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Psycopathy and Crime: Analysis of The Case of Jeffrey Macdonald

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Introduction

Jeffrey MacDonald, born on October 12, 1943, to Mac and Dorothy Macdonald in Jamaica, Queens, New York City, New York. During trial later down the road, Dorothy would testify that Jeffrey’s birthday was actually in 1942 but Jeffrey insisted that it was instead in 1943. He had two siblings a sister named Judy and a brother named Jay. He was described by his mother as being a fine child. He was the type of young boy who always offered to do chores around the house and was very active during his schooling years. Jeffrey attended Patchogue High School and later furthered his education at Princeton University where he entered a sexual relationship with a girl he met at Patchogue High named Colette. He participated in activities such as sports, music, student council and loved spending time with his friends and family outside of school (Crimearchives.net, n.d.). When finishing school at Princeton, Jeffrey decided he wanted to follow his dreams and go to medical school. He and his family packed up their belongings and moved to Chicago where Jeffrey got accepted into Northwestern University Medical School. Once he completed medical school he found a new interest and decided to enlist in the United States Army and continued to rise in the ranks, earning the achievement of Captain. During this time Colette and Jeffrey would eventually rekindle their relationship and get married. It wasn’t until 1963 when Colette got pregnant with their first child together, giving birth to Kimberly on April 18th, 1964. Three years later they had another child together named Kristen. Kimberly and Kristen were described as very caring, outdoorsy and loved others as much as they loved their mother and father. Kristen was known to be more tomboy compared to Kimberly and would always stand up for Kimberly in any situation. Later in life, Jeffrey remarried in 2002 to Kathryn Kurichh who was a former children’s drama school owner. Jeffrey later would move to Maryland to be closer to Kathryn. Sounds like a great life Jeffrey endured right?

Crimes

This all seems a little too good to be true. He had great adolescent and childhood years and experienced little to no criminal behavior growing up. On the morning of February 17, 1970, that’s when it all changed. At Fort Bragg where Jeffrey was stationed, they received a call from dispatch saying someone had been stabbed (Silvergate, 2013). This call was coming from Jeffrey MacDonald. The base gathered four military police and went to investigate the so-called reported stabbing. Once they arrived they were welcomed to a dark, grungy locked house. They proceeded to ring the doorbell at what they thought was just a domestic disturbance call however it was far more worse than that. When no one answered the doorbell after the second ring they went around to the back of the house where they found something that they were not expecting what so ever, a bloody crime scene with three dead bodies lying on the ground in each of their bedrooms. The three bodies were those of Colette Jeffery’s wife and his two daughters: Kimberly and Kristen. What wasn’t described in the opening paragraph was that Jeffrey and Colette were expecting their third child. Right next to Colette in their bedroom lied Jeffrey alive but suffered a concussion, small bruises and stab wounds on his left side. Jeffrey was then transported to a local hospital and released one week later. What military officers found in the two little girl’s bedrooms was appalling and very gruesome. Kimberly was found lying in her bed with obvious stab wounds as the police guessed somewhere around eight to nine. Kristen was also found in her room lying in her bed with almost three times the amount of stab wounds than her sister Kimberly and obvious marks of being abused to death with an ice pick. Colette by far had the most gruesome injury out of the three. Not only did her son die with her but they found evidence of sixteen stab wounds and twenty-one incisions with an ice pick. The word “PIG” was written in blood above where Colette and her son were lying. As mentioned above, Jeffrey never had a disorganized family life. He was always well cared for, involved with his school and had lots of friends. Psychopaths make up 1 percent of the general population. Is it such that Jeffrey MacDonald could fall into this category?

Potential Causes of Psychopathy

Shockingly with Jeffrey MacDonald’s case, there weren’t any outstanding signs of psychopathy shown. However, in his case, he showed two main traits that were essential in labeling Jeffrey as a potential psychopath. Those characteristics are narcissism and lack of remorse. This paper won’t be described in great detail the whole case and trial but during this process, MacDonald failed to show little to no remorse. Throughout the trial of Jeffrey MacDonald, he continued to claim his innocence and does to this day as he rests in a federal prison in Maryland. Witnesses stated that in high school you’d never know what mood you would receive that day from Jeffrey. They stated that he could be the “life of the party or he could be mean depending on his mood” (Masewicz, 2019). This is showing that he suffers from bipolar disorder. A recent book that came out called “fatal vision” did not please Jeffrey MacDonald in any way leading him to sue Joe McGinniss for $15 million that the claims in the book about MacDonald’s daughters were false (Blanning, 1987). This just shows further claims of Jeffrey carrying the psychopathic characteristic of narcissism. This was a way for Jeffrey to feel some sort of entitlement in a time where he needed any kind of hope in getting out of the three life sentences he was about to be found guilty of. Pathological lying was also seen when Jeffrey was pleading his innocence. He stated that three hippies entered their home the night all three girls were killed and shouted: “acid is groovy — kill the pigs” (Mansfield, 1983). He related these hippies to the killings that happened only six months prior by the famous serial killer Charles Manson. Jeffrey to this day continues to maintain his innocence saying it wasn’t him who killed his family.

Non-Psychopathic Traits

A non-psychopathic trait that Jeffrey showed was no previous abuse or criminal behavior. Previous criminal behavior a lot of the times plays a significant role in offending and psychopathy. There were reports of Jeffrey being disobedient in the early years of school but what teenager isn’t? Even if it would conclude that then would that mean that all disobedient teenagers grow up to be psychopaths? Something to also consider is that if he only committed this murder would that automatically mean he’s a psychopath? As talked about earlier he did suffer from bipolar disorder. This disorder falls more under a psychological disorder relating to impulsive behavior. However, it gets confusing when witnesses said that they witnessed Jeffrey being bipolar in the early years which in reality would increase his chance of incarceration. This could conclude that since he had this disorder at such a young age that it worsened as the years went on which led up to why he killed his wife and two daughters.

Explanation of Causes

There are many myths behind the true motive of why Jeffrey decided to kill his wife and two daughters on that gruesome day of February 17, 1970. From the investigation and files Jim Blackburn the prosecutor came up with the best explanation in why he believes Jeffrey did what he did. In closing arguments during the trial Blackburn stated to the jury “if we have proven to you beyond a reasonable doubt that he did it, we don’t have to prove that he is the type of person that could have done it and the law does not require us to prove a motive” (Stevenson, 2004). He continues to state his thinking of what the motive is. The findings from his evaluations from both the Federal government and his party stated that Jeffrey was sexually imbalanced and that he sexually molested his daughter Kimberly. As he still won’t tell anyone what happened from that night the prosecutor Blackburn investigated on his own and came up with a conclusion that Kimberly went into their room and got into bed with them. Colette then got up and moved since she couldn’t sleep with Kimberly crying in their bed. She then later went back into the room and that is when prosecutors believe Colette walked into Jeffery sexually molesting Kimberly. From that point is when a fight started and when Colette took the first hit on Jeffrey. Jeffrey later escaping and came back with a knife and stabbed all three of them. Keep in mind he was also a trauma surgeon in the Army. According to a national survey posttraumatic stress disorder also known as PTSD is very common among trauma surgeons (Wendling, 2014). This disorder is known later on down the road to affect your relationships, future jobs and everyday activities (‘Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – Symptoms and causes’, 2019). This can also be a stimulate at putting a person more at risk of depression and anxiety, which MacDonald’s could easily have suffered from.

Later Psychopathic Findings

In later findings, the summary of the trial came out and stated that yes indeed Jeffrey suffered from multiple psychopathic disorders and faced the diagnosis of a potential psychopath. The transcript reads “Dr. MacDonald despite his hedonism seem self-destructive, naïve, superficial and even illogical at times, a man who seeks freedom and emancipation only for personal removal from constraint, controls, and restrictions” (Stevenson, 2004). People concluded that there were very obvious signs of psychopathy in Jeffrey but the ones who concluded those findings were people who were part of the trial and wanted nothing but a guilty conviction.

Criminal Justice System

The case of Jeffrey MacDonald brings about severe issues within the criminal justice system and the exact reason why the government should look at a criminal justice reform. No matter the side of which you fall on the way they treated Jeffrey led him to an unfair trial was nothing short of disgusting and unlawful. This case did not only include the criminal justice system but other big agencies such as the U.S. Department of Justice and the federal courts in particular. An issue that The Champion describes was one that they thought this case will never die and that the legal team representing MacDonald will not live long enough to see justice done (Silvergate, 2013). Problems that arose in this particular case that we see far too often in other cases are a pre-bias explanation of what happened from investigation without providing exact evidence. In MacDonald’s case, the military investigators came up with what they believed happened first before even pulling any evidence from the crime scene. They concluded that there was no way there was hippies that broke into his house instead of that Jeffrey himself staged the crime scene so it looked as if he wasn’t the murderer but in reality was. That leads to investigators only looking for evidence in that Jeffrey committed the crime and no other community member. Therefore, they didn’t question people of interest nor in-depth forensic testing besides the blood tests to determine who’s blood spelled out the word “PIGS” on the wall.

Social and Community Response

When news breaks that someone in the community is diagnosed as a potential psychopath it not only affects the community but the individual who might be a potential psychopath. The backlash from the community against psychopaths most of the time, as you might imagine are all negative. Psychopaths suffer greatly from loneliness, emotional pain, and social isolation from community members (Martens, 2014). The word psychopath is often used more than it really should be. Friends to friends might call each other “psychopaths” in context to calling them crazy but in today’s society that’s becoming more unacceptable. The reason being that psychopathy is an actual disorder that people struggle with and isn’t a word to joke around with. This is often like using the “R” word, retarded, it is not socially accepted anymore.

MacDonald to Psychopathy

After researching and reading about Jeffrey he does, however, have those characteristics of such a psychopath. Furthermore, I would conclude that he wouldn’t fall under the specific psychopath category though. To this day, there has been no exact conclusion on if Jeffrey did those murders or not. Say he didn’t kill those three girls and it was the hippies. Would society still be calling him a psychopath or are they only calling him a psychopath because he horrendously murdered those people? This is something that needs to be further researched and people need to be educated on. So the ultimate question is, calling Jeffrey MacDonald a psychopath an appropriate fit? Some would say yes but I certainly say no. Although, it would be more fitting to say I would agree if there was more clear evidence.

Is he Innocent?

Jeffrey MacDonald’s stance has always been since that day in February of 1970 that he’s an innocent man. In a movie that was recently released called “A Wilderness of Error” concluded that MacDonald was very unfairly treated by the cops and prosecutors in his case. MacDonald has gone through appeals after appeals trying to plead his innocence. Most recent news broke that a woman, now dead, confessed in participating in the crime but was hushed into silence by the prosecutors many times.

Where is he Now?

Jeffrey MacDonald almost seventy-seven years old still rests in a western Maryland correctional facility. Remember the woman who was talked about in the opening paragraph, Kathryn Kurichh? She and Jeffrey are still happily married in what she describes him being “the strongest, honorable and wonderful person” (Weingarten, 2012). As he waits and hopes maybe one day he will seek justice Kathryn and him share in what they describe a very intimate relationship and are happily married. This case has reached the U.S Supreme Court multiple times but nothing good has ever come out of it.

Conclusion

The diagnosis of psychopathy can wreck an individual’s life and can be life-changing especially if the diagnosis is wrong possibly in the case of Jeffrey MacDonald. It is really important for our criminal justice system to be taking these cases with great caution and seriousness as it can easily put an innocent individual behind bars for years sometimes lifelong like Jeffrey MacDonald. As there aren’t that many individuals who can properly perform the PCL-R test there is little research out there which is completely a hundred percent accurate on the topic of psychopathy. No matter Jeffrey’s crime either he committed it or didn’t it is all about if he received a fair trial or not. In the articles and research I’ve done for him, personally can conclude that yes he may be a psychopath because he does hold certain psychopathic characteristics but I do not believe he committed this crime. The reason being that once his appeals after appeals kept getting denied I would assume that he would confess to the murders if he so, in fact, did kill his wife Colette and their two girls, Kimberly and Kristen. Psychopathy is a disorder that again makes up one percent of the general population and some people live their lives never knowing they struggle with being a psychopath. Just like Jeffrey the people, we trust the most can even be one too. As in our top CEOs, doctors, teachers and maybe even president Donald Trump? You never know especially in the generation we’re living in currently.

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Psycopathy And Crime: Analysis Of The Case Of Jeffrey Macdonald. (2022, April 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 18, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/psycopathy-and-crime-analysis-of-the-case-of-jeffrey-macdonald/
“Psycopathy And Crime: Analysis Of The Case Of Jeffrey Macdonald.” GradesFixer, 11 Apr. 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/psycopathy-and-crime-analysis-of-the-case-of-jeffrey-macdonald/
Psycopathy And Crime: Analysis Of The Case Of Jeffrey Macdonald. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/psycopathy-and-crime-analysis-of-the-case-of-jeffrey-macdonald/> [Accessed 18 May 2022].
Psycopathy And Crime: Analysis Of The Case Of Jeffrey Macdonald [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 11 [cited 2022 May 18]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/psycopathy-and-crime-analysis-of-the-case-of-jeffrey-macdonald/
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