Closing arguments by James Alcock, continued
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 Lafayette in Exile, 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 many 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. 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 Defen- dant'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 capture 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 statute, 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 court room, 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 906 Esplanade as one of the possible apartment houses. The very next apartment, 908 Esplanade, which is identical in appearance on the outside, was owned at that time, by the testimony of the Defendant, by the Defendant Clay Shaw. The probabilities, gentlemen, of that ever happening again are almost uncalculable.
Who is Charles Spesel? I know Mr. Dymond will spend much time on Mr. Spiesel. I would just like to call to your attention certain basic facts. 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 militray 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 coincedence of picking out the same exterior appearance of an apartment next door to an apartment owned by the defendant, are too much to overcome.
Gentlemen, sometime toward the middle of September, 1963, Perry Russo went to the apartment of David Ferrie. Now, for some time, at least for the summer of 1963 and into the early fall of 1963. David Ferrie had become obsessed with the assassination of President Kennedy during that time period. He went to his apartment house one day and he saw a stranger in that apartment house on the porch, sitting, as he recalled it, in the dark cleaning a rifle. This man had what appeared to be at least a two or three-day growth of beard. He was introduced to this man as Leon Oswald. He positively identified this man as Lee Harvey Oswald, but it is interesting to note that the first time he saw Lee Harvey Oswald he was doing something which apparently had become a habit with him, as testified by his wife or former wife, and that was to sit on the porch or in a dark room and clean and stroke his rifle. Marina Oswald Porter saw him do it many times at 4907 Magazine Street in this city, and this is exactly what Lee Harvey Oswald was doing when Perry Russo first met him.
There is something else. Perry Russo and Lee Harvey Oswald apparently did not get along. To Perry Russo, Lee Harvey Oswald was an introverted person, a person that liked to be left alone, did not like to be part of a group or socialize or talk too much, he liked to sit and read. Again, gentlemen, this is corroborated completely by witnesses of the Defense. We have the testimony of his own wife who said he was not a talkative person, did not like to join but liked to sit on the porch and read. We have the testimony of Ruth Paine, another Defense witness, who said the very same thing.
After this initial encounter, gentlemen, Perry Russo one night went to the apartment of David W. Ferrie in this city, 3330 Louisiana Avenue Parkway, and there was a gathering there. Some may call it a party, some may call it a meeting, some may just call it some people getting together and talking. You can put what label you choose on it. During the course of this get-together or meeting or gathering, David Ferrie paced nervously back and forth with clippings about President John F. Kennedy, and he railed and he raved against the then President of the United States. When this party broke up, gentlemen, when this party was reduced in size to four people, David W. Ferrie, the Defendant before the Bar using the name Clem Bertrand, Leon Oswald or Lee Harvey Oswald, and intermittently Perry Raymond Russo, who said himself the discussion, gentlemen, got much more serious. We hear such things as triangulation of crossfire. We saw David Ferrie or heard that David Ferrie used this symbol (demonstrating) for triangulation of cross-fire. We heard such things as a discussion of the necessity of using three but at least two people in the shooting of the President of the United States We also heard that one of these persons would have to be a patsy or a scapegoat or be sacrificed so the others could get away. Again during the course of this meeting, during the course of this discussion, the Defendant spoke up, again and again he spoke up as he had done in June of that same summer, about availability of exit and about escape and about the possibility of the man doing the shooting getting killed. It was discussed that perhaps direct flight to Cuba might be possible, it was discussed that this might not be feasible or possible or safe and that maybe a flight to Mexico and then on to Brazil where extradition could not be had (would be necessary). It was decided, gentlemen, during the course of that meeting that some of the participants in this conspiracy would not be at the scene of the shooting, some of the participants in this conspiracy would make themselves obvious at other locations so as to make an alibi more believable, so as to form an alibi for themselves. The Defendant was going to the West Coast.
If you will recall, gentlemen, the testimony of the Defendant on this witness stand, he knew by mid-September when this meeting allegedly took place that he was going to the West Coast of the United States. David W. Ferrie was going somewhere to establish an alibi. David W. Ferrie ended up in Houston, Texas, and you heard Mr. Rolland testify about the bizarre activity of David W. Ferrie in that ice rink. I submit that you gentlemen use your own experience, apply your own common sense. Would you if you went to this skating rink repeatedly, as many as five times, go up to the manager of that skating rink and keep introducing yourself or interjecting your ame inthe conversation? I submit you wouldn't unless you had a purpose, and he had a purpose, and that purpose was to let everyone know that I am David Ferrie and here I am in Houston, Texas. And the Defendant in fact did end up on the West Coast, and Lee Harvey Oswald did in fact end up in Dealey Plaza in the Texas School Book Depository, and he did in fact take a gun with him to the Texas School Book Depository as the State alleged, and the State frankly had to prove it circumstantially.
This conversation was characterized during Russo's testimony by himself -- and I don't deny it, I don't deny the State's own witness characterized it as a "bull session," characterized it as never having referred to any of the participants as "conspirators." But, gentlemen, his characterization, my characterization is not important, it is your characterization that counts. And when you do consider that point, I fervently ask you to consider the fact that David Ferrie did end up in public making himself known, that the Defendant before the Bar did end up on the West Coast of the United States, and how in the world is Perry Russo going to know that the Defendant was going to the West Coast of the United States? How in the world could he know this? How in the world could he dream this up? And that one of the participants in this conversation, in this conspiratorial meeting, ended up in the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, Texas, and did in fact take a gun into that Depository on that morning. That certainly, gentlemen, throws an entirely different light on this conversation. This conversation was not -- did not take place in a vacuum, but everything said in this conversation was actually carried out by all of the participants of that conversation.
The State showed you in the testimony of Mr. Frazier that Lee Harvey Oswald did in fact take a package with him into the Texas School Book Depository on the morning of November 22, 1963. Breaking a ritual that he had with Mr. Frazier of returning on weekends, he returned home the night before the President was assassinated, and he carried a package approximately two feet or over long. He told you that he had broken down his own rifle in the military service, and it broke down to as low as twenty inches. He identified a package taken by Lee Oswald into the Depository on that fateful morning. Lee Oswald told him that it was curtain rods. Lee Oswald is not our witness, Lee Oswald is a named conspirator with the Defendant. Now let's see what the Defense's own witnesses had to say about these curtain rods. Mrs. Paine categorically testified that she heard no mention of curtain rods that morning, but she did testify to the fact that she went to the garage and found strangely that the garage light was left on, and there was Lee Harvey Oswald where Lee Oswald had kept his gun.
Marina Oswald testified, and, as I recall the testimony of Mr. Frazier, Lee Oswald said his wife, Marina, got him curtain rods to take to the Texas School Book Depository, to his apartment in Oak Cliff, and his wife categorically testified that she did not bring him any curtain rods ever for his apartment in Oak Cliff, that he never asked her for curtain rods, that she never saw curtain rods in anyone's possession least of all the possession of her husband, Lee Oswald.
I submit to you, gentlemen, that when he rode to work that morning he took the gun from the garage, and when the police came there the following day they were unable to find it in the package it was in or the wrapping it was in because he had taken it that morning. Marina Oswald also testified that she did in fact see him go to that garage on numerous occasions that night.
So, gentlemen, this conversation taken by itself, and frankly and honestly styled or categorized or classified by a State witness as perhaps a "bull session," certainly turned out to be more than any bull session.
Gentlemen, Perry Russo saw Leon Oswald or Lee Oswald once or twice more in the apartment of David Ferrie, and the last time he saw Lee Oswald in that apartment Lee Oswald was going somewhere, apparently making a trip, and he said he was going to Houston, Texas.
Now I want you to recall the testimony of the Defense's own witness, Ruth Paine, who testified that when she spoke to Lee Oswald just before taking his wife and baby back to Irving, Texas, he told her he was going to look for work in Houston or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as Perry Russo corroborated. What are the probabilities of that coming about unless it really happened, one witness living in New Orleans, one living in Irving, Texas today, and she said Houston, Texas, and Perry Russo said he said he was going to Houston, Texas.
Perry Russo, gentlemen, said that he had seen the Defendant on the Nashville Street wharf when President John F. Kennedy spoke there in 1962. He recalled the Defendant specifically, because the Defendant apparently was not looking at all times at the President of the United States, who was making a speech, and that he was positioned somewhat back towards the end of the crowd, and this is where Perry Russo saw him first. The Defendant took the stand and admitted he was at the Nashville Street wharf. When did Perry Russo make this statement that he was on the Nashville Street wharf? Perry Russo made this statement on the very first contact by Mr. Andrew Sciambra of our office, February, 1967. How on earth did Perry Russo know that the Defendant, Clay Shaw, was on the Nashville Street wharf unless as a matter of fact he saw him on the Nashville Street wharf? How did he know that the Defendant was standing in the rear of the crowd unless he had seen him in the rear of the crowd, and how did he know that he was not always looking at the President but appeared to be looking at others, unless he saw that?
Now, Mr. Dymond's argument will be the Defendant admitted all this. Gentlemen, the Defendant sat here and heard the testimony of Perry Russo. Is it logical to you that the Defendant would admit this knowing that this corroborated 100 percent the testimony of Perry Russo? And at first blush when you think of it, it sounds like a fairly good argument, but I want to remind you gentlemen that he well knew that the State had rebuttal witnesses, that the State had a right to rebut the case of the Defense, and he didn't want to get caught flatfooted in an obvious lie, because they didn't know who we had for rebuttal witnesses. He also well knew that there were probably many cameramen in and around the Nashville Street wharf on that occasion, and should the Defendant lie, he would be caught in a picture lying. Gentlemen, ask yourselves, how could Perry Raymond Russo know in 1967 that he was on the Nashville Street wharf when the President spoke there unless he saw him?
He also saw the Defendant at David Ferrie's gas station out on the highway, and he testified to this. Mr. Dymond will say that the State's case rises or falls upon the testimony of Perry Raymond Russo, and essentially I agree, but where is Perry Russo corroborated? He is corroborated by the fact that David Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald and the Defendant were acquainted, were seen with each other and knew each other, contrary to what he says and contrary to what he said in his opening statement. He is corroborated by the fact that in fact he was on the Nashville Street wharf. He is corroborated by the fact that their own witness -- that their own witness -- said that he was going to Houston, Texas, and in fact that is exactly what Lee Oswald had told him, they were going to Houston, Texas, or he was going to Houston, Texas.
He is corroborated by more than that. Remember, gentlemen, that during the course of this meeting, during the course of this conspiratorial meeting, the Defendant used the name Clem Bertrand, C-l-e-m Clem Bertrand. Gentlemen, Mr. James Hardiman, a postman of long service in this city, took that witness stand and under oath positively testified that when he was delivering letters addressed to Clay Shaw at 1313 Dauphine Street, at 1414 Chartres Street from 1313 Dauphine Street, at that very time he delivered at least five, or enough to call his attention to the fact that he had delivered letters to Clem Bertrand, the same name used by the Defendant in this conspiratorial meeting.
And, you know, it is a strange thing, and perhaps it is just another coincidence, but, gentlemen, these coincidences just can't keep piling up without painting a true picture. Who lives at 1414 Chartres Street? Jeff Biddison. How long has he known the Defendant, Clay Shaw? Twenty-three or twenty-six years, I can't recall. Now, was there any evidence presented that Mr. Hardiman knew that the residents of 1414 Chartres Street even knew the Defendant before the Bar? Why would he pick that address and come into this Court and say he had delivered letters to Clem Bertrand to that address unless in fact he had done it? 1414 Chartres Street meant nothing to Mr. Hardiman other than the fact that that was the address that he delivered letters to Jeff Biddison, but he did not know, gentlemen, of the relationship or the association of Jeff Biddison and the Defendant before the Bar. He testified that the letters were addressed directly, that is, to 1414 Chartres Street, and -- I don't want to confuse the Jury -- that the letters were first addressed to 1313 and then forwarded to 1414, because that is not the way I recall the testimony. They were addressed directly to 1414, but these letters only arrived -- these letters were only delivered to that address at the same time that this man was delivering mail addressed to Clay Shaw at 1313 and forwarded to 1414.
And what fantastic explanation does the Defendant give to this under oath and expect you to believe it? He is trapped. He cannot deny that there was a cancellation of a change of address on September 21, 1963, because it is right there in the record. 1966, I am sorry. Which again is an interesting date, because, gentlemen, this is before the investigation of the District Attorney's office even became public. In fact, it is before the District Attorney started his investigation. The Defendant said -- and this is the most curious statement I have ever heard in my life -- he said he did not execute a change of address for the delivery of mail from 1313 to 1414 Chartres Street. He was sure on this point. Yet he executes a cancellation of something that doesn't exist, and the only reason he admitted doing that was because it was right there in black and white in that record, and I submit to you, gentlemen, that that mail was in fact delivered during that time, and you will also recall that the Defendant actually took up residence at that location for a week or two before he could get back into his 1313 address. Is this just another coincidence? How common is the name Clay Bertrand? Is this just another coincidence, gentlemen, along with the many other coincidences, or does this begin to give is a picture?
Gentlemen, Mrs. Jessie Parker took this witness stand, and you will recall that she was a hostess at the VIP Room, the Eastern Airlines VIP Room at Moisant International Airport. She testified that on December 14, 1966 -- again, before any mention in the public media of the investigation by the District Attorney's office -- the Defendant, whom she positively identified, came into that room with another man and signed the VIP book "Clay Bertrand." The Defendant took the stand and positively denied this act, positively denied the use of any alias in his life with the exception of the use of a name for writing a play. She remembered the Defendant, among other things, because of his pretty hair, as she put it. The Defendant, gentlemen, signed the book, for what reason we don't know. I think it is reasonable to assume that perhaps he might have been signing it for someone to come later on as a message. I don't know why he signed the book, but I believe Mrs. Parker that he did sign that book "Clay Bertrand," and when he signed it, he looked over at her and kept looking at her, and he wasn't seated but standing at this time when he signed that book. He was not signing his own name but signing a fictitious (name) or alias. Does it seem logical to you that he would use his normal handwriting on this occasion? Does it seem logical to you that he might not try to disguise his normal handwriting on this occasion?
You have heard from two experts who have conflicting opinions as to whether or not that signature "Clay Bertrand" was made by the Defendant before the Bar, but we have a woman, gentlemen, who saw him make it and who took a lie detector test on that very point. The Defense put on an expert who examined photographs of the questioned signature, admitting frankly that this was not the best procedure to follow, but there is something else about the expert of the Defendant that should be taken into consideration. Can there be any doubt in the mind of any juror here that this man, Mr. Appel, on that witness stand did not say that he had a fixed opinion about this case before he rendered his judgment or decision on that handwriting specimen? He had a fixed opinion. He was coming down, as he put it, for the cause of justice.
"Do you know anything about the case?"
"Well, what are you talking about 'justice'?"
"Well, I was coming down here because of justice, I didn't want an injustice done."
You know that this man had a fixed opinion when he rendered his decision on that point.
The State's expert frankly admitted she intended and hoped to get paid. The State's expert did not have a fixed opinion in this case. The State's expert did not have time to give you a blow-up of the questioned signature next to the true exemplar or sample signature, but I found it entirely crious that the expert for the Defense blew up but one, one sample out of thirteen, D-30 through D-34, for you gentlemen to view. You had an opportunity, at the request of the State, to view D-30 through D-43. You had an opportunity to view Mr. Appel on the stand, and you had an opportunity to view Mrs. McCarthy on the stand. I submit, gentlemen, that Jessie Parker was telling the truth when she testified that the Defendant signed the VIP book.
I see I am going much longer than I had anticipated. Gentlemen, yesterday on rebuttal you heard from Mr. and Mrs. Tadin. They testified that they in fact saw the Defendant and David Ferrie at the airport, and they knew David Ferrie because they were concerned about him being with their son, who was deaf. Mr. Tadin also, since he works in the French Quarter as many as six nights a week, also had seen and knew the Defendant before the Bar, and as soon as he saw him with David Ferrie, he commented to his wife exactly who he was, and his wife took the stand, gentlemen, and said that they were in fact together. Mr. Dymond brought out that the first time they came to us was yesterday. I was somewhat disappointed that they hadn't come to us sooner, but I don't think, gentlemen, that they were lying, and it is up to you to weigh their credibility. Mr. Tadin made one of the truest statements made throughout this trial. Using a cross-examining trick, Mr. Dymond asked Mr. Tadin, "Do you ever lie?" If Mr. Tadin had answered, "Never", I doubt if many of you gentlemen would have believed him, but he answered modestly that yes, yes, he lied, that most people lied, but that he was telling the truth, and that he knew he was under oath and he was telling the truth, and as he told the truth this man was proven a liar again and again and unworthy of your belief.
Mrs. Jessie Garner took the stand for the Defense, the landlady of Lee Harvey Oswald, and there crept into the record a very curious thing. David W. Ferrie was over at the apartment of Lee Harvey Oswald one night shortly after the assassination. She couldn't recall whether it was the night of the assassination or shortly after the assassination, and I submit it was shortly after the assassination. How did David Ferrie know where Lee Harvey Oswald lived in the City of New Orleans? You would have a different proposition if David Ferrie were a Dallas resident and after the announcement on television and so forth he went to the home of Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, but how did he know where he lived here in New Orleans four months before? And Mrs. Garner, again a Defense witness, a woman that they vouch for, said that Lee Harvey Oswald's apartment was filthy, that the sink was torn up and the toilet was torn up and it was generally filthy, and that the mattress was filthy, and yet they want you to believe that this man literally carried a Norelco shaving outfit along with him, never had a beard, despite the fact that Marina Oswald herself testified that there were days that Lee Harvey Oswald did not shave. Marina Oswald, frankly, gentlemen, could not recount to you the movements of Lee Harvey Oswald -- and for good reason. How much did Lee Harvey Oswald confide in his wife? Before coming here to the City of New Orleans she didn't even know where he was employed, had no telephone number to contact him. Coming to the City of New Orleans, gentlemen, she knew one language, and that was Russian; she was pregnant, expecting a baby. Lee Oswald had told her never to go into his belongings, and she abided by that. Gentlemen, she attempted one day pathetically to find her husband by going to the coffee company where she thought he might have worked, and it was the wrong one. And you know why it was the wrong one, because Lee Oswald never told her where he worked, he never gave her a phone number, he never talked about anybody he met at work, he never told her about the post office box, he never told her where it was located. She did not have a key to the post office box. Frankly, gentlemen, she didn't know what Lee Harvey Oswald was doing. And there is one other point I would like to bring out in connection with her testimony. She on the witness stand said the farthest back she would put the firing of Lee Harvey Oswald would have been approximately one month before they left the City of New Orleans, and they left the City of New Orleans on September 23. That would have made it August 23, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald was fired from the Reily Coffee Company July 19, 1963. This is how much Marina Oswald knew about the activities of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Gentlemen, I haven't gone into all of the testimony of all of the Defense witnesses. Presumably, Mr. Dymond will highlight their testimony, and I will be back in front of you again for I hope a period not this long, to rebut his arguments about what their witnesses said. So I at this time will not go into the testimony of many of the Defense witnesses. I think that the State generally has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and has proven him an absolute liar and unworthy of your belief, and absolutely guilty in this case, and I will ask this Jury, after serious deliberation for both sides, to return a just verdict, and I feel that verdict will be guilty as charged.
Thank you very much.
THE COURT: We will take a recess. Take the Jury upstairs. We will take a five- minute recess.
(Whereupon, a brief recess was taken.)
Back to Shaw trial testimony
Search trial database chronologically
Additional resources on the trial of Clay Shaw
Back to JFK menu
Dave Reitzes home page