Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald

Segal Defends MacDonald

Once Segal had discredited the CID's investigation, he began his defense of MacDonald which consisted of several key points: 

  1. evidence revealing the absence of any drugs or intoxication in Dr. MacDonald when he was taken to the hospital.  The very low level of alcohol in his system was consistent with his mention that he and Colette had some orange liqueur that evening, 
  2. various professional examinations of MacDonald regarding his emotional and mental state, and
  3. a parade of witnesses to attest to MacDonald's character and fitness as a husband and father and physician.

Segal called Dr. Robert Sadoff, founder of the American Board of Forensic Psychiatry, who had examined MacDonald a few months earlier.  Sadoff testified, "I feel that Captain MacDonald does not possess the type of personality or emotional configuration that would be capable of this type of killing with the resultant behavior that we now see.   In other words, I don't think he could have done this...He is a very warm person, and very gracious, and one whom, I must admit, I like."

Col. Rock had also ordered psychiatric testing at Walter Reed Army Hospital.   The chief psychiatrist, Lieutenant Col. Bruce Bailey, along with Lieutenant Col. Donald Morgan, director of research psychiatry, and Major Henry Edwards, head of psychiatric consultation, all examined MacDonald.  Together they found no mental illness or derangement in MacDonald.  Instead they considered him a warm, personable and engaging young man.  They did not believe that he had lied about the events of that fateful night.

MacDonald and his daughter
MacDonald and his daughter

Segal called a number of people to testify who were close to MacDonald and his family.   One of the most important of those witnesses was MacDonald's father-in-law who was a staunch believer in his innocence.  After a very emotional testimony about what a wonderful husband and father MacDonald had been, he spoke for himself and his wife Mildred:  "We know full well that Jeffrey MacDonald is innocent beyond any shadow of doubt, as does everyone who ever knew him.  I charge that the Army has never made an effort to look for the real murderers and that they know Captain MacDonald is innocent of any crime."

This sentiment was echoed time and time again by MacDonald's friends, neighbors, professional associates, many of whom were exceptionally accomplished people in the military and medical fields.  Robert Kingston, MacDonald's former commanding officer, called him "one of the finest, most upright, most outstanding young soldiers..and very devoted to both his wife and children."

There was only one serious blemish on MacDonald's otherwise excellent record.  The doctor had indulged in a few "infidelities" when he was away on business trips.  Colette was unaware of these indiscretions.


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