The Clay Shaw trial testimony of Perry Raymond Russo, continued



Q: (Exhibiting photograph to witness) I show you a photograph which I have marked for identification "D-7," and I ask you whether that is the photograph that you ultimately identified as being one of the roommate.

A: Right.

(Whereupon, the document referred to by Counsel was duly marked for identification as "Exhibit D-7.")

Q: Did you identify this in Baton Rouge or New Orleans?

A: That was in New Orleans.

Q: This was in New Orleans. Now, you testified that the photograph which you ultimately did identify, which would be "D-7," was still not a perfect likeness of the roommate. Is that correct?

A: Right.

Q: Would you point out the imperfections for the benefit of the Jury? Mr. Russo, I think it will be better, for the benefit of the Jury, if you refer to the exhibit which has been marked "State-19," which I think the State will stipulate is a blowup of the photograph marked for identification "D-7."

MR. ALCOCK: If he is not 100 per cent sure --

A: It appears to be.

Q: -- and point out the imperfections that you have referred to in your testimony, for the Jury.

A: Well, some of the darkness right here by the nose, the nose column, a little bit underneath the nose, this is something that even I can remember talking to Mr. Jano about and telling him -- said it was kind of dirty. He darkened up a little bit here, up here, and things like that. It wasn't curly here, this was not curly (indicating). This I guess is all right more or less.

Q: When you say "this was not curly," you mean the beard?

A: In other words, the lines we drew here, we tried straight lines and that wasn't any good, and he started these curly lines. Some of it looks all right but some of it doesn't look any good. All these curls along here (indicating) aren't that good.

Q: Would you say that this overemphasizes the amount of beard that the roommate had, according to your testimony?

A: Just a little.

Q: A little bit?

A: Yes.

MR. DYMOND: If the Court please, in connection with the witness's testimony we would like to offer, file and produce in evidence the photograph marked for identification "D-7."

THE COURT: Is there any objection?

MR. ALCOCK: No objection.

THE COURT: Let it be received.

MR. DYMOND: The preliminary hearing marking is scratched out.

Q: When you say that photograph slightly over-accentuated the beard on that person -- is that right?

A: Right.

Q: -- was this a dark beard or a light beard?

A: Well, it wasn't really a beard, something in between a beard and whiskers, I mean something in between a beard and whiskers.

Q: Well, would you say a four or five days growth of beard or what?

A: Three or four.

Q: Three or four days?

A: In other words, a guy hasn't shaved for three or four days.

Q: Did you ever stay overnight at Dave Ferrie's apartment when this roommate was there?

A: No.

Q: Never did?

A: No.

Q: Did you know of any occasion upon which the roommate stayed there overnight?

A: No.

Q: I take it then that you reason for calling him a roommate was that Dave Ferrie told you he was a roommate, is that right?

A: Right.

Q: And you have nothing to substantial that, is that correct?

A: No.

Q: Now getting back to the number of times in total that you saw this roommate, what was the total number of times?

A: Four.

Q: Four times?

A: (The witness nodded affirmatively.)

Q: Approximately for how long did you see him on the first occasion?

A: A few minutes.

Q: Approximately how many?

A: Oh, maybe ten.

Q: How about the second occasion?

A: Well, I didn't look at him all the time, but that was when I was up at Louisiana Avenue and there was a group of people around. He was there, too, so --

Q: You say that was a matter of hours up there?

A: Right.

Q: How about the third time?

A: Just a few.

Q: About how many minutes?

A: Five.

Q: And the fourth time?

A: Say about the same thing.

Q: Where did you see him this fourth time?

A: Up at Ferrie's place.

Q: Up at Dave Ferrie's place?

A: Right.

Q: And is it my understanding that he was clean-shaven at that time?

A: Well, he was clean, you know, he had to be clean-shaven, too. I saw him turn sideways, didn't take much note. He was leaving town. Well, he was just different that day, he was clean.

Q: You didn't see any whiskers then, is that right?

A: No, I really didn't take not of the, no, I didn't see them. He might have had it but I don't think he did, you know, because he turned sideways and he was talking -- he wasn't talking to me -- and he was leaving, so I just left.

Q: Now, Mr. Russo, when you wrote your letter to the District Attorney's Office, had you learned of the fact that Dave Ferrie had died? Had you seen the announcement in the paper?

A: I'm not sure exactly. I was thinking about that yesterday or the day before, and I am not sure exactly if he had died or was -- I saw his name, he was still alive, but it was "David William" or "Woodrow Ferrie," and then that evening I'm most sure I caught his face on television, or that afternoon. I don't think he was dead at that time, but he might have been, or it might have been the death photo, or some photo.

Q: Now, in this letter which you wrote to the District Attorney's office -- I am speaking of the original letter that you wrote before having interviewed Mr. Sciambra -- did you make any mention of any conspiratorial meeting?

A: No, sir.

Q: Did you mention the word "Leon," the name "Leon Oswald?"

A: No, sir.

Q: Did you mention the name "Clem," the name "Bertrand"?

A: No, sir.

Q: Did you mention the name Clay Shaw?

A: No, sir.

Q: Did you mention the name "Lee Harvey Oswald"?

A: No.

Q: I take it you did not mention the name "Oswald" in any form, is that correct?

A: No.

Q: Mr. Russo, did you happen to keep a copy of that letter?

A: No.

Q: Was it typed or handwritten?

A: It was typed.

Q: And was that directed to Mr. Jim Garrison, District Attorney for the Parish of Orleans?

A: I probably put on there -- I probably put it that way on the envelope, but all it said I think was "To whom it may concern."

Q: Do you remember the content of that letter?

A: Almost.

Q: Would you tell us what it was?

A: Well, it says I will be -- says I live in Baton Rouge and I at one time knew Dave Ferrie. I heard him say that we will kill the President, won't be long. If you would like me to make a statement I will be in New Orleans on the 25th -- that would have been Saturday -- on the 25th of February until the 26th if you could please have someone at the District Attorney's Office at 6:00 p.m. that evening.

Q: Mr. Russo, as a matter of fact didn't that letter merely say that you knew Dave Ferrie and many of his friends?

A: Yes.

Q: And that you would be very glad to tell the District Attorney what you knew about it?

A: It said that.

Q: And it did not go into any more detail than that, did it?

A: It said, "We will kill him, it won't be long." I figured that was -- if they were interested I was sure they would be interested in that.

Q: Did that letter mention the name of President John F. Kennedy?

A: No, I don't think it did.

MR. DYMOND: If the Court please, at this time we will call for the production of the original of that letter which was sent to the District Attorney's Office.

MR. ALCOCK: Your Honor, the State would like to oblige. However, frankly, we have never found the letter.

THE COURT: I beg your pardon?

MR. ALCOCK: We don't know where the letter is. I don't know of anybody in the District Attorney's Office that ever received the letter. I will, however, tonight make a diligent effort to locate it, but I think this was the same situation we were confronted with at the preliminary hearing. I don't know, I know I have never personally seen the letter and I don't know of any member of our staff that has.

Q: Mr. Russo, was this letter ever returned to you by the Postal Department?

A: No, Sir.

Q: When the first representative of the District Attorney's Office contacted you, how was it done?

A: LSU was playing baseball that afternoon over at the field, and I went over to the baseball game and watched the baseball game. Mr. Sciambra showed up there, which I didn't know who he was, just came to the baseball game -- it was a practice game -- came to the game. I went home and he showed up afterwards.

Q: Now, when Mr. Sciambra contacted you, did he make any mention of their having received the letter from you?

MR. ALCOCK: Objection, Your Honor. I think Mr. Sciambra -- anything Mr. Sciambra said at that time would be hearsay.

MR. DYMOND: Your Honor, that isn't hearsay at all. Mr. Sciambra is here in Court. I am trying to find out from this witness whether Mr. Sciambra acknowledged receipt of the letter. Apparently the letter can't be found and we are inquiring into that.

THE COURT: It is hearsay whether Mr. Sciambra is in Court or not. That doesn't circumvent the hearsay rule. He could tell you what he said but not with Sciambra told him. We have been ruling on that consistently.

MR. DYMOND: If the Court please, I submit that this is certainly an exception to the hearsay rule where a statement made by one of the attorneys in the case to a witness is the issue before us. I don't think there is any question about it.

THE COURT: Rephrase your question. Let's see if I understand it better.

Q: When Mr. Sciambra first contacted you --

MR. ALCOCK: If Your Honor please --

THE COURT: I will give you a chance to be heard before the end.

Q: When Mr. Sciambra first contacted you, did he mention that the District Attorney's Office had received your letter and that it was in response to that letter that he was contacting you?

THE COURT: All right. Mr. Alcock, what is your objection?

MR. ALCOCK: My objection was, Your Honor, that it was hearsay. Of course, I do obviously acknowledge that Mr. Sciambra is in the Court. I might announce to the Court at this time that we will put Mr. Sciambra on the stand.

THE COURT: I am going to overrule the objection anyway. I think he can say yes or no without going into details.

Q: Would you answer the question, please.

A: No, he didn't mention the letter at all; I asked him about it.

Q: I see. Did he acknowledge having received the letter or that it was received by the District Attorney's office?

A: Well, he didn't say for the District Attorney's Office, he said he hadn't received it.

Q: Did he tell you what prompted him to come up to Baton Rouge and see you?

A: As I recollect, I think he said he saw me on television.

Q: Now, after you wrote this letter to the District Attorney's Office, did you grant any television or radio interviews?

A: On the 24th, which was Friday -- I had stated in the letter that I was going to New Orleans on the 25th, which was Saturday, because I generally twice a month went to New Orleans for a weekend, but on the 24th I changed my mind because of the baseball game that Saturday, that pending baseball game, and so I called the Baton Rouge Detective Bureau and told them essentially about that, about the letter and about Dave Ferrie, and he said -- I told him I wanted to -- would he take a statement, and he said send it to Garrison, or send it to the DA's office. He said, "Well, are you going to New Orleans soon?" I said, "Probably in a couple of weeks or maybe next week- end."

Q: Now, Mr. Russo, is it not a fact that at this time, that is, the time that you have just referred to, you still considered this an inconsequential bull session, and that is the reason that you would not even pass up a baseball game to come down and talk to the District Attorney about it?

A: Well, essentially your point -- I agree with the point. I didn't know at that time whether it was important or it wasn't.

Q: Now, do you know a reporter by the name of Jim Kemp?

A: From WDSU?

Q: He was with --

A: He is from WVUE now.

Q: He was with WVUE, that is correct.

A: He is with WVUE now, he was with WDSU.

Q: That is correct.

A: Right, yes.

Q: Did you grant him a television interview?

A: On Channel 9, Baton Rouge.

Q: At any time in that television interview, did you make any mention of a conspiracy meeting?

A: No.

Q: At any time in that interview did you mention the name Oswald?

A: Oswald? No.

Q: Did you mention the name Clay or Clem Bertrand?

A: No.

Q: Now, is it not a fact that the day after you either wrote or mailed your letter to the District Attorney's Office, that you granted an interview to a Mr. Bill Bankston, who at that time was, and still is, a reporter for the Baton Rouge States Times?

A: Well, I thought his name was Ray Bankston, but a Mr. Bankston with the States Times, yes, sir.

Q: At any time during your interview with Mr. Bankston, did you mention a conspiratorial meeting?

A: No, sir.

Q: Did you mention any plan to assassinate President Kennedy?

A: With Mr. Bankston?

Q: Right.

A: No, sir.

Q: Did you mention the name Oswald?

A: No, sir.

Q: Did you mention the name Clay or Clem Bertrand?

A: No, sir.

Q: Did you mention the name Clay Shaw?

A: No.

Q: Now I will read you what purports to be a direct quote of what you told Mr. Bankston in that interview, and I will ask you whether you have any quarrel with the fact that you did tell him this.

MR. ALCOCK: May I see that, Your Honor, before Counsel reads it?

MR. DYMOND: Sure (exhibiting document to Counsel).

Q: I repeat, Mr. Russo, I will read to you what purports to be a direct quote of a statement of yours to Mr. Bill Bankston, and ask you whether you have any quarrel with the fact that this was said by you:

"'I never heard of Oswald until on television after the assassination,' Russo said. He said, 'David W. Ferrie never mentioned Oswald's name.'"

Do you deny having said that to Mr. Bankston?

A: Not the exact quote -- no, I don't deny -- in essence, yes, but not -- I don't know as far as exactly, no.

MR. ALCOCK: Are we going to read another one?

MR. DYMOND: I will show it to you first (exhibiting document to Counsel).

Q: Mr. Russo, do you deny that you told to Mr. Bankston that it was about a month before the assassination of President Kennedy that David Ferrie told you, "We will get him and it won't be long"?

A: He said that several times, that was probably one of them, right around --

Q: That would be a month before the assassination?

A: Not exactly, I wouldn't know even if I would want to hold to that date, but he said that on several occasions, that or one or another offspring in the same essence.

Q: But that is what you told Bankston, is that correct?

A: I am not going to argue you with you the quote on it because I don't know the exact words, but essentially that, probably, yes.

Q: Now I will read to you supposedly your verbatim description of the statement by Ferrie, and ask you whether you deny having so described it to Mr. Bankston:

"'It was just a general conversation,' Russo said."

MR. ALCOCK: Now, Your Honor, is he referring to the statement he just read or some other statement?

MR. DYMOND: No, the statement that I just read.

MR. ALCOCK: All right. Go ahead.

THE WITNESS: What was just a general conversation?

Q: The statement about David Ferrie, that "We will get him and it won't be long."

A: Like I told you, he said that up at the Parkway -- I mean up at the apartment, he said that before, something of that essence, and it was a general conversation tone to it. He said that. He became quite obsessed during the Summer with Kennedy and he said it on a couple of occasions.

Q: Did you describe Ferrie to Mr. Bankston as a "screwy but sharp in a brainy way person"?

A: I don't know about those words, but I described him that way. He is a paradox, screwy but sharp. He was a paradox.

Q: Now, what would you mean by "screwy but sharp"?

A: In other words, the man claimed to speak eleven languages, and yet what was he doing for a living? When I knew him at Kenner I didn't know much about Eastern Airlines, if he was working for them or not. I heard that he was, but then between that and the next part of the Summer I don't think he had a job. He might have. In other words, he was a paradox of a personality. He wore quite often baggy dirty clothes, and he had a mind I thought very sharp, and when it came down -- if you are going to speak eleven languages and claim to have five degrees, it would seem that you would be doing something more than what you are doing right now. That was the logical question, although I never asked him that.

Q: And would that be what prompted you to call him screwy?

A: Well, he was prone toward the fantastic, yes, the whole thing perhaps -- "screwy," if I use that word it was a bad word, because he was prone toward the fantastic and you couldn't tell what the man could back up. The first instance that I had to meet him, I figured I knew everything there was to know about politics and I argued with him about something or other, because I was first or second year in school, and he quoted me book, chapter and verse of someone -- William James, or it could have been Hobbes or anybody else -- but that strong, and yet for what apparent purpose? None. He seemed to lack a purpose, or at least a purpose that I knew about.

Q: Mr. Russo, do you mean to infer that Ferrie was a little on the crazy side, or not?

A: Well, I always thought so.

Q: You did think so?

A: Yes.

Q: Now, you have testified just a short while ago that you were on the fence as between believe that this was just a bull session and something serious, is that correct?

A: In February of '67?

Q: In February of '67?

A: Right.

Q: I will read to you a direct quote from this same article and ask you whether you have any quarrel as to whether you said it or not:

"Russo said he did not take any of Ferrie's statements seriously until he saw Ferrie's picture in connection with Garrison's probe."

Do you deny having said that?

A: No, Well, a couple of other things need to be thrown in there, too. That essentially is correct, that I didn't take much of what he said seriously, I stated that in the preliminary hearing. You didn't know whether to believe the man or not to believe the man, so, in other words, I was indifferent, didn't make an opinion one way or the other. So when it comes to this stuff, all the fantastic things that he had claimed in the past didn't ever occur the way he said it occurred or said they would occur or said the he had done them, all this flying -- he had been in the Bay of Pigs -- that is what he told me, he told somebody else something different -- he was flying people out of Cuba and flying them back into Cuba, he was training guys 17 or 18 years old with army caps and wooden rifles to invade Cuba -- Anybody that tells me that has got to be a little -- is he training somebody? I don't know. So you become indifferent to him, except he had the ability to back up, mentally at least, what he said.

Q: Now, Mr. Russo, isn't it a fact that the conversation that you say that you heard up there at this party, as you have termed it, could just have well been an inconsequential bull session as any actual serious statement about a conspiracy to kill Kennedy?

MR. ALCOCK: Objection, Your Honor, on the ground that Mr. Dymond has injected the word "conspiracy." This gentleman is not an attorney at law and --

MR. DYMOND: I will rephrase the question to take the "conspiracy" out of it.

THE COURT: All right.

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 serious?

A: Yes.

Q: Your answer is yes, Mr. Russo?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Isn't it also a fact, Mr. Russo, that you have told people that very thing?

A: That what?

Q: That it could very well have been just a bull session?

MR. ALCOCK: Objection, Your Honor. Mr. Russo's appreciation -- this question calls for a conclusion or an opinion from a nonexpert witness.

MR. DYMOND: If the Court please, this man was there.

THE COURT: I believe Mr. Dymond is asking him his impression as a citizen, as an ordinary human being and not as an attorney, and I think the should answer the question.

MR. ALCOCK: Very well.

MR. DYMOND: Would you please read the last question back?

(Whereupon, the question was read back as follows: Question: Isn't it also a fact, Mr. Russo, that you have told people that very thing? Answer: What? Question: That it could very well have been just a bull session?)

Q: Haven't you, Mr. Russo?

A: Right, yes.

MR. DYMOND: Your Honor, could we take a few minutes break at this point?

THE COURT: All right. It is ten and a half after 4:00. Take the jury upstairs and we will take a five-minute recess.

(Whereupon, a brief recess was taken.)


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