Garrison's Warped Case Against Clay Shaw

Who Speaks for Clay Shaw?

Clay Shaw: Assassin or Fall Guy?

by Dave Reitzes

Part 3 of 4

There were two witnesses who testified that they overheard Shaw discussing a plan to kill the President with David Ferrie, an early suspect in the Garrison probe, at two separate times and places.

Perry Raymond Russo was a friend of Ferrie's who came forward following Ferrie's February 22, 1967, death. According to Assistant DA Andrew Sciambra's memorandum of his initial February 25, 1967, interview with Russo at Russo's Baton Rouge home, Russo claimed that Ferrie had often spoken of killing the President, whom he allegedly loathed for his policies regarding Cuba, particularly vis-a-vis JFK's failure to support the invasion at the Bay of Pigs.

When shown a photograph of Clay Shaw by Sciambra, Russo said that he'd seen "this man twice. The first time was when he pulled into Ferrie's service station to get his car fixed. Shaw was the person who was sitting in the compact car talking with Ferrie. He remembers seeing him again at the Nashville Street Wharf when he went to see JFK speak. He said he particularly remembers this guy because he was apparently a queer. It seems that instead of looking at JFK speak, Shaw kept turning around and looking at all the young boys in the crowd."

It would later be determined, at Shaw's trial, that Shaw was not the individual in question at the Nashville Street Wharf, and it would also be pointed out that Ferrie did not own a service station until 1964, prompting the question as to whether two assassination conspirators would be seen together in public following the assassination.

Russo described a roommate of Ferrie's, whose name he didn't know, as having "sort of dirty blond hair and a husky beard which appeared to be a little darker than his hair. . . . a typical beatnik, extremely dirty, with his hair all messed up, his beard unkept [sic], a dirty T-shirt on, and either blue jeans or khaki pants on. He . . . wore white tennis shoes which were cruddy and had on no socks."

Sciambra showed Russo a photo of Lee Harvey Oswald, and Russo "began shaking his head and said that he doesn't know if he should say what he's thinking. . . . He then said that the picture of Lee Harvey Oswald was the person that Ferrie had introduced to him as his roommate. He said the only thing that doesn't make him stand up and say that he is sure beyond the shadow of any doubt is the fact that the roommate was always so cruddy and had a bushy beard. He then drew a beard on the picture of Oswald and said this was Ferrie's roommate."

Lee Harvey Oswald was always clean-shaven, his family, wife, friends, and acquaintances agree. There is not a single photograph in existence of Oswald with a beard. The closest thing to it is his New Orleans mug shot of August 9, 1963, which shows a barely perceptible bit of stubble on his chin and a wispy hint of a mustache.

Sciambra reported, "Russo said the more we talk the more comes back to me and he said that the name Leon really rings a bell." Russo suggested that Sciambra draw a beard on the photo of Oswald, and show it to Ferrie friends such as Kenny Carter, Tim Kershenstine, Niles Peterson and Al Landry, whom he believed could confirm that Oswald had been Ferrie's roommate. Needless to say, none of them could. In all likelihood, Russo was thinking of Ferrie's onetime roommate, James Lewallen, as even Russo once admitted was possible.

A few weeks later, Russo affirmed to journalist James Phelan and photographer Matt Herron that Sciambra's memorandum of this February 25 interview was an accurate reflection of what had been said in Baton Rouge: that Russo had said he'd seen Clay Shaw twice, that he had heard Ferrie threaten JFK, and that he suspected that Lee Harvey Oswald -- a physically "cruddy" individual with a "bushy beard" -- might have been introduced to him as Ferrie's roommate.

Later, Russo and Sciambra would testify under oath that much more was said at this interview, but omitted from the memorandum. They also would claim that the memo should have noted three occasions that Russo saw Shaw, not two. The full text of the memorandum of the February 25, 1967, interview is posted at:

Two days later, after being questioned extensively about Lee Harvey Oswald, Clay Shaw, and a mysterious white-haired gentleman named "Clay Bertrand," Perry Raymond Russo underwent the first of several procedures that Jim Garrison claimed had been utilized to "objectify" Russo's testimony. In the emergency room operating ward of Mercy Hospital, coroner Nicholas Chetta administered to Russo a dose of sodium Pentothal -- so-called "truth serum."

[Russo] recalled lying on a table, the needle inserted into his right arm, as a "clear substance" was administered, which he thought took about ten minutes, and he felt nothing out of the ordinary. Then the Pentothal bottle was attached and Russo reacted instantly. "My head started spinning round and round -- things started closing in on me and tightening up and I started getting violent and upset." "I knew I was upset," he said. "I recall being bothered -- I didn't want to be bothered, didn't want anybody to touch me and I didn't want anybody close to me." At first "the doctors were holding me down." Then "I felt like I was kicking at them." He became violent and had to be physically restrained. "It seemed like they strapped my whole body, they strapped the right arm down and they held the left arm . . . and they strapped me around the waist and around the legs." "I just kept swinging and twisting and squirming away" and "the needle came out once, at least, maybe more." "That's when they strapped me down." "[Alvin] Oser . . . was holding me down right at the waist. He's big!" "He just physically got on top of me and I kept saying, I remember saying, 'Get away you mother fuckers, get away,' and I kicked at them and I was swinging at them" (Patricia Lambert, False Witness, 72-3).
It seems miraculous that the interrogation was completed at all, but indeed it was. It was, in fact, the turning point of Garrison's "case" against Clay Shaw. Up until this time, Russo's story had centered on only David Ferrie. It should be noted that the veracity of even that story remains severely in doubt, as Russo is the only acquaintance of Ferrie's who ever accused him of threatening the life of John F. Kennedy. Either way, however, Ferrie was dead; Russo's story would have to undergo a radical change in order to be useful to the DA.

By this time Russo had been shown Clay Shaw's photograph and had heard enough about him and his alleged alias to begin to make the connections his interrogators needed. He told James Phelan that the DA's staff "asked me a lot of questions and I'm a pretty perceptive guy. I was able to figure out what they wanted to know from the questions they asked" (Phelan to James Kirkwood, American Grotesque, 168). And, as would be revealed at the Shaw trial, a financial incentive had been floated for young Mr. Russo as well.

With Assistant DA Andrew Sciambra conducting the questioning, Russo again described Ferrie's roommate, "Leon," as a "very dirty" "beatnik-type guy" with a "bushy beard" and hair "all messed up." Russo reiterated that "Leon" was "extremely dirty." He recalled seeing "Leon" at Ferrie's place around September 20-25, 1963. At this session, Russo for the first time referred to Ferrie's roommate as "Oswald."

Russo denied knowing Clay Shaw, but when asked if he knew "Clay Bertrand," Russo said -- very possibly for the very first time -- that he did indeed know a "Bertrand," a man he said he had met at Ferrie's apartment. He described "Bertrand" as a "queer," and "a tall man with white kinky hair, sort of slender," and now said that "Bertrand" was the man he'd seen once at Ferrie's service station and at the Nashville Street Wharf.

Sciambra asked him "if he could remember any of the details about Clay Bertrand being up in Ferrie's apartment," and Russo described being in Ferrie's apartment with "Bertrand" and "Leon Oswald." Ferrie had told him, he said, "We are going to kill John F. Kennedy" and "it won't be long." Sciambra asked whom Ferrie had meant when he said "we," and Russo said, "I guess he was referring to the people in the room."

The full text of Sciambra's memorandum of the February 27, 1967, session is available at:

When the sodium Pentothal wore off, Russo forgot much of what he had said to Sciambra. That evening at dinner with Jim Garrison and journalist Richard Billings, Russo seemed puzzled when the name "Bertrand" came up. To Billings' surprise, Russo denied knowing anyone by that name. Garrison shrugged it off as a side effect of the drug (Lambert, 79-80).

The following day, Russo was brought to Clay Shaw's house by a member of the DA's staff, as Russo wanted to see Shaw in person before identifying him as the "Bertrand" he claimed had been at Ferrie's apartment. He knocked on Shaw's door, posing as a door-to-door insurance salesman. After a brief exchange with Shaw, Russo took his leave, and informed the DA's office that Shaw indeed was "Bertrand."

The following day, the same day Shaw was arrested, Russo was interrogated under the influence of hypnosis by Dr. Esmond Fatter and Andrew Sciambra ("First Hypnotic Session, Exhibit F"). Excerpts from this first transcript can be found at Lisa Pease's Real History site at a link marked, "Text culled from the transcript of Russo's second hypnosis session" [emphasis added]:

The reason for this discrepancy is explained below.

During this March 1 interview, under the influence of hypnosis, Russo now described -- for the first time -- a full-blown "assassination plot," involving Dave Ferrie, Ferrie's roommate "Leon," and the white-haired "Bertrand." Ferrie was still doing most of the talking, however. That would not do, not with Clay Shaw in the defendant's chair.

Russo was again hypnotized and interrogated on March 9, 1967. No transcript or report of this session is known to exist. Perry Russo told Patricia Lambert in 1994 that he may have been hypnotized as many as five times, though only the March 1 and March 12 transcripts have ever surfaced.

Russo was interrogated again under the influence of hypnosis on March 12, 1967 ("2nd Hypnotic Session, Exhibit G"). Lisa Pease's Real History site has excerpts from this second transcript at a link marked, "Text culled from the transcript of Russo's first hypnosis session" [emphasis added]:

Again, the reason for this discrepancy will be explained shortly.

This session was the first time Russo stated for the record that "Clem Bertrand" had been an active participant in the "assassination plot" he claimed to have overheard. By now, Russo was naturally claiming he had seen Clay Shaw on three occasions, not two.

In his 1988 memoirs, On the Trail of the Assassins, Jim Garrison claims that Russo had already told the full story of the "assassination plot" with "Clem Bertrand" and "Leon Oswald" to a reporter for the Baton Rouge State-Times: "in an interview the morning of Friday, February 24, [1967, Russo] told him about a meeting he had attended at Ferrie's apartment at which the assassination of President Kennedy had been discussed. The story appeared in the State-Times that afternoon." (Garrison, 1991 ed., 176). There is no mention whatsoever of a meeting at Ferrie's apartment, a "Leon Oswald," a "Clem Bertrand," Clay Shaw or an assassination plot. Rather, Russo's statements are consistent with Andrew Sciambra's memorandum of their initial Baton Rouge interview, discussing only David Ferrie and his alleged threatening remarks.

The entire text of reporter Bill Bankston's February 24, 1967, State-Times article can be found at:

Russo had also been interviewed by the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate at that time, which ran an article on February 25, the full text of which is also available at the above URL. It reports that Russo had heard David Ferrie threatening the President's life, and that, following Ferrie's death, Russo had written Jim Garrison about his recollections of Ferrie. Once again, there is no mention of a meeting at Ferrie's apartment, a "Clem Bertrand," Clay Shaw, a "Leon Oswald," Lee Harvey Oswald, or an assassination plot.

At Clay Shaw's 1969 trial, Andrew Sciambra went to great lengths to try to explain his memorandum of that February 25, 1967, interview with Russo -- specifically, why it contained no meeting, no "assassination plot," no Oswald, no "Bertrand," and no Clay Shaw. Under oath, both Sciambra and Russo said that of course they had discussed the "assassination plot" with Oswald and "Bertrand" at that time. Sciambra explained that he'd had no need to include this information in his memorandum, as by the time he got around to typing it up, he'd already discussed "Bertrand" and the "assassination plot" in a memorandum reporting Russo's February 27 sodium Pentothal session. James Phelan, on the other hand, testified that Russo had admitted to him in March 1967 that the February 25 memorandum was accurate.

Defense attorney William Wegmann questioned Andrew Sciambra about the one item of evidence that could prove that Russo had indeed mentioned "Bertrand" and an assassination plot in his original interview.

WEGMANN. Now, Mr. Sciambra, you took notes, is that correct?


WEGMANN. Where are those notes today?

SCIAMBRA. Those notes were burned.

WEGMANN. When did you burn those notes?

SCIAMBRA. Sometime after I completed the memorandum.

WEGMANN. How long after?

SCIAMBRA. Very shortly, shortly and may I explain why I burned my notes?

THE COURT. You have a perfect right to explain.

SCIAMBRA. Ever since this case began we have had tremendous problems in the District Attorney's Office trying to keep information from flowing out of the district attorney's office to others. . . . We have been trying very unsuccessfully to prevent this . . .

WEGMANN. Isn't it a fact that James Phelan subsequently, after the memorandum was submitted to Mr. Garrison, came to you and asked you for those notes?

SCIAMBRA. That is exactly right and I went to look for them and couldn't find them there.

WEGMANN. There weren't any leaks in the district attorney's office that time?

SCIAMBRA. We always had leaks in the District Attorney's office.

WEGMANN. From the very inception?

SCIAMBRA. From the inception.

WEGMANN. If you knew you had burned them why did you go look for them?

SCIAMBRA. I wanted to see if -- the main reason is I wanted to see that I had done it.

During his cross-examination, Sciambra called Phelan a "prostitute" for what he termed Phelan's misrepresentation of the facts. (He also accused Phelan of trying to bribe Russo to change his story, as well as possibly acting on behalf of the defense.) The following exchange brought Sciambra's testimony to an end.
WEGMANN. You said that Phelan was a prostitute and for not having objectively reported [the facts of the case in his Saturday Evening Post article]?

SCIAMBRA. That was obvious.

WEGMANN. And do you feel you objectively reported what Russo told you on February 25 in Baton Rouge?

SCIAMBRA. I reported it to the best of my ability. That would make me a sloppy memorandum writer but it doesn't make me a prostitute.


SCIAMBRA. Some twenty-six inaccuracies, twenty-six inconsistencies, differences between my interpretation and Perry's words.

WEGMANN. How many omissions?

SCIAMBRA. It had some omissions but the obvious omission was the fact I did not report in that memorandum that Perry had told me about meeting in Ferrie's apartment between Shaw, Ferrie and Oswald and that was the big omission and that I pointed out.

Sciambra had somehow "omitted" the prosecution's entire case.

Russo initially named two witnesses who could corroborate his story. He said he'd attended the party where this "assassination plot" was hatched with his girlfriend, Sandra Moffett, and his friend, Niles "Lefty" Peterson. Peterson confirmed that he and Russo had indeed been to a party at Ferrie's home in the summer of 1963, but could recall no one resembling Clay Shaw or Lee Harvey Oswald in attendance. Moffett denied attending the party, stating in a sworn affidavit that she had never even met David Ferrie until 1965.

Nevertheless, Russo testified that Clay Shaw had conspired with David Ferrie and Lee Harvey ("Leon") Oswald to assassinate President Kennedy.

Garrison would later claim that the Shaw jury voted to acquit because "they could not find any motivation for Shaw to have participated in a conspiracy to kill Kennedy, whom he always public professed to admire. This did not surprise me. I had known from the outset that we would be unable to make Shaw's motivation clear" (Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins, 1991 ed., 294).

Garrison was lying. Motive had never been a factor, and the prosecution had no obligation to demonstrate motive in a conspiracy case. Jury foreman Sidney Hebert summed up the jurors' actual views when he told journalist James Kirkwood, "Actually the whole case rested on the testimony of Perry Russo. And his testimony didn't prove a thing to me" (Kirkwood, American Grotesque, 508). Juror Oliver Schultz also scoffed at the idea that anyone would plot an assassination with Perry Russo lurking about: "we all had the same opinion, that it wasn't enough to convict him. As far as -- you know you had to have -- beyond a reasonable doubt. Well, to me, I still had plenty of doubts. . . . beginning with Perry Russo" (Ibid., 512).

Two years following the trial, Russo recanted his entire story in a series of tape-recorded interviews with Clay Shaw's lawyers (Lambert, 173). Two decades after that, he revived his trial testimony for Oliver Stone, who hired Russo as a consultant for his revisionist Garrison whitewash, JFK. But Russo would continue to confide to interviewers that he believed Shaw had been innocent, and had he himself been on the Shaw jury, he would have voted to acquit (Lambert, 173-4; Gerald Posner, Case Closed, 451 fn.).

An interesting sidenote to this affair concerns "a transcript of a statement Perry Russo made under hypnosis. Garrison turned this document over the House Select Committee in 1977 with a notation. Explaining why the pages were numbered oddly (one to seventeen and one to thirteen), Garrison wrote that the session was in parts because Dr. Fatter had apparently 'interposed' a 'break' or 'rest period' for Russo's benefit. He did not. Garrison's 'document' is actually two documents, the transcript of the first hypnosis session and another, which took place eleven days later. Garrison combined them, reversing their chronology, and labeled them 'A' and 'B'" (Lambert, 254-5).

The HSCA thus was led to believe that the March 12, 1967, session occurred before the March 1, 1967, session. That is why, as of this writing, Lisa Pease's Real History site has the two hypnosis sessions in the wrong order. Ms. Pease has not responded to newsgroup posts detailing Garrison's deception.

When Perry Russo was confronted with a polygraph test, he freaked out, and admitted that he didn't know whether the man he saw at the "assassination party" was Clay Shaw.
Was there a single witness who could corroborate Russo's story? Yes and no.

Charles I. Spiesel was a last-minute addition to the prosecution's roster. He told a story suspiciously similar to Russo's, but set at a different party at a different place at different time, and minus Oswald. As Spiesel didn't know the address where the party in question had been held but swore he could locate it, it was suggested that the court follow him to this location. He led the judge, the jury, the defendant, the attorneys, and various onlookers to a location on Esplanade Avenue, where he pinpointed the location to one particular building. The prosecution took it as something of a triumph when it was revealed that Clay Shaw had once owned a similar-looking building directly next door to this one; the jury was less impressed when it was pointed out that Shaw had sold the property sixteen years earlier.

While Spiesel's testimony was questionable from the start, his credibility was utterly demolished when he was asked by the defense to discuss his $16 million lawsuit against the state of New York. Spiesel spoke at length about the suit he'd filed, alleging that the state conspired against him and harassed him, hypnotizing him repeatedly and sabotaging his income tax preparation business by placing spies in his office in the form of employee "plants" and phony customers. By his reckoning he'd been hypnotized against his will about "50 or 60" times by agents of the state. Spiesel also accused the government of using look-alikes of his relatives to infiltrate his household, and freely admitted that he fingerprinted his daughter upon her return from college to be certain of her identity.

Garrison defenders don't like to talk about Charles Spiesel; some refuse to talk about him at all, mumbling that he may have been planted by the defense or the CIA to sabotage the prosecution's case. Such an attitude might be understandable had the prosecution immediately disassociated itself from Spiesel's testimony. Instead, Assistant DA James Alcock made a point in his closing arguments to tell the jury the following:

"Gentlemen, again the State apologizes for none of its witnesses in this case, and I don't apologize at all for Mr. Charles Spiesel. Mr. Spiesel took this witness stand under oath and testified that one night he was in [a Lafayette, Louisiana bar] and he saw a man whom he thought he served in the military of the United States with. He asked this man about the ferry service, and perhaps there was a breakdown in communications, because he thought the man said something about ferry, but what he was saying was his name, 'Ferrie' -- F-e-r-r-i-e rather than f-e-r-r-y. He went back to the bar, gentlemen. Subsequent to this, this man, David Ferrie, whom he positively identified, a young male and two women asked him to go to a party in the French Quarter. He testified that David Ferrie's eyebrows were not as thick or as heavy as they appeared in the picture [in evidence]. You heard Perry Russo testify that oftentimes David Ferrie's eyebrows were not as thick as they appeared in that picture.

"You heard him also testify that there were occasions when David Ferrie's hair was not as mussed up or as unsightly looking as it was on some occasions. They went to an apartment, gentlemen, as he recalled it at the intersection of Dauphine and Esplanade Avenue in the City of New Orleans. They walked up, as he recalled it, two flights of stairs and went inside. There was a man who appeared to be the apparent host, and Mr. Spiesel positively identified that man as the Defendant before the Bar.

"And he said here something else very interesting: It was not the Defendant's apartment but rather two people he knew, I think he said teachers, I am not sure, from North Carolina. The Defendant took the stand and said that he knew many, many people in North Carolina. What are the odds, gentlemen, of Mr. Spiesel going to this party and having the host tell him that the apartment really belonged to two people from North Carolina? Fifty-to-one, since there are fifty states. During the course of the evening when the two girls left with the young man that was with David Ferrie when they first approached Mr. Spiesel in the bar, the conversation turned to President John F. Kennedy, and the sentiment was hostile and certainly anti-Kennedy. The suggestion was made that he ought to be killed. Was it made in jest? We don't know. At first, frankly, Mr. Spiesel did not take this conversation seriously. However, he did later on become somewhat alarmed. The consensus of those at the table was that the President should be shot with a high-powered rifle from some distance away. He posed the possibility of the man doing the shooting getting captured or killed before he could escape from the scene of the shooting. It is at this point apparently that the Defendant injected himself into the conversation, although I assume he must have been part of the consensus spoken about by Mr. Spiesel earlier, and he inquired of David Ferrie of the possibility of flying this man to safety after the shooting of the President.

"And again, that is something that is curious and significant, because, if you will recall the testimony of Perry Russo, the principal portion of the conversation entered into by the Defendant was that which concerned exit or availability of escape, and this is the same portion of the conversation at this party in which he injected himself at that time.

"Why does he remember the Defendant Clay Shaw and David W. Ferrie and no one else at the party? First of all, I submit, gentlemen, you have been here a long time, but if you had only been in here one day, one hour, or for ten minutes, and seen the Defendant before the Bar, he is not the type of person that you would readily forget. Because of physical stature, because of his hair and his general appearance and demeanor, Clay Shaw, gentlemen, is not easily forgotten once you had see him, and he was not forgotten by the witnesses who positively put him in the presence of Ferrie and Oswald. And there is another reason why Charles Spiesel remembered the Defendant before the Bar. You will recall he was looking for some work in the City of New Orleans. You will recall that David Ferrie volunteered to help him in this regard, volunteered to speak to this man who had a lot of pull, power or ability to help someone seeking a job, and that man was Clay Shaw, the Defendant before the Bar. You will recall that he attempted to contact the Defendant before the Bar, Clay Shaw, by telephone, but was unsuccessful.

"Although he never saw the Defendant again after he left the party until he came into this courtroom, he did, however, see David Ferrie. There were the reasons that Mr. Spiesel remembered the Defendant, his friends from North Carolina, and he remembered David W. Ferrie at that party. We went with Mr. Spiesel, gentlemen, down to the French Quarter of this city in an attempt to locate that apartment. Gentlemen, the probabilities are almost astronomical that this man could pick out an apartment house, not living in the City of New Orleans that was -- that the apartment house next to it was identical. He picked out Esplanade as one of the possible apartment houses. The very next apartment, Esplanade, which is identical in appearance on the outside, was owned at that time [sic], by the testimony of the Defendant, by the Defendant Clay Shaw. The probabilities, gentlemen, of that ever happening again are almost incalculable.

". . . Gentlemen, we are dealing here with truth, and this man was never convicted of anything in his life. This man holds a responsible job in the City of New York. This man's employer knew of the suit he had filed against the City of New York and other defendants. This man's employer knew he was coming to the City of New Orleans to testify in this case. This man permitted Charles Spiesel to leave his work and to plead his case in the Federal Court. Charles Spiesel prepares corporate and personal income tax returns. Charles Spiesel has a very responsible job. Charles Spiesel has dealt in the formulation of spin-off corporations, and this is exceedingly complex work. He told you how down here in New Orleans he formed a system for certain jukebox companies while he was down here. He told you how he was in the military service of the United States and graduated with an honorable discharge, and of his college background. And most importantly, gentlemen, he told you he had never been convicted of anything.

"And I submit, gentlemen, that Charles Spiesel told you the truth in this courtroom. The coincidence of North Carolina, the coincidence of picking out the same exterior appearance of an apartment next door to an apartment owned by the defendant [sic], are too much to overcome."

Clyde Johnson appears on the lists of "mysterious deaths." His death was in fact not at all mysterious.

One alleged witness who didn't make it to the trial was the Reverend Clyde Johnson, a Bible-thumping old-school traveling preacher who told Garrison's investigators he'd seen Clay Shaw at a Louisiana hotel. Shaw, he said, used the name "Elton Bernard," and disbursed bulging envelopes of cash to Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, and an unidentified man of Mexican or Cuban nationality. Johnson shortly took flight along with his story.

Spiesel and Russo are the only witnesses to link Shaw with a conspiracy to assassinate the President, and even Russo admitted -- under oath -- that the event he recalled was more in the manner of a "bull session" than a conspiratorial meeting. He specifically testified that he did not believe he overheard a conspiracy in the works.

A reading of the trial transcript is necessary to appreciate the prosecution's strategy, which only one writer, James Kirkwood, seems to have noted, and which he emphasizes in his book about the trial, American Grotesque. Not only were Perry Russo and Charles Spiesel the state's only relevant witnesses to the crime for which Shaw had been charged, but the prosecution explicitly focused the jury's attention on a facet of Louisiana law that allowed a charge of criminal conspiracy to apply even to conspiracies that had not actually been committed. The DA's team stressed that the law only required that one overt act be agreed upon and committed -- for example, the defendant allegedly being overheard discussing the arrangement of an alibi on the West Coast the day of the assassination and then allegedly fulfilling this part of the agreement, even if the alleged assassination was never carried out.

Garrison apologists often claim that the case against Shaw was sabotaged by a massive federal conspiracy directed at the DA's office. This argument overlooks the fact that Garrison presented at trial precisely the evidence with which he'd indicted Shaw two years earlier. The case wasn't sabotaged; there had never been a case to begin with.

Has any new evidence come to light to support Shaw's alleged complicity in the Kennedy assassination?

In the current issue of Fair Play, Martin Shackelford writes, "In February 1967, New Orleans CIA office Chief Lloyd Ray wrote to the Director of the CIA's Domestic Contact Service: 'We believe that there is some truth in the allegation of the Garrison investigation and the matter is under a discreet and sensitive investigation by the FBI.'"

The memo does not refer explicitly to Clay Shaw. Jim Garrison made many wide-ranging allegations over the three-year span of his assassination probe. Some aspects of his investigation, such as his look into the Houma, Louisiana, munitions "burglary" (actually a successful CIA transfer of arms and munitions) involving David Ferrie, Sergio Arcacha Smith, Gordon Novel and others, may well have borne fruit had it been investigated independently of the Kennedy assassination, to which it bore no demonstrable relation. Certainly the FBI was aware of this incident. Regardless of whatever else might have been investigated by the FBI, the Bureau certainly did not develop any evidence against Clay Shaw. Ray's statement is nothing but hearsay, as emphasized by the phrase "we believe" which modifies the charge.

Shackelford also writes, "A September 1977 memo written by HSCA staff counsel Jonathan Blackmer concluded: 'We have reason to believe Shaw was heavily involved in the anti-Castro efforts in New Orleans in the 1960s and possibly one of the high-level planners or "cut out" to the planners of the assassination.'" The September 1, 1977, memo reports on an interview with none other than Jim Garrison, and the statement most likely reflects Garrison's words, as does much of the memo. For example: "Shaw was a former high ranking CIA operative in Italy, and according to Garrison, a contract employee in the New Orleans area from the late 1950's until his death in the early 1970's." Notice that Blackmer does not distinguish between the accuracy of these two statements, though he only credits the second explicitly to Garrison. Another example is, "Shaw was the "queen bee" of the homosexual element of the New Orleans operation, using the alias of "Clay or Clem Bertrand." This again would seem to represent Garrison's opinion, not Blackmer's.

Even if such views were Blackmer's, this is only hearsay from a source assumed to be authoritative. The HSCA never developed any evidence to support the assertion that Shaw was either a planner or cut-out in the assassination plot. The above quotation represents one staff member's unsupported opinion, and the reader should again note the modifiers used: "We have reason to believe" that Shaw was "possibly" one of the plotters.

In his books Betrayal and First Hand Knowledge, self-proclaimed former CIA operative Robert Morrow alleges that Shaw, aka "Alton Bernard," aka "Clyde Bertrum," plotted the assassination. His source is CIA officer Tracy Barnes, who was dead before Morrow went public with these statements. As far as can be gleaned from Morrow's writing, Barnes' allegations are again only hearsay, assuming Morrow didn't fabricate the story outright, which is hardly certain.

As of this writing, there remains no evidence that Clay Shaw and/or "Clay Bertrand" conspired to assassinate President Kennedy. If the accusation is true, the prosecution utterly failed to prove it, and no supporting evidence has surfaced in the three decades since. Conspiracy theorists associate Shaw with the assassination for one reason and one reason only -- because Jim Garrison named him as a suspect.

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