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

July 19, 1979: Jim Blackburn, Opening Statement for the Government


THE COURT: All right, Mr. Marshal. Let the jury come in.

(Jury enters at 9:37 a.m.)

(The following proceedings were held in the presence of the jury and alternates.)

THE COURT: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. The Court wants to thank you for your patience, particularly those of you who have been members of this jury since Monday and Tuesday, in waiting while we go through the very serious and important process of selecting a jury to try this case.
We will shortly be hearing the opening statements of Counsel. These are statements made by the attorneys for each side -- or at least for the Government. The Defendant does not have to make a statement at this time. They may or may not. They may reserve it and make it later.
But these are statements made by Counsel as to what they anticipate or expect the evidence in the case to show. What the lawyers are now going to tell you is not of itself evidence and will not be considered by you as such, but rather as an outline and sort of a projected or anticipated summary of the evidence which the parties expect to show by their witnesses or exhibits or other evidence in the case.
Madam Clerk, you may impanel the jury in this case. Then they will be with the Government for its opening statement.

(Jury impaneled at 9:42 a.m.)

THE COURT: All right, the Government will go first.

O P E N I N G S T A T E M E N T 9:43 a.m.

MR. BLACKBURN: Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Jim Blackburn. I am Assistant United States Attorney with the United States Attorney's Office here in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
First of all this morning, on behalf of the Government I want to express to you our sincere appreciation for your consideration in coming here this week for three very long and hot days, and being willing to serve on jury duty.
As Judge Dupree told a number of jurors late yesterday afternoon, it is considered that jury service is one of the very highest forms of citizenship, and indeed the Government, and I am sure the Defense, are indebted to you for being willing to do that.
First, I want to introduce some of the other individuals that you may have seen during the course of the questioning here this week. Over to my right, first is Jack Crawley, who is an Assistant United States Attorney. He has been in the office for a number of years; Brian Murtagh, who is with the Justice Department and has been with them for a number of years; and to my far right, Mr. George Anderson, who is the United States Attorney, and has been such for about two years.
Ladies and gentlemen, during the questioning of each of you -- I know at least the very first juror -- Judge Dupree read a portion of the Indictment against the Defendant Jeffrey R. MacDonald. It is a three-count Bill of Indictment. It was returned by a Federal grand jury sitting in Raleigh on January the 24th, 1975. I want to read the first count: "...That on or about the 17th day of February, 1970, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, upon lands acquired for the use of the United States and under the exclusive jurisdiction thereof, and within the Eastern District of North Carolina, JEFFREY R. MacDONALD, with premeditation and malice aforethought, murdered Colette S. MacDonald by means of striking her with a club and stabbing her, in violations of the provisions of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1111." That is the First Count.
The Second Count reads substantially the same. It changes in only one material aspect. The name of the victim is changed to Kimberly K. MacDonald. The Third Count is also changed in two particulars. The victim's name is changed to Kristen J. MacDonald, and the means of killing her has been changed from "striking her with a club and stabbing her" to "by means of stabbing her." In other words, in the Third Count there is no reference to striking Kristen with a club.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, the purpose of an opening statement by Counsel for both the Government and the Defense is to sort of lay out to you in some broad-brush outline what we are going to show to you during the course of this trial; not in every detail, certainly, but to a general degree where we are going to be going over the next several days.
Now, taking any one of the three counts which I have mentioned, there are certain key elements that the Government must prove. You may recall that you heard Judge Dupree instruct you or question you concerning the burden of proof of the Government, and I know that each of you said that you would in effect hold the Government to the standard of the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and if we did not meet it, you would acquit the Defendant. But if we did, then that is a different story.
The Government does, in fact, have the responsibility for proving to you that the Defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt -- not any doubt, because it is rarely possible, I think, to prove anything beyond any doubt; but certainly beyond a reasonable doubt. We don't run from that responsibility. We are going to accept that challenge, and we intend to meet it during the course of this trial.
Now, what is it in each count that we have got to show you? What is it that we have got to prove to you? First of all, we have got to prove, I think, beyond a reasonable doubt that the date in the Indictment -- the 17th day of February, 1970 -- that the murders of Colette in the First Count, Kimberly in the Second, and Kristen in the Third, did in fact take place on those days; secondly, that they occurred at or on Fort Bragg, North Carolina; thirdly, that these individuals were killed by someone who did it with premeditation; next, that someone who killed them did it with malice aforethought; that the means that we inserted in the Indictment -- the clubbing and stabbing in the two cases and the stabbing in the third -- is the means by which these individuals died. Finally, the Government has the responsibility of proving to you beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant -- the man sitting right there -- is the man that killed Colette, Kimberly and Kristen MacDonald. That is the burden of proof that the Government of the United States has, and that is what we intend to show you at this trial.
There are two terms, ladies and gentlemen, in that Indictment that might be somewhat foreign to you. I don't know they are. They were foreign to me a long time ago, so they might be to you. Of course, what I tell you is not evidence, and I am not empowered to instruct you as to the law. Only the Judge can instruct you as to the law.
But I suspect that, when the time comes for that, he will instruct you with respect to certain key elements in the Indictment -- "premeditation" and "malice aforethought."
What is "premeditation"? I suspect that the Court will instruct you that "premeditation" is something akin to the formation of a specific intent or a preconceived design to kill, giving thought before acting to the idea of taking a human life and reaching a definite decision to kill. A period of time, no matter how brief, can constitute deliberation.
Secondly, "malice aforethought": "malice aforethought," I suspect the Court will instruct you, means an intent at the time of a killing, willfully to take the life of a human being, or an intent willfully to act in callous and wanton disregard of the consequences to human life. But "malice aforethought" does not necessarily imply an ill will, a spite or a hatred toward the individual killed. Those two terms, ladies and gentlemen: "premeditation" and "malice aforethought."
Now, during the long questioning that the Court and Counsel put you through over the last three days, I know that one question or two questions that you were always asked is, did you understand and agree with the distinction between direct evidence and circumstantial evidence -- direct evidence being that when you have an eyewitness; circumstantial evidence where there is a chain or a web of circumstances that point unerringly to the fact that a certain individual may have done a certain thing.
The case for the Government of the United States, ladies and gentlemen, is built primarily on circumstantial evidence. Let me be candid about that. Circumstantial evidence, as His Honor instructed you, is regarded by the law just as equally as direct evidence.
Now, there are two types of evidence that we are going to put before you during this trial. We are going to parade -- I suppose you will think it is a parade by the time it is through -- a number of individuals to this witness stand who are going to say certain things, and we are going to put in a lot of physical evidence -- demonstrative evidence. You may think, at times, that you are getting yourself burdened down with "I can't remember it all." We are not asking you to take a test on everything we show you. We are not going to give you and ask you to take a test.
What we are going to ask you to do is listen to the evidence that comes from the witness stand, examine the physical evidence as it is shown to you and reach your own conclusion.
What is a good example of circumstantial evidence? What am I talking about when I speak of circumstantial evidence? Suppose during the nighttime, you are asleep in your own bed, and everything is quiet; and all of a sudden, you are awakened in the middle of the night by a loud crashing sound. You don't pay any attention to it. You go back to sleep; but you have heard it.
The next morning when you awaken and you get up, you look outside and you see that it has snowed during the nighttime; and so, you go to your back door and you see your two garbage cans -- those metal things that clank so loud -- both knocked over. You see a set of dog tracks coming to the garbage can from your neighbor's yard; and you see a set of dog tracks going back to your neighbor's yard and the dog tracks stop where your neighbor's dog is sitting. You can probably assume that that dog had something to do with knocking over those garbage cans. That is circumstantial evidence, ladies and gentlemen.
Now, what is the evidence that the Government of the United States -- what do we have to show you that the Defendant, with premeditation and malice aforethought and cold blood, destroyed his family? Ladies and gentlemen, the evidence will show that about nine and one-half years ago, in 1970, there lived at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a Federal military reservation, the MacDonald family. There were four members of that family.
Colette, at that time, the evidence will show, was about 26 years of age. She and the Defendant had learned, I think at Thanksgiving of 1969 shortly before, that they were to have another child. Colette was the mother of two. She and the Defendant, Dr. MacDonald, had gotten married in the early to mid-sixties, and Colette had quit school -- quit college. Kimberly was born, and Colette never finished her college education.
And so, like so many people, during this time in her life she was trying to complete what she had given up before. She was an English Lit major in college but she was taking a class in child psychology in February of 1970.
Kimberly MacDonald was five years of age in 1970. She would be six in April. She was in kindergarten -- very bright, very friendly, by all accounts her father's child. Kristen, the baby, was two. She would be three in May. She was shy, and somewhat of a tomboy.
The Defendant, Jeffrey MacDonald, also like Colette, about the same age -- they had dated off and on through high school -- was a doctor -- ambitious. They had come to Fort Bragg just a few months before -- late summer, early fall of 1969. MacDonald was a member of the Special Forces, interested in becoming the physician for the Fort Bragg Boxing Team. This was the MacDonald family on the 16th of February, 1970.
On the 16th in the evening -- it was a Monday night, Colette MacDonald, as had been her custom, was going to her child psychology class with a friend and neighbor, Elizabeth Krystia, now Elizabeth Krystia Ramage. They went to class. Colette, rather soft-spoken, did, in fact, speak up that night at the class, which was somewhat unusual for her, and asked a couple of questions concerning the bedwetting problems that one of her children had. The class ended at its usual time. I think Elizabeth Krystia got home about 9:30 that night, and Colette got home a few minutes later -- Colette having driven Elizabeth Krystia to class. Colette went inside 544 Castle Drive for the last time.
The evidence, ladies and gentlemen, will show that on the 16th it was cold, wet, rainy, miserable -- a typical North Carolina February night; that it had rained hard off and on during the early evening, slowing to a light drizzle in the early morning; and that sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 o'clock on the 17th of February, 1970, the lives of Colette, Kimberly and Kristen MacDonald came to an abrupt and terminable halt. They died.
They died a terrible death. Colette died as a result of being clubbed and stabbed to death. Kimberly died as a result of being clubbed and stabbed to death, and Kristen died as a result of being stabbed, and stabbed, and stabbed to death.
The Defendant, Jeffrey MacDonald, was also at home that night. He, alone, of the family, remained alive. On that night, as on most nights in Fort Bragg, the Military Police were on patrol throughout the area. Castle Drive is a part of Corregidor Courts, which is a housing area for officers at Fort Bragg.
One MP will say and has said that he had the opportunity that night to pass near Castle Drive a number of times and saw no one except a guard at the PX. It appeared to be a relatively quiet evening, except of course at Castle Drive at 544.
At about 3:40 or 3:42 a.m., Military Police were alerted by a telephone call that a domestic disturbance had occurred at that address, and they were alerted to go there, and they did. Within minutes, at about 4:00 o'clock a.m., MPs were at the MacDonald residence. They got out of their jeeps, went to the front of the MacDonald address and attempted to gain entrance, to learn that the front door was locked.
One of them, Richard Tevere, went around the back to see if he could gain entry from the back because he happened to know the area and knew that they had back doors. So he went around the back and he saw that the back door to the MacDonald apartment, the screen door, was closed, but the hardwood back door was open. He went in -- first through a darkened utility room, and then into a left master bedroom. What he saw was two people -- a man and a woman. The woman, lying on her back near a green chair, dead. A man lying next to her; he knew not at that point what condition he was in.
Tevere immediately left the apartment, ran outside, ran around the back and said, "Call Womack as soon as possible," -- Womack being the Army General Hospital. Other MPs came around to the back and followed him in. They did not know at that point what else they would find. They did not know whether there were intruders in the house; they did not know whether anyone else had been killed.
Then Tevere walked down the hallway, after he left the master bedroom, to see if he saw anyone. A hall and bathroom light was on, and a kitchen light also was on. He did not see, at that point, anyone else. He came back to the master bedroom. At this point, another MP, Kenneth Mica, had seen the male. He was the Defendant, Jeffrey MacDonald, on the floor, and recognized that he was alive. He then requested of the MPs some assistance.
Mica gave the Defendant mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He gave it to the Defendant about three times. The first time it only lasted about a minute or so. The Defendant on the floor attempted to resist the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and said to the MPs, "Check my kids," "Look what they've done to my wife." So Tevere, for the first time, realizing that there might be other people in the apartment, went down the hallway, went into the front bedroom facing the street, which was where Kimberly slept, walked in two or three steps, and saw in the bed a little girl obviously dead.
He went directly across the hall -- he did not go into the other bedroom at that point because he could see from the doorway another little girl, obviously dead, with a pool of blood on the floor. She was laying on her side.
Tevere went back to the master bedroom. Mica had been giving the Defendant mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and the question was asked, "Who has done this to you?"
The Defendant responded, "Four people." He knew of four intruders -- hippies -- a woman carrying a candle, and three males. Also that night, at about the same time the MPs got there or shortly before, a Criminal Investigation Division Duty Agent, William Ivory, was on duty and heard the radio call. He got up and went to Castle Drive immediately. He alerted other investigators after he got there to come as well.
Upon arriving there, shortly after 4:00 o'clock a.m., he went in through the living room -- the living room door having been opened by one of the MPs -- and he saw the Defendant being wheeled out and carried out on a stretcher. He did not know who he was at that point. He immediately went through the house and saw the three people dead, and noted that there was an MP standing guard at both the front and the back of the house.
For the next four hours, 4:00 o'clock until 8:00 o'clock, the processing of that crime scene took place. Notes would be taken, and photographs of every conceivable thing would be made, and body outlines of Colette and Kimberly and Kristen would be drawn. That is to say, body outline in a felt pen around where they lay, so it could be marked.
In a short time, maybe 5:00 or 6:00 o'clock that morning, Agent Bob Shaw observed and collected four items. In the master bedroom near the dresser, a paring knife. Outside, near the house, three items: a piece of wood -- a club -- and another paring knife with the words "Old Hickory" written on it, and an ice pick.
Ladies and gentlemen, with respect to these four items, the Government of the United States will offer evidence and prove to you:
(1) That the club of which I speak came from the MacDonald house and was the murder weapon, or one of the murder weapons, that was used to attack Kimberly and Colette MacDonald;
(2) The ice pick could have been the weapon that killed Kristen MacDonald and Colette MacDonald, or at least put the wounds in their bodies, assisting in killing them. That the MacDonald family had ice picks, or an ice pick;
(3) That the other paring knife -- the "Old Hickory" knife, a sharp blade, single-edged blade -- could have been the knife that stabbed Colette, stabbed Kimberly, and stabbed Kristen, and that the MacDonald family did, in fact, have knives. And with respect to the fourth knife -- a Geneva Forge knife -- that like the "Old Hickory" knife, it too could have come from the MacDonald household.
At about 8:00 o'clock a.m., Colette, Kimberly and Kristen left Castle Drive for the last time. They also, like the Defendant, went to Womack. They did not go to the same place, though; they went to the morgue.
At about 9:30 that morning their bodies were autopsied. Colette was examined by Dr. Gammel. The autopsy of Colette revealed certain things that will be revealed to you during the course of this trial by the Government.
First, both arms, the right and the left, were broken: the right arm broken -- both bones, the left arm -- one bone broken twice at different places, that on or about her face, head and chin she suffered approximately six blunt trauma injuries that could have been inflicted by the use of the club to which I have earlier referred; that her skull was fractured and that she also had a wound on her chest that could have come from the end of a club.
She suffered approximately 16 wounds that could have been inflicted with a sharp-edged knife -- stab wounds -- seven in her chest, nine in her neck. Her trachea had been cut -- both lungs and pulmonary artery. Colette bled to death.
Finally, she also suffered approximately 24 puncture wounds that could have been inflicted by the use of the ice pick, to which I have earlier referred. Three of those wounds in the left arm, 21 on her chest, 16 on the left and five on the right. Kimberly would suffer at least two blunt trauma injuries: her right cheek bone, her nose would be broken, the back of her skull fractured in every conceivable part, and about eight to 10 stab wounds that could have been inflicted with a sharp knife, to which I have earlier referred, in her neck.
Kristen, the only one of the three that would not suffer a blunt trauma wound, such as with a club, but would suffer at least 33 ice pick or stabbing wounds -- 16 approximately with an ice pick, 17 approximately with a knife -- other wounds could have been coming from the other weapons which I have referred -- the ice pick and the Old Hickory knife.
Kristen would also have on her hand and fingers other cuttings. Dr. MacDonald, the Defendant, who had left for the hospital about 4:00 o'clock, would also be examined, and also had injuries. What does our evidence reveal with respect to his injuries: that he had one bump on his head, a cut on his left arm, a scratch on his right, several abrasions in this portion of his chest, a laceration above his navel, a paper cut on his finger, no wounds on his back, but an incision in the right part of his chest -- an incision which would later cause him to have a second chest tube inserted, due to a pneumothorax or partial collapse of the right lung. Dr. MacDonald, the evidence will show you, is very much alive.
On the 17th, the Defendant would be interviewed for the first of several times, the first by Paul Connolly of the Criminal Intelligence Division, and subsequently that day by Bob Caverly of the FBI; and Bob Caverly would go back and interview him again on the next day, and also on the next day.
Without going into extreme detail, ladies and gentlemen, the Defendant's interviews basically said this: he had gone to sleep in his pajamas in the living room on the couch. He was awakened by hearing screams from his family, and then hit on the head with a club, when he saw four people, three males and one female; that having been struck with a club, and having been stabbed, he collapsed unconscious at the end of the sofa and fell, where he stayed for a period of time, to be awakened later. Seeing his pajama top around his wrists, he took the pajama top off his wrists at some point. He was in the master bedroom; he saw his wife. He placed the pajama top on her chest, checked his kids, attempted to give them mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, saw bubbles in their chests, checked them again, checked his wife to see if she was alive or dead, and finally called for help.
During that week, the week of the 17th, the MacDonald apartment was sealed and examined for evidence. People from Fort Gordon, Georgia, came to examine it, look at it, take fingerprints, check for blood, check for anything they could find that would point to who did these terrible things.
With respect to the fingerprints, there are in the MacDonald a number of fingerprints that have been identified. Some have not. The evidence for the Government will show that due to Kimberly and Kristen having been embalmed a short period after they were autopsied, the fingerprint records of Kimberly and Kristen were never obtained, and their prints have never been eliminated.
A bare footprint in blood exiting Kristen's room was found. I am not going to go in, at this point, to what the significance of that is or what I mean by all that, but simply to alert you to the fact that that is coming and ask you to please pay close attention to it.
You will see with respect to blood, ladies and gentlemen, there are four types of blood in the ABO International Blood Group. There is A, there is B, there is AB, and there is O. In the MacDonald family, each member had a separate blood type.
Colette had Type A. Jeffrey has Type B. Kimberly had Type AB, and Kristen had Type O. Without going into at this point all of the blood evidence, I am going to simply tell you there is a lot of it, and you should pay close attention to where it is and, equally as important, where it is not.
You remember the struggle in the living room. Except, ladies and gentlemen, for a couple of places -- on a magazine and another place -- there is no blood found in the living room.
With respect to other physical evidence, you remember the pajama top of which I spoke -- that the Defendant told investigators it was either torn or ripped over his head. He did not recall which.
A number of threads and yarns are found in that house. The evidence will indicate these could have come from that pajama top and matched all important characteristics of threads and yarns of that pajama top.
You should pay close attention, ladies and gentlemen, to where evidence of fibers, threads, and yarns are found and where they are not found. You remember the struggle in the living room. Not a single thread, not a single yarn that could have come from that blue pajama top is found in that living room.
We will show you in the course of this trial where they are found. We will show you in the course of this trial where blood is found, and whose blood type, I should say, it was.
In the master bedroom in the bed on the headboard is the word "Pig" -- "P-i-g" written over the place where Colette slept. It is written in blood. It is written in Type A blood, the same type as that of Colette.
It is written by someone -- the Government will show you -- who did not use their bare finger but, rather, had a covering on their finger. Ladies and gentlemen, in the master bedroom torn pieces of rubber were found. At least one bearing blood, Type A, the same as Colette's, the same as the writing of "Pig" were found.
By analysis it has been determined, and we will show you, ladies and gentlemen, that those torn pieces of glove match in the primary trace elements to surgical rubber gloves that were kept inside the MacDonald apartment and were found by investigators under a kitchen sink. We will have, ladies and gentlemen, an expert witness who will subsequently testify in the course of his trial as to what we call contact prints, or fabric impressions.
You know that if you put your finger in something and put it down on a sheet of paper, it makes an impression. I am not going to, at this point, go into that evidence here except to alert you to the fact that it is coming.
There will be substantial testimony concerning contact prints and fabric impressions and what they would mean in this particular case.
You remember the pajama top. It was found on Colette's chest with a lot of Type A blood in it, as to be expected -- it was on her chest. It was torn. It was ripped. It was V-neck. Ladies and gentlemen, we will show you that Type A blood, the same type as that of Colette, got on that blue pajama top before it was torn.
It was found on Colette's chest. There are numerous puncture holes in that pajama top. We are going to show you, ladies and gentlemen, that those holes in that pajama top -- most of the holes in that pajama top -- all but a couple -- got on that pajama top or in that pajama top when it was in a stationary, not a moving, position.
Finally, you remember that I told you that the autopsy of Colette revealed a number of puncture holes that could have been made with an ice pick. We are going to show you, ladies and gentlemen, in our evidence, that by placing the pajama top in the proportionate way that it was found on Colette with the right sleeve turned inside-out that, although there were numerous -- more than 21 -- numerous holes, puncture holes, that could have been made with an ice pick in that pajama top, in that pajama top we are going to show you, ladies and gentlemen, that when folded, the holes in that pajama top can match the 21 holes in Colette's chest in a stationary position.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a thumbnail brief sketch of much, but certainly not all, of the evidence the Government intends to present in its case-in-chief at this trial.
Basically, we believe that the physical evidence points to the fact, unfortunately, that one person -- not two, three, four or more -- killed Colette, Kimberly and Kristen, and that that person is the Defendant.
Let me speak just a brief moment about what we are not going to do. We are concentrating, ladies and gentlemen, on the physical evidence and on the evidence that was found inside Castle Drive -- not outside, although there was some outside.
That is where the murders took place. They did not take place all over Fayetteville. They did not take place all over Fort Bragg. They took place inside the MacDonald apartment.
The circumstantial evidence is real. Physical evidence is real.
It's equally true that the Defendant, Jeffrey MacDonald, was there that night as he is today. It is equally true that physical evidence was there that night. Let me assure you -- it is also equally true that things do not lie. This is not a complicated case -- it is straightforward. I think we are going to make it easy for you to understand -- or we are going to try -- that the circumstantial physical evidence in this case points swiftly and unerringly to the fact that one person killed his family. Every purpose that the Government has at this trial -- every question that we ask -- every witness that we examine -- every argument that we make -- is for only one purpose and that purpose is to bring out the truth. We submit this as charged in the Bill of Indictment: that the Defendant is guilty of Count 1, he is guilty of Count 2, he is guilty of Count 3, of cold-bloodedly murdering his family. It is time, ladies and gentlemen, for that. Thank you.



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