The Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald Habeas Case and Actual Innocence

Back in December, the Fourth Circuit ruled on a habeas petition of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, denying relief. The case has been winding its way through federal courts for more than 40 years. I wanted to flag it for readers in this post, both as one of the more notorious North Carolina murder cases and as an opportunity to examine the legal principles of actual innocence claims in federal habeas. Fair warning, this post contains some minimal (but grisly) details of the killings.

Read more


Motions for Appropriate Relief and Procedural Default

As noted in an earlier post, I get asked a lot of questions about motions for appropriate relief (MARs). One procedural issue that causes some confusion is procedural default. The MAR statute provides that in order for a court to reach the merits of a defendant’s MAR, the defendant must satisfy certain procedural rules. If … Read more