Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald

The Army Doesn't Forget

In the early 1970s the CID had turned over its evidence to the FBI laboratories, which made an exception to its policy of not testing evidence that had previously been tested by other government labs.   In August of 1974, a grand jury was presented a new theory about Jeffrey MacDonald.  The prosecutor told MacDonald's attorney, Bernie Segal, that he wanted access to MacDonald's psychiatric files.  Segal agreed, providing the prosecutor agreed to have Dr. Robert Sadoff testify to the grand jury as to his evaluation of MacDonald.  The prosecutor did not keep his end of the bargain.

One of the grand jurors requested that MacDonald take a sodium amytal test.  MacDonald agreed if Dr. Sadoff would be present, so preparations were made for the test with Sadoff's supervision.  However, the prosecutor had no intentions of allowing MacDonald to take the test nor to let Dr. Sadoff testify.   He made arrangements for MacDonald's arrest, even though there had been no indictment at that point and he led the grand jury to believe that Dr. Sadoff had seen no value in the test.  Believing that MacDonald would not take the sodium amytal test, the grand jury indicted him. 

MacDonald's trial date was then set for mid 1979.

Often when there is a serious and glaring miscarriage of justice in the United States, the defendant is poor and/or black or Hispanic.  Rarely is the defendant a well-respected white physician.   Nevertheless, it does happen.  MacDonald's trial was a sterling example of how even an affluent, educated professional can be the victim of a malicious, overreaching prosecution.


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