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January 26, 1996 - Image 12

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-01-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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iii

MURDER MAN page 3

Tanay. He said he gets the same
feeling when a skillful prosecu-
tor cross-examines him on the
witness stand.
In both instances, he said,
"You are being subjected to ef-
forts at being unmasked."
Dr. Tanay's involvement in
the MacDonald case has gained
added significance with the re-
cent publication of Fatal Justice,
a new look at the celebrated tri-
al. The book argues that Dr.
MacDonald did not receive a fair
trial; that he was the victim of
sloppy investigators and uneth-
ical prosecutors, who supposed-
ly concealed evidence that might
have cleared the Green Beret
doctor.
Dr. Tanay agrees.
He has in fact grown quite at-
tached to Dr. MacDonald, who is
serving three life terms in an
Oregon prison. Evidence and tri-
al briefs fill a cardboard box in
Dr. Tanay's office. His profes-
sional tone never wavers as he
thumbs through gruesome au-
topsy photos of the two little girls,
carefully noting discrepancies in
the case.
"I have a certain sense of guilt
for not having done enough to
help him because I have a con-
viction that he is innocent," he
said.
Though they have never met
in person, Drs. Tanay and Mac-
Donald correspond through let-
ters and phone calls.
On Dr. Tanay's desk is a
Christmas card from Dr. Mac-
Donald. A peace dove is on the
cover. "Maybe somehow I can fi-
nally get that court hearing, and
vindication would soon follow,"
Dr. MacDonald writes optimisti-
cally.
For 25 years, Dr. MacDonald
has steadfastly maintained
his family was slaughtered by
four hippies — three men with
knifes and clubs and a woman
in a floppy hat who held a can-
dle during the attack and chant-
ed "Acid is groovy" and "Kill the
pigs."
After being initially cleared by
the military, Dr. MacDonald was
convicted in federal court in 1979,
nine years after the murders. Cit-
ing a wealth of fiber and blood ev-
idence, prosecutors argued Dr.
MacDonald killed his pregnant
wife Colette in a rage, then
stabbed daughters Kimberly, 5,
and Kristen, 2, to eliminate eye-
witnesses.
They contended Dr. MacDon-
ald's own wounds were self-in-
flicted, and that he invented the
story about marauding hippies
to mimic the Manson family
murders.
To some who attended the tri-
al, Dr. MacDonald hurt his own
cause by appearing arrogant on
the witness stand, by his failure
to explain inconsistencies in his
alleged struggle with the in-
truders, and by fibers traced to
his pajamas on the splintered

wooden club used to bludgeon his
daughters.
Dr. Tanay was first drawn to
the case by the psychological pro-
file that prosecutors — and Mr.
McGinniss — drew of the defen-
dant. It is a portrait, he said, that
was unsupported by fact.
According to Dr. Tanay:
* Prosecutors told jurors
Dr. MacDonald committed the
murders in a psychotic paranoid
rage, with no psychiatric testi-
mony to back the claim. The de-
fense was then barred from
calling psychiatrists to rebut the
allegation.
* The judge also barred psy-
chiatric reports stating Dr. Mac-
Donald did not appear to be
homicidal or to suffer from a
mental illness.

Dr Tanay found
nothing to suggest
a sociopath
lurked within.

`The prosecution's case against
Dr. MacDonald was in large
measure built upon character
assassination," Dr. Tanay wrote
in the Journal of Forensic Sci-
ences. "Every possible indiscre-
tion that Dr. MacDonald had
committed over his lifetime had
been paraded before the jury
time and time again. However,
psychiatric testimony offered
by the defense was kept out be-
cause it was ruled to be 'charac-
ter testimony.' This was clearly
unfair."
In Dr. Tanay's view, Dr. Mac-
Donald did not show the kind of
pent-up hostility found in people
who snap. "It's an explosion," he
said of the typical case, "but it
doesn't come out of nowhere. It
has a history."
In Dr. MacDonald, a gregari-
ous Princeton-educated doctor
who by all accounts doted on his
children, Dr. Tanay found noth-
ing to suggest a sociopath lurked
within.
"There is not the slightest in-
dication this man engaged in an-
tisocial behavior, not even a
parking ticket," he said.
For his part, Dr. Tanay ap-
pears undeterred by the quixot-
ic nature of his crusade, or the
substantial evidence that re-
mains against his notorious pen
pal. His mind is made up; he will
do what he can.
"Unless there is some focus of
publicity, the system will never
say that a mistake has been
made," Dr. Tanay said.
In the meantime, Dr. Tanay is
embarking on a long-promised
sabbatical to write his memoirs,
which will focus primarily on his
experience running and hiding
from his Nazi pursuers.
Murder, he said, is never far
from his mind. 0

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