Copyright 2015 © Gilbert Jesus. All rights reserved.
An examination of the evidence in the case against Oswald
By Gil Jesus
" I don't know what dispatches you people have been given, but I emphatically deny these charges. I have NOT committed any acts of violence." -- Lee Harvey Oswald
"The facts are that we do not know who killed President Kennedy, that the Warren Commission named the wrong man as the assassin and never searched for the truth of the crime." -- Howard Roffman, Presumed Guilty ( 1976 ).
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas.Kennedy was fatally shot while traveling with his wife Jacqueline, Texas governor John Connally, and the latter's wife Nellie, in a Presidential motorcade.
The ten-month investigation by the Warren Commission, 1963–1964, concluded that the President was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone and that Jack Ruby acted alone when he killed Oswald before he could stand trial.
Contrary to the Warren Commission, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1979 concluded that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The HSCA found both the original FBI investigation and the Warren Commission Report to be seriously flawed. While agreeing with the Commission that Oswald fired all the shots which caused the wounds to Kennedy and Governor Connally, it stated that there were at least four shots fired and that there was a "high probability" that two gunmen fired at the President. No gunmen or groups involved in the conspiracy were identified by the committee, but the CIA, Soviet Union, organized crime and several other groups were said to be not involved, based on available evidence.
The case against Oswald
According to several government investigations, including the Warren Commission, as Kennedy's motorcade passed through Dallas's Dealey Plaza about 12:30 p.m. on November 22, Oswald fired three rifle shots from the sixth-floor, southeast corner window of the Book Depository, killing the President and seriously wounding Texas Governor John Connally. Bystander James Tague received a minor facial injury. According to the investigations, immediately after firing his last shot, Oswald hid and covered the rifle with boxes and descended using the rear stairwell. About ninety seconds after the shooting, in the second-floor lunchroom, he encountered police officer Marrion Baker accompanied by Oswald's supervisor Roy Truly; Baker let Oswald pass after Truly identified him as an employee. According to Baker, Oswald did not appear to be nervous or out of breath. Oswald descended using the front staircase, and left the Depository through the front entrance just before police sealed it off. Oswald's supervisor, Roy Truly, later pointed out to officers that Oswald was the only employee that he was certain was missing.
At about 12:40 p.m., Oswald boarded a city bus but (probably due to heavy traffic) he requested a transfer from the driver and got off two blocks later. He took a taxicab to his rooming house, at 1026 North Beckley Avenue, arriving at about 1:00 p.m. He entered through the front door and, according to his housekeeper Earlene Roberts, immediately went to his room, "walking pretty fast". Oswald left "a very few minutes" later, zipping up a jacket he was not wearing when he had entered earlier, and that she last saw Oswald standing at the northbound Beckley Avenue bus stop in front of the house.
Oswald was next witnessed near the corner of East 10th Street and North Patton Avenue, about nine-tenths of a mile (1.4 km) southeast of his rooming house—a distance that the Warren Commission said, "Oswald could have easily walked". According to the Warren Commission, it was here that Patrolman J. D. Tippit pulled alongside Oswald and "apparently exchanged words with [him] through the right front or vent window." "Shortly after 1:15 p.m.", Tippit exited his car and was immediately struck and killed by four shots. Numerous witnesses heard the shots and saw a man flee the scene holding a revolver. Four cartridge cases found at the scene were identified by expert witnesses before the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee as having been fired from the revolver later found in Oswald's possession, to the exclusion of all other weapons. The bullets taken from Tippit's body could not be positively identified however as coming from Oswald's revolver.
Shoe store manager Johnny Brewer testified that minutes later he saw Oswald "ducking into" the entrance alcove of his store. Suspicious of this activity, Brewer watched Oswald continue up the street and slip into the nearby Texas Theatre without paying. He alerted the theater's ticket clerk, who telephoned police at about 1:40 pm.
As police arrived, the house lights were brought up and Brewer pointed out Oswald sitting near the rear of the theater. Oswald appeared to surrender (saying, "Well, it is all over now") then pulled a pistol tucked into the front of his trousers, pointed it at an officer, and pulled the trigger. However, the officer (Nick McDonald) stated that the hammer came down on the webbing between his thumb and first finger of his own left hand as he grabbed for the pistol, and it did not fire. Oswald also struck the officer with his left hand. However, the officer struck back and Oswald was disarmed after a struggle. As he was led from the theater, Oswald shouted he was a victim of police brutality.
At about 2 p.m., Oswald arrived at the Police Department building, where he was questioned by Detective Jim Leavelle about the shooting of Officer Tippit. When Captain J. W. Fritz heard Oswald's name, he recognized it as that of the Book Depository employee who was reported missing and was already a suspect in the assassination. Oswald was booked for both murders, and by the end of the night he had been arraigned as well.
Soon after his capture Oswald encountered reporters in a hallway, declaring "I didn't shoot anyone" and "They're taking me in because of the fact I lived in the Soviet Union. I'm just a patsy!" Later, at an arranged press meeting, a reporter asked, "Did you kill the President?" and Oswald, who by that time had been advised of the charge of murdering Tippit, but not yet arraigned in Kennedy's death, answered "No, I have not been charged with that. In fact, nobody has said that to me yet. The first thing I heard about it was when the newspaper reporters in the hall asked me that question." As he was led from the room, "What did you do in the USSR?" was called out, and "How did you hurt your eye?"; Oswald answered, "A policeman hit me."
Oswald asked for legal representation several times while being interrogated, as well as in encounters with reporters. But when a representative of the Dallas Bar Association met with him in his cell on Saturday, he declined their services, saying he wanted to be represented by John Abt, chief counsel to the Communist Party USA, or by lawyers associated with the American Civil Liberties Union. Both Oswald and Ruth Paine tried to reach Abt by telephone several times Saturday and Sunday, but Abt was away for the weekend.
On Sunday, November 24, Oswald was being led through the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters preparatory to his transfer to the county jail when, at 11:21 a.m., Dallas nightclub operator Jack Ruby stepped from the crowd and shot Oswald in the abdomen. Oswald died at 1:07 p.m. at Parkland Memorial Hospital—the same hospital where President Kennedy had died 48 hours and 7 minutes earlier.
A network television camera, there to cover the transfer, was broadcasting live at the time, and millions thereby witnessed the shooting as it happened. Ruby later said he had been distraught over Kennedy's death and that his motive for killing Oswald was "...saving Mrs. Kennedy the discomfort of coming back to trial."
Ruby's murder of Oswald in front of 75 armed police officers caused an outcry of conspiracy, both from the left and the right.
Enter the Warren Commission
The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, known unofficially as the Warren Commission, was established on November 29, 1963,by Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Its 888-page final report was presented to President Johnson on September 24, 1964, and made public three days later. It concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the killing of Kennedy and the wounding of Texas Governor John Connally, and that Jack Ruby also acted alone when he killed Oswald. The Commission's findings have since proven controversial and been challenged by later studies.
In November 1964, two months after the publication of its 888-page report, the Commission published twenty-six volumes of supporting documents, including the testimony or depositions of 552 witnesses and more than 3,100 exhibits.
The Commission had no investigative mechanism for finding out facts. It depended on the FBI for all of the information it received. Its was never meant to investigate the assassination. Its mandate was to pass independent judgment on facts collected for it and witnesses presented to it.
The Commission emphasized evidence that pointed to Oswald's guilt, while ignoring evidence that pointed towards his innocence. A whole series of conclusions were based on carefully selected evidence, whilethe full body of evidence did not point to those conclusions. They chose to ignore a great deal of evidence which not only didn't prove their case, but actually disproved it. In addition, there was evidence that the Commission never saw, evidence the FBI never brought to its attention and evidence the Commission did not think worth hearing.
It is this evidence that I present to you, the reader.
One purpose of the due process of law is to protect the rights of the accused. A second purpose is to ascertain the truth. Each one insures the other: the rights of the accused are guaranteed by the fair presentation of all of the pertinent evidence. Some rules of evidence do not pertain to the truth alone. For example, a wife cannot testify against her husband in most jurisdictions. In this case, the Commission overlooked this rule.
It is generally improper during the examination of a witness in an ordinary trial for counsel to pose leading questions. But Commission counsel regularly and persistently asked leading questions in order to develop a favorable record consistent with Oswald's guilt. Some witnesses were intimidated while others were prepared by the FBI, Secret Service, Commission counsel or all three.
A rule against hearsay evidence, that which a witness has heard and repeats without knowing it to be true, exists in every jurisdiction. Yet nearly all of the 552 witnesses who gave testimony to the Commissioners and their counsel contained hearsay, not to mention the thousands of FBI and Secret Service reports which were entirely comprised of hearsay.
There is no more serious threat to the truth than an attempt to tamper with a witness. The integrity of any judicial or administrative proceeding is predicated on the ability of a witness to testify freely. Powerful influences from local police, the FBI, Secret Service and Commission counsel tended to discourage testimony that did not conform to the accepted conclusion.
The Commission and the witnesses
The Commission ignored witnesses who had unique evidence to offer, like Walter Kirk Coleman, the 14 year old neighbor of General Walker, who said that he heard a shot and ran outside to see two men in the church parking lot next to Walker's house and neither man resembled Oswald.
Reasons of relevance and/or economy alone cannot account for this type of omission.
The Commission called and took testimony from Dr. Revilo P. Oliver, a right wing author and speaker. Dr. Oliver had no relevant information about the assassination to give the Commission, yet his testimony covers 35 pages ----- more than the combined testimonies of Jacqueline Kennedy, Gov. Connally and Mrs. Connally !!!!!
The witness list, the list of those witnesses who would give testimony for the record, was completely controlled by the FBI. Witnesses were often available to the Commission only after they had been questioned, sometimes repeatedly, by the Dallas Police, FBI or the Secret Service.
As a result, hearsay evidence was admitted, while crucial eyewitness testimony was excluded. Opinions were sought and published, while important facts were rejected, distorted or ignored. Friendly witnesses gave testimony without fear of cross-examination and were led through their paces by lawyers who helped to prepare their testimony in advance and asked them leading questions, while those who challenged the government's case were often harassed. Important witnesses with invaluable evidence to give, like those who stood on the overpass, were never called.
Not only was the FBI's selection of witnesses slanted towards Oswald's guilt, the Commission ignored evidence that indicated that witnesses had signed affidavits identifying Oswald from a police lineup before they had even seen the lineup !!! This didn't happen once, but three times !!! ( Whaley, Guinyard and Callaway )
How did the Commission handle the affidavit issue ? It concluded in its Report:
"Guinyard and Callaway viewed the same lineup of four men from which Mrs. Markham had earlier made her identification of Lee Harvey Oswald. Both men picked Oswald as the man who had run south on Patton with a gun in his hand." ( Report, pg. 169 )
What the Commission did not report was that the three other men in those two lineups with Oswald were police employees. Unlike Oswald, none of them were battered and bruised.
The Commission and the physical evidence
The Commission's approach to physical evidence was also unsatisfactory. Federal authorities mutilated, destroyed, suppressed and reconstructed evidence. The Commission ignored it.
An example of mutilated evidence was the brown paper "gunsack" allegedly found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. It was chemically discolored by the FBI before any of the witnesses could see it and was ruined as evidence. An example of reconstructed evidence was the brown paper gunsack the FBI constructed in its place, which was the bag shown to witnesses.
An example of destroyed evidence included the original Kennedy autopsy notes first prepared and then burned by Commander Humes. Another example is the premature destruction by the Dallas Post Office of the third part of Oswald's post office box application.
An example of suppressed evidence included the X-rays and photographs of the President's autopsy. It is shocking to note that although medical evidence of such importance was not published in the 26 volumes or in its Report, the Commission found the room to include a dental chart for Jack Ruby's mother revealing the condition of her teeth in 1938.
The Commissioners themselves had little contact with the evidence. The majority of the Commissions witnesses were questioned by its lawyers. Most of the witness testimony was done by deposition, with only Commission counsel, the witness and a person to record the testimony present.
The Testimony vs. the Commission's Report
The Commission ignored the testimony of its own witnesses, some of them experts, in order to conclude that Oswald was guilty as charged. Tests conducted at the Commission's request were often inconclusive, irrelevant or proved the opposite of the Commission's position. In addition, the Commission flat out lied in its Report about what the witnesses said.