It’s the longest-running criminal case in U.S. history, which is why, more than 30 years after the classic miniseries Fatal Vision aired on NBC, Investigation Discovery is taking another look at the Jeffrey MacDonald murder saga with the new film Final Vision.
Starring Scandal’s Scott Foley as MacDonald, the Green Beret and Ivy league-educated doctor who was convicted of the 1970 murder of his pregnant wife and their two daughters, and Brothers & Sisters alum Dave Annable as Joe McGinniss, the bestselling author MacDonald sought out to help prove his innocence, Final Vision takes another look at MacDonald’s murder trial and the relationship between the men.
What began with MacDonald giving McGinniss extended interviews and full access to his defense team and the trial materials ended with MacDonald suing McGinniss for fraud after the release of the author’s 1983 bestselling book Fatal Vision, in which McGinniss concluded MacDonald was a narcissistic sociopath who had indeed murdered his family. The two eventually settled out of court for a reported $325,000 sum, while the late McGinniss’s complicated relationship with the still-jailed MacDonald sparked Janet Malcolm’s 1990 book The Journalist and the Murderer.
After spending time portraying the two men and delving into the history of the MacDonald case, Foley and Annable gave Yahoo Entertainment their thoughts on whether or not MacDonald — who, at 74, maintains his innocence from his cell in a federal prison in Maryland — is guilty of the brutal murders of his family.
“You know, the take in this movie comes from Joe McGinniss’s book. … And his ultimate outcome was that Jeffrey MacDonald was guilty of these crimes. Professionally, I had to sort of stay neutral and be as honest [as I could] and play the character as faithfully to the story we’re telling as I could. But, having done some research myself — I’ve read most of Errol Morris’s book [A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald] on this topic, as well as Joe McGinniss’s, and gone back and watched the interviews, and… Look, I’m in no way saying that Jeffrey MacDonald is a perfect person, but, being a father and knowing the nature, the intimate, brutal nature of these crimes, I just have such a hard time believing that a person could do such a thing. Now, I’m sure those beliefs come from somewhat of a place of privilege on my part, but I like to believe the best in people, and this is a man who, more than 40 years after the crime, still claims he’s innocent. His story hasn’t changed. The crime scene was mangled beyond belief by the Army investigators. There’s a lot that went wrong. So, I have my doubt as to his guilt.”
“You know, based on my research and my readings, I find it hard to believe that he’s innocent. I’m just an amateur detective, so, you know … if he’s exonerated, then I’ll be the first one to say that I was wrong. But at the same time, there’s a substantial amount of evidence pointing toward his guilt. But Scott had a different opinion, and he’s not alone. There is a real ‘did he or didn’t he’ aspect to this case, which I still find interesting.”
“One of the great things about the true-crime genre is that if done well, even if there’s a specific point of view, it should leave you A) questioning the outcome, and B) wanting to know more. I hope that at the end of this, the audience will say, ‘Hey, let me look into this,’ and maybe read a book about it. Maybe do some digging online. Whatever it is, but I think [Investigation Discovery] did a really good job with this. Even though we’re telling [the story from] a specific point of view, and ultimately in this point of view he’s guilty, there are enough questions that you can possibly come to your own, different, conclusion.”
Final Vision premieres Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. on Investigation Discovery.
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