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Jeffrey MacDonald, Green Beret Convicted Of Murdering Family, Gets New Hearing In Light Of DNA Evidence

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Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted in 1979 of the 1970 murders of his two daughters and pregnant wife, but has maintained his innocence since then.
Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted in 1979 of the 1970 murders of his two daughters and pregnant wife, but has maintained his innocence since then.

WILMINGTON, N.C. -- A trial attorney for Jeffrey MacDonald says he didn't hear a woman say anything that would help the defense prove the former Green Beret's story that intruders killed his pregnant wife and two daughters.

Wade Smith testified Monday in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, in the case that was the basis for the book "Fatal Vision." Smith says Helena Stoeckley didn't say anything that helped the defense while he was present during an interview during the 1979 trial.

While another attorney indicated Stoeckley told the defense she remembered standing at the couch in the MacDonald apartment, Smith says that didn't happen in his presence.

MacDonald is getting another hearing on new evidence. He's serving three life sentences in federal prison.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Jeffrey MacDonald is getting another chance to try to prove his innocence more than three decades after the former Green Beret was convicted of killing his pregnant wife and his daughters in the case that was the basis for the book "Fatal Vision."

MacDonald is asking a judge to grant him a new trial. The hearing began Monday in a federal courtroom in Wilmington, with MacDonald's attorney saying if jurors in 1979 could have considered two new types of evidence in case, they would have found him not guilty.

Prosecutors chose not give an opening statement.

MacDonald is serving three life sentences for the 1970 murders of his pregnant wife, Colette, and their daughters, Kimberley and Kristen.

MacDonald's lawyer plans on concentrating on two bits of evidence - hairs that don't match MacDonald or his family's DNA and a statement from Jimmy Britt, a deputy U.S. marshal when the case was tried.

When those two things are considered with the rest of the evidence, "you would conclude no reasonable juror would find Jeffrey MacDonald guilty," defense attorney Gordon Widenhouse said.

The first witness of the hearing was Wade Smith, who is testifying about Britt's statement. MacDonald's lawyer said that Britt heard prosecutor Jim Blackburn threaten Helena Stoeckley, a troubled local woman whom MacDonald had identified as one of the attackers.

A previous MacDonald attorney has said Stoeckley was prepared to testify she was in the MacDonald home the night of the murders until Blackburn threatened to charge her with the slayings. She later testified she couldn't remember where she was that night.

Lawyers expect the hearing could last up to two weeks.

MacDonald was in a tan prison jumpsuit for the hearing. He was shackled at the ankles, but not the wrist.

CORRECTION: A previous headline incorrectly stated that MacDonald would be receiving a new trial. At present, MacDonald is only scheduled to receive a new hearing.

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Green Beret Convicted Of Killing Pregnant Wife
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