March 27, 2010
Richmond VA is a fascinating old city. Many of the streets and roads remain made of brick and cobblestones. It is a city that has a long historic past, but I was not there to enjoy/observe its history. I was there to attend the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals oral arguments in the Jeffrey MacDonald case. The Court of Appeals is a beautiful old building. Nothing fancy, the court rooms are large but the area for spectators is rather small with long wooden benches. The seat area of the benches is slightly padded. The area where the judges and attorneys present their arguments is triple the size of the seating area.
There were three judges for the USCOA for the Fourth Circuit, one woman, Judge Motz and 2 men, Judge King and Judge Michael. Judge Michael was the senior judge. After each case, a short recess was was called. The three judges would leave the bench and come down into the area where the attorneys were, shaking hands with each attorney and congratulated them on the way they presented their arguments.
There were three cases heard on the morning of March 23, 2010 and it provided everything from a third year law student who was presenting the oral argument in the first case falling to the floor apparently passing out for a moment, to many funny remarks made by the judges hearing the arguments that resulted in laughter from all in the court room.
Bob Stevenson and I arrived with the government attorneys. We sat on the left hand side of the spectators area in the front row. There were already people there in support of the defense sitting on the right side front row. Fred Bost was among them dressed in black which is his normal attire constantly writing in his little red book.
A short time later Kathryn MacDonald arrived with approximately 10 to 12 family/friends. After she sat with them for a while, she moved to the front row on the right side.
Each side was limited to twenty minutes to present their arguments. Judge Motz and Judge King would ask the attorney presenting the arguments questions. Judge Michael, the senior judge asked no questions. The judges were well versed on this case and had done their homework.
The defense was represented by Joe Zeszotarski and Hart Miles. Zeszotarski was the one to present the oral argument. He reserved two minutes for rebuttal after the government presented their arguments. One of the questions asked of the defense by Judge Motz was "how many bites of the apples does the defendant get?"
The defense was careful when addressing the Britt issue to only address what Britt alleged he heard regarding Jim Blackburn threatening Helen Stoeckley. No mention about Britt transporting Helena or her confessing to him that she was involved in the murders. Mrs. Stoeckley's affidavit was briefly mentioned, but the sum total of it was that her daughter, Helena told her on two different occasions that she was in the MacDonald house when the murders occurred. The most time was spent on the so-called bloody hair that was supposed to have been found under Kristen's fingernail with the root in tack but no tissue.
The government was represented by John DuPue, Brian Murtagh and John Bruce. DuPue presented the oral arguments for the government. DuPue responded in depth to all the issues the defense argued, while answering each question quickly and precisely asked by the judges.
I was, as always, honored to be in the company of these men. As Brian told me, he has appeared in this building seven previous times in regards to the MacDonald case. It is amazing the total number of years these three men have been involved in this case, Brian the longest starting way back in 1971 when he was a Captain in the Army JAG.
In all fairness, I feel both sides were well prepared for the arguments they presented. However, the defense, in my opinion was limited in the full scope of the case, whereas the government had the knowledge of the total evidence.
The judges will now make their decision as to what the future holds for convicted triple murderer Jeffrey MacDonald. It is a guessing game as to how long it will take for their decision. Nevertheless, I believe he does not have a snow ball's chance in hell of getting a new trial.
Now as to Kathryn MacDonald. Bob and I waited in the lobby of the court building as he was hoping for a chance to confront Kathryn. A short time thereafter she came through on her way out alone. Bob addressed her and I said hello Kathryn, I am Christina. I am not sure what shocked her more, the fact that Bob spoke to her or the fact that that I did. I know she was totally shocked, because she said “you're Christina, I though you were Pep.”
She was at a lost for words. What I saw was a frightened woman, pale with her hands shaking. Her voice was high-pitched and whining. I realized then that it is easy for her to be vindictive on the phone or writing e-mails, but it is not her style to confront anyone face-to-face.
If Bob sees fit to share his conversation with her, he will do it. I was there the whole time, but it is not my place to share the complete conversation without his approval. I will only say he confronted her by saying, “congratulations Kathryn on your conviction, you're one step closer to your husband.” Kathryn expressed that she loved her husband very much and that he is a good man. It was quite evident that she was telling the truth as she believes it to be. Here we were, Bob and I on one side, her on the other, all of us fighting for what we believe in. At the end of the conversation, with tears running down his face, he reached out his hand to her and told her she has chosen a hard life for herself by marrying a convicted murderer, and driving to prison to see him, but he wished her well. I was not sure at that point if she would shake his hand. But she took his hand in both of her hands and asked “do you really mean it?” It was like she needed reassurance of what he had said. Bob simply replied yes. What Bob did was a very hard thing for him to do, but it was something he had to do. I could not help but feel sorry for her and what will come to pass in her life.
On March 13, 2010, the government filed a MOTION TO DISMISS APPEAL ON THE GROUND THAT THE CERTIFICATE OF JEFFREY R. MACDONALD APPEALABILITY WAS GRANTED IMPROVIDENTLY.
The court replied court-2010-03-15
The defense replied defense-2010-03-17
The government filed a CORRECTED REPLY BY UNITED STATES TO OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO APPEAL