The Good Witness: Dr. Frank Silva and “Lee Harvey Oswald”

by Patricia Lambert

“It is kind of scary to realize that these things went on at that time and nobody stepped in and stopped it. They ruined that poor man [Clay Shaw] . . . To me it is incredible that this thing’s still going on. . .”

Dr. Silva, 1995, regarding Jim Garrison’s investigation[1]

In a speech given on September 14, 2007, in Washington, D.C., Joan Mellen made certain statements that I feel compelled to address.[2] While her speech prompted this essay, I also have drawn on her book, A Farewell to Justice.

Of primary concern to me is her description of the alleged visit of Lee Harvey Oswald to East Louisiana State Hospital in Jackson, Louisiana, a small, rural community in the hill country about 120 miles north of New Orleans and close to another small town named Clinton. The focus of what follows is a former psychiatrist at that hospital, Dr. Frank Silva, and his recollections of a brief encounter he had at the hospital with an ex-military man—perhaps an ex-marine.[3]

Mellen says Dr. Silva “related how he ran into Oswald at the hospital.”[4] If true, Dr. Silva corroborated part of Jim Garrison’s Clinton scenario.[5] (It held that Oswald sought work at the hospital and, accompanied by Clay Shaw and David Ferrie, tried to register to vote in Clinton.) Garrison regarded the Clinton story as a linchpin in his case against Clay Shaw and used it to launch the prosecution’s case at Shaw’s trial. So what Dr. Silva said or didn’t say matters.

In Mellen’s speech, she refers to Dr. Silva as a “new witness,” and a sidebar on her home page reads: “Mellen has the only known interview with the director of the hospital at that time, Dr. Frank Silva.” So according to Mellen, who cites interviews with him in 2000 and 2002, prior to her no one had interviewed Dr. Silva.

She is wrong. I interviewed him in 1995, and I was not the only one. Dr. Silva said “many years ago. . .way back,”  “a group in Boston associated with Harvard. . . one of those groups that was looking into the case” contacted him a couple of times. More important, one of Garrison's men interviewed him, Asst. D.A. Andrew Sciambra, though Dr. Silva could not remember his name.

Further Resources

Mellen is the most recent in a long line of Garrison defenders, and her book is no better, in terms of scholarship, than any of the others. See:

At the time of his death in 2004, Dr. Silva had become a prominent psychiatrist in Baton Rouge. But in 1963 he was working at this mental hospital “in charge of training residents for Tulane.” Dr. Silva said he was sent there by Tulane “for 45 days and I stayed four years” as director of the program.

While there he instituted civil-service-type employment reforms. “I brought in [the requirement] that in order to be hired you had to be able to read and write,” he said, laughing, and “I demanded that everybody get care—blacks and whites. . .  [consequently] I was not very well liked . . .by the politicians,” he said. “Prior to that, you could be hired if you had a friend who was a politician.” His reforms earned him serious enmity in some quarters. “So there was always a rumor [going around] about me doing this, doing that,” he said.

Though he didn’t know it at the time, he was the target of something worse than a rumor during Garrison’s investigation when his name was linked, in a peculiar way, to Oswald’s. Clinton’s registrar of voters, Henry Earl Palmer, had identified Dr. Silva as the doctor Oswald claimed to be living with when he allegedly appeared at Palmer’s office to register to vote. In 1967, when Palmer made his allegation, Dr. Silva was living and working in Baton Rouge and didn’t become aware of the claim for almost three decades, until 1995, when I sent him a document describing it.[6] Surprised by the weird idea that Oswald had stayed with him, Dr. Silva quickly concluded it was prompted by the bad blood between him and those he referred to as “the politicians” in the area.

Linking Dr. Silva to the president’s assassin was a particularly vicious form of payback, a ratcheting up of the crosses left burning on his lawn in earlier days. “[T]hose were kind of bad times in Louisiana, in the south in general,” he said. “And we were having [civil rights] demonstrations and everything and everyone was in turmoil.” “[T]he segregation was so incredible. We got reported to the [White] Citizens Council for calling a black man ‘mister,’ or you have a maid that sits in the front seat with you—you got reported for that. . . .and these are the kind of people that spread rumors about everything.”[7]

Palmer’s tale of Oswald’s living arrangement was, as Dr. Silva put it, “preposterous.” “I was married,” he said, “had two children. . .and all the residents were there all the time, and of course my wife’s family.” “There was no way [Oswald] could [have been] living in my house.” (Perhaps that is why Palmer’s “doctor” story veered wildly in one direction then another.[8]) Interestingly, Palmer was the tipster whose information brought Garrison’s investigators to the area.[9]

His allegation about Dr. Silva quickly vanished, and it was not alone. A mysterious evanescence suddenly descended on the region, or certain aspects of it, and a succession of “evidence” disappeared. Oswald’s employment application vanished; his signature in Palmer’s register vanished, or almost—visible traces were said to remain, but then the page his signature was written on vanished too;[10] and Palmer’s claim that Oswald actually registered to vote vanished as well, replaced by a more likely-sounding version of events.[11]. Two years later Palmer told that version under oath on the witness stand at Shaw’s trial.

Palmer’s allegation surely was “preposterous,” but, nevertheless, it was one reason Garrison’s man showed up at Dr. Silva’s door on August 21, 1967, the other being that Dr. Silva was working at the hospital when Oswald supposedly appeared there, and Garrison’s investigators were searching for someone who remembered him. As it turned out, Dr. Silva was no help at all.

In her book, Mellen refers to that interview and the memorandum it prompted, making her claim of exclusivity especially strange:

Assigned by Jim Garrison to help Fruge and Dischler, Moo Moo Sciambra interviewed Dr. Frank Silva. His memo of that meeting claims that Dr. Silva “had never seen or heard of Lee Harvey Oswald.”[12]

The full sentence Sciambra wrote is more emphatic. It reads as follows:

Dr. Silva said that he was working at the hospital all during the year 1963 but had never seen or heard of Lee Harvey Oswald.[13]
After quoting the fragment from Sciambra’s memorandum, Mellen trashes that report:

This is not what Dr. Silva told him, however. Dr. Silva says that Moo Moo had been so vague that he had concluded that all Sciambra had come to discuss was Rose Cheramie’s story.[14] Dr. Silva had begun to tell Moo Moo about the man at the hospital talking about Cuba. Then, feeling ill, he pleaded he had the flu. He had more to say. Could Sciambra come back at a later time? Moo Moo never returned to interview this witness who had encountered Lee Harvey Oswald, one whose integrity and credibility could never have been challenged.[15] (Emphasis added.)

For openers, “the man at the hospital” seems like odd language to me. Shouldn’t it read, “Dr. Silva had begun to tell Moo Moo about Oswald at the hospital talking about Cuba”? Unless, of course, “the man at the hospital” is how Dr. Silva spoke of him.

Moreover, Mellen seems to be saying that Sciambra’s interview was so abbreviated it doesn’t count as an interview. That doesn’t jibe with what Dr. Silva told me.

Here are some of the remarks Dr. Silva made to me about that interview:

[Garrison] sent an investigator to talk to me . . . and pretty much I told him what I told you. . . I think [he] was a lawyer. . . I don’t remember [his name]. We talked for about 30, 40 or 45 minutes and I remember I had a very bad case of the flu because I was coughing all the time.
Dr. Silva also said this:
He asked a lot of questions. He repeated the same question in many different ways. . . . I said the only connection I can think of [to Oswald] is pretty much what I told you.”
And this:
I’m sure that I did not say [the man at the hospital] was Lee Harvey Oswald.
Sciambra’s memorandum confirms that.

By Dr. Silva’s account, Sciambra questioned him at least 30 and perhaps as long as 45 minutes. Sciambra “asked a lot of questions,” and he repeated one of them “in many different ways.” (That would have concerned his knowledge of Oswald, though Sciambra never asked directly if Oswald lived with him.) From this description, Sciambra conducted a substantial interrogation, one that can hardly be dismissed as though it never happened.

Sciambra’s interview “didn’t come to me as a surprise,” Dr. Silva said, “I already expected [it].” Sometime earlier he had received a telephone call from one of his former residents who was living in New Orleans, a psychiatrist who had done some work for Garrison’s office and had a friend on Garrison’s staff.

“He called me one day,” Dr. Silva said, “and told me that he was concerned because his friend [one of Garrison’s assistants]. . .had asked questions about me. . .and had told him that they were looking at me,” “that my name had surfaced” in Garrison’s investigation, though Dr. Silva’s friend didn’t say why.[16]

His name had “surfaced,” of course, because of Palmer’s allegation.[17] Since Dr. Silva was unaware of that allegation, he was mystified by Garrison’s interest in him. “I couldn’t figure out what they were looking at,” Dr. Silva said. If Garrison’s interest had been merely routine, a consequence of his presence at the Jackson hospital in 1963, Dr. Silva would have had no cause to worry. But the telephone call from his friend in New Orleans warned him that Garrison’s interest was not routine. And Dr. Silva was alarmed.

Hearing Garrison and his investigators “were looking at me,” Dr. Silva said, “That was like, whoa! ” A less circumspect man might have used the word “frightening” and justifiably so. Garrison’s power was virtually unlimited and the fear he could trigger in those days was expressed by one New Orleanian who said of that period, “We were all waiting for the knock on the door.” For some, Garrison’s menacing shadow loomed like that of a marauding 3,000 pound gorilla. As Dr. Silva pointed out, “[Garrison’s investigation] was so crazy [that] anyone could have been [regarded by him] in a suspicious light.”

Whoa! indeed.

Having been warned, Dr. Silva had plenty of time to gather his thoughts for the inevitable interview by someone from Garrison’s office, and good reason to be as accurate as possible in what he said. I believe Sciambra got it right. Dr. Silva basically told me the same thing, though he used more words and nuance. If, as Dr. Silva stated, he told Sciambra “pretty much” what he told me, then Sciambra heard a good deal about “the man at the hospital talking about Cuba.” And Sciambra had reason to ignore it.

In our lengthy telephone conversation, Dr. Silva was unclear about the timing of that incident, though he thought it could have been in the summer months prior to the assassination based on his recollections of the way people were dressed.

It began when an excited hospital attendant, knowing where Dr. Silva was born, rushed up saying, “You have to meet this guy—he knows about Cuba.” Dr. Silva “very reluctantly” went along with him to an “open corridor” where the man “was at the entrance” of the “back unit,” talking “with two or three other attendants.”

“This man came to the hospital asking for work,” Dr. Silva said, “and apparently somebody told him that he had to get registered to vote. . . . My impression of him at that time was that this guy was, excuse my language, a bullshitter. He was very braggadocio. . . . he was bragging about his ability with an AK-47, whatever you call them. . .” “[He] apparently had been in Guantanamo at one point. . .I think he said that, because apparently he had been in the Marines.” “He said something about Castro. I can’t remember what he said, positive or negative—I can’t remember.”

Right away, Dr. Silva said, “this guy turned me off.” “[T]he things he was saying irritated me. . .because I knew this guy didn’t know what he was talking about. . .I just didn’t like him.” “So I disconnected in my mind; I just didn’t pay too much attention to him.” “[T]he only thing I remember was my negative reaction to this person. I don’t like people who brag and he was talking and telling this bunch of naïve country people all kinds of stories about what he had done.” What those stories were, Dr. Silva couldn’t remember.

The encounter was brief. “. . .[T]he whole conversation,” Dr. Silva said, “didn’t last more than, overall, I would say not more than ten minutes, if it lasted that long.” Dr. Silva didn’t recall the man’s name, or how he was dressed, and he made only one comment regarding what he looked like: “He had not a very well-kept appearance,” Dr. Silva said. Beyond a strong sense of the man’s personality, the braggart in the hall was a virtual blank to Dr. Silva. He remained a blank at the time of President Kennedy’s murder, when Lee Harvey Oswald’s media exposure was most intense, and which occurred only a few months after the meeting in the hospital hallway.

Dr. Silva was scrupulously precise, painstaking even, in emphasizing that at the time of the assassination he did not relate Lee Harvey Oswald to the man he met at the hospital. He made no connection whatever between that man and the president’s assassin. “[Oswald’s] face was not familiar,” Dr. Silva said. “I don’t think anybody [at the hospital] remembered him, not anybody that I knew.” When the assassination happened, no one said this is the guy who came here. “No one said anything.” “If you had shown me a picture of this guy, Lee Oswald [as seen] on television and in magazines, and said had you ever seen this guy, I would have said no, I’ve never seen him.” “This Lee Harvey Oswald was a complete stranger to me.” Dr. Silva had never seen or heard of him.

The man at the hospital continued to remain a blank for more than three years until Garrison’s investigators showed up in Clinton and at the hospital in Jackson and began interviewing the local citizenry. That’s when word spread of the momentous events that had occurred, unnoticed, in the community sometime prior to the president’s assassination.[18]

Eventually, Dr. Silva (in Baton Rouge) also heard what later would be known as “the Clinton scenario,” and two elements of it fit the man he met at the hospital. That’s when Dr. Silva began to think the man at the hospital “could very well [have been Oswald].” Dr. Silva became almost, but not entirely, convinced he was Oswald. “And now,” he said, “I can even visualize [Oswald’s] face as the face of the person I spoke to. But of course it is a secondary recollection. It’s not a direct recollection.” “Of course, I’ve seen so many pictures of Lee Harvey Oswald, that it would be very easy for me to say [the man] had a T-shirt on. . .But, you know, after 30 years you just [unwittingly] fabricate things on something. . .It is something that is tangential and you see almost from the corner of your eye, then you begin to say this is what it was.”

All that troubled Dr. Silva. At one point, clearly searching, working to get it right, trying to excavate the steps that led to his “secondary recollection,” Dr. Silva pinpointed its precise origin. “I know [the man at the hospital] said that somebody had thought there were jobs there and he had applied. . .and they had told him he needed to register to vote.” “I remember that part. And it’s probably the reason I put this person and Lee Harvey Oswald together.”[19] Dr. Silva understood his experience, and he saw to it that I understood it too.

His secondary recollection, which he referred to at different times as “assumption” and “speculation” on his part, remained. But no one knew better than Dr. Silva that he had no real memory of Oswald, only images of him created after the fact. As evidence of the mind’s vulnerability to suggestion those images are enlightening. As evidence of Oswald’s presence at the hospital, they are meaningless. Dr. Silva knew that too. His final word on the man he met at the hospital, which he said more than once in slightly different ways, was this: “Whether he was Oswald or not, I don’t know.” “I cannot say.”

The foregoing is a fairly comprehensive summary of what Dr. Silva told me regarding the ex-military man he encountered at the hospital. But, aside from inconsequential similarities, my interview with Dr. Silva has little in common with Mellen’s portrayal of the man at the hospital or Dr. Silva’s references to him. For instance:

In both her book and her speech, Mellen presents the man as Oswald. And in her speech, she specifically states that Dr. Silva “. . .related how he ran into Oswald at the hospital.”[20] [Dr. Silva told me that he could not identify the man as Oswald.]

In her book, Mellen says he was “Wearing a T-shirt. . .”[21] [To me, Dr. Silva used the “T-shirt” to make the point that media images have the power to confuse and even to determine one’s recollections.]

Also in her book, Mellen quotes the man as saying, “I’m involved with getting rid of Fidel Castro. . .I’m using my skills as a Marine,” and she characterizes him as “. . .ranting about killing Fidel Castro. . .”[22] [Dr. Silva told me he could not remember what the man said about Castro—could not even remember if what he said was “positive or negative.”]

Whatever the explanation may be for these contradictions, I have no reason to doubt the truthfulness of what Dr. Silva said to me.

Irvin Dymond, Clay Shaw’s lead trial attorney, who believed Clinton to be “a complete fix,” told me that Jim Garrison didn’t engage in fraud in the ordinary sense—meaning that he didn’t invent evidence out of whole cloth. He “took what came their way,” Dymond said, and worked with it.[23] What came their way in the hill country north of Baton Rouge was a former military man, identity unknown, interested in Cuba and Castro, who showed up at East Louisiana State Hospital looking for work.

That man could have been anyone. Nothing about him was singular. Dr. Silva told me that to work at the hospital one had to be registered to vote.[24] Anyone applying would have been told that. In 1967, Cuba was still a hot topic. The Bay of Pigs disaster and the missile crisis were relatively recent and still nagging at America’s political psyche.[25] For any ex-military man, especially one stationed at Guantanamo, to speak of Castro would have been unremarkable, commonplace actually. The man at the hospital could have been anyone. The least likely candidate on Planet Earth was Lee Harvey Oswald.[26]

A good deal has been written in recent years about false memories. Dr. Silva’s experience raises that issue and is instructive. The man at the hospital was real. The later recollection of Oswald, by Dr. Silva’s own analysis, coalesced from what he heard about Oswald and the images of him he saw on television. Fortunately, Dr. Silva was too aware and knowledgeable to represent that later recollection as fact. Few are that aware, however, or that knowledgeable. (If Dr. Silva had represented the later recollection as fact, he would have been Jim Garrison’s lead-off witness at Clay Shaw’s trial.)

Dr. Silva’s experience suggests a relatively, but not entirely, benign explanation for what occurred in the Jackson-Clinton region once Garrison turned his klieg lights onto that community.[27] The power of suggestion and deliberate manipulation can be awesome tools. And information exists indicating a deliberate effort to manipulate recollections did take place there: specifically, the use of a bogus photograph from Garrison’s office which reportedly showed Lee Harvey Oswald seated in a black Cadillac with Clay Shaw behind the wheel.[28] If this picture had been legitimate, and Garrison was prevented from using it against Shaw only because it was stolen from his office files—an explanation once suggested to me—Garrison surely would have mentioned this unique piece of evidence, and what it could have meant to his case, in his memoir. But Garrison didn’t mention it in his book or make any public statement about it. And, to my knowledge, no one from his office ever mentioned it publicly either.

Conceptually, the Clinton scenario seems even more irrational than most of the “evidence” Garrison turned up against Clay Shaw. The three alleged conspirators appearing together in public and Oswald applying for work at that hospital defy belief. Garrison understood that Oswald’s actions required a rational explanation. He came up with this: Oswald’s “sponsors” (read plotters) wanted Oswald to work “a few weeks” at this mental facility, Garrison claimed, so that later, “with a switch of cards from ‘employee’ to ‘patient,’ ” they could “have the right psychiatrist” there testify that he had been “treating” Oswald, thus completing a picture of him as a wandering mental case.[29] That explanation is either silly or deranged, depending on one’s generosity; either way it is light years removed from rational thought.

In some respects, Dr. Silva’s experience has something in common with that of Garrison’s key witness against Shaw, Perry Russo, whose own story would win no prize for reasonableness. No one’s recollections were invaded and tinkered with as extensively as Russo’s were. No one was subjected to the power of suggestion more deliberately, directly or crudely than he—in conversations, in prepping sessions, and especially during repeated hypnosis sessions and one interview conducted while he was drugged. (What was done to him is indisputable—transcripts of the latter are available at the National Archives. What was done to him later prompted a federal judge to conclude these procedures were designed “to concoct” Russo’s story.[30])

Afterwards, Russo admitted he could no longer distinguish what was real from what was not.[31] What happened to Dr. Silva, of course, was far more “accidental,” indirect, far more subtle. And, unlike Russo, Dr. Silva knew where the line was drawn. That alone made him worse than useless to Garrison. It made him dangerous.

If Clay Shaw’s attorneys had known about him, Dr. Silva would have been on their witness list. His interview by Sciambra; his failure (along with everyone else at the hospital) to recognize Oswald at the time of the assassination; his inability to identify the man at the hospital as Oswald; his “secondary” recollection—all that would have been of interest to Shaw’s astute attorneys.  But that would not have been the worst of it for Garrison.

The worst would have been what Dr. Silva told me about a doctor at the hospital who, in a significant way, resembled Clay Shaw. “At that time,” Dr. Silva said, “there was a doctor [at the hospital whose name Dr. Silva couldn’t remember], a real nice guy who had white white hair” whom Dr. Silva “always connected with the stories about Shaw.”  (Shaw’s hair was quite gray.) This doctor “was not a psychiatrist,” Dr. Silva said, he was “internal medicine or something like that,” and he was at the hospital “because he was between jobs or something, and he had a contractor relationship with the hospital.”  “I have the feeling,” Dr. Silva said, “there was somebody in the hospital that was going to drive [the man] to get registered, and I have the feeling it was this [white haired doctor).”[32]

That testimony at Shaw’s trial would have presented an alternative Clinton scenario to challenge Garrison’s own. It also would have raised the specter of mistaken identity where Shaw (the alleged driver of the black car) was concerned. That would have been Garrison’s worst nightmare. For, in addition to shoring up Perry Russo’s credibility, the point of the Clinton testimony for Garrison was to incriminate Shaw by linking him to Oswald. If someone else drove “Oswald” to the registrar’s office, Shaw was subtracted from the Clinton equation.

Since Shaw was acquitted in short order, this speculation about Dr. Silva’s testimony may seem beside the point. It isn’t. The pro-Garrison faction has long lamented the judge’s decision that put a screeching halt to Shaw’s imminent second trial (the one for perjury), contending that the Clinton witnesses would have guaranteed his conviction. Shaw’s attorneys feared as much. Discovery was not required in those days, so all the evidence now available that exposes the yawning fissures[33] in the Clinton story—none of that would have been available to Shaw’s attorneys. Meaning that a gross miscarriage of justice may have been only barely averted.

Mellen’s September speech may induce in some readers a certain sense of cognitive dissonance. The sort one might experience on hearing a message emanating from some upside-down parallel universe where Clay Shaw was found guilty instead of quickly acquitted, and Jim Garrison was victorious instead of defeated and humiliated. That is especially so regarding her triumphal claim that she proved [presumably in her book, A Farewell to Justice] “that the CIA’s clandestine service accomplished the assassination [of President Kennedy]. . .”[34] [Emphasis added.]

For a less enthusiastic assessment of A Farewell to Justice, see Vincent Bugliosi’s unflinching critique of it in his book, Reclaiming History.[35]

In the paperback edition of her book, Mellen added a curious paragraph at the very end which for some may resonate with that upside-down universe. In it, Mellen defends one of her main witnesses, a former con man (in 1962, for instance, he was “wearing a Roman collar” and “soliciting money” as a Catholic priest[36]) on whom a good deal of her book’s reputation rests:

As for Thomas Edward Beckham’s credibility, L. J. Delsa and I are both confident in the truth of his testimony. L. J. says that if circumstances were different, Beckham could have been a brain surgeon. A good witness is always better than good facts.[37]  

But readers take it for granted that authors are “confident in the truth” of their witnesses. And intelligence was never the issue; the issue was and is credibility. Apparently it never occurred to anyone that these testimonials might strike some as heavy-handed and unconvincing, perhaps even hilarious. (For a more fact-based view of Mr. Beckham see

As for “A good witness is always better than good facts”—it is such a bizarre construct that it’s almost outside the realm of normal commentary. When did the two become antithetical? This idea (if it can be called that) seems to me to have more to do with defending the indefensible than it does with anything else.

During our conversation, Dr. Silva was the epitome of a good witness. No one could have been more determined than he to portray accurately the reality he experienced. He achieved that by exercising the utmost respect for the facts.

© 2008 by Patricia Lambert

NARA refers to the JFK Collection at National Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

AARC refers to the Assassination Archives Research Center, a private archives in Washington, D.C.

[1] Telephone interview with Dr. Frank Silva, March 29, 1995. [All subsequent quotations of Dr. Silva came from this same source.]

[2] Joan Mellen, “Who Rules America? How Did We Get Here?” is posted on her web page:

[3] Dr. Silva said the man “apparently had been in Guantanamo at one point. . .I think he said that, because apparently he had been in the Marines.” (Emphasis added.)Apparently” is the operative word here; did this visitor identify himself as a marine when he appeared in 1963? Or was that an assumption made after Garrison’s investigation identified him as Oswald in 1967?

[4]  Mellen’s speech (see note 2 herein).

[5]  For a comprehensive discussion of the events that occurred in the Clinton-Jackson area, see Patricia Lambert, False Witness: The Real Story of Jim Garrison’s Investigation and Oliver Stone’s Film JFK, [New York: M. Evans & Co., 1999], Chapter Thirteen, “The Clinton Scenario and the House Select Committee,” pp. 185-200.

[6]  I sent Dr. Silva pages 81-82 of Richard Billings’s “Personal Notes on Consultations and Interviews with Jim Garrison,” entries dated May 23, 1967. (Richard Billings’s papers, AARC.] Garrison investigator Francis Fruge is named as the source, but he got the information from Palmer who was one of the first people he contacted in Clinton).

[7]  Some who resented Dr. Silva back in the sixties may speak well of him today, but Dr. Silva made it clear that during the civil rights struggle, he was regarded as a troublemaker on the “wrong” side of the racial issue who was usurping the traditional influence at the hospital, the main source of employment in the area.

[8]  Palmer also nominated a “Dr. Picard possibly” as the “doctor” Oswald was “staying with.” (Anne Dischler, field notes, entry dated May 23, 1967; the first biographical information about Dr. Silva was recorded that same day.) Oddly, only six days later, Palmer “cannot remember the doctor’s name.” (Memorandum to Jim Garrison, from Andrew Sciambra, dated June, 1, 1967, Re: Interview with Henry Earl Palmer on May 29, 1967 (hereinafter: Sciambra’s 6-1-67 Memorandum). Jim Garrison’s Donated Papers. NARA.] And it gets stranger. Five months after Dr. Silva told Sciambra he “never saw or heard of Lee Harvey Oswald,” Sciambra reported Palmer’s newest recollection: “[Regarding] the doctor Oswald mentioned. . .[t]he name RIERA rings a bell in some way for him.” (Memorandum to Jim Garrison from Andrew Sciambra, Jan. 22, 1968, re Henry Earl Palmer. Jim Garrison’s Donated  Papers, NARA.] His last officially recorded comment on the subject was this: “Oswald told [Palmer] he was staying with a doctor who worked at the hospital. Palmer remembers that the doctor had a Spanish surname, but could not remember exactly what it was.” However, Palmer said, “the name was given to a Garrison investigator, Mr. Sciambra.” (House Select Committee, Interview with Henry Earl Palmer, Jan. 19, 1978, by Bob Buras and Patricia Orr.]  

[9]   A prominent and lifelong resident of Clinton told me that Palmer was the protégé of Judge John Rarick, an ardent segregationist later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives [Lambert, pp. 186-7, 322n28].  Silva remarked that “Rarick was behind David Duke’s campaign here.” In earlier days, “[t]he people were even literally afraid of Rarick,” Silva said, because “he had all the power; he could make your name look like mud. [He] was never one of my favorite persons,” Silva said. “I was never one of his favorite persons.” According to Mellen, Rarick was a “Tulane classmate” of Jim Garrison and had nice things to say about him. (Mellen, p. 218.)  

[10]  Lambert, “application”: pp.188-189; “signature” and “page”: pp. 192-193. In 1993, when I interviewed Clinton’s then registrar of voters, Edwin Lea McGehee (Garrison’s lead-off witness at Shaw’s trial), Palmer’s register itself had vanished. McGehee said nowadays no such book is used and he thought the same was true in 1963. Yet abundant information to the contrary exists; for instance, Palmer showed the register to Garrison’s investigators. (See Lambert, pp. 192, 193, 193n.) Like Palmer, McGehee too had ties to John Rarick. At the time of my interview with him, McGehee was still cutting Rarick’s hair, though by then he was no longer the town barber; he occupied the office once held by Palmer. (Interview with Edwin Lea McGehee, Dec. 6, 1993.)

[11] Palmer said that he told Oswald he didn’t need to register to vote in order to get a job at the hospital, and Oswald thanked him and left. [Sciambra’s 6-1-67 Memorandum, Jim Garrison’s Donated Papers. NARA.] [See also Palmer’s testimony at Clay Shaw’s trial on Feb. 6, 1969, and Lambert, pp. 130-131.]  This contradicts Palmer’s earliest statement to Garrison’s investigators that Oswald actually registered (Lambert, pp. 192-193), as well as Dr. Silva’s statement to me that job applicants were required to register to vote. Palmer was one of two Clinton witnesses identified by the FBI as members of the Ku Klux Klan, the other being Clinton Town Marshal John Manchester. In 1964, Palmer was the Exalted Cyclops. [FBI report from: The Director, to Attorney General, Feb. 10, 1969. NARA.]

[12]  Joan Mellen, A Farewell to Justice, [Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books: 2005] p. 221.

[13]   Memorandum, to Jim Garrison, from Andrew J. Sciambra, “Re: Trip to Jackson, Louisiana and subsequent interview with Dr. Frank Silva,” Aug. 21, 1967. (Jim Garrison’s Investigative Files, Box 10, “Sciambra” folder, NARA.)

[14]  Mellen’s book, p. 221. Sciambra wrote the following about what Dr. Silva told him regarding Cheramie:  “He said that he was familiar with what Rose Cheramie had said but he was not familiar with Cheramie’s case. Dr. Weiss was in charge of Rose Cheramie and he would have more information regarding her case.” (Sciambra’s interview with Dr. Frank Silva.)

[15]   Mellen’s book, p. 221.

[16]   When I spoke to Dr. Silva’s friend in New Orleans, he said he did not recall the incident. (Telephone conversation, April 4, 1995.)

[17]   The entry regarding Dr. Silva in Billings’s notes concludes with this statement: “Garrison’s office is checking the report further.” [Billings’s Notes, p. 82.]

[18]   Contrary to Garrison’s version of events, those I spoke to in Clinton (who played no role in Garrison’s case), including Dr. Silva, all said they first heard of Oswald and the others being in their area only after Garrison’s investigation there began.

[19]   For details regarding the development of the Clinton scenario generally, see Lambert, pp. 185-200; regarding Oswald specifically, p. 322, notes 29-30.

[20]  Mellen’s book, pp. 217, 220-221, 347, & 379: “as Oswald”; Mellen’s speech (see note 2 herein): “ran into Oswald.”

[21]  Mellen’s book, p. 220: “T-shirt.”

[22]  Ibid.: “getting rid”; 221: “ranting.”

[23]   F. Irvin Dymond, William J. Wegmann, Salvatore Panzeca, interview with author, Sept. 3, 1993, and subsequent conversations.

[24]  The requirement to register to vote was an official part of the hospital’s employment process.

[25]  The imprisoned Bay of Pigs survivors weren’t released until 1963; and the CIA was supporting indigenous Cuban opposition as late as 1965, perhaps even later.

[26]  Not one shred of physical evidence puts Oswald at that hospital (or at the registrar’s office for that matter). And despite prolonged efforts by Garrison’s people, they located only one witness who testified she remembered seeing Oswald at the hospital; but in her first interview she said only that his picture looked “very familiar.” Since that was after the assassination, of course Oswald looked very familiar. (Lambert, p. 322-323n30.)

[27]  The timing of the Clinton story is worth noting. The credibility of Garrison’s only legally significant witness, Perry Russo, had been shredded by an article in the Saturday Evening Post citing documents provided by Jim Garrison. The Clinton story surfaced about three weeks later. The central evidence in the Post article was used by the defense at the trial; but the prosecution had the Clinton story to neutralize it by linking Shaw to Oswald and Ferrie, as Russo had done. Moreover, it is likely that Garrison, “a chess player and strategist,” regarded the Clinton testimony as insurance: In case he lost the conspiracy trial, as he did, he could always charge Shaw with perjury based on the Clinton testimony, which he did.

[28]  In the early stages of the Clinton investigation, either Andrew Sciambra or Francis Fruge possessed a photograph that came from Garrison’s office showing the black Cadillac and identifiable images of Oswald and Shaw inside. This picture, surely a manufactured composite, was shown to witnesses for a short time by Fruge. [Lambert, p. 192, 321n18, 192n]

[29]  Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins,” (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1988], pp. 108-9.

[30]  While “drugged”: “Interview with Perry Raymond Russo at Mercy Hospital on Feb. 27, 1967.” (Lambert, pp. 70-73, 305, note 11.) The hypnosis transcripts (only two survived): “First Hypnotic Session,”  “Exhibit F,” March 1, 1967. (Lambert, pp. 74, 77-79, 90-91, 93, 306 note 29). “2nd Hypnotic Session,” “Exhibit G,” “Taken March 12, 1963.” (Lambert, pp. 92-93, 309n26,n27.) [The Papers of Edward F. Wegmann, see also Clay Shaw’s FBIHQ file No. 44-41824. NARA.] “Concoct”: Judge Herbert W. Christenberry, Opinion, May 27, 1971, Clay L. Shaw v. Jim Garrison, Civil Action No. 71-135, 328 F.Supp. 390-404; see, Lambert, p. 174.

[31]  Lambert, pp. 74, 305n21.

[32]  So far my efforts to conclusively identify this doctor have been unsuccessful.

[33]  This refers primarily, but not entirely, to contradictions between the trial testimony of certain key witnesses and their earlier statements. (For an overview of these problems, see Lambert, pp. 185-196.) Examples: Registrar of Voters Henry Earl Palmer first told Garrison’s investigators that Oswald registered to vote and signed his register (Lambert, pp. 192-3.] [For more on Palmer’s Scheherazade-like approach to his recollections, see notes 8 and 11 herein.) Early on, John Manchester told Palmer “he could not identify the men in the car.” Also, he said he “can’t be sure” he spoke to the driver. (“Identify”: Sciambra’s 6-1-67 Memorandum. Jim Garrison’s Donated Papers. NARA.; “can’t be sure”: AFFIDAVIT, John Manchester, Town Marshall (sic), Clinton, Louisiana, unsigned, undated, except for year—“1967.” Jim Garrison’s Donated Papers. NARA.) Corrie Collins first said two men, not one, exited the car, and he made no mention of Lee Harvey Oswald [Lambert, p. 193]. Regarding the hospital employee who said she remembered seeing Oswald, see note 26 herein. Garrison withheld all such damaging evidence from the House Select Committee which, consequently, treated his Clinton evidence with underserved credulity.

[34]  Mellen’s speech (see note 2 herein).

[35] Vincent Bugliosi’s critique of Mellen’s book, A Farewell to Justice, is located on the CD accompanying his book, Reclaiming History (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2007), “ENDNOTES” (referencing text on p. 1408, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes),” pp. 910-923. (See also, note 36 herein.)

[36]   “Roman collar”: Catholic Action of the South Edition of Our Sunday Visitor –“ ‘Reverend brother’ is Rock ’N Roller,” Nov. 18, 1962. See also, Vincent Bugliosi’s lengthy assessment of Beckham in Reclaiming History, CD, “ENDNOTES, (referencing text on p. 1408) pp. 915-920. A sampling: “In 1977 and 1978 Beckham told the HSCA much of the same fabricated story he told Mellen when she caught up with him in 2002, and the committee predictably never published one word of it or even alluded to it.”  “Beckham wasn’t left out [of almost all the earlier books, including government reports] because no one knew of him, but because no one before the extraordinarily perceptive Joan Mellen wanted to diminish or contaminate whatever they published on the case with anything he had to say.” (p. 915)

[37]  Joan Mellen, A Farewell to Justice, paperback edition [Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books: 2007], p. 386.

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