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  • Writer's pictureRobert P. Fitton

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The JFK Conspiracy: The Case of Jim Garrison

June 15, 1967

Big Media put a full court press on District Attorney Jim Garrison in June of 1967. Omitting, spinning, and outrght deceit are the hallmarks of this attack.

Frank McGee: NBC News

Frank McGee: NBC News

Many Americans doubt the findings of the Warren Commission. Only one American has had and used legal powers to investigate these findings. That one is Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans. His investigation has made headlines for four months. This is an examination of that investigation.


The JFK Conspiracy: The Case of Jim Garrison. Reported by Frank McGee: NBC News.

Frank McGee: NBC News

Four months ago, Jim Garrison said he had positively solved the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He said a man named David Ferrie was under surveillance. When Ferrie died suddenly, he called him one of history’s most important figures. On March 1st he arrested a New Orleans businessman named Clay Shaw and charged him with participation in the conspiracy. He said there would be more arrests, a considerable number of them. He said the key to the case is through the looking glass; black is white, white is black.

We have no right to pre-judge Jim Garrison’s case. We can legitimately examine his record up to now. Our starting point is the pre-trial hearing of Clay Shaw. Garrison had two key witnesses. The first was a twenty-six-year-old insurance salesman named Perry Raymond Russo. Russo testified that in September 1963, he’d gone to a party in David Ferrie’s apartment. Among the guests were several Cubans, Ferrie’s bearded roommate, and a man named Clay [sic] Bertrand. Later, when the other guests had left, he found himself alone with Ferrie, the roommate, who he identified as Lee Harvey Oswald, and Bertrand. But despite his presence, they began to discuss openly and in detail a plan to assassinate President Kennedy. Russo was asked if Bertrand was in the courtroom. He said, yes. He was asked to point out Bertrand. He got up from the witness chair, walked over to the defense table, and held his hand over the head of Clay Shaw.

Garrison’s second key witness was Vernon Bundy, a twenty-nine-year-old narcotics addict. Mainly on the testimony of Russo and Bundy, a three-judge panel decided that there was sufficient evidence to establish probable cause that a crime had been committed.

In answer to criticism of his witnesses, Garrison pointed out that it was hard to find bank presidents at the scene of this conspiracy. He defended Vernon Bundy:


The question is, is he telling the truth or not? There are many attorneys who are brilliant liars, and there are dope addicts who have never learned to lie. And that’s the case here. The question is, was he telling the truth, and the answer is, obviously.

Frank McGee: NBC News

Vernon Bundy has been a narcotics addict since he was thirteen. He has a police record. On March 4, 1967, according to Jim Garrison, Bundy turned himself in to New Orleans Parish Prison because he was back on the habit. Bundy says he was first interviewed by Garrison’s men the day before he testified.

Two former prisoners told NBC News Bundy had indicated to them that his testimony that he had seen Shaw and Oswald together was not true.

John Cancler, known as “John the Baptist”

Q. What is your profession, Mr. Cancler?

A. You mean, what was my profession?

Q. Yes.

A. I was a burglar.

Q. You were in Parish Prison on this burglary rap.

A. Right.

Q. And did you meet a man named Vernon Bundy there?

A. I found out later his name was Vernon Bundy. See, I didn’t know what his name was until I read the paper. I only knew him as “Legs.”

Q. What did “Legs” tell you up there?

A. He just said, “I wonder whether I should say I saw him on Esplanade or I saw him on the lakefront.” I said, “Man, it’s getting bad if you start talking to yourself, too.” You know, like some of these guys will stir bug, you know. He said, “No, man.” He said, “I’m talking about this cat, Shaw.” I said, “What you talking about, man?” He said, “Man, I don’t know whether it’s best for me to say I saw him on Esplanade Street or the lakefront.”

Q. Did Bundy indicate to you whether the story that he was going to tell in court was true?

A. Did he [indicate]? How could he indicate when he would ask me, should he say this or should he say that? If it was the truth, he would know what to say.

Q. It was obvious from what he told you that he was going to tell a lie then?

A. He told a lie.

Q. Did he tell you it was a lie?

A. Sure. I asked him, “Man, is this the truth?” He said, no. He said, “No, it’s not the truth.”

Frank McGee: NBC News

Also in Parish Prison at the time Bundy testified was Miguel Torres, serving a nine-year sentence for burglary. He met Bundy in a prison hospital.


Q. What did he tell you about his testimony that day?

A. He says, “Well, that’s the only way that I can get cut loose.” I asked him, how much time did he owe that state. He said he owed the state five years; he was out on five years probation. And then I said, “Well, that’s a hell of a thing to be doing in order to do what you want to do.” He says, “Well, the reason I am doing this is, it’s the only way I can get cut loose.”

Q. In other words, he said to you, in effect, that he was testifying as he was in the Shaw hearing in order to prevent his probation from being revoked, is that right?

A. From being violated, yes, sir.

Q. Did you get the impression that he knew that his testimony in the hearing had been false?

A. Well, just exactly how I said. He said, “The reason I am doing this is because it’s the only way I can get cut loose.” And the impression I got was that: that it was [an] out-front lie.(3)

Frank McGee: NBC News

Jim Garrison told a BBC reporter he uses what he calls objectifying tests to make sure his witnesses are telling the truth. One such test is the polygraph or lie detector. On the morning he testified, Vernon Bundy was given a lie detector test. NBC News has learned that the results of the test indicated that Bundy was lying. Assistant District Attorney Charles Ward was informed of this, and Ward went to Garrison. He told Garrison that in view of the outcome of the lie detector test, the indication that Bundy was lying, Bundy should not be allowed to testify. Despite this, Bundy was put on the witness stand by Garrison. He testified against Shaw. Partly as a result of that testimony, Shaw was held for trial.

More important than Bundy was Perry Russo. He was, in fact, vital to Garrison’s case. He linked Shaw, Ferrie, and Oswald; he involved them in the conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy. Well, how did he come into the case? By his own account, he wrote a letter to Jim Garrison, saying he had some information about David Ferrie’s connection with the assassination of President Kennedy. This was on February 22, 1967. That same week he was interviewed by a reporter from the NBC affiliate in Baton Rouge:


Q. What kind of remarks did David Ferrie make about the assassination to you?

A. Toward the end of September, October, I saw him on several occasions, and he brought out the fact, in passing remarks — whether or not it had any real meaning, I don’t know, and I’m not trying to add words to his meaning — but he said that “we will get him,” referring to the President, ’cause we were in elaborate discussions concerning the President. He said, “We will get the President,” referring to Kennedy.

Frank McGee: NBC News

In his first public interview, Russo mentioned no party at Ferrie’s apartment, no assassination plot, no Clay Shaw or Clay Bertrand. Next he talked to a reporter from WDSU-TV:


Q. [Fades in] . . . at all with the assassination in any way?

A. Well (clears throat), uh, see, that I don’t know, and I, you know, it’d be just speculative, speculation.

Q. Did he ever mention Lee Harvey Oswald’s name?

A. No.

Q. No conversation at all about —

A. No, I had never heard of Oswald until the television of the assassination.

Frank McGee: NBC NewsTwo weeks later he would testify at the hearings. He would positively identify Lee Oswald and Clay Shaw. He would describe in detail the party which they were present. He would tell about a plot to kill the President. What had happened?

We know that Russo was visited in Baton Rouge by one of Garrison’s assistants, Andrew Sciambra. We know that he spent time on at least three occasions with a man from Garrison’s office. And we now know some additional facts. Jim Phelan covered the conspiracy story for the Saturday Evening Post. Nine days before the hearing he met Jim Garrison in Las Vegas. He spent ten hours with Garrison, discussing the case.


Jim Phelan

Q. Did he give you any documents to read in connection with this?

Jim Garrison

A. Yes, he gave me two documents. One of them was a long memorandum written by Mr. Garrison’s first Assistant District Attorney, Andrew Sciambra, which recounted a[n] interview that he had had with Perry Russo in Baton Rouge. This is the first interview that anyone from the DA’s office had had with Perry Russo.

Q. And what was the second document?A. The second document was a hypnotic interrogation of Russo. I believe it was four days after the first interrogation.

Q. Did Russo tell the same story in both of these documents?

A. He did not.

Q. As a witness, Russo said he was at a party at David Ferrie’s apartment, and present when Ferrie, Clay Shaw, and Lee Harvey Oswald plotted to kill President Kennedy. Did he tell this story in his first interview?

A. He said nothing whatever about a party or a plot in the first interview.

Q. Was he able to identify Oswald?

A. They made an identification after they sketched a series of beards on the picture of Lee Oswald. I think they drew eighteen or twenty of them before he finally came up with the identification.

Q. Was Russo shown a picture of Clay Shaw?

A. Yes, he was.

Q. Did he identify the picture of the man he knew to be Clay Shaw as Clay Bertrand?

A. He did not. He simply said he’d seen the man.

Q. How many times — ?

A. He said he’d seen him twice.

Q. And where had he seen him?

A. He saw him once when Kennedy was visiting New Orleans to dedicate the Nashville Wharf, and the second time he said he saw this man was in a car with Dave Ferrie.

Q. Did he mention seeing him at a party in Ferrie’s apartment, where people had plotted to kill Kennedy?

A. He said nothing about it. In fact, he said specifically that he had seen him twice, and he said specifically the two times.

Q. When did Russo first describe the details he testified to at the pre-trial hearing?

A. He first mentioned the plot and the party and the presence of Shaw, Oswald, and Ferrie in a deep hypnotic trance, when he was hypnotized by Dr. Esmond Fatter.

Q. Did he remember Shaw and an assassination plot immediately under hypnosis?

A. He did not. He volunteered no information about the party or the plot.

Q. When did he begin to remember?

A. He began to remember when Dr. Fatter asked him a series of leading questions. Well, I would say it went beyond that. Dr. Fatter set the stage for him. He told him that he would be present in Ferrie’s’ apartment, and that Shaw and Oswald would be there, and they would be discussing assassinating someone. And then Dr. Fatter says, now tell me about it.

Q. Am I correct in reading this from the record: Dr. Fatter saying, quote, “Anytime you want to you can permit yourself to become calm, cool, and collected. You will be amazed at how acute your memory will become in the next few weeks.”

A. That is correct.

Q. How did Perry Russo appear when you saw him testify?

A. He was calm, cool, and collected.


Q. Why do you feel that you had to use extraordinary methods like truth drugs and hypnotism to get these people to give their evidence?

A. We decided to give him objectifying machinery to make sure he’s telling the truth. We gave him truth serum in order to make sure. Now, it seems to me that this is rather unusual, a prosecuting office which has a pretty good case, making its witness take objectifying tests to make sure they’re telling the truth. We did it for this reason. We used hypnosis for the same thing. Just to make sure he’s telling the truth.

Frank McGee: NBC News.

Dr. Jay Katz is Associate Professor of Law and Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Yale. We showed him the stenographic transcripts of two of Dr. Fatter’s hypnotic sessions with Perry Russo.


Q. Doctor, how reliable, in your view, are sodium Pentathol and hypnotism as a means of reaching the truth?

A. There’s a very widespread belief that under hypnosis and under sodium Amytol, subjects will tell the objective truth. But under hypnosis, at least a great many subjects may have greater difficulty to differentiate between fact and fantasy.

Q. Dr. Katz, does it appear to you that some of the questions by the interviewer questioning Perry Russo suggest the answers?

A. I wondered about this, and I was very much struck that on many occasions, the hypnotist introduced very leading questions. This was most striking, if I can use one example, when he directly asked him, or, in fact, not even asked him, but told him to tell him about the conversation that took place with respect to an assassination plot

Q. Would you comment on [whether] the manner in which the interviews with Perry Russo were conducted made it more rather than less difficult to separate fact from fantasy?

A. Yes, he made no attempt, as far as I can see, to press further, and at least attempt to find out what was fantasy and what was reality.

Q. Then you don’t feel that there was sufficient questioning to find out whether Russo was, in fact, telling the truth, or was distorting the truth?

A. That is quite correct. This is also very, very difficult, but one at least can make an attempt, and this attempt was not made in this case.


Q. Did you ever talk to Garrison about the discrepancies in his reports?

A. After the hearing in which Mr. Shaw was held at trial, I called Garrison, and I said, “Jim, there’s something bothering me deeply.” So he said, “Well, I’ll get Sciambra out here.” And he called him right away on the phone, and he had him come out to his home. He also had his chief investigator, William Gurvich, and the four of us sat there in Garrison’s study, and I put this to Sciambra. I said, “There’s nothing in your original interrogation about, one, Shaw knowing Oswald, Shaw knowing Ferrie, about the man you identified as having seen, about knowing him as Bertrand, or about a party at Ferrie’s apartment, in which they discussed the assassination. In fact, all of the things that were so damaging to Shaw were not in the original report.”Sciambra first told me that I didn’t know what I was talking about, because Mr. Sciambra didn’t know that I had a copy of this report. And then I told him that I had the copy of it, and I’d read it many times. And at this point, Mr. Sciambra changed his story, and he said, well, maybe he had left it out of the report. That he had written the report under trying circumstances, and he’d been doing a number of things, and he might have forgotten to put it in. And I told him I simply couldn’t believe this.The next day I thought, well, at least if Sciambra were telling a straightforward story, that he would have mention of the crime in his original notes. He might have left it out of the report, but he at least would have taken it down when he was talking to Russo, because he took detailed notes. So I went back to Sciambra, and I asked him, I said, “Where are your original notes? We can settle this quickly.” Mr. Sciambra told me he had burned his notes.

Frank McGee: NBC News

Sciambra says Phelan’s story is incomplete and distorted.To objectify the testimony of Perry Russo, whom Garrison described as a very stable young man, Russo was submitted to sodium Pentothal, hypnotism, and, on March 8th, six days before he testified, to a lie detector test. NBC News has learned the following facts about this test. Russo’s answers to a series of questions indicate, in the language of the polygraph operator, deception criteria. He was asked if he knew Clay Shaw; he was asked if he knew Lee Harvey Oswald. His “yes” answers to both of these questions indicated deception criteria. Russo’s general reaction to this series of questions led the polygraph operator to suspect a psychopathic personality. At least one investigator and one assistant district attorney in Garrison’s office were present. The list of questions was taken away from the polygraph operator. He was told not to say anything.Despite the incomplete test, the preliminary indications of deception criteria, six days later, Russo was put on the stand as the chief witness against Clay Shaw.The core of his testimony was his description of a party sometime in September 1963. He said Ferrie, Oswald, and Shaw were there. Russo also said several of his friends were present in the early part of the evening: Sandra Moffett, Kenny Carter, Lefty Peterson. We talked with Lefty Peterson:


Q. [fades in] . . . David Ferrie?

A. Yes, sir, I do.

Q. And how did you meet Ferrie?

A. I met him at Perry’s house.

Q. Did you see David Ferrie at any other time?

A. I seen [sic] him twice since then. I seen [sic] him once on Louisiana Parkway. I went to his house with Perry and some other people. About four of us stopped in. We stayed for about 20 or 25 minutes and left.

Q. All of you left?A. No, Perry stayed there, I think. He didn’t leave.Q. When was this?A. September 1963.

Q. Describe that occurrence.

A. We was [sic] coming from some kind of sports event, football game, I think.

Q. Do you remember who played?A. No, sir.

Q. Was it a Tulane game?

A. Yes, sir, a Tulane game, yes, sir.

Q. You’re pretty sure it was a football game?

A. Positive.

Q. What makes you think it was September?

A. It was the first game of the season, either the first or second game of the season, one of the two.

Frank McGee: NBC News

Tulane played two games that year, one October 4, the other September 20. Under hypnosis, Russo said the party took place September 16. Under oath, he said the party took place sometime, he wasn’t sure when, in mid-September. Kenny Carter remembers going to a game with Russo, he thinks it was the Miami game on October 4th.The date is crucial. Is it possible that Lee Harvey Oswald could have been present, wearing a beard and looking like a beatnik, on those dates? If not, Garrison’s hearing case collapses. Where was Lee Harvey Oswald on September 20th?


Q. [When you] arrived in New Orleans, do you remember the date?

A. Yes, I think I do. I think it was the 20th of September. That would be, was a Friday.

Q. How long were you there?A. Over the weekend, left Monday.

Q. Where did you stay when you were in New Orleans?

A. At their apartment [Lee and Marina’s].

Q. And can you tell me whether or not Lee was living at home all of the time he was staying there, evenings?

A. Oh, yes, he was. He was there the entire time.


Q. In September of 1963, did you see Lee Harvey Oswald often or did you hear him in the house?A. Well, I used to hear him in the house all the time. I mean, him and his wife used to do a lot of arguing, and the baby would start crying. That’s how I knew he was home

.Q. When would you say Lee Harvey Oswald left the apartment?

A. Well, I know he left the same night that his wife left that day. Now, whether it was the 24th or the 25th, I don’t remember exactly. But that same day his wife left, he left that night.

Frank McGee: NBC News

Two witnesses say Lee Harvey Oswald could not have been living with David Ferrie on September 20th; Oswald was living at home in New Orleans on September 20th.On October 4th, the date of the Miami-Tulane game, he was in Dallas. He registered with the YMCA. He called Ruth Paine on the telephone. At two in the afternoon, he was interviewed for a job by Ted Gangel of the Padgett Printing Corporation.Could he have been Ferrie’s roommate at any time in September 1963?


Q. You arrived at the party at David Ferrie’s house. Who answered the door?

A. His roommate.

Q. Describe his height, his general build, and . . .

A. He’s about 6 or 6’1″, about 170 pounds, I’d say. 165, 170 pounds.

Q. Was he quite a bit taller than you?

A. Oh, yeah, he was taller than me, yeah.

Q. How tall are you?

A. 5’9″.

Q. So how much taller than you would he have been?

A. About two or three inches.

Frank McGee: NBC News

Lee Harvey Oswald was exactly five feet, nine inches tall, exactly as tall as Lefty Peterson.Russo, in trying to identify the roommate with the beard, said Peterson, quote, “would know more about the roommate and be able to identify him.”


Q. [fades in] . . . to you and I’m going to see if you think this fits the description of the man you saw in David Ferrie’s apartment. I’m quoting Perry Russo. He said the roommate had sort of dirty blond hair and a husky beard, which appeared to be a little darker than his hair. He said the guy was a typical beatnik. He said the roommate appeared to be in his middle twenties. Would that description fit the man that you saw that night?A. Just about, yes, sir.


Q. I’m going to read a description given by Perry Russo of a man that he saw in the apartment of David Ferrie. He described this man as having a bushy beard, being cruddy — very, very dirty. In your opinion, could that description have fit the Lee Harvey Oswald that you knew?

A. I don’t see how that would fit him, because I’ve never seen him like that.”


Q. Perry Russo has described David Ferrie’s roommate, whom he identified as a man he knew as “Leon Oswald,” as very, very dirty, a typical beatnik, with a husky beard. Do you recall whether Lee Oswald was clean-shaven or had a beard?

A. When I came to New Orleans, about September 20th, he was clean-shaven then, and I never saw him with a beard. I don’t believe he had one, to my knowledge. I think Marina would have mentioned it. And he was also neat when he dressed, and clean, it seemed to me. I just feel that Mr. Russo must have seen someone else that he thinks was Lee Oswald.


Q. You were, in 1963, from the period of at least September through November, closely associated with David Ferrie?

A. That’s correct.

Q. You knew practically everyone associated with him at that time, is that correct?A. That’s correct.

Q. If someone lived in his house for more than two or three days during that period of time, in other words, might have been there long enough to be considered a roommate, would you have known about it?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. There has been testimony recently about a roommate of Ferrie’s who was unkempt or wore a beard. Do any of the people you knew and who knew Ferrie fit this description?

A. James Lewallen could possibly fit that description very well. I remember at that time Lewallen did have some sort of beard, and I wouldn’t necessarily call him unkempt, but to some people this might represent being unkempt. But one of the things I’ve noticed, remembering Lewallen, he bears a striking resemblance to this mock picture of Oswald [sketched by the NODA at Perry Russo’s direction]

.Q. Could he have been considered a roommate of Ferrie’s?

A. Yes, he could have, possibly, I think he and Ferrie did room together sometime maybe prior to that, maybe around that time.

Q. Did you know anyone at the time associated with Ferrie by the name of Leon?

A. Well, Jim Lewallen’s last name, sometimes people would address him as, “Hey, Lou,” “Lee,” or something like that.

Frank McGee: NBC News

The facts are these. Russo said Oswald, dirty and with a beard, was at the party, that he was Ferrie’s roommate. He said the party took place in mid-September. He said Lefty Peterson was there. The two possible dates Peterson gives for the party, November [sic] 20th and October 4th, make it impossible for the man to have been Oswald.Russo speaks of the roommate’s beard. People who knew Oswald say he never had a beard. Peterson says the roommate was at least two inches taller than he, which [sic] we knew Oswald was Peterson’s height. And we know Russo denied knowing Oswald only three weeks before he testified.Now, Clay Shaw is not an easy man to forget. If Clay Shaw had been present in a room with Perry Russo, Lee Oswald, and David Ferrie, it seems likely he would have been noticed.


Q. Did you notice a big man of any description, an older man there?A. No, sir.

Q. There was no one over forty, say in his forties or fifties, something like that?

A. Just Ferrie.

Q. Did you ever hear the name Clay? First name, Clay?

A. No, sir. Never

.Q. Did you ever hear the name Bertrand dropped?

A. No, sir. Never.

Q. Have you seen Clay Shaw’s picture?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Was the man you saw in that picture, was he at that party that night?

A. What, Clay Shaw?Q. Yes

.A. I didn’t see him.


Clay Shaw

Q. Were you at the time or have you ever been in David Ferrie’s apartment?

A. Never.

Q. You’ve heard of the name Clay Bertrand?

A. I have.Q. Do you know any such person

?A. I do not.

Q. Can you state whether or not you are Clay Bertrand?

A. I am not Clay Bertrand.

Q. In 1963, did you ever have occasion to meet or know Lee Harvey Oswald?A. Never.

Q. Did you ever have occasion to meet or know David W. Ferrie?

A. I did not.

Q. Do you have any knowledge of a plot to assassinate President Kennedy?

A. None whatsoever.

Frank McGee: NBC News

Garrison has based his case on the certainty that he can prove Clay Shaw is Clay or Clem Bertrand. The name Clem [sic] Bertrand was first introduced by a lawyer named Dean Andrews, who told the Warren Commission a person by that name telephoned him, suggesting he provide legal defense for Lee Oswald. Three years later, Garrison suggested to Andrews that Andrews identify Shaw as Bertrand. Andrews said he told Garrison he wouldn’t say if Shaw was or was not Clay Bertrand.


Q. [fades in] . . . the same as Clay Shaw?

A. You say I identified him. I don’t know if I did or I did not.

Frank McGee: NBC News

Since then, Garrison has taken his former friend, Dean Andrews, before the Grand Jury, where he’s been indicted for perjury. Before that happened, Andrews talked with us.


Dean Andrews, Jr.

A. Man, I wouldn’t know Clay Shaw if I fell over him on the street dead.

Q. Has the occasion arisen for you to listen to Clay Shaw’s voice?

A. Ah, yes, since all this popped up, they had him on TV, so I just shut my eyes and listened to the voice, and that’s not the voice.

Q. In other words, you’re saying that Clay Bertrand is not Clay Shaw?

A. I’m saying that the voice of Clay Shaw is not the voice that I identify as Clay Bertrand.

Q. Now, you have seen Clay Bertrand on two occasions?

A. Two times

.Q. You have seen Clay Shaw’s picture?

A. Since this happened? Many times.

Q. Can you say positively that the person you know as Clay Bertrand is not the person you have seen as Clay Shaw?

A. Scout’s honor, he is not.

Patch Kincaid Series Novels

American Injustice Volume 1–(February 2022)

American Injustice Volume II-(May 2022)

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