Did Julia Ann Mercer See Conspiratorial Goings On in Dealey Plaza?

Julia Ann Mercer is one of those witnesses who, if her account is accurate, proves a conspiracy and indeed, a conspiracy involving Jack Ruby.

The movie "JFK" features actress Jo Anderson playing Julia Ann Mercer, and giving her account to Kevin Costner (as Jim Garrison). People skeptical of conspiracy witnesses, being familiar with witnesses such as Jean Hill, Beverly Oliver and Roger Craig, will wonder if there is any truth in her account.

So we will start at the begnning, and take it piece at a time.

Stalled Truck in Dealey Plaza

The following is from Dallas Police radio transmissions from the day of the assassination.
Channel 1
271		271.
Disp		271.
271		Could you send a City wrecker to the Triple Underpass:
		just west of the underpass on Elm to clear a stalled
		truck from the route of the escort?
Disp		10-4. (11:07)
118		118.
Disp		118.
118		Could you disregard me on that call? I've got an Air 
		Force truck here that has the President's Seal and Flags
		in it and he's got to get to the Dallas Trade Mart before
		the President does -- in about 10 or 15 minutes. I'll
		escort him out there about Code 2.
Disp		Disregard the call. (11:08)
118		118.
Disp		118.
118		What hundred block of the Stemmons does that Trade Mart run
                off of?
Disp		Right at Industrial. (11:09)
271		271
Disp		271
271		Disregard the wrecker at the Triple Underpass.
		We got a truck to push him out of there.
Disp		10-4. (11:16)

So there was indeed a stalled truck.

Did She Believe She Saw a Gun Case?

Apparently so, given this testimony of Secret Service Agent Forest Sorrels, describing what happened when he returned to Dealey Plaza from Parkland Hospital.
Mr. STERN. What happened next?

Mr. SORRELS. There was another witness there that I started talking to I don't recall the name now, because I told him to go in somebody that saw a truck down there this is before the parade ever got there that apparently had stalled down there on Elm Street. And I later checked on that, and found out that the car had gone dead, apparently belonged to some construction company, and that a police officer had come down there, and they had gone to the construction company and gotten somebody to come down and get the car out of the way.

Apparently it was just a car stalled down there.

But this lady said she thought she saw somebody that looked like they had a guncase. But then I didn't pursue that any further because then I had gotten the information that the rifle had been found in the building and shells and so forth.... (7H351-352)

The "lady" pretty much has to be Mercer, who immediately believed she had seen somebody get a gun case out of a truck.

Mercer Is Interviewed by the Sheriff's Office

Mercer apparently reported her experience to a Sheriff's Deputy, since she was interviewed on the day of the assassination by the Sheriff's office. Here is the first page of her deposition, and here is the second.

Mercer repeats what she apparently told Sorrels. Quoting:

On November 22, 1963, I was driving a rented White Valient automobile west on Elm Street and was proceeding to the overpass in a westerly direction and at a point about 45 or 50 feet east of the overhead signs of the right entrance road to the overpass, there was a truck parked on the right hand side of the road. The truck looked like it had 1 or 2 wheels up on the curb. The hood of the truck was open. On the driver's side of the truck, there were printed letters in black, oval shaped, which said "Air Conditioning". This was a pickup truck and along the back side of the truck were what appeared to be tool boxes. The truck was a green Ford with a Texas license. I remember seeing the word "Ford" at the back of the truck.

A man was sitting under the wheel of the car and slouched over the wheel. This man had on a green jacket, was a white male and about his 40's and was heavy set. I did not see him too clearly. Another man was at the back of the truck and reached over the tailgate and took out from the truck what appeared to be a gun case. This case was about 8" wide at its widest spot and tapered down to a width of about 4" or 5". It was brown in color. It had a handle and was about 3 1/2 to 4 feet long. The man who took this out of the truck then proceeded to walk away from the truck and he reached down to free it. He then proceeded to walk across the grass and up the grassy hill which forms part of the overpass. This is the last I saw of this man.

I had been delayed because the truck which I described was blocking my passage and I had to await until the lane to my left cleared so I could go by the truck.

During the time that I was at this point and observed the above incident there were 3 policeman standing talking near a motorcycle on the bridge just west of me.

The man who took what appeared to be the gun case out of the truck was a white male, who appeared to be in his late 20's or early 30's and he was wearing a grey jacket, brown pants and plaid shirt as best as I can remember. I remember he had on some kind of a hat that looked like a wool stocking hat with a tassell in the middle of it. I believe that I can identify this man if I see him again.

The man who remained in the truck had light brown hair and I believe I could identify him also if I were to see him again.

(signed by) Julia Ann Mercer.

Three things should be noted here: (1) traffic was backed up, so this little tableau was enacted in plain sight of at least several inconvenienced and probably irate motorists, (2) three cops where overlooking the scene, and (3) she says she did not see the man at the wheel of the truck "too clearly" although she says she would be able to identify him.

Mercer Talks to the FBI

On the day folling the assassination, Mercer was interviewed by the FBI, and told them essentially the same things she had told the Dallas County Sheriff's Office, with a man taking what appreared to be a gun case out of the back of the pickup truck and walk up the "grassy hill" toward the underpass. She again mentions the three cops on the underpass, and says she could identify the man with the gun case.

There is no mention of any photos being shown to her, much less any photos of somebody she could identify.

Interviewed Further by the FBI

On November 25th she was again interviewed by the FBI, and shown a group of photographs, including one of Lee Oswald. She said the photo of Oswald "did not look like the person who had taken the rifle from the truck."

Then on November 28th she was interviewed yet again, and shown a set of photos including both Jack Ruby and Lee Oswald. When specifically shown the photo of Ruby, she said the man in the truck had a round face similar to Ruby's, but she could "not identify him as the person."

Likewise, when shown a photo of Oswald she said he had the same general "build, size and age" as the person who took the package from the truck, but "could not identify him" as the man.

So the question arises: are these FBI documents lies designed to conceal testimony that would contradict the official version of Oswald as the single shooter, who did not know Ruby? Or did these FBI interviews set up Mercer for a false memory of having seen the photos on the day after the assassination, and having identified Ruby?

The FBI Investigates

A later document shows the FBI assiduously trying to track down a pickup truck with "Air Conditioning" on the side.

And finally, one of the officers on the Triple Underpass gave his account of what had happened:

The following investigation was conducted by SA's HENRY J. OLIVER and LOUIS M. KELLEY on December 9, 1963:

JOE MURPHY, Patrolman, Traffic Division, Police Department, Dallas, Texas, advised that on November 22, 1963, he was stationed at the Triple Underpass on Elm Street to assist in handling traffic. At approximately 10:30 - 10:40 AM, a pickup truck stalled on Elm Street between Houston Street and the underpass. He was unable to recall the name of the company to whom this truck belonged but stated it is the property of the company working on the First National Bank Building at Elm and Akard in Dallas.

There were three construction men in this truck, and he took one to the bank building to obtain another truck in order to assist in moving the stalled one. The other two men remained with the pickup truck along with two other officers. Shortly prior to the arrival of the motorcade, the man he had taken to the bank building returned with a second truck, and all three of the men left with the two trucks, one pushing the other.

MURPHY noted that the men did not leave the truck except for the one he took to the bank building, and all three left together sometime prior to the arrival of the President's motorcade. He described the stalled truck as being a green pickup and noted the truck had the hood raised during the time it was stalled. This truck had side tool bins on it, and they had a considerable amount of construction equipment in the back.

MURPHY futher stated it was probable that one of these men had taken something from the rear of this truck in an effort to start it. He stated these persons were under observation all during the period they were stalled on Elm Street because the officers wanted the truck moved prior to the arrival of the motorcade, and it would have been impossible for any of them to have had anything to do with the assassination of President KENNEDY.

Later Versions of Her Story

Jim Garrison deals with Mercer in his book Heritage of Stone, and the account he atrributes to her differs considerably from the earlier accounts. For example:

As she pulled to a stop, she noticed on her right a green, unmarked pickup truck parked next to the curbing. To her considerable surprise, she saw a young man dismount from the truck and remove a rifle. The rifle was wrapped in brown paper, but its outlines were quite unmistakable. The young man carried the rifle up the steep incline, which was a westward extension of the grassy knoll, just across the railroad tracks from the knoll. (pp. 170-174)

Note that the gun case has disappeared, and the rifle is now wrapped in brown paper. And the truck is now unmarked. Garrison claims the earler documents were faked, including the affidavit given to the Sheriff's office.

And further:

On Saturday, the day after the assassination and before Oswald's murder by Ruby, FBI agents showed Miss Mercer identification photographs. They lay in front of her perhaps two dozen pictures of men. Among them she recognized the driver of the truck from which the rifle was unloaded just past the knoll.

When the photograph was turned over by one of the agents she saw the man's name: Jack Ruby. She remembered the name afterward.

She informed the agents that this was the driver of the truck from which the rifle was taken. When asked if the young man resembled Lee Oswald, whose face already was being hammered into history as the lone assassin, she re- plied that he did not resemble Oswald in any way. Appar- ently, the government, not satisfied with Oswald being merely the assassin at the rear, was seeking to have him firing from the front as well.

So now we have the version enshrined in the movie "JFK," with FBI agents having an interest in Ruby the day before he shot Oswald, and further faking documents to conceal that fact.

Is this, however, the authentic latter-day Mercer story? Or has Garrison himself embroidered on her account?

Henry Hurt

Conspiracy author Henry Hurt interviewed her in 1983, and an extended version of her story appears in his book Resonable Doubt. Now, as in the Garrison account, the rifle in wrapped in paper. There is no gun case.

And the story of FBI agents showing her multiple photos on Saturday morning has a twist.

At four o'clock the following morning, men came to her apartment and showed FBI identification. She accompanied them back to the sheriff's office, where they showed her a dozen or so photographs, asking her to pick out any she thought might be of the men she saw Friday morning. She selected two pictures. Miss Mercer had no idea of the men's identities.

On Sunday morning, the day after Miss Mercer made the identification, she was watching the assassination coverage on television with friends and saw Ruby shoot Oswald. Instantly, she shouted that they were the two men she had seen on Friday and had identified for the FBI. Ruby, she said, was the driver and Oswald the man with the rifle.

Hurt, unlike Garrison, is an honest writer, so it is most likely that she now, indeed, is identifying Oswald as the man carrying the rifle up the grassy slope.

Hurt is aware of the discrepancies between the early accounts and the interview he obtained, and reports that "Some years later, when Miss Mercer saw the official reports, she was aghast." And further: "Miss Mercer adamantly denounces the reports as corruptions and fabrications by the FBI and the sheriff's department of her actual experiences."

Big surprise.

Evaluating Mercer

Mercer's early perceptions are clearly honest, if a bit overwrought. In the wake of the assassination, events that might otherwise seem mundane can take on a sinister tone. A stalled truck in Dealey Plaza may seem suspicious, and a tool box may seem to look a lot like a gun case.

Further, if one is interviewed twice by the FBI, one might later confuse what photos one saw in which interview. And what first looked like a gun case might become a rifle wrapped in paper. Scholarly research on memory shows such things are well within the realm of possibility.

It is far easler to say her testimony is unreliable than to conclude she has been lying.


But to believe her account is accurate, we have to believe that several FBI agents who investigated the case, people in the Sheriff's office who took her deposition, and three officers who were watching the entire scenario are all part of a cover-up.

But worse, we have to believe that conspirators, needing to get a rifle onto the Grassy Knoll, would concoct a plan to do it by driving a truck into Dealy Plaza, stopping it and backing up traffic, and then have someone with a gun case saunter up the grassy slope in the plain view of everybody in the Plaza. Including three cops.

And all the while it was possible to simply drive down the Old Elm Extension into the parking lot behind the Stockade fence. Indeed, Lee Bowers saw three cars do exactly that in the minutes before the assassination.

If you can't imagine that a conspiracy would want to do it that way, then the obvious conclusion is that they didn't.

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