The Clay Shaw trial testimony of Lt. Edward O'Donnell

1426 (30)
February 26, 1969
MR. DYMOND: We call Lieutenant Edward O'Donnell.
MR. ALCOCK: In connection with the testimony of the next witness, Your Honor, I would respectfully request the Court, since it only encompasses ten pages, to read the testimony of Perry Russo relating to this testimony, and perhaps we can do away with this stop, stop, stop and start.
THE COURT: Let me understand what the situation is. You may understand what it is, but I don't.
MR. ALCOCK: As I appreciate the testimony of this witness, Your Honor, is to be for impeachment purposes relative to certain statements Perry Russo allegedly made to him, which questions were asked of Perry Russo when he was on the witness stand and he responded to -- the State feels that he responded affirmatively to every one of them. Now it only encompasses ten page of the transcript and I would respectfully request of the Court to read that over before this witness takes the stand so we would not have to stop after each question and allow the Court to read the question propounded to Mr. Russo and his reply, and I have the pages marked.
MR. DYMOND: We certainly have no objection.
THE COURT: From 447 --
MR. DYMOND: 447 through about 457.
THE COURT: If some persons want to leave now, Sheriff, you can let them leave now. Let's see if Lieutenant O'Donnell is available.
THE SHERIFF: He is outside.
THE COURT: All right.
MR. ALCOCK: I submit to the Court having read those pages, that the witness did distinctly admit making the statement.
MR. DYMOND: I don't really believe we can generalize on questions like that.
THE COURT: Why don't you two gentlemen come into my chambers and I will show you what I am reading and let the Jury remain here.
(Whereupon, a recess was taken.)
THE COURT: Call your witness, please.
LT. EDWARD O'DONNELL, having been first duly sworn by the Minute Clerk, was examined and testified as follows:
Q: Lieutenant, if you will bend the microphone up towards your face a little, then you will be able to speak right into the end of it. For the record, Lieutenant O'Donnell, would you please state your full name.
A: My name is Edward Mark O'Donnell.
Q: What is your occupation, sir?
A: Police Officer, Lieutenant, Assistant Commanding Officer, Homicide Division, New Orleans Police Department.
Q: How long have you been affiliated with the New Orleans Police Department?
A: Seventeen years.
Q: Lieutenant O'Donnell, on or about June 19, 1967, did you have occasion to have a conversation with Perry Raymond Russo?
A: Yes, I did.
Q: During the course of your conversation, did you ask him why he had testified as he did at the preliminary hearing which was conducted in this proceeding?
A: Yes, I did.
MR. ALCOCK: What page are you on, Mr. Dymond?
MR. DYMOND: Page 449.
Q: Did he give you an answer to that question, Lieutenant?
A: Yes, he did.
Q: What explanation did he give you?
A: He stated that he had all intentions that when he came into the Court for the preliminary hearing he was going to tell the truth, that when he got here and you started talking to him and asked him questions, you turned him on, particularly when you got to the point when you asked him about did he believe in God, and he explained that this was a sensitive area with him, and to quote his own words, you turned him on, and he had at this time decided that he was going to bury you.
Q: Bury me?
A: Bury you.
Q: During that same conversation, Lieutenant O'Donnell, did Perry Russo express any desire to know the entirety of Mr. Garrison's case against Mr. Shaw?
A: Yes, he did.
Q: Did he give you any reason for wanting to know the rest of the case?
A: Yes.
Q: What was that, sir?
A: He asked me if I could let him see the case which Mr. Garrison had against Mr. Shaw, and I asked him for what reason, and he said if he could see what kind of case Mr. Garrison had, it would help him to arrive at a decision to determine whether or not Mr. Shaw was involved in this particular matter, and I told Perry Russo that the only way he should arrive at this decision is to examine his own conscience and determine what the truth is, and then arrive at a decision, that he should not have to lean on the investigation, what Mr. Garrison has or does not have.
Q: Now, did you make these facts known to the District Attorney's Office?
A: Immediately after this interview with Perry Russo, I went upstairs and I spoke with Mr. Garrison and Mr. Alcock and I made this information pertaining to this interview to them available, to them, in fact I told them what happened, and the following day I made a typewritten report and I brought this upstairs to Mr. Garrison and gave him a copy of it.
MR. DYMOND: We tender the witness.
Q: Lieutenant O'Donnell, did you make a tape recording of this interview with Perry Russo?
A: No.
THE COURT: You may proceed.
Q: Did you make a tape recording of this interview with Perry Russo?
A: No.
Q: When you were in the District Attorney's office in the presence of Mr. Barnes, Mr. Russo and Jim Garrison and Mr. Sciambra, did you repeatedly tell Perry Russo that you had made a tape of it?
A: I asked him if he would like to hear a tape play-back of our conversation because at that time Perry Russo had denied that he ever told me that Clay Shaw was not at Dave Ferrie's apartment, and I told Perry Russo at that time "Would you like to hear a tape of our conversation" in an effort to reenforce Perry Russo into admitting the truth, not admitting the truth, but admitting to what he told me when I interviewed him, and then I was in your office on that occasion Perry Russo had done a double take and denied that he ever told me this.
Q: Did you repeatedly say that you had a tape recording of this conversation and he asked you "Let me hear the tape"?
A: I asked him if he would like to hear the tape, and I don't have any tape. In fact, Mr. Sciambra asked me the same question -- excuse me, before I left your office that afternoon, I told Mr. Sciambra I did not have any tapes.
Q: Why did you keep asking Mr. Russo if he wanted to hear the tapes?
A: I don't know how many times I asked him.
Q: Why did you keep asking him that if you didn't have any tape?
A: I just explained why.
Q: But you had no tape. Is that correct?
A: That is correct.
Q: How many reports did you make up of this conversation?
A: Oh, how many reports or how many copies of a report?
Q: Well, how many copies?
A: Four, five.
Q: Four or five copies?
A: Yes.
Q: How many copies did you give to the District Attorney's Office?
A: I believe I gave them one copy.
Q: Where is the original, where is the original now?
A: The Chief of Police should have it.
Q: And how many copies do you have?
A: I have one copy.
Q: One copy?
A: Yes.
Q: Where are the other copies?
A: The Chief of Detectives should have one also.
Q: Where are the rest of them?
A: Excuse me?
Q: Where are the rest of the copies?
A: If that is four, I don't have any other copies.
Q: Well, do you have a copy or not, Lieutenant?
A: Do I have one? Yes, I have one.
Q: You have one copy?
A: Yes.
Q: And you gave one to the District Attorney's office?
A: Yes.
Q: And Chief Giarusso has a copy or the original?
A: I don't know if you got the original or whether the Superintendent got the original.
Q: Now, who else did you give a copy to?
A: The Chief of Detectives.
Q: Who is that, Morris?
A: Yes.
Q: Now, to whom else did you give a copy?
A: No one else.
Q: No one else?
A: No.
Q: Did you give a copy to anyone else?
A: No one else.
Q: You gave one copy to Chief Giarusso, one copy to Major Morris, and you have a copy. Is that correct?
A: That is correct. Now, you have a copy.
Q: And we have a copy.
A: Correct.
Q: And you don't know where the original is?
A: Either I gave you the original or the Superintendent has the original.
Q: Now, you stated on direct examination that Perry Russo said he was going to tell the truth until, as you termed it, Mr. Dymond turned him on. Is that correct?
A: This is what Perry Russo told me, yes.
Q: He said the truth?
A: Yes.
Q: Is that in your memorandum?
A: Oh, I can check my memo, I have a copy in my pocket.
Q: Take a look at it, about the middle of Page 2.
A: You want me to read that part?
Q: No, is the word "truth" in there as you testified to?
A: No, it is not.
MR. DYMOND: If the Court please, we will ask that portion of it be read. I think if there is a synonym for "truth" in there, this Jury is entitled to know about it.
THE COURT: But I can't tell him how to conduct his examination. He asked him for a very specific wording, not for a synonym. I overrule the objection.
Q: Is it a fact that during your conversation with Perry Russo he told you about being bombarded by newsmen such as Mr. Phelan, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Townley and others?
A: Oh, yes, during this conversation with Mr. Russo he stated he was under extreme pressure from the news media and from Jim Garrison.
Q: He said Jim Garrison?
A: Yes.
Q: Is that in your report?
A: No, it is not.
Q: Why not?
A: It is not in there.
Q: Is there any reason why it is not in there?
A: Oh, in the report it states that he is under pressure, but I did -- what he explained to me, well, I asked him for an explanation of what pressures and he explained that he was under pressure from the newspapers, the magazines, television and from Garrison's office.
Q: But you did not put that in your report?
A: It merely states that he stated he was under pressure.
Q: This isn't a complete, then, account of what was said on that occasion, is it?
A: Oh, word for word, no, it is not.
Q: Just the essence of what was said or the highlights of what was said?
A: This is the essence of what was said, that is correct.
Q: Do you recall making this statement during the interview in Mr. Garrison's office, or whatever office it took place in, "If necessary I will produce a tape of his conversation," can you recall that?
A: Oh, it is possible I said that.
Q: How could you say that if you had no tape?
A: I explained my reason for that.
Q: Well, I would like to hear your reason.
A: Explain it again?
Q: Yes.
A: Because at that time Perry Russo had done a retake on what he had told me in my office on June 19, while he was in my office on June 19 he told me Clay Shaw was not at Dave Ferrie's apartment.
Q: Without qualifications?
MR. DYMOND: We are going to ask that the witness be permitted to finish.
THE COURT: You have a right to give your explanation.
THE WITNESS: The day that you, not you, but Mr. Sciambra falsely led me to come to the District Attorney's Office under the pretense that I was to give a test to Perry Russo, when I got there this was not the motive for this meeting whatsoever. I waited approximately one hour, finally Mr. Garrison and the other people who worked for him came into the office with Perry Russo, I was invited into this office, Mr. Garrison had his secretary taking notes of the conversation, everything that was said, and at this time Mr. Garrison asked me do I have a copy of the report which I gave to him, and I said "Not on me," and he said "Well, I don't have my copy, one of my assistants has it, he is out of town, can you get me a copy," which I did, I went downstairs to the Chief of Detectives' office and got a copy and brought it back upstairs, and Garrison asked me if I would let Perry Russo read my report, and I gave it to Perry Russo, and after Russo read the report he was asked is there anything in this report that is not true, and Perry Russo said "Most all of it is true, except I did not tell O'Donnell that Clay Shaw was not at this apartment," this was in direct conflict with what Perry Russo had originally told me on June 19. In an attempt to reenforce Russo into telling the same thing which he told me when he and I were talking by ourselves, because he had already expressed a fear to me of being charged with perjury by Garrison, I made that statement relative to I had a tape, I do not have tapes, there was no tape going in my office during the conversation I had with Russo.
Q: In other words, you were lying, you were lying at the time about a tape?
A: Well, you have the notes of the conversation. I don't know whether I said I have a tape or I asked him would you like to hear a tape, Mr. Garrison's secretary was there taking these notes down.
Q: I am gong to -- I will let you read this particular statement attributed to you. Now, Lieutenant O'Donnell, I am going to show you a document which I will ask you to peruse and see if you recognize that document or what is depicted in the document, rather.
A: What is the letter "R," what does it denote here, you have "G" and "R"?
Q: Probably Russo, O for O'Donnell, S for Sciambra.
A: All right (witness reading statement).
THE COURT: The witness has apparently refreshed his memory.
(The last question and answer was ready by the Reporter.)
Q: Have you had an opportunity, Lieutenant, to read the memorandum?
A: Yes, I did.
Q: Does it refresh your memory or does it accurately reflect what you recall?
A: Oh, it is pretty close to what occurred, yes.
Q: Do you recall having made the statement that you did in fact have a tape?
A: According to these notes which Mr. Garrison's secretary took, if that is a transcript of her notes, the notes state that I said "Would you like me to produce or I could produce a tape," and, as I said, I don't have a tape.
Q: Do you recall reading on the first page, quoting you, "I taped the conversation with you," do you recall making that statement?
A: There was something said similar to this.
Q: But that is not saying "I will produce a tape," that is saying you actually had a tape and taped the conversation, isn't it?
A: I might have said this, I have no argument with that.
Q: Now, Lieutenant O'Donnell --
THE COURT: Let me interrupt you just a second. Now that we have covered that particular single legal item, I suspect after you finish your cross-examination, I suspect there may be redirect and recross, so I think this is a good time to take a recess.
It is about 22 or -- 22 minutes or so to 6:00.
Let everybody have a seat, Gentlemen. Gentlemen of the Jury, we are going to recess for the evening. Again I must instruct you and admonish you do not discuss the case amongst yourselves or with anyone else until it is finally turned over to you for your decision.
Let everybody have a seat, Sheriff. Take charge of the Jury, if you will, please, and let them be safely escorted and have them back here tomorrow morning at 9:00 o'clock.
(Whereupon, the Jury was removed.)
THE COURT: I wish to make a statement, I want to make it out of the presence of the Jury. First of all, you are excused, sir, and I ask you to come back tomorrow at 9:00. Do not discuss your testimony with any witness who has testified or any witness who is to testify. You may consult with your own attorney if you care to, and you are excused.
THE WITNESS: Yes, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Gentlemen of the news media, I was requested by Bill Reed and Bob Jones that after the afternoon session was over with, as it is now, and after the spectators have left, to place one of the exhibits up so that you could take a photograph of it. I told them I would do so when we take a recess. Will you get your photographers here as soon as possible and I will let you take a picture. I think they want a picture of the blown-up signature card. Mr. Shaw, you are released under you same bond.
9:00 o'clock tomorrow, Gentlemen.
1426 (30)
February 27, 1969
. . . . Pursuant to the adjournment, the proceedings herein were resumed at 9:00 o'clock a.m. on Thursday, February 27, 1969, appearances being the same as heretofore noted in the record . . . .
THE COURT: Lieutenant O'Donnell is resuming the stand.
Note for the record that the Defendant is present, all counsel are present, and I am reminding the witness that his previous oath is still binding. All right. You may proceed, Mr. Alcock.
Q: Lieutenant O'Donnell, can you tell us the first time that you spoke to Defense Counsel in this case?
A: Yes, sir. I can't give you the exact day but it was after the start of this trial, just a few weeks ago. I spoke with Mr. Wegmann.
Q: And you had no contact with them through anyone prior to that time, to your knowledge?
A: No, sir, I haven't.
MR. ALCOCK: No further questions.
MR. DYMOND: That is all, Lieutenant.
THE COURT: Let me ask you gentlemen, is Lieutenant O'Donnell relieved from the obligations of his subpoena?
MR. ALCOCK: Yes, Your Honor.
(Witness excused.)