Clay Shaw trial: Closing arguments by Irvin Dymond, continued
Now, gentlemen, the State has put on quite a pageant here in its attack on the Warren Report. As you may know, the Warren Commission examined some 25,000 witnesses.
MR. ALCOCK: Your Honor, I am very reluctant to interject at this time and interrupt Counsel, but he is going far, far beyond the record of this case.
MR. DYMOND: Your Honor, I don't think I have gone beyond the record at all.
THE COURT: Well, I think the objection is made that maybe that is a fact but has not been testified to in this Court, and you cannot assume things that are in the Warren Report as being part of this case. Is that your objection?
MR. ALCOCK: Yes, Your Honor.
THE COURT: I think the objection is well taken.
MR. DYMOND: Well, it is a little late. Gentlemen, what the State has done is to pick up a handful of hand-picked dissenters, some of them mercenaries, some of them wanting to get their names in the news, others whose motives we will never know, and has brought them here to dispute the findings of this Commission. As I recall, on the voir dire at least one of you gentlemen told me that you had seen the movie RUSH TO JUDGMENT. I will say now that anyone who has seen this movie will recognize the State's presentation and may well mistake it for a re-run of RUSH TO JUDGMENT. To those people who have seen this movie, it will be clear that this Defendant, Clay Shaw, while he is sitting here, a defendant charged with a crime, has been brought here for no other purpose than to create a forum for the presentation of this attack upon the Warren Commission, for such an attack as would downgrade the respect of the American public for the very Government of that public. Again I say, gentlemen, if they are accusing our Government of being a completely fraudulent institution, let them come before you and say so. And another good appropriate statement might be either "Love it or leave it."
Now, gentlemen, I have here my notes that I have taken during the testimony of this case, and I have tried to work them into an orderly presentation of our side of this case. However, a couple of things were said in the State's opening statement that I being human just cannot resist commenting upon before I go into the body of our case. The first of these that hit me between the eyes is one of the most obvious acts of desperation, one of the clearest indications of how the State feels that it must grasp at straws in this case, that I have ever seen in my life, and I am referring to the gall that the State had standing before a Jury of fourteen intelligent men and trying to rehabilitate and ask you to accept the testimony of the witness, Charles I. Spiesel.
I am sure that you gentlemen remember Mr. Spiesel. You remember well what he told me from that witness stand, this poor little paranoid bookkeeper, who came down here to New Orleans thinking that people were following him, thinking that people were hypnotizing him against his will, thinking that people were causing him to lose his sexual potency, this poor little man who sued a group of people in New York claiming that the Communists, or whatever other group he was referring to, were dressing up and masquerading as his relatives, and then passing him by on the street to make him think that they didn't want to talk to him. Gentlemen, what kind of a good-faith prosecution, what kind of a legitimate presentation would try to get up here and con you gentlemen into buying that, that man's testimony! My God, gentlemen, this is a court of law, it is a court of justice. You don't ask a jury of men to consider testimony of that type in deciding the fate of one of their fellow men. It is incomprehensible, it is beyond pardon.
Mr. Alcock seemed to indicate that he thought that I might try to attack the memory of this poor little man. Gentlemen, I am not trying to attack his memory at all. I think Mr. Spiesel probably thought he was telling you the truth when he was on that witness stand. He is the most obvious paranoid case I have ever seen in my life, and it is no great wonder that he went down on Esplanade and picked out two houses and went in three houses, that these houses were similar in appearance and at one time or another had been owned by Mr. Shaw.
(Exhibiting sketch) That is the sketch that Mr. Spiesel drew of the apartment. You saw those apartments down there. There were none that vaguely looked like that, and I don't have to tell you that no time limit was put on Mr. Spiesel at all, he could have still been looking down there that afternoon if he had wanted to. But I say that I could not resist commenting upon the fact that the State would ask you to even consider this evidence. I would have expected them to get up and tell you that they were regretful of having put him on and to go ahead and decide the case disregarding that evidence. That, gentlemen, would have been a goodfaith presentation of this man.
The next thing that hit me squarely between the eyes -- and I couldn't believe my ears when I heard it -- was when Mr. Alcock told you that Mr. Dymond will come before you in his closing argument and tell you that our case falls or stands on the testimony of Perry Raymond Russo, and that I agree with this in principle. By "I", I mean Mr. Alcock. Mr. Alcock is dead right. I will tell you that the case stands or falls on the testimony of Perry Raymond Russo, and I am amazed that he would admit this fact. I told you when I came before you in the opening argument, gentlemen, the opening statement, that I could prove to you that Perry Raymond Russo is a liar. I have done that, and I will show you later on in this argument how I have done it -- over, over, and over again -- but just in passing and in connection with this one remark of Mr. Alcock's, let me point this out: Perry Raymond Russo when under cross-examination by me said that he could not remember who had gone to this conspiracy meeting with him. When I confronted him with his testimony from the preliminary hearing where he said that he was sure that Sandra Moffett and Lefty Peterson had gone into the apartment with him, what does he say?
"Oh, Mr. Dymond, you made me say that." Gentlemen, you have been sitting here with me now for some 38 days. You have heard me examine witnesses, you have heard me cross-examine witnesses, and I ask you, I leave it to you, have you seen me badger any witnesses, force any witnesses to say anything, blackjack any witnesses into saying what they didn't want to say? No. I will tell you what is behind that, gentlemen. Perry Raymond Russo since the preliminary hearing has found out that Sandra Moffett and Lefty Peterson won't back him up on his story, so now he doesn't remember who was with him. That is number one.
The next thing that immediately came to my mind when Mr. Alcock made that statement, gentlemen, was Mr. Russo's statement from that witness stand that Clay Shaw was at this alleged conspiracy meeting, and, gentlemen, when I point out this lie to you, this gets right down to the very heart, to the core, to the meat of this case.
And then what do we show you when we put other witnesses on the stand? And I will point out one of them, and that is Lieutenant Edward O'Donnell. What did Perry Russo tell Lieutenant O'Donnell? And let me say this in passing. This is the testimony not of some civilian, someone whom you would consider ordinarily to be a part of the Defense team you might say. This is a lieutenant on the New Orleans Police Department, a lieutenant whom the State has used many times as a witness whose testimony they will come before juries and laud and praise. What does Lieutenant O'Donnell tell you? That Perry Raymond Russo told him that Clay Shaw was not at that meeting.
Gentlemen, that is the witness, the lying witness, that Mr. James L. Alcock admits that his case stands or falls on, and therefore by any logic at all must be the witness that he is asking you to believe in order to convict this Defendant, Clay Shaw. How can any man do that? And to put the icing on the cake, gentlemen, in almost the same breath in accusing Clay Shaw of lying, he very properly stated the principle of law to you to the effect that if you are convinced that any witness in this case has deliberately testified falsely to a material fact for the purpose of misleading you, you are entitled to disregard the entire testimony of that witness. Gentlemen, I will buy that. That is a correct statement of the law, and without anything else has to walk Clay Shaw out of this courtroom a free man after you deliberate on this case.
Now, gentlemen, getting to the State's evidence, the State's case. The State's case as I see it has seven individual facets to it, that is, facets which are worthy of comment. First, the Clinton, Louisiana, episode, then the Vernon Bundy episode out on the Lakefront, the Spiesel party in the French Quarter, the mailman, James Hardiman's contention, Mr. Shaw's trip to the West Coast, the Eastern Air Lines' VIP book, and the meeting at David Ferrie's house. Those, gentlemen, are the seven facets, as I put it, of the State's case.
I have been practicing criminal law for quite a number of years, gentlemen, and I don't recall any other case in which I have been able to say this, but I unhesitatingly say it right now. This case has this peculiarity: if you take every word of the State's testimony as true on every one of these seven facets, there is no way in the world that you can properly return a verdict of guilty as charged, for the simple reason that, as Mr. Alcock states, the case stands or falls on the testimony of Perry Raymond Russo, and, as a matter of fact, even if you believe this man -- if you can -- what he says happened would not make this Defendant guilty of conspiracy.
Now, I am not going to quote to you from memory on this, gentlemen. I have stated that, and I can back it up by the actual testimony of Perry Raymond Russo, and I would like to read to you -- this is a certified (copy), certified to by Mrs. Dietrich, the Court Reporter:
"Q. And is it your testimony that you sat in or listened in to a conspiratorial meeting with a man whom you saw represented in the paper and on television as the killer of President Kennedy, and didn't report it at that time to any law enforcement agency? Is that right?"
"A. No, I never said anything about a conspiracy. I didn't sit in on any conspiracies."
Now, gentlemen, Mr. Alcock says that you, the Jury, are the ones to determine whether certain conversation amounts to a conspiracy. I can't argue with that, that is the law. However, I think that it is well worthy of comment that Perry Raymond Russo claims he was there. And this is no layman, gentlemen, completely, like we have sitting out in the audience. This is a college graduate who has also attended law school. He knows a little something about conspiracy, gentlemen. That is a mild part of his testimony.
I know you have been here a long time, but I will ask that you bear with me on reading these portions of testimony, because it is important, gentlemen.
"Q. In Baton Rouge did you not then know that you had seen and heard there people plan to assassinate President Kennedy?"
"A. Well, I don't know if I had seen or heard three people plan to assassinate Kennedy. I heard a discussion about shooting Kennedy as well as I heard the discussion on the street about killing Judge Perez or killing Martin Luther King or killing somebody else.
"Q. You knew at that time that the District Attorney from the Parish of Orleans was being represented by Mr. Sciambra, who was investigating the assassination of President Kennedy, didn't you?
"A. Yes, that is correct.
"Q. And you knew your story about the meeting on Louisiana Avenue Parkway, didn't you?
"A. Yes, right.
"Q. And you knew that President Kennedy had been assassinated? Is that correct?
"A. President Kennedy had been assassinated, yes.
"Q. Knowing all of these things, you thought that the philosophy of David Ferrie was the big deal he wanted to talk to you about and that you wanted to talk to him about? Is that right?
"A. That is what I thought was the most important."
The philosophy of David Ferrie, gentlemen. We go now to another portion of Russo's testimony:
"Q. As a matter of fact, Mr. Russo, isn't it a fact that you did not really take this seriously, what you heard up there on Louisiana Avenue Parkway?"
"A. Initially you could not believe Ferrie, and you could not believe him -- from the first encounter I had with him he was just prone to spectacular --
"Q. I see. Did this not have all the characteristics of a bull session, that you had related?
"A. Every characteristic of it.
"Q. It did?
"Q. Would it be possible that that is why you did not take it sufficiently seriously to accentuate it in any statement that you gave to Mr. Sciambra when he came to Baton Rouge?
"A. Well, I don't know if that was one of the reasons. Everything was jammed into a couple of hours up in Baton Rouge, and most of it was looking at photographs, when or where I had seen these people, and he didn't go into great detail. I did talk to some extent about the way Ferrie felt about certain things. I thought this was important.
"Q. But even at that time you still regarded what you had witnessed as more or less a bull session, is that correct?
"A. At that time I really didn't have any opinion, because Ferrie's photograph had come into the newspapers.
"Q. But actually you didn't have a contra-opinion to that either, did you?
"Q. Is it not a fact that the conversation you heard up there could have just as well have been an inconsequential bull session as it could have been anything else?
"Q. Your answer is yes, Mr. Russo?
"A. Yes, sir."
Turning to the second volume:
"Q. Did you ever verbally indicate disagreement with the idea, Mr. Russo, when Ferrie told you this privately?
"A. Well, I told him it would not be possible.
"Q. But you never did say that it was not a good idea or affirmatively state that you would not help him, did you?
"A. Well, all he was doing was lecturing, and he would state this: there are two things, the front and the back of the auditorium. This idea of his where the back man fires a shot just to attract attention, a real quick shot, and almost instantly a man in front fires a dead-end shot for the speaker, that would be in the front of the auditorium. And it was not much of a conversation, he just stated the facts. I said, 'Well, that is impossible.'
"Q. And it was quite common for Ferrie to lecture in this way, as you have put it, was it not?
"Q. In all fairness, would you say he may have been just lecturing at this meeting?
"A. I can't really say he was lecturing or not. He seemed to be talking with the Defendant and also with Oswald, with some exchange from him.
"Q. Just as he had talked to you on previous occasions, is that right? --
"A. On one occasion, yes."
"Q. Being the opinionated man that you say Ferrie was, and with this tendency to express his opinions as you have described, is it not a fact that he would not be out of character at a party of this kind saying that the President should be killed and we will get him, as he had said many times before?
"A. Are you asking me was he out of character for that?
"Q. That is correct, yes.
"A. No, I don't think so.
"Q. In other words, that was something that you, knowing David Ferrie, would have more or less expected, isn't that right?
"A. More or less.
"Q. What you heard that night came as no great shock to you, did it?
"A. No. I agree.
"Q. As a matter of fact, Mr. Russo, if you had really taken this as a serious threat upon the life of President Kennedy, wouldn't you have gone and reported it to the FBI or the Secret Service, if you had really thought the President was going to be killed as a result of this?
"A. Probably if it was the first time I ever met David Ferrie I would have, but this was preceded by eighteen or twenty months."
Turning again. We have only a couple of more of these gentlemen.
"Q. Is it not a fact that in response to a question by Sergeant O'Donnell as to whether Clay Shaw was at the party which you have described, you replied, 'Do you want to know the truth?' And when he said yes, you said, 'I don't know if he was there or not!?
"A.With some explanation, the statement is accurate."
Now, gentlemen, that is the reason that I say that you can just take the State's testimony in its entirety, take it as true, and there is no way on God's earth that a verdict of guilty can possibly be returned. The testimony itself does not make out a case. The State went to great lengths with this blackboard and figures and arithmetic and so forth, and also trying to show you how many guns, how many people there were in Dealey Plaza, but, gentlemen, just keep this in mind: It doesn't matter whether there was one man there or ten men there. No case of conspiracy has been made out against this Defendant.
As I say, it is not a question of whether or not you believe the Warren Report. I know you gentlemen can distinguish that in your minds, and I ask you to.
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