Case of a lifetime

Case of a Lifetime
                The long yellow legal papers are now worn and torn away from the pad on which I first wrote the words that I used to make the closing argument that Jeffrey MacDonald, a Green Beret doctor, had destroyed his family at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on a rainy night in February, 1970. I had started my words so many times, only to become increasingly frustrated at my inability to capture the emotion of what I thought had happened to Colette, Kimberly and Kristen MacDonald that night. Beside me on the floor lay crumpled sheets of paper, all instant reminders of failed attempts at the passion I knew was essential if there was any chance at all of convicting MacDonald of murder.
                Several days later, in a packed courtroom on the seventh floor of the Federal Building on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh, a unanimous jury did just that…convicting MacDonald of second degree murder of his wife Collette and his daughter Kimberly and first degree murder of his younger daughter Kristen. He was given three consecutive life sentences.  I mistakenly thought that the case would soon be behind me after the obligatory appeals to the Fourth Circuit. It didn’t turn out that way.
                How, thirty three years later, some of us are back again, though I am returning as a potential witness and not a lawyer in the case. MacDonald and a new legal team are again challenging his conviction on grounds of alleged prosecutorial misconduct (mine…which of course I deny) and DNA evidence, mainly on the issue of hair.
                For so many people this case has consumed and defined them. I remember Freddy and Mildred Kassab, the stepfather and mother of Colette, who at first defended and then challenged MacDonald at every turn. The cause of convicting MacDonald and keeping him in prison became their life until they died in 1994.
                Pete Kearns, an Army CID agent, who helped so much in the Army reinvestigation of MacDonald after the Army let him go in 1970, stayed close to the case for the remainder of his life.
                And there are others…Bob Shaw, a primary CID agent who along with Bill Ivory conducted the initial crime scene investigation of the MacDonald apartment, Judge Franklin Dupree, the inscrutable federal trial judge, who was so learned and prepared, several of the jurors, Bernie Segal, one of MacDonald’s defense attorneys, and MacDonald’s mother as well as others who worked on and participated in the case, are now gone.
                But for some of us who were on the prosecution side in 1979, Joe McGinniss who wrote the best selling book Fatal Vision, and Wade Smith, the other MacDonald defense attorney in 1979, there will be another chapter to write in the federal courthouse in Wilmington, North Carolina.
                I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, no other case, other than my own, has so defined my life. Truly it has become the case of a lifetime.


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