Prominent defense attorney and Reform Democratic New York State Assemblyman Mark Lane, whose book Rush to Judgement (1966) was the first and best-selling critique of the Warren Commission white wash of the JFK assassination conspiracy, believed that Lee Harvey Oswald deserved to be represented by council, even after his death, in the Warren Commission hearings.
So he sent a brief to Earl Warren, which was also published in the UK Guardian on December 19, 1963. Following is a summation of Mark Lane’s defense brief, which indicates just a few of the myriad deficiencies, distortions and outright falsifications in the evidence presented to the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. The full brief is available here.
Long before Oswald was shot to death in the basement of the Dallas courthouse, the Dallas officials had concluded that Oswald was “without any doubt the killer”. The day after the assassination, the press was informed of “absolute confirmation as to Oswald’s guilt”. Immediately after Oswald was slain, the Dallas district attorney, Henry Wade, announced that the “Oswald case was closed”. Wade presented 15 assertions proving the case.
- A number of witnesses saw Oswald at the window of the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.
- Oswald’s palm print appeared on the rifle.
- Oswald’s palm print appeared on a cardboard box found at the window.
- Paraffin tests on both hands showed that Oswald had fired a gun recently.
- The rifle, an Italian carbine, had been purchased by Oswald, through the mail, under an assumed name.
- Oswald had in his possession an identification card with the name Hidell.
- Oswald was seen in the building by a police officer just after the President had been shot.
- Oswald’s wife said that his rifle was missing Friday morning.
- Oswald had a package under his arm Friday.
- Oswald, while taking a bus from the scene, laughed loudly as he told a woman passenger that the President had been shot.
- A taxi driver, Darryl Click, took Oswald home, where he changed his clothes.
- Oswald shot and killed a police officer.
- A witness saw Oswald enter the Texas theater.
- Oswald drew a pistol and attempted to kill the arresting officer.
- A map was found in Oswald’s possession showing the scene of the assassination and the bullet’s proposed trajectory.
Point 1: A number of witnesses saw Oswald in the window of the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD). Subsequently, the “number of witnesses” dwindled to one but he was not able to recognize Oswald.
Point 2: Oswald’s palm print appeared on the rifle. But the FBI later stated that “no palm prints were found on the rifle”.
Point 3: Oswald’s palm print appears on the cardboard box found at the window, because he ate greasy fried chicken for lunch. But no fingerprints were found, nor any prints on any fixed objects at the TSBD, such as the windowsill.
Point 4: Paraffin gunpowder residue tests showed that Oswald had recently fired a gun. His face was clean, however, indicating he did not fire a rifle.
Point 5: The rifle, a low-quality Italian carbine, was purchased by Oswald under an assumed name. DA Wade announced that the murder weapon was a German Mauser, and a sworn police affidavit named it as such. The next day, the FBI said that Oswald had purchased a Mannlicher-Carrcano and then the murder weapon became that model.
Point 6: Oswald was in possession of false identification. This was announced only after the FBI said that Oswald had bought a Mannlicher-Carrcano under an assumed name.
Point 7: Oswald was seen in the TSBD by a policeman right after the shooting, calmly sipping a drink in the 2nd floor cafeteria. Oswald’s description was radioed out as a suspect because he was the “only employee missing”. But many employees were “missing” because of the motorcade, making it impossible to do a survey, given that the police later secured the building, preventing employees from re-entering.
Point 8: Oswald’s wife, Marina, said the rifle was missing, but earlier had said that she knew of no rifle or gun.
Point 9: Oswald allegedly had a package under his arm on Nov 22 that he described as window curtains, but prosecutor Wade did not indicate what evidence regarding the package led him to the conclusion that it contained the murder weapon, and Oswald said he brought only his lunch to work that day.
Point 10: Oswald, while taking a bus from the scene, allegedly laughed loudly as he told a woman passenger that the President had been shot. But this begs the question of why Oswald, fleeing the scene of a murder, would joke publicly about it. Such behavior is hardly consistent with 48 hours of consistent denial of guilt when in custody of the Dallas authorities. In off-the-record briefing sessions for the press, the FBI conceded that it was untrue.
Point 11: A taxi driver Darryl Click, allegedly took Oswald home, where he changed his clothes. When Click denied this, it became driver William Whaley, but “not to Oswald’s home, just in that direction”. And Whaley’s log shows that Oswald entered the taxi at exactly 12:30 PM, while the shots that killed Kennedy were fired at 12:31 PM.
Point 12: Oswald shot three times and killed officer Tippit as he stepped out of his car, but the Dallas authorities first said Tippit was shot in a movie theater. Later, it was reported that he was shot on one street and, still later, on another street. Finally Prosecutor Wade admitted about the location “I don’t have it exact”.
Point 13: The cashier at the Texas Theater saw Oswald enter and “was so suspicious when she saw Oswald change from seat to seat nervously that she telephoned the police”. When it became obvious that a cashier outside of the theater might have difficulty watching the customers once they entered, the authorities then indicated that an usher saw Oswald changing seats. The last version has a person outside the theater noticing Oswald’s suspicious action, following him into the theater, sealing off the doors with the assistance of the usher, and then notifying the police through a telephone call made by the cashier.
Point 14: Oswald allegedly drew a pistol and attempted to kill the arresting officer inside the Texas Theater, but the firing pin stuck and marked the bullet which did not fire. “We have where it hit it, but it didn’t explode.” The arresting officer MacDonald told the story differently: “I got my hand on the butt of his gun. I could feel Oswald’s hand on the trigger. I jerked my hand and was able to slow down the trigger movement. He didn’t have enough force to fire it.” Confronted with that report, Wade quickly adjusted to it: “I don’t know whether it’s that or not. I know he didn’t snap the gun is all I know about it.”
Point 15: A map was allegedly found in Oswald’s possession showing the scene of the assassination and the bullet’s trajectory. But three days after the arrest, it was announced that authorities had also found a map showing the course of the President’s motorcade in Oswald’s rented room, even though Oswald’s room had been emptied by authorities on the day of his arrest, with the authorities telling the landlady that Oswald “would not return”. The next day, however, Dallas officials denied that such a map existed.
The Question of Motive
Oswald’s motives for killing Kennedy are that he was crazy and a communist and hated Kennedy. However, the Quaker landlady, with whom Oswald and Marina lived, reported that neither of them had anything negative to say about Kennedy. It was also the case that the Communist Party USA had endorsed Kennedy twice.
Time, Place and Oswald
If Oswald was at the sixth-floor window, as alleged, when the President was shot it would have been physically impossible for him to have fired the first shot that struck the President. In the words or Richard Dudman, the correspondent for the Post-Dispatch, “The question that suggests itself is: How could the President have been shot in the front from the back?”
The Gun and the Experts
Deputy Sheriff Eugene Boone and Deputy Constable Seymour Weitzman both initially identified the rifle found in the Texas School Book Depository as a 7.65 Mauser. Weitzman signed an affidavit the following day describing the weapon as a “7.65 Mauser bolt action equipped with a 4/18 scope, a thick leather brownish-black sling on it”. Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig claimed that he saw “7.65 Mauser” stamped on the barrel of the weapon.
Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade told the press that the weapon found in the Book Depository was a 7.65 Mauser, and this was reported by the media. But investigators later identified the rifle as a 6.5 Italian Mannlicher Carcano.
According to Mark Lane:”The strongest element in the case against Lee Harvey Oswald was the Warren Commission’s conclusion that his rifle had been found on the 6th floor of the Book Depository building. Yet Oswald never owned a 7.65 Mauser. When the FBI later reported that Oswald had purchased only a 6.5 Italian Mannlicher-Carcano, the weapon at police headquarters in Dallas miraculously changed its size, its make and its nationality. The Warren Commission concluded that a 6.5 Mannlicher-Carcano, not a 7.65 German Mauser, had been discovered by the Dallas deputies.”
The FBI and the witnesses agreed the elapsed period for all the three shots was five or possibly five and one-half seconds. Life magazine hired the director of the National Rifle Association to fire a similar rifle. The best he could do was “three hits in 6.2 seconds”. Lee Harvey Oswald was not known as a competent rifleman.
In a review of Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgment, Norman Mailer noted:
Two reporters who were investigating Ruby were murdered.
Warren Reynolds, another witness who said he had seen a man fleeing the Tippit murder who wasn’t Oswald, was shot in the head but recovered and then changed his story.
Darrel Wayne Garner told his sister-in-law that he had shot Reynolds but the charges were dropped because Garner had an alibi from Nancy Jane Mooney, a stripper who used to work for Ruby. Eight days later, Miss Mooney was arrested for disturbing the peace, and then hanged herself after just two hours in her cell.
William Whaley, the second taxi driver named who allegedly drove Oswald home, was killed in in a car crash in 1965.
Numerous witnesses who had told their stories to the media stopped talking after being visited by the FBI.
NRA marksmen had to shim the scope on the Manlicher-Carcano rifle to align it with the barrel, and then three men shooting six shots each, failed to hit the head or neck of a fixed target, with shots scattered 12″ at 100 yards because of the inherent inaccuracy of the barrel.
by Robert Riversong: may be reproduced with attribution for non-commercial purposes
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