August 21, 1979
Scans of original transcript
MR. SMITH: Your Honor, the Defendant would call Dr. Robert McGann to the witness stand. We have sent for him now.
(Whereupon, DR. ROBERT MCGANN was called as a witness, duly sworn, and testified as follows:)
D I R E C T E X A M I N A T I O N 11:04 a.m.
BY MR. SMITH:
Q State your name for the record, please, sir?
A Robert McGann.
Q Are you a physician?
A Yes, sir.
Q Dr. McGann, where do you live?
A Springfield, Illinois.
Q How long have you lived in Springfield?
A I grew up there and then was away for about 15 years through college and medical training, and then I have been back there practicing for four years.
Q Do you know Jeffrey MacDonald?
A Very well.
Q Where did you meet Jeff?
A I met him in medical school.
Q What year would that have been?
A '64 to '68. We were in the same lab section in our freshman year, so I have known him quite closely since.
Q Did you know Colette MacDonald?
A Very well.
Q I assume you met her at the same time.
A Well, I got to, you know, be friends with Jeff in our contacts through medical school; and then it evolved, you know -- it evolved into kind of a friendship. And they were married at the time I wasn't, so I used to go over there for dinner every now and then to get a decent meal, and that type of thing. I used to babysit for them, and it just evolved into a friendship.
Q How often would you see Jeff and Colette and their family together?
A Oh, I would say twice a month -- sometimes more, sometimes less.
Q And how often did you babysit for them?
A I would say eight or ten times, I guess.
Q How old was Kim when you were babysitting?
A Roughly between four and six years old, you know, as the years went by.
Q Did you have opportunities to see Jeff with Kim?
A Oh, a lot.
Q What kind of relationship did he have with Kim?
A Well, it was just -- you know, it sounds trite, but he was a perfect father.
Q Did you have an opportunity to observe Jeff's relationship with Colette?
Q Would you describe that?
A Very open, loving. It was a fantastic relationship.
Q What kind of a student was Jeff?
A Amazingly good. I say that because he had a lot of outside interests like sports, et cetera, as opposed to certain types that studied a little bit harder. He would do just as well. No, he did very well. He finished in the top high percent of his class and got into the honorary medical fraternity that they let, you know, the more outstanding students in -- not just based on grades. They had to be approved by the faculty on the basis of moral character, et cetera.
Q Now, Dr. McGann, after you left the medical school,where did you go?
A I spent five years in general surgery training at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Mass.
Q And what happened to Jeff at that time?
A He went to Columbia as a surgical intern.
Q While you knew Jeff at medical school, did you know the reputation that Jeff had within the school for truthfulness and veracity?
A Impeccable. That was, you know, one of the things that was amazing about the guy. I mean you could tell this in sports. We used to play handball together, and he was a tremendous competitor, but he was also a tremendously fair competitor.
Q Did you at that time also know Jeff's reputation in the school for being a peaceful or non-violent person?
A Oh, absolutely.
Q Would you say that it was a good reputation for being peaceful and non-violent?
A No question about it. Jeff was one of the most respected guys in the class, if not the most respected.
Q After you left and went away for your further training in your profession, did you keep up with Jeff?
Q Where was Jeff at that time?
A When we kept up? I think I saw him once or twice while he was an intern at Columbia. He came up to visit another friend of mine in Boston -- saw him last before this tragedy about roughly two or three months before it, when he was again up in Boston and had -- we had dinner together at this friend's house. Colette was there. That is when I last saw both of them.
Q Where were Jeff and Colette living at that time, if you know?
A At the Army Base at Fort Bragg.
Q Did you have any conversations with Jeff about life at Fort Bragg?
Q His feelings about it?
Q Do you recall the conversation?
A Very vividly, because at that time, you know, you had gone through four years of medical school, which is a real grind; and surgery residency is even worse. Physically you have to get off the train of life. I told him I thought he was wasting his time down there as far as furthering his medical career. He told me something to the effect that, "I've got the rest of my life to do that," and this was the happiest he had been in a long time. Jeff didn't come from a rich family and he had to moonlight in medical school to a certain extent. He was always kind of strapped for funds. Everybody is strapped for time. He was paid a decent salary in the Army and he had time to enjoy himself, and he was doing things he like to do.
Q What were some of the things that he was doing that he liked to do, if you remember his discussing that with you?
A Well, I remember a couple things. I very vividly remember both he and Colette saying that this was the happiest time in their marriage. They had time to spend together. They were -- (pause) --
Q Just take your time, if you will, Dr. McGann. Did Jeff mention anything to you, Dr. McGann, about the fact that he had the rest of his life to work and that he wanted to spend time with his family?
Q And was that while he was at Fort Bragg? (Witness nods affirmatively.)
Q Dr. McGann, do you have any recollection as to about when that would have been -- about what month that would have been?
A Well, to the best of my recollection, this dinner we had with them was not two or three months before it happened. One thing I recall was him telling me that -- you know -- he was going to buy a pony for his kids and -- you know -- spend some time with Kim, et cetera, et cetera.
Q Okay, now, Dr. McGann, would you state whether or not you had an occasion to have a conversation with Colette MacDonald within a week or two or three prior to the time this event occurred?
A Well, what happened was -- you know -- the conversation I had with him, and, as I say, I started out telling him he was wasting his time in the Army, and he was telling me well, you know, "A two-year break and I'm having a good time." Then I kind of thought that -- you know -- things were getting a little stale so, I was -- you know -- he almost had me talked into -- I had at least looked into it --
Q (Interposing) Into what?
A Into joining the Army to take a two-year break. Anyway --
Q (Interposing) You say that he was about to talk you into joining the Army?
A He wasn't talking me into it. I mean, it just sounded a good time to take two years off and --
Q (Interposing) At that time in your life, Dr. McGann --
A (Interposing) Well, you know you would be going into the Army as a doctor. I may not have been a surgeon but I would be doing medicine and you get time to do a few things instead of practicing medicine 24 hours a day. So, anyway, I told him I was considering doing this, and he wrote me back an eight-page letter in response to that conversation that night telling me how to go about doing it, who to talk to in Washington to get the best possible medical deal. And in response to that letter, I called him up.
Q About when would that have been?
A It was somewhere around two weeks before this happened.
Q So it would have been in, say, February of 1970?
A Well, you know, I can't say. It was within a couple of weeks of when it happened.
Q All right, what was the conversation?
A Well, he wasn't there. He was out -- I don't remember specifically. He may have been moonlighting. But he wasn't there so -- you know -- I talked to Colette about -- and it wasn't just Jeff isn't there, I'll call him back. I talked to her for about 15 or 20 minutes.
Q Do you have an impression, based on your conversation with Colette as to whether she was a happy person at that time?
A Well -- you know -- it wasn't any real serious conversation, but there was no question. You know -- they were very happy at the time and, if anything, it kind of reinforced my idea of taking a break in the Army for two years.
Q Yes, sir. Dr. McGann, you knew Jeff very well; didn't you?
Q Would you say he was your best friend in medical school?
A Oh, you know, I had two or three guys I would -- one anyway I would consider every bit as close, so I wouldn't use the word best friend.
Q Was his name Manson?
Q Paul Manson?
Q Was Jeff as close to you as Paul Manson was?
A Well, probably not. Essentially Paul Manson was my roommate so I wouldn't say he was probably as close; but a pretty close friend.
Q Yes, sir. You felt that you know him well -- you knew him well, then?
A Extremely well -- under all sorts of conditions -- you know -- studying for exams, flunking exams together -- you know -- happy moments, sad moments, sports situations. We looked for an internship together out on the West Coast. All sorts of different situations.
Q You saw Jeff right after the death of his wife and children; didn't you?
A Well, I heard about it -- Paul Manson's wife called me and I heard about it. I think it was on the morning after it happened. You know -- I -- you know -- you can't believe it. That's something that happens to other people, but -- you know -- at that time the only thing she knew was that he was listed in critical condition, and so -- I didn't know any of Jeff's family. I mean, I had met his mother but I didn't where she was so I didn't know who to call, so I just flew down there -- to the Army Hospital at Fort Bragg. I don't really know -- it was just a reaction I had.
Q All right, do you remember seeing Jeff? Do you remember what he looked like?
A Well, I had had no contact with Jeff and I never will forget the -- I took a cab from the airport to the hospital and I -- you know -- I asked this cab driver whether they had any suspects or -- you know -- and the cab driver made some comment that --
MR. MURTAGH: (Interposing) OBJECTION, Your Honor.
MR. SMITH: Well, if it is unimportant completely, I can instruct the witness not to say what the cab driver said, Your Honor.
THE WITNESS: Well, I think it is very important because --
THE COURT: (Interposing) If there is an objection, I will have to SUSTAIN this unless there is an Offer of Proof about it. I will hear you on that if you wish as to what the cab driver told him.
MR. SMITH: Let me approach the Bench with counsel just for a moment, Your Honor.
THE COURT: All right.
B E N C H C O N F E R E N C E
MR. SMITH: Here is what the comment is: the cab driver told him that Jeff was a suspect. He said his idea was, "if Jeff is a suspect, I want to take a good look at him when I go in the hospital. I want to see what he looks like." In other words, if you learned that your best friend is suspected of having destroyed his family, you are thinking "I'll know when I see him. I'll know." I am not going to ask him -- in other words, I know it would be improper for him to draw a conclusion, and I was not going to do that.
THE COURT: It looks like to me that your question, Wade, is going to do it.
MR. MURTAGH: The man is basically a character witness. He happens to be a doctor. He did not examine him.
THE COURT: Well, I am going to have to SUSTAIN that if there is an objection.
MR. SMITH: That's fine.
(Bench conference terminated.)
THE COURT: Members of the jury, obviously we are a little past our normal recess hour, but they asked one of the questions that they have been asking is the very last one and so I thought we would get that in. But apparently we are just in the middle, so we will take our recess now. We will come back at 11:40 today instead of 11:30. We will come back at 11:40. Now, don't talk about the case.
(The proceeding was recessed at 11:20 a.m., to reconvene at 11:40 a.m., this same day.)
F U R T H E R P R O C E E D I N G S 11:40 a.m.
(The following proceedings were held in the presence of the jury and alternates.)
MR. SMITH: Dr. McGann, if you will, return to the witness stand.
(Whereupon, DR. ROBERT MCGANN, the witness on the stand at the time of recess, resumed the stand and testified further as follows:)
D I R E C T E X A M I N A T I O N (resumed)
BY MR. SMITH:
Q Dr. McGann, when we left you, you were in a taxi cab. You were about to say something about what the cab driver said. Please don't say that, but continue on your journey. Where did you go?
A I went to Womack Army Hospital and identified myself and asked to see Dr. MacDonald. They let me go right up to his room. As I walked into the room -- I had heard that he was a suspect, and I was kind of -- in the back of my mind, despite the fact that he was one of my very best friends -- I was kind of looking for a reaction.
Q Now, tell us, if you will, just what you observed about him. What did you see?
A Well, again, he didn't know I was coming, so he kind of looked at me and tears came to his eyes.
Q Did he make any statement to you?
A He instantly -- more or less instantly -- said, "Bob" -- I never will forget this -- "Bob, we had a nice family." Then he almost broke down and he looked away. Jeff was a proud person, and he just looked away and kind of composed himself; and there is just no way in my mind --
Q (Interposing) Don't go into that. Let me ask you this now: after he looked away, will you state whether or not you observed that he wept?
Q What happened next?
A Oh, you know, we kind of made small talk; and I kind of looked over -- you know, he had a chest tube and this sort of thing. I don't knbw how long I was there, but --
Q (Interposing) Let me get into some other questions about that chest tube and if there is anything else you saw. What was his physical appearance, as you recall?
A Well, he looked like he had a beating.
Q What did you see on his body?
A He had a very bad contusion-abrasion on the left forehead area, kind of below the hairline -- I think some bit of a black eye -- I think he had a smaller one over here.
Q On which side of his head?
A As I recall, the biggest one was on the left, a smaller one over here --
Q You mean -- "over here," are you saying --
A (Interposing) The right side.
Q Right side of his head. What else did you see?
A Well, his whole physical appearance -- you know, he looked like he had had a beating. He had a chest tube coming out of his right anterior chest.
Q What do you mean by "right anterior chest"?
A Right front chest.
Q All right, fine. Now, without getting too specific with it at this point, let me ask you if you observed any other injuries on his body anywhere?
A He had what looked like -- he had a little thing down here which looked like a little laceration that had scabbed over. He had punture wounds in various places. I don't recall how many. I would quess anywhere from seven to 15. I just -- there were -- I mean I didn't count them or anything like that. But there were certainly more than one or two.
Q And where did you see the puncture wounds?
A I saw a couple here. It seemed to me they were just more or less on the upper part of the chest -- in the lower -- in the upper abdomen.
Q Now, did you see any other wounds on his chest? For example, let me ask you if you observed a stab wound anywhere on his chest which you understood had produced the lung problem?
A I recall there was a laceration here. Any of these things could cause it.
Q Did you have a conversation with him about any of his injuries?
A No; I don't think I did, other than I asked him did the chest tube hurt, and that sort of thing.
Q Did he tell you that the chest tube was painful?
Q Did he appear to you to be in any pain?
A Not severe. It was more emotional pain.
Q Did he appear to you to be in emotional pain?
A No question about it.
Q Yes, sir. Dr. McGann, again referring to his physical appearance, did he look pale?
MR. BLACKBURN: Your Honor, we would OBJECT to leading.
MR. SMITH: Let me rephrase the question, Your Honor.
BY MR. SMITH:
Q State whether or not you observed any skin coloration about him?
A He looked pale.
Q I am so surprised that you said that. Dr. McGann, if I ask you to come down to the body chart that is over against the wall, especially for the purpose of pointing out the general location -- not specific location, but general location -- of any puncture wounds, could you do that for us?
Q All right, I will ask you to please come down to that chart. Dr. McGann, I am going to hand you a blue marker, and if you will, sir, mark on the clear plastic sheet overlay, and move aside so the jury can see. Maybe work from this side. If you can just mark on the chart the general location of the puncture wounds you observed?
A As I recall -- and this is just my impression -- but I recall this well, there was kind of a little laceration here. And there were, you know, looked like a few things -- I don't know how many -- in this general area, and the chest tube was coming out there.
Q Now, if you would, Dr. McGann, could you show us on the body chart also where you saw the injury -- whatever it was -- on the left side of his forehead?
A It was up in here and it, you know -- it was an abrasion and a contusion, kind of a bruise with scraped skin. As I recall, there was a certain amount of a black eye.
MR. SMITH: All right, you may return to the witness stand.
BY MR. SMITH:
Q Dr. McGann, did you spend some time with Dr. MacDonald after you saw him there in the hospital? Did you stay a few days?
A Yes; until after the funeral.
Q Other than the fact that he was in emotional distress, was he the same fellow that you had known in medical school?
A Yes, totally.
Q Have you had an opportunity to visit with him some during the intervening years; that is, since 1970?
A I haven't seen him directly. We have kept in contact with, you know, Christmas cards, a couple of phone calls, that sort of thing.
Q Have you had an opportunity to visit with him some now?
Q As best you can determine, Dr. McGann, is he the same person now that you knew in medical school?
A The amazing thing is, he is.
Q Do you have an opinion now, based on everything that you have ever known about Dr. MacDonald -- all the things that you have learned from whatever source -- as to whether he is a peaceful person?
Q He is a peaceful person?
Q What about truthfulness -- do you have an opinion now, based on everything you have known about Dr. MacDonald, as to whether he is a truthful person?
A He is one of the most honorable guys I have ever met.
Q Have you ever seen him do anything violent?
Q Have you ever seen him lose his temper?
Q What have you seen him do violent?
A Protect himself, you know, like in a scuffle that we got into one time. There wasn't much to it, it was just a little push and shove; but, you know, he wasn't any pansy.
Q Did he initiate that struggle?
Q Did he do more than was necessary to protect himself in the struggle?
A No. He kind of protected me more than anything.
Q Were you pleased that he was there?
Q Would you say, then, that he is not a violent person? Would that be a fair statement?
A A very fair statement.
MR. SMITH: You may examine.
C R O S S - E X A M I N A T I O N 11:51 a.m.
BY MR. BLACKBURN:
Q Dr. McGann, you stated that in your opinion Dr. MacDonald was not a violent person; is that correct?
Q You were not at the MacDonald apartment on the night of the 17th of February, 1970; were you?
MR. SMITH: OBJECTION.
THE WITNESS: No. I was up at Boston.
BY MR. BLACKBURN:
Q How long had you known Colette MacDonald?
A At that time roughly five years.
Q You talked to her, I guess, fairly frequently?
A Well, you know, in medical school I saw her a lot. And after graduating from medical school, I really only saw her twice in the year and a half or so. I had talked to her two weeks before the tragedy.
Q Would you describe Colette as a talkative-type of person or a keep-to-herself type?
A She was kind of shy when you first got to know her. But once you got to know her, she had a tremendous sense of humor. She was a very warm person. So, when you first met her, you might think she was kind of shy. But she was a very warm and talkative person.
Q In the time that you knew her, did she ever talk to you about anything that was bothering her or any possible problems she might have?
Q You talked about Dr. MacDonald being, I think, a tremendous competitor; is that correct?
Q An excellent medical student?
Q And a good doctor?
Q Would you say that he is sort of a perfectionist-type person?
A No, I wouldn't, in the sense that, like, you know -- I would say he was well-rounded, and he wouldn't become single-minded, you know, in perfecting any one thing, if you follow what I am trying to say.
Q Yes, sir. When was the last time you talked with Colette?
A Roughly two weeks -- it was on a Sunday -- two weeks before the murder.
Q Did she ever say anything at all to you at the time you talked to her prior to the murders about expressing any concern about her third pregnancy?
A Oh, no. To the best of my recollection, they had not planned on having this. But Jeff wanted a son. And they were both thrilled to death. He has always been a positive thinker. And he was having a son.
Q Did Colette ever express to you any concern or unhappiness at the possibility that her husband might be away when the child was born?
A No; not to me.
Q I think you stated the first thing you heard about it was that you heard Dr. MacDonald was listed in critical condition; is that correct?
Q Did you ever read his medical records?
A Just about a half hour ago, but not at the time.
Q Do you know --
A (Interposing) I think this critical condition was the official press release. It was what came out on national television. So, I didn't know what I was going to find when I went down there. I didn't know whether he was --
Q (Interposing) Dead or alive?
A Well, I knew he was alive, but that was about all.
Q Now, when you went in to see him, what day was this, if you recall?
A You know, I honestly can't recall. It was roughly 36 hours after the thing. But I can't tell you whether it was a Thursday. I don't have any idea.
Q Now, when you saw him, can you describe -- was he laying down or sitting up?
A No. He was laying in bed.
Q Laying in bed? How was he dressed?
A He didn't have on, you know -- he was dressed in, as I remember, pajama bottoms. I could see his chest. He did not have on a pajama top.
Q You looked and saw the bruise or contusion on his forehead? (Witness nods affirmatively.)
Q Do you know whether or not the contusion broke the skin?
A It was an abrasion.
A It looked like, you know, if you fell down on concrete and got a big goose egg; something like that.
Q Do you know whether or not his head was lacerated in any way?
A It was an abrasion. I don't recall seeing any lacerations.
Q Did you look at his arms or his wrists?
A No. I didn't examine him. This was just --
Q (Interposing) This was a visual observation?
A I was there as a friend.
Q You would classify, I guess, Dr. MacDonald even today as one of your better friends, I would take it?
A No question.
Q Did you ever talk to his doctors about his medical condition?
Q So, you never talked to them or read the medical records concerning the number of puncture wounds that he said he had?
Q Did you observe any bandages on his chest other than the area of the chest tube?
A No. I don't recall that I did.
Q Did you ever have occasion to examine his back?
A No. I did not examine him. The whole time I was in there, he was laying on his back in bed.
Q How long were you there, if you can recall?
A Roughly 40 minutes.
Q Is that the only time you saw him in the hospital?
Q Now, you went to the funeral; is that correct?
Q I guess you saw Dr. MacDonald at the funeral?
Q Did he walk in to the place where the funeral services were held?
A Yes, kind of at the last minute. Everybody --
Q (Interposing) Everybody else was in there when he came in?
MR. BLACKBURN: Just one moment, Your Honor.
BY MR. BLACKBURN:
Q Now, you testified that the Defendant stated that he had a nice family?
Q You knew Kimberly?
A Very well.
Q Did you know Kristen or not?
A Well, yeah. I babysat for her.
Q You babysat for both of them in Chicago?
A Right. But she was at that stage, you know. I gave her a few bottles. You don't have conversations with her. She was a couple of years old, you know, one to two years old. She was born while we were going to medical school. The last time I saw her I think she was two, you know, in that age group. So, I didn't know her. But Kim I knew. As a matter of fact, she gave me a little rock that she had painted, you know; that type of thing.
Q You would agree, I guess, with his assessment that he had a nice family?
A Oh, he did.
MR. BLACKBURN: Your Honor, that concludes our cross-examination.
THE COURT: Call your next witness.