Garrison’s Case

For some time the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the reliability of the Warren Commission Report have been major issues of public interest, leading to many calls for reinvestigation of the case. Charges and counter-attacks have been pouring forth in the ever-expanding literature on the subject. CBS went so far as to devote four full hours to an attempt to rehabilitate the Warren Commission theory.

Since February most interest in the case has focused on the new investigation being conducted by District Attorney Jim Garrison of New Orleans. Garrison claimed in February that “my staff and I solved the case weeks ago. I wouldn’t say this if we didn’t have evidence beyond the shadow of a doubt. We know what cities were involved, we know how it was done, in the essential aspects: we know the key individuals involved, and we are in the process of developing evidence now.”

On February 22 one of Garrison’s chief suspects, David W. Ferrie, died, shortly before Garrison planned to arrest him. A few days later he did arrest a leading New Orleans businessman and socialite, Clay Shaw, and charged him with conspiring, under the name of Clay or Clem Bertrand, with Ferrie, Lee Harvey Oswald, and others to assassinate President Kennedy. The thesis Garrison has set forth is that a group of New Orleans-based, anti-Castroites, supported and/or encouraged by the CIA in their anti-Castro activities, in the late summer or early fall of 1963 conspired to assassinate John F. Kennedy. This group, according to Garrison, included Shaw, Ferrie, Oswald, Jack Ruby, and others, including Cuban exiles and American anti-Castroites. It is claimed that their plan was executed in Dallas on November 22, 1963. At least part of their motivation, on this thesis, was their reaction to Kennedy’s decisions at the Bay of Pigs, and the change in US policy toward Cuba following the missiles crisis of 1962.

At first, the press treated Garrison’s claims with caution, reserving judgment. At the preliminary hearings of March 14-17, Shaw was indicted for conspiring with Ferrie and Oswald to assassinate the President. Newspapers, such as The New York Times and the Washington Post, began expressing skepticism about the evidence. A few weeks later, James Phelan in the Saturday Evening Post, May 6, 1967 issue, launched an attack on the credibility of the testimony of Perry Russo, the chief witness at the preliminary hearings, and strongly suggested that his testimony had been induced by hypnosis. Later, on May 15, Newsweek, which had been scoffing since the Shaw hearings, published a story by Hugh Aynesworth charging Garrison with attempted bribery of potential witnesses and claiming Garrison had no real evidence. The attacks reached a crescendo in June with a front-page story in The New York Times (June 12) purporting to describe the ways in which Garrison tried to entice people to give evidence, and how he had tried to fabricate it; with the defection of Garrison’s assistant, William Gurvich, who said that there was no real evidence and…

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