The JFK 100


Julia Ann Mercer


Jo Anderson as Julia Ann Mercer

 

In JFK, Oliver Stone uses witness Julia Ann Mercer not only to demonstrate the existence of a conspiracy, but also to prove that the government was involved in a sinister cover-up, suppressing evidence and altering documents.

How reliable are Stone's claims?

Here is how Stone presents Julia Ann Mercer.

 

Julia Ann Mercer, 28, looks at Jim [Garrison] with sincere eyes. Her husband, a prosperous Republican businessman, watches from the corner. Jim -- along with Al [Oser] -- has her testimony in front of him.

JIM
In the sheriff's report, Mrs. Mercer, it says you were at Dealey Plaza two hours before the assassination but that . . .

MERCER
Yes, it was about 11 in the morning. I was driving west on Elm Street toward the Triple Underpass, in a rented car -- a blue Valiant. I'll never forget that day.

FLASHBACK TO Dealey Plaza in 1963. It's a normal scene -- cars, traffic, people starting to arrive for Kennedy's appearance. We catch a glimpse of Julia Ann Mercer, 23, driving, then stopping traffic.

MERCER (V.O.) (CONT'D)
. . . there was quite a bit of traffic and I was stopped alongside a green pickup truck. It was very noticeable because it was blocking traffic and it was parked with two wheels on the curb. When I saw the gun, I thought -- the Secret Service is not very secret.

She glances over at the man in the driver's seat. It's Jack Ruby, wearing a green jacket. Then she sees a young white man in his mid 20s, in a gray jacket, brown pants, plaid shirt and wool stocking hat, getting out of the passenger side, going to the rear of the van, opening a tool compartment and removing a package that looks like a rifle wrapped in paper. He walks up the embankment in the direction of the picket fence. Ruby looks over and stares at Julia Ann, who turns away and notices three police officers standing near a motorcycle on the overpass bridge. Her eyes lock with Ruby's a second time and as the traffic moves, she drives on.

MERCER (V.O.) (CONT'D)
The next morning, Saturday, I went to the FBI office and the agents showed me photographs . . .

In the Dallas FBI office, Mercer sits at a table looking at photos. Two FBI agents stand near her showing her photos. She shakes her head "no" several times, until they put a shot of Jack Ruby in front of her. She holds it up.

MERCER (V.O.) (CONT'D)
I picked out three pictures that looked generally like the driver of the truck and then . . .

MERCER
That's the man.

FBI AGENT (to Second Agent)
Jack Ruby.

SECOND AGENT
What about these others? You said they might be him.

MERCER
They look a little like him. But no -- (holding up the Ruby photo) -- I'm sure this is the man.

Back in the present, Jim continues to question Mercer.

JIM
You mean you identified him on Saturday, the day before Ruby shot Oswald?

MERCER
That's right. When I saw him on TV, I was shocked. I said to my family, "that was the man I saw in the truck."

JIM (skeptical)
But you didn't seem nearly so sure in your statement to the Warren Commission.

MERCER
That's what bothers me, Mr. Garrison. You see, they've been altered. My statements . . .

Jim is silent. Mercer picks up the report and finds the pertinent paragraphs:

MERCER (CONT'D)
This says "Mercer could not identify any of the photographs as being identical with the person she had observed slouched over the wheel of a green Ford pickup truck." That's not true. I recognized him and I told them so . . . They also said it was a dark green air conditioning truck, which it was not. And here . . . (she goes to another report) . . . on the Dallas Sheriff's report. This is really strange. See that notarized signature on the bottom of each page? That's not my signature. And there never was any notary present during any of my questioning. (she hands the papers back to Jim) I guess that's all . . .

JIM
Mrs. Mercer, as a former FBI man, it's difficult to accept this.

MERCER
I know, but Mr. Garrison, the FBI is just not doing their job.

HUSBAND
I'm a Republican, Mr. Garrison, and I don't go in for this kind of government bashing, but I must tell you something's not right when they don't even bother to call Julia in front of the Warren Commission.

JIM
They didn't call a lot of people, Mr. Mercer. I think it's safe to say the Warren Report is a work of fiction.(1)

 

Let's start from the beginning.

On November 22, 1963, Julia Ann Mercer dictated the following affidavit to the Dallas County Sheriff's Office.

 

SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, COUNTY OF DALLAS, TEXAS

Before me, the undersigned authority on this the 22nd day of November A.D. 1963, personally appeared Julia Ann Mercer, Address 5200 Belmont, No. 208, Dallas, Age 23, Employed: Automat Distributors, 1720 Canton, Dallas.

Deposes and says:

On November 22, 1963, I was driving a rented White Valiant automobile west on Elm Street and was proceeding to the overpass in a westerly direction and at a point about 45 or 50 feet east of the overhead signs of the right entrance road to the overpass, there was a truck parked on the right hand side of the road. The truck looked like it had 1 or 2 wheels up on the curb. The hood of the truck was open. On the driver's side of the truck, there were printed letters in black, oval shaped, which said "Air Conditioning." This was a pickup truck and along the back side of the truck were what appeared to be tool boxes. The truck was a green Ford with a Texas license. I remember seeing the word "Ford" at the back of the truck.

A man was sitting under the wheel of the car and slouched over the wheel. This man had on a green jacket, was a white male and about his 40's and was heavy set. I did not see him too clearly. Another man was at the back of the truck and reached over the tailgate and took out from the truck what appeared to be a gun case. This case was about 8" wide at its widest spot and tapered down to a width of about 4" or 5". It was brown in color. It had a handle and was about 3 1/2 to 4 feet long. The man who took this out of the truck then proceeded to walk away from the truck and he reached down to free it. He then proceeded to walk across the grass and up the grassy hill which forms part of the overpass. This is the last I saw of this man.

I had been delayed because the truck which I described was blocking my passage and I had to wait until the lane to my left cleared so I could go by the truck.

During the time that I was at this point and observed the above incident there were 3 policemen standing talking near a motorcycle on the bridge just west of me.

The man who took what appeared to be the gun case out of the truck was a white male, who appeared to be in his late 20's or early 30's and he was wearing a grey jacket, brown pants and plaid shirt as best as I can remember. I remember he had on some kind of a hat that looked like a wool stocking hat with a tassell in the middle of it. I believe that I can identify this man if I see him again.

The man who remained in the truck had light brown hair and I believe I could identify him also if I were to see him again.

[signed] Julia Ann Mercer

Subscribed and sworn to before me on this the 22nd of November A.D. 1963

[signed] Rosemary Allen
Notary Public, Dallas, Texas(2)

 

It was notarized on the spot, by Rosemary Allen; all Sheriff's Office affidavits were notarized this way. Julia Ann Mercer affixed her signature to each of the two pages of the affidavit.

Click here to see the actual documents, page one and page two.

The following day, Mercer gave a virtually identical account of her experience to the FBI. She was not shown any photographs of suspects to identify.

Anyone who believes the Dallas authorities and the FBI were working in collusion towards a cover-up should read FBI agent James Hosty's eye-opening account of his relationship with the state and local authorities. Rather than being steeped in collusion and conspiracy, the relationships between the law enforcement agencies were marked by mutual suspicion, distrust, and sometimes outright hostility.

The FBI took Mercer's story most seriously. Mercer was interviewed again by the Bureau on November 25 (the day after Jack Ruby shot Oswald), and it was on this occasion she was shown photographs to identify, of Lee Harvey Oswald and several of his known associates. She could not identify any of the people in the photographs as having been in the pickup truck.

On November 27, Mercer was interviewed again. She "was shown a group of photographs which included a photograph of Jack Ruby. Mercer could not identify any of the photographs as being identical with the person she had observed slouched over the wheel of [the] green Ford pickup truck . . . She then was shown a photogragh of Ruby, and she advised the person in the truck had a rather large round face similar to Ruby's, but she could not identify him as the person."(3) "She then was shown a photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald, and she stated that Oswald was of the same general build, size and age as the person who took a long package from this truck, but she also could not identify him as being the one who took the package from the truck."

The FBI spent the next two weeks investigating local air-conditioning firms in the hopes of identifying the truck Mercer saw. Click here to read some of their reports.

Conspiracy-oriented author Josiah Thompson writes, "The break that led to the identification of the truck came from a routine interrogation of Dallas policemen present at the assassination site. Patrolman E. V. Brown, stationed on a nearby overpass (not the railroad viaduct, but a highway overpass immediately west of it), recalled the green pickup truck."(4)

On December 9, 1963, Brown told the FBI:

 

He [Brown] advised that about 10:40 AM [on November 22], he recalls a green pick-up truck which was stalled on Elm Street near the overpass. This truck was a concern since they needed to get it moved prior to the Presidential motorcade. Patrolman Joe Murphy can give full facts regarding the truck and the occupants as he handled the matter and was successful in getting it removed prior to the Presidential motorcade. The persons in this truck were workmen who actually had trouble with the truck and were out of the area when the motorcade came by. He [Murphy] did not see anyone remove anything from this truck.(5)

 

The FBI then questioned Officer Joe Murphy:

 

The following investigation was conducted by SA's HENRY J. OLIVER and LOUIS M. KELLEY on December 9, 1963:

JOE MURPHY, Patrolman, Traffic Division, Police Department, Dallas, Texas, advised that on November 22, 1963, he was stationed at the Triple Underpass on Elm Street to assist in handling traffic. At approximately 10:30-10:40 AM, a pickup truck stalled on Elm Street between Houston Street and the underpass. He was unable to recall the name of the company to whom this truck belonged but stated it is the property of the company working on the First National Bank Building at Elm and Akard in Dallas.

There were three construction men in this truck, and he took one to the bank building to obtain another truck in order to assist in moving the stalled one. The other two men remained with the pickup truck along with two other officers. Shortly prior to the arrival of the motorcade, the man he had taken to the bank building returned with a second truck, and all three of the men left with the two trucks, one pushing the other.

MURPHY noted that the men did not leave the truck except for the one he took to the bank building, and all three left together sometime prior to the arrival of the President's motorcade. He described the stalled truck as being a green pickup and noted the truck had the hood raised during the time it was stalled. This truck had side tool bins on it, and they had a considerable amount of construction equipment in the back.

MURPHY futher stated it was probable that one of these men had taken something from the rear of this truck in an effort to start it. He stated these persons were under observation all during the period they were stalled on Elm Street because the officers wanted the truck moved prior to the arrival of the motorcade, and it would have been impossible for any of them to have had anything to do with the assassination of President KENNEDY.

 

An examination of the Dallas Police Department radio transcripts for the day of the assassination reveals that at about 11:07 AM, Officer Joe Murphy (officer #271) called for a "wrecker" to help move a stalled truck near the underpass by Dealey Plaza. Minutes later, Murphy said, "Disregard the wrecker at the Triple Underpass. We got a truck to push him out of there."

The FBI considered the investigation of Mercer's story closed.

Despite the fact that all of the above documentation was available at the National Archives, Mark Lane chose to open his 1966 book, Rush to Judgment, with Julia Ann Mercer's statements to the Dallas County Sheriff's Office, stating that "a truck was parked illegally and blocked traffic while a man carried what appeared to be a rifle case up a grassy slope in the presence of Dallas police officers. At that very spot [sic] later that day, the President was shot and killed."(6) Lane does not mention the subsequent FBI investigation, but notes that "the [Warren] Commission did not call her [Mercer] as a witness. Neither was she questioned by a Commission investigator, nor did any reference to the event appear in the Commission Report, not even her name. The Commission did not try to identify the three police officers so as to question them or locate the truck which Miss Mercer had described."(7)

Author Josiah Thompson debunked Lane's claims in his 1967 conspiracy book, Six Seconds in Dallas.(8) But that didn't stop Jim Garrison from including an even more detailed account of the Mercer story in his 1970 book, A Heritage of Stone. Garrison's account was the first to include Mercer's new allegation that Jack Ruby was the driver of the pickup truck, despite the fact that Ruby was placed by numerous witnesses at the offices of the Dallas Morning News at the time of Mercer's sighting.(9) Garrison's account also contained the allegation that Mercer's statements had been altered and her signature forged.

In Henry Hurt's 1985 book, Reasonable Doubt, Hurt not only regurgitates Garrison's entire Mercer story, but includes new claims, based on a 1983 interview with Mercer. Mercer now alleged that not only was Jack Ruby the driver of the car, but Lee Harvey Oswald was the man with the "guncase"!(10)

Oliver Stone doesn't mention this last development in his movie. Perhaps he was unaware of it. Or perhaps even he has to draw the line somewhere.

 

Copyright © 2001, 2011 by David Reitzes

 

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NOTES:

1. Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), pp. 117-18. All quotations are from the shooting script and may vary slightly from the finished motion picture.

2. Decker Exhibit No. 5323, Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. XIX, pp. 483-84.

3. Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum in Dealey Plaza, writes, "Find [Jack Ruby's] 1954 mug shot -- which is the only one the DPD had in 1963 -- and you'll see a heavier, round-faced Ruby. Ruby had aged nine years and lost a lot of weight, so Mercer could not possibily have seen the real Jack Ruby." (E-mail to author, August 27, 2002.)

4. Josiah Thompson, Six Seconds in Dallas (New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1967), p. 219.

5. Josiah Thompson, Six Seconds in Dallas (New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1967), p. 219.

6. Mark Lane, Rush to Judgment (New York: Thunder's Mouth, 1992), p. 30.

7. Mark Lane, Rush to Judgment (New York: Thunder's Mouth, 1992), p. 30.

8. Josiah Thompson, Six Seconds in Dallas (New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1967), pp. 218-19.

9. Warren Commission Report, p. 334. See also Martha Moyer and Betty Windsor, "Timeline of Jack Ruby's Activities, November 2024, 1963."

10. For those inclined to believe Mercer's latest variation, the pick-up truck stalled at about 10:40 AM; Oswald came to work at the Texas School Book Depository that morning with co-worker Buell Wesley Frazier (Warren Commission Report, p. 133); Frazier also saw him in the building sometime after 10:00 (Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. II, p. 241); co-worker Harold Norman saw Oswald on the first floor of the building at about 10:00 or 10:15 (Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. III, p. 188); he was seen on the fifth floor by several people at about 11:45 PM. (Warren Commission Report, p. 143; Hearings, Vol. III, p. 166.)

 

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