Court Records

May 24, 1979

United States District Court
Eastern District of North Carolina

Letter to Judge Dupree from Bernard Segal re: Conflict of interest of expert witnesses

May 24, 1979

The Honorable Franklin T. Dupree, Jr.
Judge of the United States District Court
Eastern District of North Carolina
Post Office Drawer 27585
Raleigh, North Carolina 27611

Re: United States v. Jeffrey R. MacDonald

Dear Judge Dupree:

I received a copy of your letter to Dr. Page Hudson, dated May 21, 1979. In regard to this letter I wish to call to the attention of the Court the following matters:


I believe there is a patent conflict of interest in having Dr. Hudson act as the Court's expert in this case. I have reason to believe Dr. Page acted as a consultant to the Government's attorneys in this case in 1975 on several issues, including the one which the Court is now asking him to act as an impartial expert, i.e., questions pertaining to the blood typing determinations.

I also have reason to believe that Dr. Hudson has stated opinions to the Government's attorneys in regard to other evidentiary issues in this case which are supportive of the prosecution theory in this matter and antagonistic to the position of Dr. MacDonald.

Under the circumstances I object to Dr. Page serving as the Court's expert and ask that the Court remove him forthwith as its expert.


I have shown the Court's letter to Dr. Page to Dr. Thornton. I believe his response is important and I am transmitting his remarks verbatim for inclusion in the record of this case:

[Statement of Dr. John Thornton]
    "In regard to the letter of May 21,1979, from Judge Dupree to Dr. Page, I believe it essential that the following matters should be called to the attention of Judge Dupree and Dr. Hudson.

    The issue, as I see it, is not by any means restricted to the examination of the blood stains. Nor do I believe that the issue centers around the typing of the blood stains for additional genetic markers.

    I have been consistent in my statements that the serum groups and isoenzyme types cannot now be determined in the dried blood stains. I have said this repeatedly but apparently with little effect.

    The principle issue is that the evidence should be given a de novo examination. To me it would be highly inappropriate to retrace the work of the prosecution to verify the results in Tests "A", "B" and "C", if in fact the appropriate tests should have been "D", "E" and "F". Additionally, other evidence may exist which will be helpful to the defense that either was ignored by the prosecution's experts, or, more likely, was not mentioned in the written reports of the prosecution's experts.

    Certainly there are legal issues here about which I do not presume to make a judgment. But, from a scientific standpoint, I consider it essential to conduct a de novo examination. For example, the prosecution, and now apparently the Court (based on statements in the letter of May 21, 1979) maintain that there is no question as to the blood types of the four people involved in this case. It would be totally unprofessional and inconsistent with the scientific inquiry for me to be told I must accept these findings in the absence of detailed knowledge as to how these conclusions were arrived at.

    My position as to the physical evidence in this case is that nothing is proven, and nothing is disproven at this time. I do not consider any forensic laboratory to be infallible; this applies to the FBI laboratory, the CID laboratory, the AFTB laboratory and the work done by myself. Competency and technical correctness must be proven. The mere issuance of a written report does not guarantee the correctness of the conclusions contained in it.

    I am also disturbed by one other track this matter seems to be taking, i.e., the stressing of the blood stain evidence. Certainly this is an important aspect of the total case. But, I believe there are many other aspects which must be reviewed. Among these are the reconstruction of the penetrations of the pajama top of Jeffrey MacDonald, the nature of the distribution of the wounds to Jeffrey and Colette MacDonald, and trace evidence which might be unexplainable in terms of the milieu of the scene and might indicate other participants. A reading of the CID and FBI laboratory reports suggest to me that this latter factor has been given short shrift by the prosecution's experts. I do not know at this point what such examination would reveal, if anything. But, we will never know until such time as the examinations are conducted.

    I strenuously disagree with any claim that the problem is one of logistics. The problem is a much more fundamental one concerning the Defendant's right to have the same sort of examination made of the evidence as did the prosecution.

    I conclude by stating that moving the physical evidence for defense examination is not a unique problem by any means. I am not aware of any instance in which the movement of evidence for the purposes of defense examination has either compromised the evidence or its admissibility in Court."


Attorney for Jeffrey R. MacDonald

Copy to George M. Anderson, Esquire
United States Attorney

Wade M. Smith, Esquire