Chapter 4: "The So-Called Evidence"

An exhaustive look at an inadequate look

For reasons beyond my grasp, the first image in each chapter sometimes fails to appear.  If there's nothing up above, don't despair; you can still see the image here

The Deliberation Dilemma

As shown in the preceding chapters, the Commission’s conclusion that Oswald fired all the shots on Kennedy was not supported by the evidence. As it turns out, their conclusion that Oswald fired any of these shots is also far from convincing.

Oswald's murder while in the protective custody of the notoriously right-wing, racist, and corrupt Dallas Police Department had raised reasonable questions on whether he had, in fact, been framed, and that someone or some group had conspired to ensure his silence. If he had been framed, of course, it would explain the most damning piece of evidence against him: that his rifle had fired the shots. To avoid  conjecture that their preplanned conclusion of Oswald acting alone was, well, unWarren-ted, the Warren Commission needed solid evidence that:

1. Oswald was on the sixth floor before the shooting, putting together his rifle and building the sniper's nest.

2. Oswald was in the sniper's nest window, with his rifle.

3. Oswald fired a rifle on 11-22.

Without convincing evidence that these three events took place, there was room to doubt Oswald's involvement in the actual shooting. Without this evidence, all they really had to suggest he shot Kennedy was that his gun was found in the building, his fingerprints were found in the sniper's nest, he fled the scene after the shooting, he soon after shot a police officer, and that he was presumed to have lied to the police in the unrecorded interrogations conducted before he could find an attorney. All this damning evidence, and it is indeed damning evidence should it be accepted without reservation, could be explained, amazingly, by the not-unreasonable proposition that he worked in the building and fled for his life once he realized he'd been set up as the president's assassin.

And so the Warren Commission and its staff had its hands full. Did they dare reveal the holes in their case against Oswald?  Or would they prop up some of the weakest aspects of their case, and hide important facts from the public?  Would they behave like the prosecutors they had been, or like the truth-seekers they were tasked with becoming? 

Sadly, it appears they chose the former.

The Strange Reliance on Charles Givens 

First, we look into the question of whether or not Oswald was on the sixth floor in the moments leading up to the shooting.

Let's start with Oswald's own claims. Captain Will Fritz's handwritten notes on his 11-22 interrogation of Oswald report that Oswald claimed that in the hour before the shooting, he'd went "to 1st floor had lunch/out with Bill Shelley in front."  While this might sound like Oswald was claiming to have had lunch out in front of the building with Bill Shelley, Fritz's typed up notes reflect that, at the time of the shooting, Oswald said "he was having his lunch about that time on the first floor." (24H265) This suggests then that Oswald told Fritz he saw Shelley at a different point, presumably when he was leaving the building after the shooting.

Oswald was asked about this a second time, in an interrogation performed the next day. This time, however, he was asked if anyone could confirm he'd eaten his lunch on the first floor. According to Fritz's typed-up notes, Oswald said he'd "ate lunch with some of the colored boys who worked with him. One of them was called 'Junior' and the other man was a little short man whose name he did not know." (24H267) The report of Secret Service Inspector Thomas Kelley confirms this account, moreover, stating "He said he ate his lunch with the colored boys who worked with him. He described one of them as 'Junior,' a colored boy, and the other was a little short negro boy." The report of FBI agent James Bookhout (WR622), however, gives a slightly different account of Oswald's statements. Bookhout relates: "Oswald stated that on November 22, 1963, he had eaten lunch in the lunch room of the Texas School Book Depository, alone, but recalled possibly two negro employees walking through the room in this period. He stated possibly one of these employees was called 'Junior' and the other was a short individual whose name he could not recall, but whom he would be able to recognize." Bookhout's version in which Oswald did not eat lunch with these men, but merely saw them walk by, for that matter, receives solid support from an unexpected source: Fritz's original notes. In his hand-written notes, Fritz reports that Oswald "saw two negroes come in one Jr. - & short negro" and says nothing about Oswald's claiming to have had lunch with these men.

In either event--whether Oswald claimed he'd had lunch with these men, or that he'd simply seen them walk by while he was eating--the investigators were now tasked with finding out if anyone could confirm that Oswald had been in this first floor lunch room in the moments before the shooting, and, if not, whether anyone could place him on a higher floor during this time.

An 11-23-63 FBI report (CD5 p329) on Oswald co-worker Charles Douglas Givens declares “On November 22, 1963, Givens worked on the sixth floor of the building until about 11:30 A.M. when he used the elevator to travel to the first floor where he used the restroom at about 11:35 A.M. or 11:40 A.M.  Givens then walked around on the first floor until 12 o'clock noon, at which time he walked onto the sidewalk and stood for several minutes...Givens recalls observing Lee working on the fifth floor during the morning filling orders. Lee was standing by the elevator in the building at 11:30 A.M when Givens went to the first floor. When he started down in the elevator, Lee yelled at him to close the gates on the elevator door so that he (Lee) could have the elevator returned to the sixth floor…Givens observed Lee reading a newspaper in the domino room where the employees eat lunch about 11:50 A.M.” This FBI report expanded on a statement signed by Givens on the day before (24H210). Givens swore "I worked on the sixth floor today until about 11:30 A.M. Then I went downstairs and into the bathroom. At twelve o'clock I took my lunch period. I went to the parking lot at Record and Elm Street." The FBI report on Givens thereby appeared to confirm Oswald's story that he'd come down and had lunch in the domino room, something that seemed unlikely if Oswald had planned on killing the president in 40 minutes and still needed to assemble his rifle.

That Oswald came down for lunch was confirmed by several others.

A 12-7-63 Secret Service Report (CD87 p780) recounting an interview with William Shelley, Oswald’s immediate boss, states "Mr. Shelley last saw Oswald at about 11:50 A.M., at which time Oswald was working at his normal duties on the first floor." On 4-7-64 Shelley testified (6H327-334) “I do remember seeing him when I came down to eat lunch about 10 to 12.” On 5-14-64, Shelley again testified (7H390-393) and clarified that he last saw Oswald before the shooting at “10 or 15 minutes before 12…On the first floor over near the telephone.”   

Even more convincing, an 11-23-63 statement to Dallas Sheriff’s Dept. signed by Eddie Piper (19H499) states “Yesterday, at 12:00 noon, this fellow Lee says to me 'I’m going up to eat' and I went on to my lunch. I went to a front window on the first floor and ate my lunch. I went to the front window on the first floor and ate my lunch and waited to see the President's parade go by. I saw the President pass and heard some shots and looked at the clock there and saw it was 12:25PM.”  A 12-7 Secret Service report (CD87 p780) describing an interview with Piper confirms "At about 12:00 noon on November 22, 1963, Piper last saw Oswald on the first floor and at that time Oswald said 'I'm going up to eat lunch.'" Strangely, however, an FBI report (CD206 p13) from 12-20 conceals this event from view, declaring instead that Piper "advised he came to work at his usual time, 10 A.M., November 22, 1963, and during the course of his employment had seen Lee Harvey Oswald, a fellow employee, filling orders on the first floor. He did not recall the specific time he saw Oswald, stating it was shortly after he got to work and stated that this was the only time he saw Oswald on that particular day."

Should one refuse to think the FBI was up to something, and choose instead to believe that Piper changed his story, one should consider that on 2-17-64, when interviewed by the Dallas Police (CD950, p45), Piper repeated "At around 12:00 noon, I told Oswald that I was going to eat my sandwich.  Oswald mumbled something that he was going up to eat. This was the last time I saw Oswald." He also told them "During the lunch breaks, Oswald usually made several phone calls, which were usually short in length."  One should then consider that on 4-8-64, Piper testified before the Warren Commission (6H382-386), and made no bones about seeing Oswald around 12 noon, telling them once that "at 12 o’clock" and later on that "Just about 12 o'clock", “I said to him—'It’s about lunch time. I believe I’ll go have lunch.'  So he says, 'Yeah'—he mumbled something—I don’t know whether he said he was going up or going out…” 

Piper's statements are thereby consistent, and indicative Oswald was on the first floor around noon. While Piper's original statement indicates he thought the President was shot around 12:25, when he was actually shot around 12:30, this suggests the clock he was looking at was a bit slow, and that he actually saw Oswald around 12:05. Under no circumstances can it be taken to suggest he failed to see Oswald at all, or that he actually saw him much earlier in the day.

Only adding to the likelihood Oswald was not on the sixth floor during this period are the statements of Bonnie Ray Williams. An 11-23-63 FBI report on Bonnie Ray Williams (CD5 p330) states “At approximately 12 noon, Williams went back upstairs to the sixth floor with his lunch. He stayed on that floor only about three minutes.” A 12-7 Secret Service Report (CD87 p784) on an interview with Williams went into more detail, stating "After Williams picked up his lunch on the first floor (Note: he came down at the same time as Givens) he returned to the sixth floor...Williams said he spent just a few minutes eating his lunch and that during that time he did not see anyone else or hear anything on the sixth floor. As soon as he finished his lunch, Williams went to the fifth floor of the building and he estimated the time to be prior to 12:15 P.M." An FBI report on a 1-8-64 interview (CD329, p13) cut Williams' time on the sixth floor back down again. It states that Williams "recalled that he ate lunch about noon on November 22, 1963 on the sixth floor of the TSBD Building and about that time he heard James Earl Jarman Jr. also known as 'Junior' and Harold 'Hank' Norman on the fifth floor and he joined them there by going down on the west elevator about 12:05 P.M." This time of 12:05 is a bit curious, and is quite possibly the approximation of Special agents Carter and Griffin, the writers of the report, and not Williams. Williams made it clear, after all, that he only came down to the fifth floor after hearing Jarman and Norman on the floor below. On 1-8-64, agents Carter and Griffin spoke to both Jarman and Norman. Jarman said he thought he went up to the fifth floor around 12:25 (CD329, p12) and Norman said he went up to the fifth floor "about 12:10 to 12:20" (CD329, p14). 

From this one can gather that Williams was on the sixth floor until just a few minutes before the shooting at 12:30. Perhaps this explains why Williams' signed statement from the afternoon of the shooting (24H229) suggests he was at first too scared to say he'd been on the sixth floor at all. There, Williams declares that, after he came downstairs to get his lunch, "I went back on the fifth floor with a fellow called Hank and Junior, I don't know his last name. Just after we got on the fifth floor we saw the President coming around the corner on Houston from Main Street." Just after?

In any event, on 3-19-64, Williams, who'd originally stated he heard but two shots, signed a statement to the FBI (22H681) asserting he'd heard three shots. He also asserted that "The last time I saw Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963 was at about 11:40 A.M. At that time Oswald was on the sixth floor on the east side of the building. I did not pay particular attention to what he was doing." This directly contradicted his signed statement to Dallas County from the afternoon of the shooting, in which he claimed "I didn't see Oswald anymore, that I remember, after I saw him at 8 A.M." If the FBI and Warren Commission thought this signaled a new and improved Williams, one who would help them make their case that Oswald stayed on the sixth floor when everyone else came down for lunch, however, they had another think coming. When Williams testified on 3-24-64 (3H161-184) he stated that the sixth floor crew had quit working at 5 to 12 (his statement on the afternoon of the shooting said 10 to 12) and that he had went back up to the sixth floor looking for others after grabbing his lunch. He testified further that he ate lunch by himself for “5, 10, 12 minutes…no longer than it took me to finish my chicken sandwich” before heading back down to the fifth floor. When pressed further on what time he came down to the fifth floor, he responded "I finished the chicken sandwich maybe 10 or 15 minutes after 12. I could say approximately what time it was." He then told them something no one could expect: "Approximately 12:20, maybe." Later, when asked by Commissioner Dulles if he had heard anything on the sixth floor while he was eating, he responded "I felt like I was all alone. That is one of the reasons I left--because it was so quiet."

As Williams sat but a few yards from the sniper’s nest and did not see or hear anyone else at this time, it suggests that, upon leaving Piper, Oswald went up to the second floor break room (where he was discovered within 90 seconds of the shooting) or to the domino room, and did not immediately head back up to the sixth floor, if at all. An 11-26-63 FBI report on Mrs. Caroline Arnold (CD5 p41) relates “As she was standing in front of the building, she stated she thought she caught a fleeting glimpse of Lee Harvey Oswald standing in the doorway between the front door and the double doors leading to the warehouse, located on the first floor. She could not be sure that this was Oswald, but said she felt it was and believed the time to be a few minutes before 12:15 pm.”  Mrs. Arnold was never called to testify. 

Since the only man identifying Oswald as the shooter in the sixth floor window, Howard Brennan, failed to do so while Oswald was still alive, and only did so after prodding by the Secret Service, the statements placing Oswald downstairs in the forty-five minutes before the shooting created a major problem for those seeking to blame him for the shooting. There was no hard evidence suggesting Oswald was the man seen in the window minutes before the shooting. If Oswald had been downstairs, moreover, there was no evidence he went back up. The Commission needed to explain how Oswald was able to build the sniper’s nest and re-construct his dismantled rifle in the short time between Williams’ departure and the arrival of the motorcade.

Incredibly, they decided to argue that Oswald had never come down for lunch.

They didn't get much help from James "Junior" Jarman, the man Oswald purportedly claimed to have seen in the domino room. In his 11-22 Affidavit to Dallas County, Jarman remembered last seeing Oswald "between 11:30 A.M. and 12:00 noon when he was taking the elevator upstairs to go get boxes. At about 11:45 A.M. all of the employees who were working on the sixth floor came downstairs and we were all out on the street about 12:00 noon." (24H213) Hmm... The vagueness of this statement leaves open the possibility that Jarman had seen Oswald take the elevator back up after the others had come down for lunch. In his testimony, however, Jarman made it clear that, although he'd been in the domino room after quitting for lunch at 5 to 12, he didn't remember seeing Oswald at this time. This suggests he last saw Oswald before 5 to 12. As he identified Shelley as one of those coming downstairs around 11:45, moreover, and as Shelley repeatedly claimed to have seen Oswald downstairs around 11:50, and Piper had repeatedly claimed to have seen Oswald at 12:00, the combined statements and testimony of the credible witnesses to Oswald's whereabouts before the shooting suggested Oswald went upstairs between 11:30 and 11:45, and then followed the sixth floor crew downstairs.

The statements and testimony of Harold "Hank" Norman, were even less helpful to the commission. In his 3-24-64 testimony, Norman admitted "I ate my lunch in the domino room." When asked if anyone had been in there with him, moreover, he answered in a strange manner: "I think there was someone else in there because we usually played dominoes in there but that particular day we didn't play that morning." Well, what does this mean? How would his normally playing dominoes but not on that day make him think someone else was in there? Well, I suspect this is explained in a 12-7 Secret Service Report on the depository employees, in which Billy Lovelady is quoted as stating "The other employees usually play dominoes during their lunch period after they have eaten, but Oswald never showed any interest in taking part in the games." (CD87 p780) This undoubtedly suggests that the "someone else" Norman thought was in the domino room was specifically one Lee Harvey Oswald. In either case, Norman next told the commission that he got together with Jarman after finishing his lunch and that the two of them went outside around "12 or 12:10." (3H186-197). As Norman was of small stature and was almost certainly the short man Oswald claimed to have seen, either Oswald had actually seen Norman and Jarman together during this lunch period or had made an incredibly lucky guess.

(FWIW, Vincent Bugliosi, in his monster tome Reclaiming History, tries to dismiss the possibility that Oswald was in the break room with Norman by claiming "But Danny Arce told the Warren Commission that he and Jack Dougherty ate their lunch in the domino room during the period Norman described. In fact, Arce was one of those who joined Norman and Jarman when they walked outside a moment later. Obviously, Arce and Dougherty were the 'someone else' Norman had referred to." Uhhh...not so fast.  Arce in fact testified that he went outside "With Billy Lovelady and Mr. Shelley and I was out there with Junior;" this indicates that he did not leave the break room with Jarman, as suggested by Bugliosi, but that he only saw Jarman outside. Even worse, Arce specified that he did not see Norman in the break room, telling the Commission, when asked if he had seen Bonnie Ray Williams downstairs "No, he stayed upstairs with Hank." Hank is Norman. If Arce thought Williams was upstairs with Hank, it follows then that he did not see Hank in the domino room. Bugliosi's dismissal is therefore so much moonshine, and the point he claims is "obvious" is obvious BS.)

So...was Oswald's description of Jarman and Norman just a lucky guess? I think not. Let's go back for a second. Agent Bookhout's report on Oswald's interrogation, let's recall, did not claim Oswald had said he'd eaten lunch with Jarman and Norman, as presented by Capt. Fritz. It said: "Oswald stated that on November 22, 1963, he had eaten lunch in the lunch room of the Texas School Book Depository, alone, but recalled possibly two negro employees walking through the room in this period. He stated possibly one of these employees was called 'Junior' and the other was a short individual whose name he could not recall, but whom he would be able to recognize." Perhaps, then, Oswald had seen Jarman and Norman not when most assume he claimed he'd seen them--when he first came down for lunch--but later, when they came back in the building and went back upstairs.

Indeed, it seems a bit of a coincidence that, according to Jarman's testimony, there were "too many people standing on the stairway" in front of the building when he and Norman decided to go back inside and view the motorcade from an upstairs window, and that he and Norman had thereupon re-entered the building by its north entrance. In doing so, they would have passed in front of the open door to the domino room, where Oswald claimed to have been sitting. They were the only two to admit coming in that entrance when Oswald claimed to have been sitting there, and they were the only two Oswald recalled seeing while he was sitting there. (One can view the layout of the first floor of the building here. Note in particular the relationship of the domino room to the north entrance, bathroom, and elevator.)

This brings us to the 4-8-64 testimony of Charles Givens (6H345-356). Here, Givens suddenly remembered “it was about a quarter till 12, we were on our way downstairs, and we passed him, and he (Oswald) was standing at the gate on the fifth floor. I came downstairs, and I discovered I left my cigarettes in my jacket pocket upstairs, and I took the elevator back upstairs to get my jacket with my cigarettes in it.  When I got back upstairs, he was on the sixth floor in that vicinity, coming from that way…Toward the window up front where the shots were fired from…he had his clipboard in his hand…He was coming towards the elevators…He said…'When you get downstairs, close the gate to the elevator.'"  When asked the time of his return to the first floor, Givens responded "Well, I would say it was about 5 minutes to 12, then because it was---" But Givens would never get to explain his reasoning. Counsel David Belin interrupted him with a question about what he did next. Givens testified "When I got down to the first floor Harold Norman, James Jarman and myself, we stood over by the window, and then we said we was going outside and watch the parade, so we walked out and we stood there a while, and then I said, "I believe I will walk up to the parking lot." Belin then asked Givens if he had ever told anyone he saw Oswald reading a newspaper in the domino room around 11:50 on November 22nd and Givens replied “No, sir.”

While I, and I dare say most, researchers long assumed Givens to be lying on this last point, seeing as the FBI's initial report on Givens claimed "Givens observed Lee reading a newspaper in the domino room where the employees eat lunch about 11:50 A.M.” I now see this as a mistake. In February 2012, I stumbled across the FBI's first teletype regarding Givens. (This teletype can be found in FBI file 62-109060 sec 9 p54 on the Mary Ferrell Foundation website.) Here, only hours after he'd been interviewed, it was claimed "Charles Douglas Givens, Employee, TSBD, worked on sixth floor until about eleven thirty A.M. Left at this time going down on elevator. Saw Oswald on fifth floor as left going down. Oswald told him to close the gates when he got to first floor so Oswald could signal for elevator later. Givens stayed on first floor until twelve o'clock and then walked out of the building to watch the parade pass. Oswald was reading paper in the first floor domino room seven-fifty A.M. November twenty two last when Givens came to work."

Well, hell. What's this? Here in this summary of its interview with Givens it is claimed Givens told the FBI he saw Oswald at 7:50 A.M., not 11:50 A.M.

This led me to re-read the FBI's report on this interview. I then realized that the sentences I cut out of Givens' statement at the beginning of this chapter were far more important than I thought, and helped provide the proper context for Givens' statement about seeing Oswald in the domino room. Here is the oft-quoted statement in its proper context: "Givens said that during the past few days Lee had commented that he rode to work with a boy named Wesley. Givens said all employees enter the back door of the building when Jack Dougherty, the foreman opens the door about 7 A.M. On the morning of November 22, 1963, Givens observed Lee reading a newspaper in the domino room where the employees eat lunch about 11:50 A.M.” Within this context, the "about 11:50 A.M." represents the time the employees eat lunch, not the time Givens saw Oswald. Givens had thereby claimed he saw Oswald in the domino room EARLY in the morning. Before starting work. And not during lunch, as claimed by just about everyone.

That Givens told the FBI he saw Oswald before work, it should be noted, only adds to the suspicion he lied in his subsequent testimony. After establishing that Givens got to work at 7:45 on the day of the shooting, Warren Commission counsel David Belin asked a series of questions about Givens' seeing Oswald in the domino room at that time. He is clearly aware of the FBI report. And is anxious to have Givens refute it.

Mr. BELIN. Did you see him come into the domino room at all?
Mr. GIVENS. Not that morning, no, sir; I didn't.
Mr. BELIN. When did you leave the domino room to go up to the sixth floor?
Mr. GIVENS. 8 o'clock.
Mr. BELIN.. At 8 o'clock?
Mr. GIVENS. Yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN. So you don't feel he came in the domino room before 8 o'clock?
Mr. GIVENS. No, sir; not that morning he didn't.

So why didn't Belin read Givens the FBI report, and ask Givens for an explanation?

A few minutes later, they returned, so to speak, to the domino room.

Mr. BELIN. Did you see Lee Oswald anywhere else in the building between 11:55 and the time you left the building?
Mr. GIVENS. No, sir.
Mr. BELIN. On November 22d?
Mr. GIVENS. No, sir.
Mr. BELIN. Did you see him in the domino room at all around anywhere between 11:30 and 12 or 12:30?
Mr. GIVENS. No, sir.
Mr. BELIN. Did you see him reading the newspaper?
Mr. GIVENS. No; not that day. I did--he generally sit in there every morning. He would come to work and sit in there and read the paper, the next day paper, like if the day was Tuesday, he would read Monday's paper in the morning when he would come to work, but he didn't that morning because he didn't go in the domino room that morning. I didn't see him in the domino room that morning. 

Belin asked Givens about seeing Oswald around lunchtime, and Givens went out of his way to say he didn't see Oswald in the domino room that morning. Hmmm...

A few minutes later, Belin asked the magic question. He obviously understood that the FBI's report could be interpreted as claiming Givens saw Oswald at 11:50, and wanted to clear this up.

Mr. BELIN. Did you ever tell anyone that you saw Lee Oswald reading a newspaper in the domino room around 11:50, 10 minutes to 12 on that morning on November 22nd?
Mr. GIVENS. No, sir. 

Well, yucch. These questions raise even more questions. If Belin had avoided the subject of Givens' seeing Oswald in the domino room, one might believe he was simply asking questions and letting Givens tell his story. But he asked numerous questions about the subject. And had clearly read the FBI's report on its interview with Givens. And had allowed Givens to contradict the FBI report. And had failed to note this contradiction on the record.

Well, this, when coupled with Belin's similar failure to expose Givens' changing his story from his seeing Oswald as he went down for lunch to his seeing Oswald when he went back up for cigarettes, suggests Belin was complicit in Givens' lies. He, as the public's representative, either had reason to believe Givens was lying, and had refused to put it on the record, or had actually helped arrange the lies.

That Belin was himself a liar, moreover, is supported by his behavior when the inconsistencies of Givens' testimony came to light. In 1973, Belin published November 22, 1963: You are the Jury!, a defense of the Warren Commission. Here, he presented Givens as credible, never mentioning the inconsistencies he had previously acknowledged. Here, on at least three separate occasions, he claimed Givens was the last to see Oswald in the building before the shooting. Here, he never once mentioned Eddie Piper, the janitor who had consistently and from the beginning claimed to see Oswald on the ground floor around noon, five minutes after the time Givens had claimed to see Oswald. Piper's claim he saw Oswald at noon had been discussed, moreover, in a February 24, 1964 memo authored by Belin. This memo had in turn been discussed by Sylvia Meagher in an August 1971 article in the Texas Observer, upon which Belin had negatively commented. Piper's April 8, 1964 testimony had been taken, for that matter, by Joseph Ball, Belin's partner in the investigation. There is simply no way Belin was unaware of Piper's testimony, and his failure to acknowledge it in his book was inexcusable.

And that's but one example of Belin's slipperiness. In February 1976, in an extended article in the National Review, Belin once again defended his behavior regarding Givens. Here, he claimed Givens had first said he saw Oswald on the sixth floor with a clipboard months before his testimony, when he spoke to the Secret Service in December. Belin thereby suggested that Givens' testimony about seeing Oswald on the sixth floor was just a clarification of an earlier story, and not a brand new concoction worthy of cross-examination. 

Let's take a look at the Secret Service's report on Givens: "On November 22, 1963, Givens, along with other employees working on the sixth floor, was laying the new plywood floor. Givens stated that he saw Oswald on the sixth floor at about 11:45 A.M. on that date, and that Oswald was carrying a clipboard that appeared to have some orders on it. Givens felt that Oswald was looking for some books to fill an order, which is his job, and did not give the matter further thought. Shortly, thereafter, Givens and the other employees working on the floor-laying project quit for lunch and they took both elevators. They were racing the elevators to the first floor and Givens heard Oswald call to them to send one of the elevators back up. It is Givens' recollection that Oswald was wearing a brown shirt, when he last saw him." (CD 87, p780).

Yikes! Belin had failed to tell his readers that Givens had told the Secret Service he saw Oswald on the sixth floor BEFORE he--Givens--went down for lunch, and not after he returned to get his cigarettes, as he would later testify. As a number of witnesses, including Givens himself when first interviewed by the FBI, claimed they saw or heard Oswald on the fifth floor as they went down for lunch, there is a world of difference in the stories, as one places Oswald on the fifth floor about 11:45--and asking for an elevator--and one places Oswald on the sixth floor just before noon--and refusing to come down on an elevator. It's hard to believe, moreover, that Belin would fail to appreciate the significance of this change in the story, and think it of such little importance he would fail to tell it to his readers. It follows, then, that he was being willfully deceptive. 

A 3-18-64 Ball/Belin memo only adds to my suspicion Belin was more than witting of Givens' sudden and suspicious change in story. There, in an outline of topics to be explored in upcoming testimony, under the subject heading "Elevator," Belin notes: "Oswald was on the fifth floor. Oswald called for them to stop. Oswald yelled at Givens to close the gates so that Oswald could have the elevator to return to the sixth floor." Well, heck. That gives away the game, IMO. But a few weeks before Givens testified, Ball and Belin were intending to spin his upcoming testimony supporting that Oswald wanted access to the elevator so he could avoid descending five floors, to testimony supporting that Oswald really wanted access to the elevator so he could avoid ascending but one floor. Pretty silly, and indicative of a desire to confuse. And that's not to mention that as of this date, 3-18-64, Ball and Belin were apparently unaware Givens was gonna claim he returned to the sixth floor to get cigarettes and saw Oswald near the sniper's nest.

But enough about Belin. He repeated his claim Givens was the last to see Oswald in his 1988 book Final Disclosure, and was either a deliberate liar or cognitively impaired. Let's get back to Givens. Subsequent to his testimony, the FBI decided to interview Givens yet again. The 6-4-64 FBI report (CD1245 p182) on this meeting reflects that Givens stood by his Warren Commission testimony and that “he now recalls he returned to the sixth floor at about 11:45 p.m.” Strangely, it fails to even address the question of whether or not Givens saw Oswald in the domino room on the morning of the shooting, and Givens' contradicting the FBI's initial report on this question.

So Givens, nearly five months after the shooting, "now recalled" seeing Oswald both before lunch, as he headed down from the sixth floor in an elevator, and a few minutes later, after going back up to get his cigarettes. Well, what is one to think of this? Maybe Givens had a bad memory. Was his new and improved recollection really all that important?

There are reasons to believe not. Givens’ assertion that he went back upstairs and encountered Oswald shortly after 11:45, when taken with Shelley’s and Piper’s statements, after all, suggests only that Oswald followed Givens back downstairs and made a phone call, and then went back up to the second floor. Certainly, one can not take Givens' delayed recollection that he returned to the first floor "about 5 to 12" as evidence that Shelley failed to see Oswald at 10 to 12 or that Piper was wrong about seeing him at 12. 

Well, at least no one reasonable--in Reclaiming History Vincent Bugliosi argues that we should believe that Shelley and Piper--who saw Oswald on the first floor at "10 to 12" and "12",  respectively, had in fact seen Oswald several minutes before Givens--whose sense of time he inexplicably trusts--saw him on the fifth floor "about a quarter to 12".  It seems much more likely that Givens was off by a few minutes and had returned to the first floor before 5 to 12, and/or that Shelley was off by a few minutes and saw Oswald after 10 to 12, than that Piper was off by more than 15 minutes in a statement signed the day after the shooting, and had completely mis-remembered the circumstances under which he saw Oswald. Piper, after all, knew when he went to lunch, and felt certain he saw Oswald as he went to lunch. This is the kind of thing that a janitor would be likely to know.

Of course, there is the already referenced possibility, first explored by researcher Sylvia Meagher, that Givens flat out lied when he said he'd went back up to the sixth floor after he came down for lunch. The 11-23-63 FBI teletype reporting on its interview of Givens, after all, claimed "Givens stayed on first floor until twelve o'clock and then walked out of the building to watch the parade pass." The 12-7-63 Secret Service Report (CD87 p780) summarizing an interview with Givens, as we've seen, not only failed to mention that he'd went back upstairs and encountered Oswald, it actually had him stating that he saw Oswald with the clipboard and heard him yell out before he came down for lunch. There's also this. The last line of the Secret Service report claims: "It is Givens' recollection that Oswald was wearing a brown shirt, when he last saw him." This is most intriguing. 

What with Givens' changing his story from his seeing Oswald on the sixth floor with a clipboard before he came down for lunch to his seeing Oswald on the sixth floor with a clipboard after he came down for lunch, and his being the only employee to say he thought he'd seen Oswald wearing a brown shirt after the FBI had discovered threads consistent with Oswald's brown shirt on the rifle, one might reasonably suspect that someone was pressuring or paying Givens to change his story.  

A 2-9-64 article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram gives us even greater reason to suspect Givens had deliberately changed his story. According to the article, written by Thayer Waldo, a Secret Service agent had boasted that a negro witness, who "had been arrested in the past by the Special Services office of the Dallas Police for gambling" had come forward, and had claimed to have seen Oswald actually fire the shots that killed Kennedy. According to Waldo, who claimed to have sat in on a conversation between this agent and another man, the agent said "Wait till that old black boy gets up in front of the Warren Commission and tells his story. That will settle everything. Yes, sir. He was right there on the same floor, looking out the next window; and, after the first shot, he looked and saw Oswald, and then he ran. I saw him in the Dallas Police station. He was still the scaredest nigger I ever seen. I heard him tell the officer, 'Man you don't know how fast fast is, because you didn't see me run that day.' He said he ran and hid behind the boxes because he was afraid that Oswald would shoot him." As Givens was the only school book depository employee with a notable police record, and was also one of the very few to have seen Oswald in the hour before the shooting, the "negro witness" described in the article is most certainly Givens.

Since Givens never signed a statement or offered testimony describing these events, however, it suggests that either Givens had lied to the police, the agent was lying to Waldo, or that Waldo himself had embellished his story. Perhaps the agent, who Waldo would later reveal to be Mike Howard, had merely indicated that Givens' story was damaging to Oswald, and Waldo had filled in the blanks. 

On 2-13-64 the FBI looked into this story. They contacted Jack Revill, a Lieutenant in the Dallas PD's Special Service Bureau. Revill told them the man described in the article was most logically Charles Givens. Revill told them that Givens had a history of drug use and “would change his story for money”. Revill told them, furthermore, that although he thought the character in the story was Givens, "that when Givens was interviewed immediately after the assassination, he stated he was not in the building at the time of the assassination." The FBI report then recounts Givens' earlier story that he came down for lunch around 11:30, and that, as he came down, he heard Oswald yell out and ask to have the elevator sent back up. (CD735, p295-296).

Months later, after Waldo's story was dredged up by Mark Lane as an indication the Secret Service had been planting false stories in the press, the FBI re-investigated. On May 28, 1964, the FBI wrote a report after talking with agent Mike Howard. (25H844-845). While Howard admitted that he and his brother, Deputy Sheriff Pat Howard, had had a conversation with Waldo, he claimed they did not know he was a reporter, and that they'd never discussed a negro witness to the shooting. On this same day Waldo signed a sworn statement backing his published version of the story. (25H846-848). A few days later, the Bureau contacted Pat Howard, and he admitted that he and his brother had told Waldo about a negro employee with a criminal record who had fled the building after the shots, for fear he would be implicated. (25H849-850) This is clearly a reference to Givens. If the Howards were telling the truth, and they just mentioned Givens because they thought his flight was an "amusing incident," it seems an incredible coincidence that Givens would shortly thereafter change his story and help the Warren Commission put the rifle in Oswald's hand.

Yes, you read that right...I wrote shortly thereafter. You see there is evidence that, although Givens first officially told his tale on 4-08-64, that he actually changed his story within days of Howard's talking to Waldo. The February 21, 1964 cover story of Life Magazine, which treated Oswald's sole guilt as a given fact, revealed "A few minutes after noon, as the President and his wife were pulling away from the airport in the open presidential limousine, an employee in the school book building, Charles Givens, saw Oswald on the sixth floor and said 'Let's go down and watch the President go by.' 'Not now,' Oswald responded. 'Just send the elevator back up.'" Hmmm...a story sneaks out that a black man with a criminal record is gonna implicate Oswald; a report is written indicating that this man is Charles Givens, that he will change his story for money, and that he really doesn't know anything; a thoroughly-biased article then appears in a prominent magazine citing Givens as the source of previously undisclosed information, information that is extremely damaging to Oswald; this info, furthermore, is inconsistent with Givens' sworn testimony months later. From this one might gather Life paid Givens for his story, and that he lied to them, or that someone paid or pressured Givens to lie to them. One can not reasonably assert or assume his cloudy memory suddenly became clear. 

Adding to the mystery surrounding Givens' sudden change of mind is the fact that only a few hours after Givens testified Dallas Police inspector J. Herbert Sawyer testified about the events leading up to his putting out an APB for someone matching Oswald's description (4H315-325)...and that his words appeared to confirm Givens' story. When asked if he'd put out an APB for anyone besides the white male observed in the sniper's nest, he replied "There is another broadcast in there somewhere, though. I put out another description on the colored boy that worked in that department...He is one that had a previous record in the narcotics, and he was supposed to have been a witness to the man being on that floor. He was supposed to have been a witness to Oswald being there."  He was then asked if this man was Charles Givens, and replied "Yes, I think that is the name, and I put out a description on him." When asked the vital question of how he found out Givens had seen Oswald, he replied: "Somebody told me that. Somebody came to me with the information. And again, that particular party, whoever it was, I don't know. I remember that a deputy sheriff came up to me who had been over taking these affidavits, that I sent them over there, and he came over from the sheriff's office with a picture and a description of this colored boy and he said that he was supposed to have worked at the Texas Book Depository, and he was the one employee who was missing, or he was missing from the building. He wasn't accounted for, and that he was suppose to have some information about the man that did the shooting."  

Well, this is peculiar. Who was this "somebody" who knew that Givens had seen Oswald? Givens had not come back in the building and talked to anyone after the shooting. Therefore, it must have been someone who'd talked to him after he'd come down from the sixth floor, but before he left the building...someone who'd spoken to the Dallas police on 11-22, or who'd spoken to someone who'd spoken to the police. This person could very well be James Jarman. While Jarman did not sign an affidavit until 11-23, he undoubtedly spoke to his boss Roy Truly (who spent a considerable amount of time with the police on 11-22) about the line-up of depository employees, in which it was discovered that both Oswald and Givens were missing. Jarman had also spoken to Givens after Givens had come down for lunch. It seems reasonable then to suspect that the two spoke about Oswald sometime around noon, before Givens walked up the street, and that Jarman had told this to Truly when both Oswald and Givens went missing. (When Jarman testified on 3-24-64, he was not asked about any conversations with Givens.) Perhaps Givens had told Jarman that Oswald had asked for someone to send the elevator back up for him when the sixth floor crew came down for lunch. And that no one had done so. Perhaps Givens had mentioned going back up to the sixth floor to get his cigarettes, and his seeing Oswald still up there.

But I doubt it. It seems highly unlikely that the Warren Commission, desperate to prove that Oswald had stayed up on the sixth floor during his lunch period, would fail to provide a corroborating witness for Givens' latter-day story that he saw Oswald at 5 to 12, should there have been one. It appears, therefore, that Jarman--or whomever--remembered Givens saying that he saw Oswald just before he came down with the others, and not that he saw him after going back up for cigarettes. In such case, Sawyer's testimony suggests 3 possibilities: 1) that Sawyers' memory was accurate and that Givens had told someone he saw Oswald on the sixth floor when he went back up for cigarettes, but that the Warren Commission had failed to identify and interview this person; 2) that Sawyers lied to bolster Givens' testimony by pretending that the DPD was aware that Givens' had had important information on Oswald all along; and 3) that Sawyers incorrectly remembered why they were looking for Givens. As Givens was the only convicted felon working in the building and as he just so happened to disappear after the shooting, it only makes sense that they'd be looking for him. The Dallas Police tapes of Sawyers' conversation about Givens, in fact, reflect that he explained why he wanted Givens to be located, and had said simply "He is a porter that worked on this floor up here. He has a police record and he left.” 

At this point, I'm leaning toward option number three. On his website, single-assassin theorist Dale Myers makes what is at least for me a convincing argument that Sawyers was just clutching at straws, and had no real recollection of why they were looking for Givens. 

But there are also reasons to suspect option two--that Sawyers deliberately lied in order to help prop up Givens' newfound story. On 5-13-64, Detective Jack Revill, who had warned the FBI on 2-13-64 that Givens would "change his story for money," testified before the Warren Commission. In his testimony, Revill discussed his actions in the hours just after the shooting. Strangely, he testified that within hours of the shots, "I talked to a negro by the name of Givens...I asked him if he had been on the sixth floor, and as well as I recall, and Detective Brian was present at this same time, he said yes, that he had observed Mr. Lee over by this window. Well, I asked him who Mr. Lee was, he said, a 'It is a white boy.' He didn't know his full name. So I turned this Givens individual over to one of our negro detectives and told him to take him to Captain Fritz for interrogation." (5H33-47).

Detective Brian testified just after Revill. He was not asked about Givens. When Captain Fritz testified he was also not asked about Givens. Even stranger, there is no record that Givens--who Revill, in his testimony, would have us believe was an important witness--was extensively interrogated on 11-22-63, or that he said he saw Oswald by the window. Givens' signed statement from 11-22, in fact, never even mentions Oswald. We should recall as well that Revill, when interviewed by the FBI on 2-13-64, failed to say anything about Givens' seeing Oswald by the window. He had, in fact, been dismissive that Givens knew anything about the shooting.

Ultimately, however, whether or not Givens or Sawyers or Revill lied is not as important as the fact that the Commission accepted Givens’ inconsistent and not entirely credible testimony as evidence Oswald never came down for lunch. By doing so, the commission blatantly disregarded the consistent statements of the far more credible Shelley, Piper and Arnold. Even worse, the commission's report asserted that Givens saw Oswald at 11:55 and “was the last known employee to see Oswald inside the building prior to the assassination.” Now this is a flat-out lie. Piper, of course, repeatedly claimed he saw Oswald at 12:00. 

While I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, this lie was most likely deliberate. When an official report, re-written numerous times by men supposedly versed in the facts, makes an almost certainly false claim, based on the statements of someone who has repeatedly changed his story, and then supports the relevance of this claim by making a demonstrably false claim, it seems reasonable to assume that a decision has been made to deceive the public and obstruct its search for truth. 

Particularly when there's other false claims supporting this same almost certainly false claim... In its report, the Commission supports Givens' story by claiming: "The significance of Givens' observation that Oswald was carrying his clipboard became apparent on December 2, 1963, when an employee, Frankie Kaiser, found a clipboard hidden by book cartons in the northwest corner of the sixth floor at the west wall a few feet from where the rifle had been found. This clipboard had been made by Kaiser and had his name on it. Kaiser identified it as the clipboard which Oswald had appropriated from him when Oswald came to work at the Depository. Three invoices on this clipboard, each dated November 22, were for Scott Foresman books, located on the first and sixth floors. Oswald had not filled any of the three orders."

This passage is incredibly deceptive.

The first of these deceptions is a subtle one. The significance of Givens' story about the clipboard did not become apparent when Kaiser found the clipboard, as contended in the report. Kaiser found the clipboard on 12-2; none of the statements by Givens or memos on Givens mentioned Oswald's having a clipboard until 12-7, when Givens was reported to have said he saw Oswald with the clipboard as he (Givens) first came down for lunch. By implying Givens' story about the clipboard preceded Kaiser's finding of the clipboard, of course, the Commission gives the impression Givens had told the story he first told more than four months after the shooting--about going back up to get his cigarettes and running into Oswald on the sixth floor--from the beginning. They knew this wasn't true.

The second deception is more concrete, and is another flat out lie. The clipboard was not hidden by book cartons, as contended. The discoverer of the clipboard, Frankie Kaiser, testified that the clipboard was "just laying there in the plain see, we've got a pretty good space back there and I just noticed it laying over was laying on the floor." When asked further if there were "any boxes between the wall and the clipboard?" he answered directly "No, not between the wall and the clipboard--there wasn't." When asked the more concrete question if there were any "boxes between the stairway and the clipboard?" he answered "No, you see, here's---let me see just a second---here's the stairs right here, and we went down this way and here's the stairs this way going up and here's the--and it was laying right in here by the cards--there are about four or five cards, I guess, running in front of it--just laying between the part you go down and the part you go up....right there in the corner." (6H341-345). Neither Kaiser nor his boss, William Shelley, nor the FBI's Nat Pinkston, who also saw the clipboard in this location, ever described it as being "hidden". The photo of the boxes by which the clipboard was found, moreover, marked by Kaiser and submitted into evidence as Kaiser exhibit A, shows that this clipboard would have been laying between two short rows of books with an open end, whereby anyone standing at the end of these rows, or even passing by, could see the clipboard laying right there on the floor. It was not hidden.

The third deception is also significant. The clipboard was found more than "a few feet" from the rifle. It was more like 12-15 feet, across an aisle and a row of boxes. By saying "a few feet" the report implies that Oswald most probably stashed the clipboard at the same time he was stashing the rifle. This is simply not  true. The clipboard location was in fact past the entrance to the down staircase from the rifle location. It makes no sense whatsoever that Oswald would walk out of his way to hide a clipboard containing orders that gave him a legitimate excuse to be on the sixth floor, while in flight for his life. It makes a lot more sense that Oswald would leave these unfilled orders when he came down for lunch. The clipboard location was, after all, close to both the elevator and the staircase. (The relative locations of the rifle and clipboard are best demonstrated in the Commission's own exhibit, Commission Exhibit 2707.) 

This brings us to a fourth deception... While the report implies that there is something suspicious about the orders on the clipboard all being unfilled, the reverse is true--it is exactly as one should expect should Oswald have been innocent. An order-puller, after all, would take his completed orders downstairs to the shipping and billing department when he came down for lunch. As all three orders found on the clipboard were for books found on the sixth floor, moreover, there is no reason to believe Oswald wasn't intending to come back and fill those orders after lunch. These books, moreover, could very well have been found within a few feet of the clipboard location; the Commission doesn't say. As no real effort was made to determine what orders Oswald HAD filled on the 22nd, furthermore, there is no reason to believe Oswald hadn't filled an order for a book stored near the clipboard location, quit for lunch, put down his clipboard, and transported the order downstairs. The Commission's implying the clipboard's being found in this location supported Givens' story, when it quite possibly had an innocent explanation, and may have actually supported Oswald's innocence, was unreasonable and unfair.

There was just no reason to trust Givens. The line in the 11-23 FBI report about Givens seeing Oswald in the break room on the morning of the shooting is quite clear, once read in the proper context. And it's not as if the FBI agent taking the notes was thinking of somebody else. At the very least, the Commission counsel tasked with this line of inquiry, David Belin and Joe Ball, should have called the FBI and Secret Service agents who’d interviewed Givens in the weeks after the shooting to see if they had notes on their meetings with Givens, and would vouch that Givens had made the statements attributed to him in their early reports. That the Commission's counsel did not, and lustily accepted Givens’ sudden recollection 4 months later that “Oh yeah, I saw Oswald on the sixth floor about 5 to 12,” is to their everlasting shame. 

But their shame was destined to be shared. On June 25, 1967, CBS News debuted part 1 of a 4 part investigation of the Warren Commission’s findings. As to whether or not Oswald was on the sixth floor at the time of the shooting CBS relied on the statements of one man: Charles Givens.  Eddie Barker of CBS introduced Givens as the “last man known to have seen Lee Harvey Oswald before the assassination.”  Givens then repeated his story of seeing Oswald standing in the middle of the sixth floor with orders in his hand, and of Oswald asking him to close the door on the elevator when he got to the bottom, so that Oswald could call it when needed. When Barker asked Givens “This would be about what time?” however, Givens’ gave a new response, indicating that someone, somewhere, had alerted Givens to Piper’s testimony. Givens told Barker “Well, about one or two minutes after twelve.” Not surprisingly, CBS failed to alert their viewers that Givens had thereby changed his story, yet AGAIN, and that Bonnie Ray Williams, cited elsewhere on their program, had testified he was on the sixth floor from about noon to 12:20 and had seen neither Givens nor Oswald.

(Although Edward Shields, Givens' lunch partner on 11-22-63, was interviewed by the FBI on 3-23-64, and signed a statement saying he'd left the building where he worked "about twelve o'clock noon" in order to watch the parade with Givens, he was more specific when talking to the HSCA on 10-23-77. Instead of lending credence to Givens' story--the story that only emerged after Shields had been interviewed--Shields told his interviewer that he'd met up with Givens on the street around 10 to 12. Just as damaging, on 9-25-77 James Jarman, told the HSCA that he believed he'd sent Oswald upstairs to correct a mistake around 11:25, or 11:30, and that Oswald had returned with the proper book shortly thereafter. These statements both erode Givens' credibility, and give Oswald a legitimate reason to be on the upper floors when last observed on the upper floors. From the sum of the evidence, then, the HSCA refused to accept Givens' story about seeing Oswald on the sixth floor at 5 to 12, and concluded instead that Oswald's whereabouts at 12:00--a half an hour before the shots were fired--were irrelevant as to his guilt.)