James Kirkwood on the LaBiche Grand Jury


James Kirkwood on the Grand Jury that indicted Clay Shaw:


It was called the LaBiche grand jury, after its foreman, Albert LaBiche, and the mention of that body brings shudders to most lawyers and knowledgeable folk in New Orleans. When you speak to anyone who appeared before it, the response is much stronger.

I was later told by William Gurvich, "There were twelve members of the LaBiche grand jury, hand-picked by Judge Bagert. Ten were white and two were colored. Of the ten whites, seven were members of the same athletic club. The same athletic club Jim Garrison used as a second office. All of them were Legionnaires. The two colored were not eligible to belong to either the Legion or the club. In the judge's chambers, behind his desk, is a large framed photograph, black and white, taken in the White House. In the center is John F. Kennedy, President. On one side is Judge Bagert in his Legion uniform. On the other side is Albert LaBiche, the foreman of the grand jury, in his Legion uniform. So he selected his Legion buddy as foreman." [Note: In March 1967, Jim Garrison told Richard Billings that he had requested a preliminary hearing for Clay Shaw in order to be able to select the presiding judge. This was Judge Bernard Bagert.--DR]

Jim Phelan and I spoke of the LaBiche grand jury and of the dangerous homogeneity of the group. The imagination can easily picture the results of such a body, composed as it was, and activated at the same time Garrison's investigation into the death of the President was launched. [Assistant DA] James Alcock, defending charges of extreme bias against the LaBiche grand jury, said, "Whenever this jury or any grand jury is deliberating on whether or not to return an indictment, the assistant Das leave the room." This would seem to be a pure technicality, in view of the highly publicized series of long and expensive lunches provided for the LaBiche grand jury, with drinks served, and often attended by Garrison or other members of his staff. Add to this the personal friendships of many of the jurors with both the District Attorney and Judge Bernard Bagert, who presided at the preliminary hearing, and the situation was perilously cozy. As another lawyer said, "So they leave the room for five minutes -- big deal!" (It is also interesting at the end of the LaBiche grand jury's six months, Garrison investigated every possibility in hopes of extending their term. This was too obvious a move even for New Orleans and he was advised to leave well enough alone.

No one knows how many indictments, if any, the LaBiche grand jury refused to hand down in connection with Garrison's investigation but the indictments they and other grand juries under Garrison's direction did bring in are legion and they netted many who filed to cooperate with the District Attorney's office or who criticized him in any way.


From James Kirkwood, American Grotesque
(New York: Harper, 1992), pp. 176-77

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