Clay Shaw trial: Closing arguments by Irvin Dymond
CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT
PARISH OF ORLEANS
STATE OF LOUISIANA
STATE OF LOUISIANA vs. CLAY L. SHAW
EXCERPT OF THE TESTIMONY TAKEN IN OPEN COURT
February 28, 1969
B E F O R E: THE HONORABLE EDWARD A. HAGGERTY, JR., JUDGE, SECTION "C"
THE COURT: Well, it is about seven and a half, almost eight minutes to six. Mr. Dymond, I suspect you will be the next person to argue, and I think this would be the right time -- rather than to let you start and interrupt, I think it would be best to break for supper. The security agents are here from the Sheriff's office.
THE BAILIFF: Order in court.
THE COURT: Gentlemen, you are the best judges of this. I am just trying to find out. Do you think since the Rowntowner Motel is not too far away and we can get there quickly in the bus, do you think you can manage with a one-hour dinner recess? Off the record.
(Discussion off the record.)
THE COURT: Gentlemen, we are going to recess until 7:30. You understand what is going to happen. Mr. Dymond, you will then argue, and I will expect the State to follow you tonight. If I have time at that point, I have my charge finished, and I will check it out. I have it prepared, but I will not hold up the case in any way with reference to my charge to the Jury. Now, how far we are going to work tonight depends on when we start at 7:30, and depending how long it gets to be, at the right time, after I have given my charge, depending on the hour, it is a question of whether or not the Jury feels too fatigued to start deliberating or whether they wish to deliberate for some small period of time or would rather go ahead and get a night's sleep and start delib- erating tomorrow. I think we will just leave that question in abeyance at the moment and see what time it takes for the argument and for my reasonable charge to the Jury. All right, Gentlemen of the Jury, I am going to excuse you for the dinner hour. Off the record.
(Discussion off the record.)
THE COURT: We stand recessed until 7:30.
(Thereupon, at 6:00 o'clock p.m. the jurors were placed under the Rule, and Court recessed until 7:30 o'clock p.m.)
. . . . Pursuant to the recess, the proceedings herein were resumed at 7:40 o'clock p.m., appearances being the same as heretofore noted in the record . . . .
THE COURT: Are the State and the Defense ready to proceed?
MR. DYMOND: we are ready, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Proceed, Mr. Dymond.
MR. DYMOND: May it please Your Honor: Gentlemen of the Jury, first I would like to join Mr. Alcock in thanking all of you for the very obvious close attention that you have given to a long, tedious trial. I know it has not been easy on you, but you have certainly discharged your duty well. Also at the outset I would like to further state what Mr. Alcock in fairness has stated, and that is that once the Defense sits down from this argument and turns the argument over to the State in rebuttal, we are of necessity finished. The fact that we do not get up and answer anything that is said by the State in its rebuttal is certainly not because we have nothing to say in answer to that, not because we can't answer it, but because we are prohibited by law from doing so. I wanted to make that abundantly clear to you, gentlemen.
Gentlemen, let me say at the outset that I do not think that a criminal trial is any place for innuendoes, veiled accusations, hints of guilt of wrongdoing or the like. I say that by way of suggestion that if the State means to charge the Government of our country with fraud, deceit, dishonesty, unscrupulous conduct, and most every other derogatory word of which you can think, let them come forward and say so. Certainly the hint, the innuendo, up until this point has been to that effect. Now I think that you all know, and I know that you all should know, that the Warren Commission is not on trial in this courtroom, the Warren Report is not on trial. This is a case against Clay Shaw, who is charged specifically with having conspired to murder President Kennedy.
Now, first let me make my position clear, and that is that I as an American citizen, as what I feel and think to be a loyal American citizen, cannot and will not accept the suggestion that the Warren Commission was guilty of one giant fraud, that the United States Government was guilty of one giant fraud, as the State would have it, a deliberately conceived fraud, fraudulent plan to deceive the people of the United States as to the circumstances surrounding the death of our late President. I cannot and will not buy that nor accept it.
Let me say, gentlemen, that I will be the first to admit that the Warren Commission did not do a perfect job, but again I say that it is my feeling that the members of this Commission discharged their job, discharged their duties honorably and well, and to say that they are a fraudulent group and that this fraud is joined in by our very Government, I cannot believe.
When I hear such accusations as these, gentlemen, I must ask myself why and how. Have you ever stopped to think just how inconceivable it is that the Federal Government -- and when I say the Federal Government, I can go beyond that -- that our Secret Ser- vice, our FBI, the Justice Department, the Dallas Police Department, the doctors at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, the doctors in the Bethesda Naval Hospital, would all join together to try to make our American public believe that our President was killed by shots fired from the sixth floor of the School Book Depository when in fact he was killed by bullets from elsewhere? Gentlemen, what earthly conceivable reason could there be for that? If there is one, I do not know of it.
Now, gentlemen, I say how, and when I say how, I call upon you as intelligent mature individuals and ask you whether you think it is possible -- and I accent the word possible as distinguished from probable -- that there could be this many people -- the Dallas police, the FBI, the Justice Department, the Secret Service, right on down the line, the doctors, all the people in that crowded autopsy room -- that there could be all of those people a party to this fraudulent scheme, and that five and on-half years could have elapsed and not one person would have come forward and said, Look, I want to tell the truth; I was told to lie but I am not going to stick to it any more. Gentlemen, I submit to you that that is absolutely beyond belief.
Now, yes, you have seen things pointed out about the Warren Report that are subject to question. I am the first to admit that. But a fraudulent scheme as the State would have you believe, no.
Now, gentlemen, I am launching into what you would consider a tirade in defense of the Warren Report, and, as you know, we have been very limited in the evidence that we have presented along those lines, but once again before I launch into what evidence we did have in that connection, let me say that I know that you are not lawyers, but I also know that you don't have to be lawyers to distinguish between a contest over the validity of the Warren Report and a contest over the question of whether this Defendant, Clay Shaw, sat in an apartment at 3330 Louisiana Avenue Parkway with Lee Harvey Oswald and David Ferrie and planned the killing of the President of the United States, conspired to kill him.
Gentlemen, please bear in mind that that is the question that you are here to pass on. There may be some among you who violently disapprove of the Warren Report. To these I want to accentuate this statement: that is, that a verdict of acquittal of Clay Shaw does not constitute your stamp of approval on the report issued by the Warren Commission. I say that not apologetically, gentlemen, but I say it out of practicality, recognizing the possibility that there may be among you those who feel that way. Now, gentlemen, getting on to the Warren Report, as I say, we came before you in the opening statement and told you that we had neither the time, the inclination, nor the money to come here and defend the Warren Report. That statement was a true statement. However, we did feel that it was well and necessary to present to you some of the basic indispensable evidence that should be given to you, if for no other purpose, to show you the real purpose of this presentation, this pageant, this trial of Clay Shaw. As you will remember, the first witness that we put on in connection with the Warren Report was Mr. Frazier, the FBI ballistics expert.
Gentlemen, I was somewhat taken aback when the State actually had the temerity to come before you in a closing argument and question the fact that this man was an expert. The reason that it shocked me, gentlemen, was that upon an examination of the State's opening argument, what do you see but a statement to the effect that not the Defense but that the State will offer the testimony of Special Agent Robert A. Frazier of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an expert in the field of ballistics.
Gentlemen, we didn't get Mr. Frazier down here, the State subpoenaed Mr. Frazier, got him down here and obviously didn't like what they heard, so we decided to use him. Great criticism has been thrown out, the testimony of Mr. Frazier has been violently attacked. The State comes before you and says, what does this man mean trying to tell you about a re-enactment in Dallas which was the monumental flop of the century?
Let me remind you, gentlemen, that this re-enactment was done in furtherance of the basic purpose of the Warren Commission, for the purpose of determining the facts surrounding the death of President Kennedy. The Warren Commission nor anyone else at that time had any idea, had any reason to believe that when the President's Commission did issue its report that it would be pounced upon by a group of vultures, that it would be used by a group of people previously relatively obscure, and as a means to climb to fame and fortune over the body of our dead President. The Warren Commission was told what the purpose of its formation was, and it went ahead and did its job.
Mr. Frazier told you how the scene was re-enacted, Mr. Frazier told you that he was in the sixth floor window of the Book Depository and a complete presidential parade was re-enacted there, and that as a result of this examination it was his opinion as an expert in the field of ballistics that the President was hit in the back with one shot from the School Book Depository window, and in the back of the head with another shot from the window.
Now, just what the State's position is in regard to Mr. Frazier, I don't know. Do you they contend that he isn't an expert? I hardly see how they could have subpoenaed him as an expert themselves. Do they contend that he is just flat lying? Possibly they will come before you and say that. They may well do that if they see fit to come before you and allege that giant, impossible, fraudulent scheme that I have mentioned.
Next, gentlemen, we put on the stand Dr. Pierre Finck. Gentlemen, when Dr. Finck finished his testimony on direct examination, the State pounced upon him like a mountain lion on a chained goat; and I will say this, that they made great capital of the language difficulty which I am sure was obvious to all of you, but I will also say this, that I know, I am confident, that there is not one man on this Jury who doubted the integrity of that little doctor, who doubted his professional ability and his devotion to his profession. I don't think there is one man here who had any doubt on any of those.
It quite amused me, gentlemen, to hear Mr. Oser in his closing argument referring to Dr. Finck as a "Quote Pathologist." Gentlemen, could Mr. Oser have forgotten the testimony of Dr. John Nichols to the effect that he was a student under Dr. Finck at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology? And then Dr. Nichols takes the witness stand and flatly contradicts the testimony of Dr. Finck, and Mr. Oser sees fit to flatly adopt Dr. Nichols'. It seems a little peculiar to me that the good Dr. Nichols would pay money to go and be taught by someone who knows less than he does. It doesn't make too much sense. Then, gentlemen, speaking of devotion to purpose, devotion to profession, motive in testifying, let us also draw another little distinction between Dr. Nichols and Dr. Finck.
This is something of which Dr. Nichols was very proud (exhibiting sketch to jurors.) It is a sketch looking down on the backbone. This sketch was shown to you when it was introduced in evidence, but if you look a little more closely now, you will see that there is something different: "Copyright TV 14490. John Nichols, 1968. All rights reserved." Dr. Nichols had to see to it that he could go into the back office there and protect his money/property rights in that sketch. Gentlemen, I have told you about other people who are attempting and have attempted to rise to fame and fortune over the body of our late President. It looks as though we may have another member of the club.
Now getting on with Dr. Finck, gentlemen, bear in mind that this is not a doctor who arrived at his professional opinions, his professional conclusions, by looking at the Zapruder film, by firing slugs through the wrists of a cadaver. This little doctor from Switzerland, gentlemen, is one of the men who actually performed the autopsy on the body of our late President, who actually viewed these wounds, who actually saw where these wounds were, and who decided whether it was necessary to mangle the neck of the body of our late President to trace the path of a bullet when he could obviously see the point of entrance and a fellow pathologist had told him about the point of exit. Bear in mind, gentlemen, that this isn't a man speaking from movies, from experiments, from theory; this is a man who was there, he was on the scene. And what does Dr. Finck tell us in his opinion? His opinion is precisely that of Mr. Frazier but based upon a different expertise, that our President was hit from two shots from the rear.
We then come to another very unusual spot in the State's presentation, gentlemen. That is with respect to the FBI photographic expert. This case has been going on a long time and you may have forgotten, but this gentleman was not our witness, this gentleman was put on the witness stand by the State, and when the State puts a man on the witness stand they vouch for his credibility, and then they come before you in the opening argument and try to belittle, run down, downgrade the testimony of their own witness. Once again, we have a professional opinion of a true professional photographer, photographic analyst, coinciding with the opinions of the other two experts.
Now, gentlemen, these are just three experts. Add to what about 3,000 more, and I would tell you how many lips would have to be sealed if these people had been told what opinions to form, if a whip had been held over them, if they had been told to cheat, defraud, deceive the American people. I submit to you, gentlemen, that that is utterly and absolutely inconceivable.
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