Clay Shaw trial: Closing arguments by Irvin Dymond, continued
We get now to the last of the seven facets of the State's case, that is, the meeting that Perry Russo tells about at 3330 Louisiana Avenue Parkway. That is Dave Ferrie's apartment. Now let's analyze Russo and let's trace his happenings (sic) in connection with this matter. Russo is living up in Baton Rouge. Jim Garrison starts his investigation down here. It is published in the papers. Russo finds out that Ferrie has died, and he wants to get in on the act, so what does he do? Does he call the District Attorney? Does he call anybody? Yes, he calls somebody. He tells you that he called the police and they wouldn't even listen to him, but then who does he end up calling? The Baton Rouge State Times, the newspaper. Mr. Jim Kemp of the Baton Rouge State Times came out and interviewed him. Russo told Phelan later that he wanted to get the whole story down with somebody. So Russo gives his story to Jim Kemp. Now, gentlemen, we have read to you verbatim the Jim Kemp interview with Russo in Baton Rouge. Not one single word about Clay Shaw, Clay Bertrand, Clem Bertrand, a conspiracy meeting, any meeting at David Ferrie's. Why? He wanted to get it all down. So what does Russo do then but grant interviews to other TV stations and radio people in Baton Rouge. Nothing in any of those interviews, but they did run something on the air that interested Mr. Sciambra or Mr. Garrison, and Sciambra goes up to Baton Rouge to interview Perry Raymond Russo. Gentlemen, I hate to beat a dead dog, but here comes the Sciambra memorandum that we have heard so much about.
THE BAILIFF: Order, please.
MR. DYMOND: You know, when I was sitting here listening to the arguments of the other counsel, I leaned over to Billy Wegmann and I said, "Billy, my God, I have thought of something. We have got to be stupid. Why didn't we think of it before?" He said, "What is that?" I said, "Sciambra claims that Russo told him about the conspiratorial meeting and identified a picture of Clay Shaw in Baton Rouge on the 25th of February, and Clay Shaw wasn't arrested until March 1." He said, "Good God, you are right."
Where were they, gentlemen? Does that answer the question as to when Perry Russo first mentioned anything about this? IF it doesn't, the DA's office sure dragged its feet, gentlemen, from the 25th of February until March 1 arresting a man that they claim assassinated or conspired to assassinate the President of our United States. So Mr. Sciambra goes up there and sits for some two and a half or three hours with Perry Raymond Russo, and Russo tells him his story. Mr. Sciambra writes up a memorandum to Mr. Garrison reporting on the interview with Russo. 'Lo and behold, gentlemen, we find out that there is nothing in the memorandum. All kinds of explanations are set forth as to why it isn't in there. Mr. Sciambra went up there in connection with the investigation of the assassination, went up there with, supposedly, pictures of Shaw on him. Russo supposedly identified one of these pictures of Shaw as Clem Bertrand, supposedly identified the roommate as Leon Oswald or Lee Harvey Oswald, and there is nothing written about it, but he writes about a lot of other things in there. Gentlemen, I will tell you, this is like a man going lion hunting and killing a lion and a rabbit, coming back and writing a story about the trip and forgetting to mention the lion. That is what it amounts to.
Gentlemen, I hesitate to bore you with a reading of this entire Sciambra memorandum, so rather than do that, rather than eat up your time in this way, I am going to ask you if there is any man on the Jury who has any doubt as to whether anything about a conspiratorial meeting, anything about Clay Shaw, Clem Bertrand, Clay Bertrand, is in this memorandum. If you have any doubts, I will read it to you word for word. Apparently you don't. Gentlemen, Mr. Jim Phelan, one of the top columnists in the country, labeled by Mr. Sciambra a "journalistic prostitute," apparently used nobody in the good graces of Jim Garrison, so Mr. Sciambra writes this memorandum up. He tells you that he -- the memorandum is dictated the 27th, and Mr. Sciambra tells you that he did not -- no, it is dated February 27 -- Mr. Sciambra tells you that he did not even finish dictating this memorandum until seven to ten days after the 27th, and says about another memorandum, it was supposedly dictated ahead of it.
Gentlemen, in that connection, I would like to call your attention to the testimony of Jim Phelan -- not only to his testimony but to what he pulled out of his pocket, a hotel bill, a receipt from The Sands in Las Vegas, showing where he stayed there from the 4th until the 6th of March. Jim Phelan testified that he went out to Las Vegas, met Jim Garrison out there, and Jim Garrison turned over to him the Sciambra memorandum, and that this meeting took place on the 6th of March. Count your days, gentlemen, between the 27th of February and the 6th of March when this memorandum not only had been finished being dictated but had been delivered to Jim Garrison, and Jim Garrison had gone out to Las Vegas, Nevada, obviously having had time to read it over, and then gave it to Phelan. Does that add up with the testimony that this memorandum wasn't even completely dictated until seven to ten days after February 27? My arithmetic is bad if it does, gentlemen. I know it is not the best, but I don't believe it is that bad.
Well, Jim Phelan went over this memorandum very carefully. He said that he read it six times, was completely shocked by it, so he went out to see Jim Garrison about it. Jim Garrison called Sciambra in. Phelan says, "There is nothing in this memorandum about any conspiratorial meeting, nothing about Clay Shaw, nothing about Clem Bertrand." Sciambra said, "You don't know what you are talking about." Gentlemen, Phelan did know what he was talking about to the extent that he was willing to be his job on it. He wasn't taken up on it. Well, this was called to the attention of the State, and since then there have been quite a few controversies about the actual content of this Sciambra memorandum.
Now, after this confrontation there in Mr. Garrison's home after reading the memorandum, Jim Phelan attended the preliminary hearing in this case. He saw Perry Russo take the witness stand and was completely shocked at Russo's testimony, so he arranged to go up to Baton Rouge and talk to Russo about it. He goes and talks to Russo, and there are two completely different stories there, gentlemen. All that I can ask you to do in evaluating those is to decide who has more reason for lying, Russo trying to back his story up, or Jim Phelan, an independent journalist, free lance, with no axe to grind. Two key questions were asked at that time. Phelan asked Russo why he had gone to court in that preliminary hearing and testified that he had seen Clay Shaw in David Ferrie's apartment, an then named two other times, one at the Nashville Avenue wharf and the other one at Ferrie's filling station, whereas in the memorandum Sciambra had reported his only having seen Clay Shaw twice. Russo meditated, and he said, "I said three times?" He said, "No, I guess I only say twice, but I should have said three times." Then Phelan asked him the real sixty-four-dollar question: When did you first mention anything about the conspiracy? And Russo said, "Down in New Orleans," admitting it to Phelan.
Now, gentlemen, getting back to this two or three times that he claims that he saw Clay Shaw, if this Sciambra memorandum were to have just had in there that it was seeing him twice, that could easily be an error, but the Sciambra memorandum says that he saw him twice, the first time at the Nashville Avenue wharf and the second time up on the Veterans Highway at the filling station. The third time actually, gentlemen, would be tucked in between there and would certainly have been the one time that Russo would not have forgotten if he were relating a true story. Once again, we are striking at the very heart of the State's case now, gentlemen, the absolute lack of credibility on the part of Perry Russo.
Well, gentlemen, after this, Jim Phelan had quite a number of conversations with Russo during which Russo made some admissions to him which completely destroyed the State's case. Mr. Alcock has admitted that the case depends entirely upon Russo's testimony, so let's see what he admitted to Phelan. First of all, he admits to Phelan that he does not know whether Shaw was at the party or not; he admits to Phelan that he does not know the difference between reality and fantasy; he affirmatively requests of Phelan that Phelan set up a meeting with Clay Shaw so that he, Russo, can decide whether Clay Shaw is the right man. Gentlemen, this is after he has already testified in court in the preliminary hearing that Clay Shaw was positively the right man.
And what else does he tell Mr. Phelan? "If Garrison could hear what I told my priest up in Baton Rouge, he would go through the ceiling. I told that priest that I want to get in a room with Shaw and hear him talk and breathe so I can decide whether he is the right man." Again, gentlemen, I say that these statements just kick the very foundation out from under any case that the State might think that it has.
Now getting back to the meeting that Russo wanted arranged between him and Mr. Shaw, was there any hesitancy on the part of this Defendant in agreeing to that meeting, in making arrangements for it? None at all. Who pulls out on the meeting but Perry Raymond Russo! He tells Phelan that the reason he pulled out on the meeting is that he is afraid that news of it would leak back to Garrison. But later on he comes clean and tells Mr. Phelan, "I lied to you about that. The reason is that I know if I got in a room and talked to that man, I would find out that he wasn't the man, and I could run to Mexico, I could run to California and become a beatnik, but I could not run away from myself."
Now, gentlemen, I can hear the State right now getting up here and screaming to you that Jim Phelan was an employee of the National Broadcasting Company, part of the Eastern Establishment, that horribly sinister outfit, just wanting to destroy his case, and that that is why Jim Phelan said that Russo said those things to him. Well, let me tell you right now, I am the first to admit that when Mr. Phelan first came down here, he came down as a writer for the Saturday Evening Post. NBC hired him because they thought that Russo would talk to him, and they were investigating for a white paper program they were presenting. Now, gentlemen, the State will try to destroy Mr. Phelan's testimony in that way. Thank goodness we have it back-stopped. We have it back-stopped by someone whom they have no way of destroying, and that is one who, as I said before, is traditionally one of their own prosecution team, and that is Lieutenant Ed O'Donnell, the same Lieutenant Ed O'Donnell who testified as a policeman for the State in innumerable cases, whom they put on the stand and asked juries to believe in those cases where they want the juries to believe them. What does Officer O'Donnell say? What does he do but come here as a witness and testify that these -- practically these same admissions except a little worse were made to him by Perry Raymond Russo.
Perry Raymond Russo to Officer O'Donnell said, "Do you really want to know the truth?" O'Donnell said yes. Russo said, "I don't know whether Shaw was there or not." He said, "If I really had to give a yes or no, I would have to say no."
Gentlemen, that is Perry Raymond Russo, that is the man who takes this witness stand and says one thing, goes elsewhere and says another thing, takes the witness stand in another courtroom and says something else, a man whose veracity, whose credibility, has been shattered beyond repair, beyond question, and that is the man whom Mr. Alcock says is the backbone of the State's case, their case sinks or swims, stands or falls on the testimony of Perry Raymond Russo.
Oh, there was another very interesting thing Russo admitted to Officer O'Donnell. He told Officer O'Donnell that when he first went into the preliminary hearing he was going to testify that he wasn't sure that Mr. Shaw was there at this meeting, "but Dymond turned on me," he said, "Dymond struck at the jugular vein when he asked me whether I believed in God." Gentlemen, could I make any of you mad by asking you whether you believed in God? Would it make you mad enough to get up on the witness stand and under oath and try to send a man to the penitentiary? I don't think so. I don't think any normal individual would react in that way, and I submit to you that Perry Raymond Russo is not a normal individual.
Perry Raymond Russo came down here from Baton Rouge wanting a little publicity. He gets down here and he is hypnotized three or four times, given Sodium Pentathol. Somehow or another they get a story out of him, and he has tried to stick to it and hasn't even done a good job at that.
Gentlemen, I hate to keep you here this long, but I feel it is necessary to cover this material with you. We have been here a long time already, and I just cannot see the advisability of halfway doing the case at this point. Let's now find out just where the whole thing originated.
You learned from the witness stand the other day it all came from the mind of Dean Andrews. Now, gentlemen, if you have ever heard any vitriolic screaming, any debasement of a witness, any criticism of an individual, you are going to hear it from the State when they get up here in rebuttal on Dean Andrews, but let me say this, this little man with the peculiar manner of talking got on that witness stand, a ruined lawyer, bared his chest, said, "Do to me what you may, I am going to tell the truth now," and I don't think there is a man on this Jury who does not think that he told the truth.
This man has lied before, there is no doubt about that, no question in the world, but, believe me, when he took that witness stand and did what he did, he rose, in spite of his faults, to heights that may not be attained by many people in this courtroom. He subjected himself to what he thinks is coming -- I hope it doesn't come -- I hope that there is some compassion in the hearts of people who could get revenge upon him for what he did. That man took the witness stand and shamelessly belittled himself. To me, gentlemen, it was pitiful. This man got up there and said, "I made a damned fool out of myself and I am stuck with it. I wanted to be famous for something other than being a perjurer, so I dreamed up this story about having been asked to represent Lee Harvey Oswald. This fellow Davis called me about something, a car title, and I just dreamed up the rest of it. When the FBI came and asked me about it, I found a cover-up name for him, Clay Bertrand."
There you are, gentlemen. This man had never seen Clay Shaw before in his life. Gentlemen, from then the ball started rolling. After Dean Andrews came out with the Clay Bertrand story, we had the Warren Commission Report. Along with the Warren Commission Report came the scavengers, came those who would like to make a living off of it, came those who would like to pick it to pieces, even though at the cost of undermining the confidence of the American people in their very Government. And that, gentlemen, is when the fur began to fly. Andrews had started it. Russo wanted to get into the news with the aid of a little hypnosis, a little Sodium Pentathol, and what other prompting we don't know. He came forth with the story that you heard here in the courtroom.
Gentlemen, when this accusation was made, when Perry Raymond Russo's story was finally made up from the whole cloth, the news reached to the four corners of the earth. It was shocking news. Mr. Garrison announced he had solved the assassination of President Kennedy.
MR. ALCOCK: Your Honor, again this is outside the record of this case.
THE COURT: I think you are right about that.
MR. DYMOND: The newspaper reporters gathered from every corner of the globe. I dare say it has been one of the most highly publicized cases in Louisiana legal annals, or possibly in the annal of any state. And, gentlemen, I tell you now that the entire world is waiting to find out whether you twelve men can convict a man on this Alice-in-Wonderland situation, on a group of facts that were scrambled together.
If you check back and just remember when each one of these witnesses showed up at the DA's office, you have to wonder just what did they have when they arrested Clay Shaw. Practically nothing, nothing except Russo.
They are waiting, gentlemen, to see whether a man can be convicted in a situation such as this, in a production such as this where a patsy was picked in order to provide a forum for an attack on the Warren Commission and the Warren Report. You have seen the extent to which the State has gone in attacking the Warren Report here. Gentlemen, for a while Clay Shaw had become the forgotten man in this case. I mean you actually had to stop and remember who was on trial for days here, and I just hope that you will not permit the issue to be confused by this big production that has been put on. "RUSH TO JUDGMENT" would have been a lot easier and a lot cheaper, but don't let it confuse you, gentlemen. Just remember what this man is charged with. Remember that the State by its own admission says that its case has to fall or stand on the testimony of this liar, Perry Raymond Russo, a man who is an admitted liar from the witness stand. Separate these two issues, and there is no way that you can go wrong, gentlemen.
If our law permitted it, I think in doing that you wouldn't have to leave this box to return a verdict of not guilty. The State is going to come back before you and wave the Dallas flag again, gentlemen. They are going to talk about the Zapruder film. That is a horrifying film. That is the reason I squawked about your seeing it ten times. I had never seen it before, and I was shocked and horrified by it. But don't let that prejudice you, gentlemen, don't let it cause you to lose sight of the basic issues in this case.
You have taken an oath, gentlemen, that you will try this case according to the law and within the bounds of the evidence that has been here in court. If you do that, we have no worries at all, because there is no way that Clay Shaw can be convicted under these circumstances. As I say, they are going to come back with Dallas, they are going to talk about Lee Harvey Oswald getting the job in the Depository. In that connection, I might call your attention to the fact that by Ruth Paine's testimony, she got the job for him. By the testimony of a State witness, he could have been assigned either to that Depository building or one that wasn't on Elm Street. So, gentlemen, don't let the horror of this awful deed that was committed in Dallas cause you to convict an innocent man just to try to balance the scales. Just remember that it would not be at all beyond the realm of possibility for you or me to be sitting right in that chair called upon to prove where you were in 1963, called upon to prove that you didn't know somebody. That is not easy, gentlemen, not when you have liars like Perry Raymond Russo testifying, not when a dope fiend gets up there, a person that everybody knows is always trying to curry favor with law enforcement agencies in case he happens to get caught. He is willing to get up there and testify against you to help himself.
Gentlemen, just remember -- I won't keep you much longer -- that the Indictment in this case charges Clay Shaw with having agreed up there on Louisiana Avenue to kill President Kennedy; that the only testimony on that is Perry Raymond Russo's, a liar; that the State has alleged its overt acts, many of them taking place at that meeting, which depends on Perry Raymond Russo, one of them being Mr. Shaw's trip to the West Coast, going to the West Coast to get an alibi for something that happened in Texas, the other one being David Ferrie's trip to Houston the day after the assassination, which wouldn't have done him any good anyway. And I submit to you, gentlemen, that the State's case is a total flop.
Now, gentlemen, I will say in closing that the duty of every jury is an immense duty. I mean when you are called upon to pass judgment on another human being, called upon to decide whether or not that man remains a free independent man or whether he becomes a convict, you are almost asked to be God, but I will say that in this case your duty is even graver, more so, more serious: the twelve men who pass on this case are actually going to create history in our country.
Gentlemen, I implore you not to make a mistake. This man is as innocent as any one of you fourteen men sitting here on this Jury. To find him guilty you have got to believe an admitted liar, and I don't think you can do that. I am confident you can't. I ask you to vote your conscience, follow the law, and don't make a mistake.
THE COURT: I am going to take a five-minute recess. Take the Jury upstairs for coffee. (Whereupon, a brief recess was taken.)
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