Filmmaker Errol Morris re-examines the case of the Green Beret doctor convicted of killing his family
Published: October 17, 2012
Woods: Do you think that The Thin Blue Line gave you the stamina or wherewithal to undertake a project that has been such a quagmire for so many people — the feeling that you could uncover the things that either laziness or mendacity or whatever has kept other people from?
Morris: I'm not convinced that I can. I have this deep need at least to try. The passage in The Journalist and the Murderer that disturbed me and still disturbs me is when Janet Malcolm is seated in front of the folders of evidence ... about how she decided not to look at the evidence because this evidence doesn't speak for itself. That would be like trying to prove the existence of God from looking at a flower. Think about that passage. It is trying to tell you that evidence means nothing. But proving the innocence or guilt of a criminal defendant is not like trying to prove the existence of God. It relies on evidence and if you are not willing to follow that evidence and that logic, you have nothing.
Woods: Now that Helena Stoeckly [the woman who matched MacDonald's description, was seen near the crime scene, and confessed to numerous people], the narcotics agent who worked with her, and the judge are all dead, is there a part of you that wishes you'd come to this earlier?
Morris: I can answer that really simply. The answer is yes. For any investigator who really wants to get to the bottom of things, the realization that so much time has gone by, that there are many questions that can never be answered about this case. Although, the whole situation was messed over from the start.
Woods: Now that it is a book, do you think it could be as successful as a film and have an impact like The Thin Blue Line?
Morris: I don't. I struggled so hard just to write the book. My plan was to finish the book and get it out there and hope that it has some effect on the case. ... I could write a book about the evidence and about the nature of narrative and how narrative can undermine evidence and how ultimately the search for truth must prevail over the desire for storytelling.
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