Jeffrey MacDonald’s Main Lawyer, Bernie Segal, Passes Away

Jeffrey MacDonald’s Main Lawyer, Bernie Segal, Passes Away
                I first met Bernie Segal in the winter of 1978 in Washington, D.C. at an oral argument involving Jeffrey MacDonald before the United Supreme Court. Since the early days of 1970, not long after first being accused by the United States Army of murder, he had been at MacDonald’s side, winning the Article 32 Hearing in the summer of 1970 that initially cleared MacDonald. Then, there came the Federal Grand Jury deliberations in the late summer, fall and winter of 1974, culminating in an Indictment for three counts of murder in February, 1975. Finally there were four years of appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and ultimately the Supreme Court.
                Then, there was the summer of 1979. That is when all hell broke loose, and for seven weeks, beginning in mid July, there was a packed federal courtroom every day while something close to a war took place between Jeffrey MacDonald, Bernie Segal and Wade Smith and the federal government, represented largely by Brian Murtagh, a Justice Department lawyer, on loan from Washington, and myself.
                Through it all, there was Bernie Segal, absolutely larger than life.  He was smart, diligent, tenacious, taking no prisoners, and fully confident in the rightness of his cause. He never quit, and he had trouble leaving witnesses alone without hours of questioning. Indeed, Judge Franklin Dupree, the presiding federal judge, said at a local luncheon for the Wake County Bar that summer, that “Bernie Segal was the only lawyer he knew who could cross examine a witness for three days in an uncontested divorce case.”
                Bernie’s client did not win that summer. Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted on all counts of murder and is still in federal prison in Maryland. But Bernie’s legal career went beyond that one case. He was a law professor for years at Golden State University in San Francisco and, I am sure, taught hundreds of law students how to better practice law on behalf of their clients.
                I had neither spoken with or seen Bernie in years. But I remember him well. He was a passionate advocate for his client. And to me personally, he was fair.

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