The Jeffrey MacDonald Information Site is a compendium of information about the Jeffrey MacDonald case. MacDonald was convicted in 1979 of the murders of his pregnant wife and two small daughters. He is serving three life sentences for that brutal crime.

The Murders of Colette, Kimberley and Kristen MacDonald

The Jeffrey MacDonald Information Site

August 21, 1979: Dr. Steven Shea, Emergency Room
Physician at Saint Mary's Hospital


MR. BLACKBURN: Your Honor, may we approach the Bench for a moment?

THE COURT: Come up.


MR. BLACKBURN: Your Honor, we believe that continuation of character testimony is cumulative with the exception, of counsel of Mrs. MacDonald. We do not characterize her as such but, based on this morning and late yesterday afternoon --

THE COURT: (Interposing) You would not classify that last witness as a character witness; would you?

MR. BLACKBURN: No, sir; I am not speaking to that, but I want, before we get started --

MR. SMITH: (Interposing) Judge, I am going to show them how to put on character evidence now. I am going to show them how we do it in North Carolina with this one. I don't know that I will put on any others. We've got some other people --

THE COURT: (Interposing) I am going to let you call one more witness for a character witness.

MR. SMITH: Let me call this one and let's see what happens next, and we will come to the Bench for the next one.

THE COURT: No, I'll tell you. We usually allow about two or three and you have had all day now, and I think that is enough to beat this horse. You know anything you do from now on in terms of peacefulness and truthfulness and so forth -- these are the two traits and the only two traits you want to establish by character witnesses. You have done enough of it.

MR. SMITH: I agree. I think we have, and let me say this: I don't want to wear this jury out with character evidence.

THE COURT: Well, go call your last one.

MR. SMITH: I will call this one.

THE COURT: Just call one more.

(Whereupon, STEVEN ROBERT SHEA 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 2:39 p.m.

Q State your name, please, sir.
A Steven Robert Shea.
Q Mr. Shea, where do you live?
A I live in Huntington Beach, California.
Q How long have you lived in Huntington Beach?
A For six years.
Q What do you do?
A I am an emergency department physician at the Saint Mary's Hospital in Long Beach.
Q Do you know Jeff MacDonald?
A Yes; I do.
Q How long have you known him?
A I have known Jeff MacDonald since 1971.
Q And how did you get to know him?
A In 1971 I was doing my internship at Saint Mary's Hospital in Long Beach. I was doing rotation through the emergency department and I met Jeff.
Q Since that period of time -- since that date, how frequently have you seen Dr. MacDonald?
A Well, since that time, I have become a full-time emergency department physician in the group which Dr. MacDonald is in, and I see him on an almost daily basis.
Q Do you work shifts in that hospital?
A Yes; too many.
Q Are you occasionally on the same work shift with Dr. MacDonald?
A Yes.
Q Do you see Dr. MacDonald under varying kinds of circumstances?
A Yes.
Q Would you state whether or not in addition to your work experiences with Dr. MacDonald, you also have occasion to see him socially?
A Yes, I do.
Q How frequently would you say you see him away from work and on social occasions?
A Oh, at least once a week.
Q Will you describe Dr. MacDonald's reaction to pressure situations, if you can?
A Well, I, of course, have had the opportunity to see Dr. MacDonald function under several pressure-type situations in the Emergency Department. One I can remember vividly was the case of a young man who came in the Emergency Department right at the change of shift. I was on night shift, and Jeff was on the morning shift. He came in right as we were changing over. He was in acute respiratory distress from a cause we had trouble determining at that time, but he was in imminent danger of dying. That became fairly obvious within about the ten minutes we had him under observation. Subsequently, Jeff looked at myself and I looked at Jeff. We had a tracheostomy tray right beside us. We were debating whether or not we could do a tracheostomy on this young man. We thought initially it might be an allergic reaction, and we treated him with all the medications that we had available. He did not improve. I broke out in a sweat and Jeff broke out in a sweat. We decided to do the tracheostomy and we did. The patient's heart stopped beating just as we had accomplished the tracheostomy, and we were able to revive him, and he is alive to this day.
Q Dr. Shea, based on all of your experiences with Dr. MacDonald, do you have an opinion as to whether Dr. MacDonald is a peaceful person?
A Yes, I do.
Q What is your opinion?
A My opinion is that he is a peaceful person.
Q Based upon all your experiences with Dr. MacDonald since you first met him, do you have an opinion as to whether Dr. MacDonald is a truthful person?
A Yes, I do.
Q What is your opinion?
A My opinion is that he is a truthful person.
Q Have you ever seen Dr. MacDonald become violent or lose his temper in any way?
A Yes, I have.
Q Would you describe what that was?
A Well, we play football together also when we are not working, and I have had occasion to play several football games with Jeff. I remember on one occasion, we were playing the Long Beach Police Department who sometimes can be rather aggressive. There was a particular policeman who had a reputation for being maybe overly aggressive sometimes. Jeff was quarterback at that time. This policeman was playing defensive end, and he continually hit Jeff after passes were thrown and eventually, some words were exchanged and there were two punches exchanged before people broke up the fight essentially.
Q Did Dr. MacDonald go overboard in your opinion at that point as far as becoming aggressive, angry?
A No. He threw the second punch. The first punch was thrown by the policeman.
Q Were any other punches thrown?
A There was one other punch thrown by Dr. MacDonald, and that was the end of the fight.
Q On any other occasion, have you observed Dr. MacDonald lose his temper?
A I have seen him in the Emergency Department with patients who become unruly. His usual response to the patients in the Emergency Department -- we handle a large number of highly unruly-type patients in our practice be it on drugs, alcohol, or whatever, and this presents a real problem in the Emergency Department. I have seen him on a number of occasions handle these types of patients, and his general role in handling these types of patients is to first try to talk the patient out of being overtly aggressive and then call for security. If security is not available and the patients become overtly aggressive to the staff, he will restrain a patient just as any other emergency doctor does.
Q Would it be a fair statement, Dr. Shea, to say that Dr. MacDonald is able to maintain a cool head under difficult circumstances?
A Yes; definitely. That brings to mind another incident that occurred about the time of the bail reduction hearings in 1975. He went in to see another unruly patient with a head laceration. And as he usually does introduce himself as Dr. MacDonald, the patient said, "You are Dr. MacDonald, the child killer." He then turned around and walked out of the room. I thought that showed a great deal of control.

MR. SMITH: All right. You may examine.

C R O S S - E X A M I N A T I O N 2:46 p.m.

Q Dr. Shea, when did you first meet Dr. MacDonald?
A In 1971.
Q You did not know him prior to that time?
A No. But during the past two weeks I have had occasion to talk to several people who did, and I feel --
Q (Interposing) Excuse me.
A -- that I do know him.
Q Excuse me. You personally did not know him prior to 1971?
A I met him in 1971.
Q Now, you work in the same place that he works; is that correct?
A Yes.
Q Is it fair to say that he is a supervisor?
A It is correct to say that he is my partner.
Q Isn't it true that he is the Director of the Emergency Services?
A Yes.

MR. BLACKBURN: We have no further questions.

MR. SMITH: We have no further questions of the witness, Your Honor. You may come down. Thank you, sir.

(Witness excused.)



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