As McGinniss explains in Final Vision, most of the putative miscarriages of justice that Morris cites in his book have been exhaustively reviewed by appeal courts and rejected. A pattern emerges. The defense got the original crime scene investigation file through a FOIA request, and they’ve since insisted that every scrap of debris that can’t be traced to something in the house is proof of invaders, proof that should have been turned over to them earlier.

Morris doesn’t give us enough information to assess the procedural merits of their claims. Just because MacDonald’s lawyers say evidence should have been turned over to them doesn’t mean that they were entitled to it, let alone that the prosecution committed malfeasance by not turning it over. One might infer from MacDonald’s more than 30-year losing streak that his case lacks merit; but Morris considers it further proof of the system’s bias against MacDonald.

As far as the probative value of the “withheld” evidence, it’s pretty much a bust. Any occupied home will contain hairs and fibers that can’t readily be sourced, especially transient housing like the MacDonalds’ apartment.

In 2012, the defense shamelessly trumpeted the results of DNA testing released in 2006 as “new evidence” of MacDonald’s innocence, even though none of the three untraced hairs matched Helena Stoeckley or her boyfriend Greg Mitchell, whom she named as an accomplice.

Morris tries to blame McGinniss for poisoning the well against MacDonald, but Fatal Vision mostly reported the facts as they were presented at trial. The disappointing truth is that MacDonald was proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in 1979 and his lawyers have been grasping at straws ever since. Joe McGinniss’s Final Vision should indeed be the last word on the subject.


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Lindsay Beyerstein is a staff writer at In These Times and the lead writer at the Sidney Hillman Foundation. She blogs at Duly Noted and Clear It With Sidney.