The Clay Shaw trial testimony of Mrs. Jessie Parker (summary)

As Mrs. Jessie Parker's testimony in the trial of Clay Shaw was not transcribed by the private firm of Dietrich and Pickett, Inc., a summary by James Kirkwood is offered.

From James Kirkwood, American Grotesque, 1992 ed., pp. 348-50:

[Direct examination]

In response to the calling out of "Mrs. Jessie Parker!" a tall, pleasant-looking, nicely dressed Negro woman, wearing glasses, walked down the aisle, through the gate and took the stand. Mrs. Jessie Parker was soft-spoken as she told her story under questioning by James Alcock.

For a time Mrs. Parker had been employed by Eastern Airlines as a hostess in their VIP room at the New Orleans International Airport. She testified that on December 14, 1966, a man she identified as Clay Shaw had entered the lounge with another man, sometime between 10 AM and noon. "He [Shaw] and the gentleman passed a few words with each other, what they said I do not know." She related that Clay Shaw had picked up a pen and signed the guest book with the name "Clay Bertrand." Mrs. Parker maintained it had been her habit to look in the book after someone had signed it. The other man, she said, had not chosen to write down his name. James Alcock showed her the VIP guest book and she identified the signature "Clay Bertrand," which happened to be the last one on the page. Mrs. Parker claimed the two had only stayed a few minutes, again saying, "He and the other gentleman passed a few words and left."


Mrs. Parker testified the VIP room was seldom used, maybe one or two persons a day entered the lounge, sometimes there were no visitors. It turned out that entrance to the room was gained by a key. Mrs. Parker indicated there would have been four persons on duty possessing a key, among them a ground hostess and flight attendant, at the time she alleged Clay Shaw had entered. (She had earlier testified she'd been at the back of the room and heard the door open but by the time she'd walked to the front she had missed seeing whoever let the two men in.)

Dymond: "In other words these two men would have had to see one of the four people on duty to get into the VIP room?" She acknowledged this was true, although she could not remember anyone who was on duty at the time. The lawyer was interested in how she had become a witness in the case. "They contacted me," Mrs. Parker said, later adding: "When the District Attorney sent for me I was frightened. I didn't know what they wanted."

Asked why she recalled Clay Shaw and not the man he was with, she said the other man had not interested her, but she had admired the defendant's "pretty gray hair" and she'd particularly noticed his height [6'4"], adding -- just as the six-foot-six Jim Garrison walked down the aisle of the courtroom and took a seat -- "You don't see many men that tall!"

The witness could not remember exactly when she'd been contacted by the DA's office but thought it was in the summer of 1967. She told the defense lawyer that when she'd seen Clay Shaw's picture on television she'd said to her son, "I've seen that man before . . . at the VIP room, Eastern Airlines." Dymond asked why she hadn't reported this to a law enforcement agency when the name "Clay Bertrand," along with the defendant's picture, hit the news. Mrs. Parker said, "It wasn't my business . . . I didn't want to get involved."

Mrs. Parker, it turned out, had also been brought to the courtroom to look at Clay Shaw at the beginning of jury selection.

DYMOND: Is it a fact that you refused to identify him that day?


[This reply of Mrs. Parker's was completely ignored in the local paper's account of her testimony. In response to this question of Irvin Dymond's the paper reported, "Mrs. Parker denied this."]

Dymond then asked, "Isn't it a fact when they threatened you with a lie detector test, you then identified him?" Mrs. Parker said, "Yes," adding, "They didn't threaten me, they asked me." James Alcock jumped up from his chair, demanding the results of the test be brought into the courtroom. When Dymond argued that the results of a lie detector test are not admissable in any court in the land, the prosecuting attorney shouted, "You opened the door, you opened the door!" . . . Judge Haggerty would not permit the test to be introduced.

Just before Mrs. Parker was excused, Dymond said to her, "In other words, these two gentlemen walked in, passed a few words, Clay Shaw [as Clay Bertrand] signed the book, and then they left?" That was her story.

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