ARTICLE 32 HEARING TRANSCRIPTS
August 11, 1970: Mrs. Carol Butner
MR. SEGAL: Mrs. Carol Butner, please.
COL ROCK: What was that name again?
MR. SEGAL: Mrs. Carol Butner.
(Mrs. Carol S. Butner was called as a witness for the defense, was sworn, and testified as follows.)
Questions by MR. SEGAL:
Q Would you state your full name, please?
A Carol Steib Butner.
Q Spell that, please?
Q And you last name?
Q And your address?
A I'm on my way to Okinawa.
Q And presenting residing where?
A San Angelo, Texas.
Q Did you know the accused in this case, Captain Jeffrey R. MacDonald?
A Yes, I did.
Q And did you know his wife, Colette MacDonald?
A Yes, sir.
Q Where did you have occasion to meet or be with them?
A I met them here at Fort Bragg at the end of September 1969.
Q And what was the occasion for your being at Fort Bragg?
A My husband was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group.
Q What is your husband's name and rank?
A Captain Robert W. Butner.
Q And his branch?
A He's with the 1st Special Forces Group.
Q Is your husband a medical officer?
A Yes, sir.
Q What were the circumstances of you and your husband getting to meet Captain MacDonald and Mrs. MacDonald?
A Captain MacDonald was then the group surgeon. I mean -- yes. No, not the group surgeon, but he was the head doctor, I guess, in Special Forces, to which my husband was assigned.
Q And as a result of your husband's assignment there, how did you come to meet Captain MacDonald and Mrs. MacDonald?
A They were the first people we met here and we were invited to eat at their house. I can't remember what day.
Q And thereafter, did you have occasion to see Captain MacDonald and Mrs. MacDonald?
A Yes, sir.
Q What would you say was your relationship with Mrs. MacDonald?
A I considered her one of my closet friends.
Q And did you have occasion to see Mrs. MacDonald -- how often did you have occasion to see Mrs. MacDonald?
A Several times a week.
Q Then you continued to know her and be on this friendly basis with her until when?
A Until her death on February 17th.
Q When did you leave this station at Fort Bragg?
A The end of June 1970.
Q Did you know any other woman, young woman, or either an older woman here at Fort Bragg, who had a closer relationship with Mrs. MacDonald than yourself?
A No, sir.
Q Did any investigator from the military police or the criminal investigation division ever talk to you about Mrs. MacDonald and her background or things you might know about Mrs. MacDonald and her relationship with Captain MacDonald?
CPT SOMERS: I object to that as totally irrelevant.
MR. SEGAL: Sir, it goes once again to a witness who had germane information and may not have been -- I think it will develop as to what was done, if anything, with regard to ascertaining things about the relationship between Captain MacDonald and Mrs. MacDonald, which is obviously the heart of the issue here. Whether he, in fact, is capable of and did, in fact, commit the crime and the extent and nature of the relationship between these two people seem to be a critical factor. It relates, of course, to the very statement that the government seeks to remove in this case, because the various suggestions in this statement about the relationship. This witness will not be available to us indefinitely, sir, and we feel it is an appropriate question to ascertain whether the government made any attempt to find out what she knew about the relationship of these people.
CPT SOMERS: The relationship of the MacDonalds may well be relevant, but whether or not the military police talked to the witness and what they may have talked to this witness about is totally irrelevant to any issue being considered here today.
CPT BEALE: The objection is sustained, Captain Somers.
Continued questions by MR. SEGAL:
Q Mrs. Butner, based upon your observations of Mrs. MacDonald, would you indicate to the investigating officer what you believe to be her attitude towards her husband?
A I think Colette was very much in love with Jeff. She trusted him and she respected him.
Q Would you indicate to the investigating officer what was Mrs. MacDonald's attitude toward her children?
A I think Colette cared for her children and Jeff more than anything in the world. It was so evident. Of course, this is all subjective, but my observation of this was, it was evident in the way she talked with them, the way she was always concerned with what they were doing, where they were, what would be best for them. She and Jeff were both concerned about this.
Q Did you ever have occasion to observe Mrs. MacDonald discipline her children or regulate their behavior in any fashion?
A Yes, sir.
Q Would you indicate to the court what your observations were in that regard?
A She talked to them, with them, explaining why they could not do something. It was a very rational conversation. It was anything -- "well, you can't do this, get out of here" or -- there was nothing like this. It was exactly a conversation, fully explained to them what the possibilities were open to them and they accepted her correction or advice.
Q How would you describe the behavior of the MacDonald children?
A I thought they were very active little girls, but very well behaved and would listen to their parents.
Q What was Captain MacDonald's attitude toward his wife?
A I think he loved her very much.
Q Is there any particular observations in that regard that would cause you to arrive at that conclusion?
A He was very considerate of her. For example, I remember one night he insisted that she leave. He knew that she wanted to do some shopping --
CPT SOMERS: Excuse me just a moment. I object to this. Specific acts of good conduct cannot be used to bolster the character of the accused.
MR. SEGAL: No one in his right mind suggests that shopping is any good conduct. I think it shows the basis for the witness -- explaining forming this opinion. It would be obviously a proper subject of examination by any side to know why the witness has concluded the opinion. It's only the sum and substance of all observations and we ask that the witness only to share with the investigating officer that which she perhaps considered to be the most significant observations or perhaps the most typical in that regard.
CPT BEALE: Objection is overruled.
MR. SEGAL: Mrs. Butner, you may answer the question about the instance which you wish to cite to the investigating officer in that regard.
A There were some things that Colette wanted to buy or take care of and with two children who were engaged in various activities, she just didn't have time during the day, so one night Jeff insisted that she leave after supper and that he would put the kids to bed and do the dishes and take care of the other things that needed to be done while she went out and had time to get the things she wanted for herself. Being a wife, I think this is -- well, judging from my experience, this is an unusual occurrence. Also, he bought clothes for her. Things that he thought she would like, but maybe she didn't have time to look at or wasn't there to see. She showed me some things that he had bought in San Antonio for her when she was in New York. He would dress for her, wear things that she especially liked. She liked him to wear contact lenses and although this was hard for him, it's hard to adjust to wearing lenses and wearing glasses and back and forth and he made a special effort whenever they were going out to wear his lenses. Just so many little acts he showed his feelings toward her.
Q What was Captain MacDonald's attitude towards his children?
A He seemed very interested in them. He appeared to love them very, very much. His interest in them as a young doctor was sort of extraordinary to me because so many of the young doctors that we have had around seem to get irritated with the children. The children are something to be pushed aside until Daddy's established and can have time for the children and it's not time -- being on the emergency room and being on call, Jeff seemed very interested, enough to take the time to find out what they were doing, what they wanted to do.
Q Did you ever see Captain MacDonald discipline their children or regulate their behavior in any fashion?
A Yes. In much the same way that Colette did, by talking to them. I never saw him strike or yell or speak harshly to them, but it was a conversational type of discipline, which they responded to.
Q Were you aware that Mrs. MacDonald was pregnant?
A Yes, sir.
Q How did you learn that, Mrs. Butner?
A Out of a hectic Thanksgiving Day, I overheard part of a phone conversation, but I was not told finally until about the 20th of December.
Q What was Mrs. MacDonald's attitude towards this pregnancy?
A She wanted another child. I had known that from the very first day I met her. She seemed very happy about it.
Q What was Captain MacDonald's attitude toward his wife's pregnancy?
A He seemed happy, too.
Q What was Mrs. MacDonald's emotional stability as you observed it?
A Colette could go through more than just about any person I could be around; could coordinate things real great. Again, may I give an example?
A On Thanksgiving Day of 1969, we were invited, along with about ten other people, over to their apartment for Thanksgiving dinner and this was a very elaborate type thing. I don't mean they had candelabras or anything, but there was just mounds and mounds of food which Colette had prepared. At the last minutes, some other people were invited. The whole place was just filled with people and Colette was getting the children in order and getting things on the table, talking to her mother-in-law, to me and to other guests, arranging to see that everyone had drinks and food and all this time trying to get the dinner on the table. The phone rang, it was another -- just all kinds of things were going on. I kind of wanted to leave because it was just a little too much activity. Colette never got upset, near raised her voice. She was exhausted at the end of the meal, but everything went very smoothly.
MR. SEGAL: Cross-examine.
Questions by CPT SOMERS:
Q Mrs. Butner, did Colette MacDonald ever speak to you about the difficulties she might have had in delivery of her children?
A No, sir.
Q Did she ever indicate that she was fearful of her third pregnancy?
A No, sir.
Q When was the last time prior to the 17th that you were in the MacDonald home?
A I believe it was sometime in January.
Q What kind of housekeeper was Mr. MacDonald?
A She was an adequate housekeeper. Everything looked nice when she -- she wasn't compulsive about it.
CPT SOMERS: I have no further questions.
MR. SEGAL: I have nothing further, sir.
COL ROCK: Mrs. Butner, you are requested not to discuss your testimony with any person other than the counsel for the government or counsel for the accused. Do you understand that?
WITNESS: Yes, sir.
COL ROCK: You are permanently excused. Thank you.
MR. SEGAL: Mrs. Morrell, please.
(Mrs. Butner withdrew from the hearing room.)