United States v. MacDonald, 75-26-CR-3.

Decision Date25 April 1985
Docket NumberNo. 75-26-CR-3.,75-26-CR-3.
Citation607 F. Supp. 1183
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of North Carolina
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. Jeffrey R. MacDONALD, Defendant.

Brian M. Murtagh, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sp. Prosecutor Section, Washington, D.C., for plaintiff.

Wade M. Smith, Raleigh, N.C., Brian O'Neill, Santa Monica, Cal., for defendant.


DUPREE, District Judge.

Post-trial motions of the defendant, Jeffrey R. MacDonald, having been denied, the government has filed a motion pursuant to Section 1406 of the Victims of Crime Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. § 3671, seeking forfeiture by MacDonald of all proceeds received by him from publication of the book Fatal Vision and the airing of a television program by the same name. MacDonald opposes the motion, responding that requiring forfeiture under 18 U.S.C. § 3671 would violate the ex post facto clause, article I, section 9, clause 3, of the United States Constitution.

MacDonald's wife and two young daughters were brutally murdered in their apartment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on February 17, 1970. Charges against him for the murders were dismissed by the Army in 1970 but a reinvestigation resulted in MacDonald's being indicted for the crimes by a federal grand jury on January 24, 1975. Following a series of pre-trial motions and interlocutory appeals, the case came on for trial in July of 1979.

On July 16, 1979, the first day of jury selection in the case, MacDonald and author Joseph McGinniss, through their attorneys, entered into a contract under which MacDonald granted to McGinniss "exclusive story rights to the life of Dr. Jeffrey R. MacDonald" in return for a percentage of the profits realized from the story rights. MacDonald was convicted by the jury of three counts of murder on August 29, 1979 and his attempts to have the convictions overturned on direct appeal were unsuccessful. United States v. MacDonald, 456 U.S. 1, 102 S.Ct. 1497, 71 L.Ed.2d 696 (1982); United States v. MacDonald, 688 F.2d 224 (4th Cir.1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1103, 103 S.Ct. 726, 74 L.Ed.2d 951 (1983). Four post-trial motions were subsequently filed by MacDonald challenging his convictions, all of which were denied. United States v. MacDonald, No. 75-26-CR-3 (E.D.N.C., March 1, 1985); United States v. MacDonald, No. 75-26-CR-3 (E.D.N.C., October 1, 1984).

In August of 1983, G.P. Putnam & Sons, a New York publisher, published a book written by Joseph McGinniss about the MacDonald case titled Fatal Vision. The book was apparently well received, for it served as the basis for a four-hour television program depicting facts of the case as told by the author in the book.1 The government has submitted documents accompanying its motion for forfeiture which show that from October 2, 1979 through August 7, 1984, MacDonald received $83,101.56 in proceeds under his contract with McGinniss and, according to the government, he will receive additional money in the future from literary and television rights. The record also contains a copy of a complaint filed in a lawsuit brought by MacDonald in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against Joseph McGinniss seeking damages for breach of contract. The government by its motion for forfeiture under 18 U.S.C. § 3671 seems to request forfeiture by MacDonald not only of the proceeds under the contract from October 2, 1979 through August 7, 1984 and any money he receives after August 7, 1984, but also any money he receives by settlement or through judgment in his lawsuit in California.2

The government premises its argument for forfeiture on Section 1406(a) of the Victims of Crime Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. § 3671(a), enacted on October 12, 1984 to take effect November 12, 1984, which provides in pertinent part

Upon the motion of the United States attorney made at any time after conviction of a defendant for an offense against the United States resulting in physical harm to an individual, and after notice to any interested party, the court shall, if the court determines that the interest of justice ... so requires, order such defendant to forfeit all or any part of proceeds received or to be received by that defendant, or a transferee of that defendant, from a contract relating to a depiction of such crime in a movie, book, newspaper, magazine, radio or television production, or live entertainment of any kind, or an expression of that defendant's thoughts, opinions, or emotions regarding such crime.

The Senate Report on the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 states the self-evident purpose of the Act to be "to derive funds for the victim's assistance program primarily from wrongdoers who are responsible for the suffering of victims." S.Rep.No. 497, 98th Cong., 2nd Sess. 5, reprinted in 1984 U.S.Code Cong. & Ad. News 3182, 3607, 3611. This policy and the interests of justice will be served, so argues the government, by requiring MacDonald and his "transferees" to forfeit under 18 U.S.C. § 3671 all proceeds received or to be received from the depiction of the events surrounding his family's murder in 1970.3 MacDonald replies that the statute was enacted almost fifteen years after the murders for which he was convicted occurred and cannot, therefore, be applied to him because to do so would increase the penalty imposed upon him for the crimes for which he was convicted in violation of the ex post facto clause of the Constitution. These arguments join to form a single narrow question to be answered by the court which is whether application of the forfeiture provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 3671 to a criminal defendant who is convicted of crimes committed prior to passage of the statute would violate the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws.

"So much importance did the Constitutional Convention attach to the ex post facto prohibition, ... that it is found twice in the Constitution." Kring v. Missouri, 107 U.S. (17 Otto) 221, 227, 2 S.Ct. 443, 448, 27 L.Ed. 506 (1883). The purpose of the ex post facto clause, article I, section 9, clause 3, and article I, section 10, clause 1, is to prevent the states and Congress from passing any law "which imposes a punishment for an act which was not punishable at the time it was committed; or imposes additional punishment to that then prescribed...." Cummings v. Missouri, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 277, 325-26, 18 L.Ed. 356 (1867); see Calder v. Bull, 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 386, 390, 1 L.Ed. 648 (1798).

In Weaver v. Graham, 450 U.S. 24, 101 S.Ct. 960, 67 L.Ed.2d 17 (1981), a Florida inmate challenged the constitutionality of a Florida statute enacted after his conviction which reduced the amount of gain time for which he was eligible resulting in an extension of his prison sentence by more than two years. Writing for the court in Weaver, Justice Marshall explained that "two critical elements must be present for a criminal or penal law to be ex post facto: it must be retrospective, that is, it must apply to events occurring before its enactment, and it must disadvantage the offender affected by it." Id. at 29, 101 S.Ct. at 964 (footnotes omitted); see Lindsey v. Washington, 301 U.S. 397, 401, 57 S.Ct. 797, 799, 81 L.Ed. 1182 (1937); Dufresne v. Baer, 744 F.2d 1543, 1546 (11th Cir.1984); Marshall v. Garrison, 659 F.2d 440, 444-46 (4th Cir.1981). Because the new Florida statute deprived Weaver of gain time credits which he would have been entitled to under the pre-existing law, the court held that the new law violated the ex post facto clause of the Constitution. Weaver, 450 U.S. at 36, 101 S.Ct. at 968.

Applying the two-part test announced in Weaver to the facts in the present case, the court concludes that Section 3671 cannot be constitutionally applied to MacDonald. There can be no doubt that the statute is retrospective within...

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4 cases
  • US v. MacDonald
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of North Carolina
    • July 8, 1991
    ...and evidentiary challenges to conviction), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1103, 103 S.Ct. 726, 74 L.Ed.2d 951 (1983); United States v. MacDonald, 607 F.Supp. 1183 (E.D.N.C.1985) (denying government's motion for forfeiture of proceeds from book and television program concerning the case); United Sta......
  • U.S. v. Juvenile Male
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • May 26, 1987
    ...(1981); Marshall v. Garrison, 659 F.2d 440 (4 Cir.1981), and require forfeiture of property obtained criminally, United States v. MacDonald, 607 F.Supp. 1183 (E.D.N.C.1985). Our review of these cases convinces us that the district court erred when it concluded that the 1984 amendment author......
  • Fasching v. Kallinger
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court — Appellate Division
    • August 11, 1988
    ...111 A.2d 631 (1955) (court's duty is to construe a statute to avoid a conflict with the constitution). See also United States v. McDonald, 607 F.Supp. 1183 (E.D.N.C.1985) which ruled that retroactive application of a similar federal statute to a crime committed prior to the effective date o......
  • Hayden v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • July 16, 2002
    ...and BARNES, JJ., concur. 1. Hayden also cites Cummings v. Missouri, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 277, 18 L.Ed. 356 (1866) and U.S. v. MacDonald, 607 F.Supp. 1183 (E.D.N.C.1985) as examples of federal cases which held that civil penalties (disqualification in Cummings and forfeiture of book and media i......

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