the night of the murders.

She told him the same story as he drove her from Greenville, S.C., to Raleigh for the trial and even described a hobby horse in the home, he said in the affidavit.

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