Jim Garrison and Mark Lane vs. the CIA
Dave Reitzes



To this day, many people who believe themselves fairly knowledgeable about Jim Garrison's prosecution of Clay Shaw claim that Garrison's case against Shaw had something to do with the CIA. This is an illusion that Garrison successfully fostered by repeatedly linking the CIA publicly with his case, while privately, never introducing the slightest bit of evidence related to the Central Intelligence Agency, nor any other government or intelligence-gathering agency.

James Kirkwood interviewed Jim Garrison a few days after end of the Shaw trial. In a revealing statement, it is clear that Garrison was already trying out the theory he would espouse for the rest of his life, on why he lost his case against Clay Shaw.

"Look at Clay Shaw, a most agreeable personality -- bright, warm, charming, knowledgeable, without being creatively brilliant. He could always move in all circles, no matter where it might be. He would fit in anywhere. Again, I don't think he is creatively brilliant, a mastermind. He would always be somebody's lieutenant." The District Attorney went on to imply Clay was in the secret employ of some government agency. "Most likely the CIA," he said, adding, "you see, and there is the motive, and it hurt our case that this could not be proven in court. Although motive is not necessarily part of the conspiracy law, still it's -- people want to know, what is the motive? But because of the clandestine quality of the operation we could not prove the motive angle, which seemed to be missing in the trial."(1)

This, of course, is precisely the theory espoused on the first page of Garrison's 1988 memoirs, with one important difference: A few years after Shaw's death, the CIA had admitted that Shaw had been a contact for its Domestic Contacts Service from December 1948 to May 1956, providing the Agency with routine information about his foreign travels and contacts, one of thousands of US businessmen who did so during the Cold War. Garrison claimed that Shaw had been more than a mere DCS contact, but no less than a "clandestine CIA operative."(2) This is sort of like claiming that anyone who ever filled out a survey at the post office is a paid agent of the US Postal Service.

One would expect a New York lawyer like Mark Lane to know better about such things, particularly after spending years theorizing CIA involvement in the JFK assassination. But Lane supports Garrison, writing in Plausible Denial that after Shaw's acquittal, "I was able to secure evidence that might have been useful to Garrison in the Shaw case but, of course, the case could not be tried again. That evidence proved that Shaw, who had known Oswald, had worked for the CIA, a fact that Shaw had successfully denied at his trial."(3)

Notice that Lane does not explain where he got the information that Shaw knew Oswald. That's a curious omission, given that Lane admits he never saw any evidence that Clay Shaw used the alias "Clay Bertrand."(4) Was Lane convinced of a Shaw-Oswald relationship by Vernon Bundy,, whose original statement to the NODA's office involved a man he thought to have been a policeman and a "real junkie" named "Pete"? Perhaps Mr. Lane is referring to the Clinton witnesses, also now wholly discredited.

It turns out that it was Lane himself who provided Garrison with some misinformation that allowed Garrison to continue the charade. In his memoirs, Garrison writes, "Following the acquittal, Mark Lane questioned members of the jury, a procedure which is allowed in Louisiana. Their responses indicated that they could not find any motivation for Shaw to have participated in a conspiracy to kill Kennedy, whom he always public professed to admire. This did not surprise me. I had known from the outset that we would be unable to make Shaw's motivation clear."(5)

Mark Lane, however, has never published his interviews with the Garrison jurors, with the exception of one brief quotation, which will be discussed momentarily.

Lane seems to have agreed with Garrison, but he takes things a little farther than Garrison had. "During March 1967," Lane writes, "Jim Garrison, the district attorney of New Orleans, ordered the arrest of Clay Shaw in charges of conspiracy to murder John F. Kennedy. Garrison contended that Shaw had acted on behalf of the CIA."(6)

Lane's been saying this all along. In 1978, he wrote, "The jury, polled after the verdict, believed that there had been a conspiracy to assassinate the President [not true], but they could not accept beyond a reasonable doubt Shaw's participation because they saw no proof that Shaw was connected with the CIA."(7)

This is not true, as we will see.

Also an article co-edited by Lane, with no author's byline, states that on March 2 [sic], 1969, Jim Garrison announced "he will charge Shaw with perjury for denying CIA connection."(8)

This is also not true. Shaw was never charged with perjury on that count.

We can see for ourselves precisely what the state alleged against Clay L. Shaw when he was arrested on March 1, 1967:


The Grand Jurors of the State of Louisiana, duly impaneled and sworn in and for the body of the Parish of Orleans, in the name and by the authority of the said State, upon their oath,


That one CLAY L. SHAW, late of the Parish of Orleans, between the 1st day of September and the 10th day of October, in the year of our Lord, One Thousand, Nine Hundred Sixty-three, with force and arms in the Parish of Orleans aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of the Criminal District Court for the Parish of Orleans did willfully and unlawfully conspire with DAVID W. FERRIE, herein named but not charged, and LEE HARVEY OSWALD, herein named but not charged, and others, not herein named, to murder JOHN F. KENNEDY, contrary to the form of Statute of the State of Louisiana in such cases made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the same.

(Signed) ALVIN B. OSER, Assistant District Attorney for the Parish of Orleans. No. 198-059 (M-703)
Section 'C'
INDICTMENT for VIO. R.S. 14:26(30)

TRUE BILL /s/ ALBERT V. LaBiche, Foreman of Grand Jury, New Orleans, March 22, 1967
Returned in open Court and recorded and filed March 22, 1967

/s/GEORGE W. PLATT, Minute Clerk.

Please note that the Central Intelligence Agency is not mentioned in the indictment. Please also note that during the month-long Shaw trial, the prosecution did not so much as utter the words "Central Intelligence Agency" or "CIA" even a single time. Only once did the Agency come up at all, when Shaw's own defense counsel asked him if he had ever worked for the CIA, to which Shaw replied in the negative, a statement the prosecution did not challenge, and for which Shaw was never charged with perjury. The defense asked Shaw the question for one obvious reason: because Garrison had been *publicly* linking the CIA to the assassination for two years, despite knowing full well the CIA had nothing to do with his case.

When Mark Lane agreed to represent Willis Carto's Liberty Lobby in E. Howard Hunt's libel suit against them, Lane writes:

I thought of Jim Garrison's prosecution of Clay Shaw in 1967 [sic]. . . . Jim had become a good friend and I tried to assist him in that case. He was opposed by the local and national media, by the attorney general of the United States, and by the FBI, and CIA. Clearly, even with a strong case and a clever presentation of it, Jim was certain to encounter difficulties. But this case was marked with its own intrinsic problems and the presentation of the evidence was far from adequate. Jim experienced almost paralyzing back pain, which hampered his close supervision of the development of the evidence and prevented him from appearing regularly in the courtroom during the trial. [If this is so, Garrison never seems to have mentioned this to a soul other than Lane. -- DR] His assistants were not able to grasp the complexity of the evidence, with the exception of one young assistant district attorney, Andrew Sciambra. In addition, the CIA withheld important, perhaps crucial evidence that demonstrated that Shaw had worked for the agency.

Again, Lane is simply lying. Let's look at the indictment again. It alleged nothing except "That one CLAY L. SHAW . . . did willfully and unlawfully conspire with DAVID W. FERRIE . . . LEE HARVEY OSWALD . . . and others . . . to murder JOHN F. KENNEDY . . ."

The State had one witness to that effect, Perry Raymond Russo. Russo's story could not have been more straightforward: He claimed he had overheard Clay Shaw, David W. Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald plot the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The only complication was that Russo never seems to have mentioned this assassination plot to anyone prior to the occasion that Andrew Sciambra interrogated him under the influence of sodium Pentothal on February 27, 1967. Prior to that occasion, on February 25, Sciambra had filled a 5,000-word memorandum with details of an interview with Russo, which amounted to Russo having allegedly heard David Ferrie threaten John F. Kennedy on several occasions, Russo believing he had seen Ferrie and Shaw together once at a service station owned by Ferrie, and Russo's claim that Lee Harvey Oswald greatly resembled a onetime roommate of Ferrie's. The previous day, February 24, Russo had given several interviews to Louisiana news media, in which he described several alleged threats of David Ferrie's upon JFK's life, neglected to mention anything about an assassination plot, and specifically denied having ever met Lee Harvey Oswald. He never mentioned to a soul prior to February 27, 1967, ever having ever met Clay Shaw or "Clem Bertrand," as Russo would claim to have known him.

Very simply, the jurors did not believe Perry Russo. James Kirkwood's interviews with the jurors -- which, unlike Mark Lane, Kirkwood published -- prove the real reason the jury acquitted Shaw. Jury foreman Sidney Hebert told Kirkwood, "Actually the whole case rested on the testimony of Perry Russo. And his testimony didn't prove a thing to me."(9)

Juror Oliver Schultz told Kirkwood, "[W]e all had the same opinion, that it wasn't enough to convict him. As far as -- you know you had to have -- beyond a reasonable doubt. Well, to me, I still had PLENTY of doubts [emphasis in original]. I mean one way or the other. But we all had the same opinion. . . . [B]eginning with Perry Russo. That was his main witness. And when he could come up with that idea that it could have been a bull session. I mean to me, if I was going to conspire to kill somebody I sure wouldn't let somebody in and out like he [Russo] claimed he was walking in and out, especially on a party."(10)

Kirkwood asked juror Larry Morgan what he thought the weakest part of Garrison's case was. "Well, the whole thing," Morgan replied. "I was surprised. I just couldn't picture the type of case the state put on. The caliber of witnesses was totally unbelievable for the seriousness of the case. That's my opinion. . . . After it was all over, it was, like -- wow, what happened! What -- that's it? We just couldn't imagine the state had brought up a case against Clay Shaw -- absolutely nothing! . . . There was just no possibility, there was no question but what the jury would find Clay Shaw innocent."(11)

Juror Charles Ordes told Kirkwood, "I kept waiting for the state to present a case. I don't think they had enough to get this far. I was surprised that it was even presented on this evidence. I was just waiting for something to happen. I just kept waiting, you know, something's gonna come up. I just can't see where they had a case. I feel the grand jury should have stopped him."(12)

Alternate juror Bob Burlet -- who, as a prank, submitted a *guilty* vote before taking his leave of the proceedings -- told Kirkwood, "Yes, I thought the verdict would be not guilty. . . . I'd have voted the same way."(13)

Has Mark Lane ever attempted to justify his claim that Garrison lost the trial because of a failure to address Shaw's alleged motive? Just once. In Plausible Denial, Mark Lane quotes one Shaw juror in an attempt to buttress the motivation issue, and the anonymous juror hardly says what Lane wants us to think he said. The quote is: "Garrison had said in the newspaper and on television that Shaw was with the CIA, but at the trial he didn't offer any evidence about that. Hell, we couldn't convict because of press conferences."(14)

In other words, Garrison spoke publicly about one thing, and tried a case about another. And Mark Lane, to this day, defends Garrison for it, even inventing excuses for the onetime DA. Were it not for Mark Lane's dishonest spin on these events, in fact, it is unlikely that Garrison could have so successfully rewritten history with his revisionist 1988 memoirs, On the Trail of the Assassins.

Dave Reitzes


Numerous articles on Mark Lane and his manipulation of evidence in the JFK case

From Mother Jones, "Mark Lane: The Left's Leading Hearse-Chaser," by JFK researcher Bob Katz


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1. James Kirkwood, American Grotesque (New York: Harper Perennial, 1992), p. 574.

2. Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins (New York: Warner Books, 1991), pp. xi-xii).

3. Mark Lane, Plausible Denial (New York: Thunder's Mouth, 1992), p. 25.

4. Mark Lane, "Fact or Fiction? The Moviegoer's Guide to the Film JFK", Rush to Judgment (New York: Thunder's Mouth, 1992) pp. xxxi-xxxiii. 5. Garrison, pp. 293-4.

6. Mark Lane, Plausible Denial (New York: Thunder's Mouth, 1992), p. 221.

7. LA Free Press Special Report Number One: JFK Murder Solved, 1978, p. 22.

8. LA Free Press Special Report Number One: JFK Murder Solved, 1978, p. 30.

9. Kirkwood, p. 508.

10. Kirkwood, p. 512.

11. Kirkwood, p. 550.

12. Kirkwood, p. 557.

13. Kirkwood, p. 554.

14. Mark Lane, Plausible Denial (New York: Thunder's Mouth, 1992), p. 221.



Numerous articles on Mark Lane and his manipulation of evidence in the JFK case

From Mother Jones, "Mark Lane: The Left's Leading Hearse-Chaser," by JFK researcher Bob Katz


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