Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald

Crime Scene Fiasco

When a member of the armed services is charged with a crime, Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice requires that an officer be appointed to determine if there is any truth to the charges and to recommend any further action on the case.  In the MacDonald case, Col. Warren V. Rock was assigned to head up the Article 32 inquiry.   Col. Rock was a no-nonsense, thirty-year Army man and the head of the 4th Psychological Operations Battalion at the John F. Kennedy Institute of Military Assistance.

Bernard Segal
Bernard Segal

Bernie Segal, MacDonald's attorney, was concerned that if the Article 32 hearing did not go well, the defense would lose the best opportunity it had to prove MacDonald's innocence.  The proceeding began on July 6, 1970, and was open to the press.   Bernie Segal first took aim at Lt. Joseph Paulk, who had been called by the prosecution to support the Army's contention that the crime scene had been professionally controlled. 

Joe McGinniss in his book Fatal Vision describes how the Army hearing became a fiasco almost from the beginning:  "Under cross-examination by Bernie Segal, [Paulk] admitted that he did not know how many military policemen had been inside the apartment; that he had never attempted to compile a list of names; that he had left no one in charge, to make sure that evidence was not disturbed, when he himself had left the apartment to call for an ambulance and to notify the provost marshal of the crime; that, in fact, one of his men had picked up the receiver that was dangling from the bedroom telephone in order to notify headquarters that the MPs had arrived at the scene; that even after hearing MacDonald's description of the four assailants, he had failed to order the establishment of roadblocks at exits from the post, despite suggestions from several of his men that he do so; and that soon after his arrival at 544 Castle Drive he had noticed wet grass, tracked in from outside, at various locations throughout the apartment, but that he did not know if this debris had been brought in, unknowingly, by his own men at least a dozen of whom had been running up and down the dark and narrow hallway of the apartment, some on the verge of hysteria as a result of what they had seen or perhaps half an hour earlier, by the four intruders who had murdered Jeffrey MacDonald's wife and children."

So much for crime scene control.  The potential for embarrassment was great, so Major General Edward Flanagan ordered Colonel Rock to close the remainder of the hearing to the press and the public.


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