JAHS Chapter 11
On 3-4-64 the Jack Ruby murder trial begins in Dallas. Incredibly, the trial is held in the Dallas County Criminal Courts Building--just across the plaza from the school book depository, where Ruby's victim, Lee Harvey Oswald, had worked, and from which he (Oswald) was presumed to have shot and killed President Kennedy.
Here's Ruby heading into his trial.
And here he is in a courthouse hallway, presumably in the midst of his trial.
On 3-7-64 we see a memo from Eisenberg to Rankin revealing that they no longer trusted anyone or anything outside their unjustified belief there was but one shooter.
Eisenberg begins: "Among the most crucial questions to be considered in determining the identity of the President's assassin or assassins are the number of shots fired in the course of the assassination, the spacing between the shots, and the location of the site or sites from which the shots were fired. A great deal of evidence is relevant to these questions, for example, the number of wounds, the path of the missiles causing each wound, the position of the rifle believed to have fired the recovered bullet and bullet fragments, the position and number of empty cartridge cases believed to have been fired in this rifle, the number of recovered bullet and bullet fragments and visual observations of bystanders. (Note: by the term "bystanders" I mean everyone but the assassin (s) and the victims.) In addition, a mass of evidence has been collected concerning the aural observation of bystanders. The purpose of this memorandum is to point out that very little weight can be assigned to this last category of evidence."
Well, this is disconcerting. This suggests that Eisenberg is well aware that the bulk of the witnesses believed the last two shots were fired close together, and that this rules out Oswald's having acted alone. His desire to point out that this evidence should be given "little weight" then seems as much as a confession that he knows this evidence suggests there was two shooters...and that he wants Rankin to know that he has found a way to ignore this evidence.
Eisenberg then quotes a textbook on firearms claiming that "little credence...should be put in what anyone says about a shot or even the number of shots." This is misleading in that no textbook ever written would say that "little credence...should be put in what the majority says about a shot or even the number of shots." It is also misleading in that the Commission's operating thesis--that three shots were fired--has largely been derived by what the majority of witnesses have said about the number of shots.
Eisenberg then asserts that, since "the sound of a shot comes upon a witness suddenly and often unexpectedly, the witness is not 'ready' to record his perception." He then asserts, seemingly without foundation, that "The same is usually true of subsequent shots following hard on the heels of the first." Thus, he has given himself and the Commission carte blanch to ignore any statements they don't like. He then adds insult to injury by citing anecdotal evidence to support his claim, mentioning that the firearms book he is citing (Firearms Investigation, Identification, and Evidence) presents as an example an instance where a hunter, asked the number of shots fired by a nearby hunter, said he'd heard five shots when the man had fired but two. This is offensive. That Eisenberg is so desperate to write off statements in conflict with his supposition Oswald acted alone he will compare the observations of Secret Service agents under fire to the casual observations of a hunter in the woods is an offense against common sense, and indicative of his naked desire to deceive.
Over the course of the next two paragraphs, Eisenberg continues to cite reasons to doubt both the witnesses' perception of distance, and their perception of the weapon fired. It appears, from this, that Eisenberg is trying to cover all the bases, and to make sure Rankin tells the Commissioners they should feel free to disregard any witness statement that conflicts with their foregone conclusion. In an apparent effort to drive this home, Eisenberg then adds "Obviously, during the assassination the surprise, emotion, confusion and noise were much greater than is even usually the case, and bystanders' aural perception of the gunshots is therefore to be accorded even less weight than is usually the case."
He then discusses how acoustics may have led these witnesses to incorrectly perceive the direction of the shots. He then relates "It must be emphasized that the above discussion is not merely theoretical, but is based upon the analysis and observations of professional criminal investigators. Furthermore, this discussion is borne out by the very fact that the testimony of the bystanders to the assassination varies enormously. (Similar variations occur in the testimony relating to the Tippit killing.)"
Wow. This is not only disconcerting, it is thoroughly misleading. Eyewitness evidence is not routinely overlooked just because it "varies." It is in fact the job of investigators like ourselves to collate this evidence and determine just what happened. Eisenberg's apparent reluctance to do so then can be taken as an indication that he knows what's coming, and is afraid that the recollections of the witnesses will prove to be at odds with what he personally has come to accept.
This is borne out by the next paragraph. Eisenberg writes: "In my opinion in examining the Secret Service agents the utmost care should be taken to avoid giving the Commission the impression that the aural perception of these agents have much validity. These witnesses may or may not be more familiar with the sound of gunshots fired in the open than the other bystanders. Probably they are not." Now, this is absurd on its face. It's hard to understand how Eisenberg could possibly believe that agents of the Presidential Detail of the Secret Service would have no more credibility regarding the number and spacing of the shots fired at the limousine than bystanders who'd never undergone their training.
Eisenberg then writes "The fact is, that the contemporaneous reaction of the two agents in the President's car does not indicate that they immediately were aware that the sounds that they heard were gunshots." Eisenberg fails to note how this affects their credibility regarding the number and spacing of the sounds they heard.
He then cites inconsistencies in the statements of agents Kellerman and Greer and the statements of these agents as presented by the FBI. Tellingly, in order to damage the credibility of these witnesses, he accepts that the FBI's reports are accurate.
He then concludes: "Even if agents do have more familiarity with such sounds, many of the other factors which sap the credibility of aural perception of gunshots would still be applicable...I do not mean to imply that the agents should not be examined on this subject but no impression should be given that their testimony is sacrosanct. I intend in the near future to analyze the recorded testimony of bystanders as to the number of shots, etc. giving particular attention to factors which may have affected their perception. In addition I think we should have expert testimony on the subjects discussed in this memorandum." (Neither Eisenberg's analysis of the eyewitness and earwitness testimony nor the testimony of any experts claiming that earwitness testimony can routinely be ignored can be found in the Commission's records.)
Well, this is disappointing. It seems clear from this memo that Eisenberg has made up his mind about what happened, and is determined to make sure the Commissioners stay on board. We thought we were through with this nonsense when we signed on with the commission. But it's beginning to look as though the commission's investigation is as much a whitewash as the FBI's initial investigation, only with more smoke and lawyers.
On 3-8-64, we are shown a memo from Assistant General Counsel Norman Redlich to commissioncounsel Adams, Specter, and Stern, the men tasked with interviewing eyewitnesses to the shooting, as well as members of the Secret Service. This builds upon Eisenberg's memo from the day before. Redlich suggests that they inquire of the Secret Service "if any credence at all is to be placed on the testimony of eye-witnesses concerning the number of shots" and continues "I believe that expert testimony should be called to deal with the whole question as to whether the recollection of witnesses in this respect has any validity." (No expert witnesses were called to deal with this question. It follows then that when the commission chose to ignore the testimony of the majority of its witnesses on the spacing of the shots, it was doing so without any foundation other than their own gut feeling that it was okay for them to do so.)
Above: from L to R, Secret Service Agents Clint Hill, Roy Kellerman, and William Greer.
The next day, the Commission finally starts questioning witnesses. Confirming Eisenberg's fears, the first of the Secret Service agents questioned by Arlen Specter re-enforce that the last two shots were bunched together. Roy Kellerman (3-9-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 2H61-112“) "So, in the same motion I come right back and grabbed the speaker and said to the driver, “Let’s get out of here, we are hit!,” and grabbed the mike and I said, "Lawson, this is Kellerman,"--this is Lawson, who is in the front car. "We are hit; get us to the hospital immediately.” Now, in the seconds that I talked just now, a flurry of shells come into the car.” Specter also asks Kellerman about the location of the wound on Kennedy's back, and is told "The upper neckline, sir, in that large muscle between the shoulder and the neck, just below it." William Greer (3-9-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 2H112-132 “I glanced over my shoulder. And I saw Governor Connally like he was starting to fall. Then I realized there was something wrong. I tramped on the accelerator, and at the same time Mr. Kellerman said to me, "Get out of here fast." And I cannot remember even the other shots or noises that was. I cannot quite remember any more. I did not see anything happen behind me any more, because I was occupied with getting away.” (When asked how many shots he heard) “I know there was three that I heard - three. But I cannot remember any more than probably three. I know there was three anyway that I heard…I knew that after I heard the second one, that is when I looked over my shoulder, and I was conscious that there was something wrong, because that is when I saw Governor Connally. And when I turned around again, to the best of my recollection there was another one, right immediately after.” (When asked how much time elapsed between the first and second shots.) “It seems a matter of seconds, I really couldn't say. Three or four seconds.” (When asked how much time elapsed between the second and third shots.) “The last two seemed to be just simultaneously, one behind the other…” Double head shot. (Previously Too vague)
Specter then questions agent Clint Hill, who raced for the limousine from the Secret Service back up car but arrived too late. At one point Specter asks Hill to describe the sound he heard at the time of the head shot--the sound Kellerman has just described as a "flurry" of shots and the sound Greer has just described as two shots fired "simultaneously." Clint Hill (3-9-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, 2H132-144) "it had a different sound, first of all, than the first sound that I heard. The second one had almost a double sound--as though you were standing against something metal and firing into it, and you hear both the sound of a gun going off and the sound of the cartridge hitting the metal place, which could have been caused probably by the hard surface of the head. But I am not sure that that is what caused it." Specter then asks Hill about the President's wounds. He replies: "I saw an opening in the back, about 6 inches below the neckline to the right-hand side of the spinal column."
Warren's War on the Witnesses
Above: an Associated Press photo of assassination witnesses Amos Euins, Arnold Rowland, Robert Jackson, and James Worrell in Washington on March 10, 1964, the day of their testimony before the Warren Commission.
Behind the Scenes with Howard Willens
Commission counsel Howard Willens kept a contemporaneous journal on the commission's investigation. In early 2014, he put his journal online. Let's pretend then that, in our imaginary investigation in 1964, we've befriended Willens and that he is showing us his journal.
Howard Willens shows us his journal entry for 3-9-64/3-10-64. (I have added some comments to put the events in context. But, of course.) His journal entry reads, in part:
2. On Tuesday, four eyewitnesses appeared before the Commission and completed their testimony at approximately 3 p.m. I had obtained a copy of the prior day’s testimony early in the morning and had planned to read it but was unable to begin this job until late in the evening.
6. After lunch and a brief discussion with Jack Miller I visited with the Deputy Attorney General for a while regarding the work of the Commission. I briefed him on the report of the Nosenko interview and the schedule of witnesses set forth in the memorandum of March 6. I discussed with him briefly the stalemate between the Treasury Department and the Commission regarding the area of security precautions. Mr. Katzenbach agreed that this was a needless problem which should be resolved without too great difficulty. He suggested that I might wish to discuss it sooner or later with Mr. McCloy.
7. Shortly after I returned to the Commission offices on Tuesday, Mr. Redlich came into my office in quite a hurry and asked me to join them in the Conference Room. Apparently the testimony for the day had been completed (eyewitnesses Rowland, Euins, Jackson and Worrell) and the Chief Justice was engaging Messrs. Redlich, Ball, Belin and Specter in conversation regarding the proposed schedule of testimony and several other matters. When I entered the room the Chief Justice was expressing his opinion that more witnesses with significant testimony should be called before the Commission as quickly as possible. This was partly because the court was currently in recess and he wanted to complete as much of the Commission’s business as possible during the next week and a half. He expressed his view that the medical witnesses were among the more important witnesses to be heard. He indicated that as a corollary to this that many of the witnesses that had already been called before the Commission did not have much testimony of substance.
Hmmm... Even beyond that newspaper accounts suggest Warren was only present for one hour of the March 9 testimony of the Secret Service agents, Warren's complaint that the witnesses recently called before the commission lacked substance doesn't pass the simplest of smell tests. The four Secret Service agents interviewed the day before indicated the last two shots were bang-bang, one behind the other. Kellerman said the last two came in in a "flurry...it was like a double bang--bang, bang." Greer said they came in "just simultaneously, one behind the other." Hill said he recalled hearing but two shots, but that the last one had "some type of an echo...almost a double sound." And Youngblood pretty much concurred: "There seemed to be a longer span of time between the first and the second shot than there was between the second and third shot." And these four problematic witnesses have now been followed up by a second four, ALL of whom add to the likelihood there was more than one shooter. Arnold Rowland, to begin with, surprised the heck out of the commission and said he saw two different men on the sixth floor before the shooting, and that the last shot was fired but two seconds after the second. Amos Euins said he'd heard four shots. Robert Jackson said "the second two shots seemed much closer together than the first shot, than they were to the first shot." And James Worrell said he'd heard four shots. It seems obvious, then, that Warren views witnesses who can help him sell the single-assassin conclusion as substantive and those harmful to this cause as lacking substance. If so, this makes his request the medical witnesses be brought forward as soon as possible a bit suspicious. It seems possible he is afraid the investigation is about to spin out of control, and hopes to bring the investigation--and the Washington media reporting on the investigation--back in line via the gory details of the President's death.
7. cont'd) He indicated that he wanted to get our lawyers on the road as quickly as possible to interview witnesses. In the course of stating his views on this, the Chief Justice stated that he had complete faith in all of the members of the staff and wanted them to be free to have unrecorded interviews with the witnesses. Although he did not elaborate on his views in this matter, the Chief Justice apparently had been briefed on the staff discussions on this subject by someone, possibly Mr. Rankin or Mr. Ball.
Hmmm... Willens has told us of these discussions, and that several of the commission's staff think it improper to prep the witnesses via unrecorded interviews. He shows us a 3-2-64 entry in his journal which reveals:
"Most of today was consumed by two staff meetings regarding the proposed schedule of testimony before the Commission and by depositions taken by the staff. The draft memorandum for the members of the Commission which I prepared was distributed to members of the staff and was discussed at the initial meeting beginning at 11:30 a.m. The discussion quickly centered on the problem whether staff members should be permitted to interview witnesses in advance of the witness giving a deposition or testifying before the Commission. This argument went on for two hours or so and for an additional two hours or so at a continuation of the meeting beginning at 4 o’clock. Mr. Shaffer was not there and therefore his eloquence could not be brought to bear on this topic. As a result of the meetings, a set of procedures is to be made up by a committee including Messrs. Liebeler, Belin and Redlich. Mr. Redlich and Mr. Eisenberg were the most forceful proponents of the proposition that staff members should not be permitted to interview witnesses without a court reporter present. Mr. Belin was strongly opposed and Mr. Liebeler urged a somewhat intermediate position."
Willens then shows us a 3-4-64 memo from Redlich to Rankin in which Redlich reveals "I feel that an unrecorded interview with a witness creates the inevitable danger that the witness will be conditioned to give certain testimony" and that, furthermore, "If we compound the lack of cross examination with the pre-conditioning of a witness, we will be presenting a record which, in my view, will be deceptively clean..."
Well, here, on 3-10, Warren has weighed in on the matter, and has told the staff, in so many words, to go ahead and prep some witnesses and get something on the record...pronto!
We can only presume then that he wants to put some miles between the commission and its latest round of witnesses.
Willens then shows us the rest of his entry for 3-10.
7. cont'd) In response to the Chief Justice’s views I indicated to him that we would make every effort to secure witnesses for next Friday and to change the schedule for the week of March 16 so as to meet his wishes. The various members of the staff then discussed their views as to the difficulty of the medical testimony and the time necessary to prepare for it. The Chief Justice indicated that he was primarily interested in hearing the testimony of the doctors from the Bethesda Naval Hospital who conducted the autopsy.
Hmmm... It seems clear from this that Warren feels confident the testimony of these doctors will bolster the case for a single-assassin. We wonder why he feels this way.
7. cont'd) I indicated that, if possible, we would try to have these doctors appear before the Commission during the week of March 16.
8. After the above meeting various members of the staff gathered in my office to make their suggestions regarding alterations in the schedule. Present were Messrs. Redlich, Eisenberg, Ball, Belin, Stern, Liebeler and Ely. As usual there was considerable debate among the members of the staff regarding the function of the Commission and the definition of what constitutes a thorough job. Apparently during the day’s testimony the Chief Justice had indicated his readiness to receive a clean record and not pursue in very much detail the various inconsistencies. Mr. Ball agreed with the approach suggested by the Chief Justice completely and Mr. Specter thought that we would have to amend our approach to correspond with that of the Chief Justice. Mr. Redlich and Mr. Eisenberg took a strong and articulate contrary view. The long and short of the meeting was that we decided to bring up Mr. and Mrs. Declan Ford on Friday and to explore the possibility of having the medical testimony on Monday and Tuesday.
Well, this confirms our suspicions. Warren wants the staff to present him with a "clean" case against Oswald, one with as few inconsistencies as possible, and he is giving them the green light to prep witnesses in unrecorded interviews in order to meet this end.
Above: the ever-ambitious Arlen Specter, who would progress from Warren Commission Junior Counsel to Philadelphia District Attorney to U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania (and even make a run at President), while jumping political parties not once but twice...
Arlen Specter, for one, is ready to board Warren's Ark. In keeping with Eisenberg's 3-7-64 memo suggesting that the testimony of the Secret Service agents not be taken seriously, Specter sends a memo to J. Lee Rankin on 3-11-64, in which he asserts that
"On March 9, 1964, Roy H. Kellerman, William R. Greer, Clinton J. Hill, and Rufus W. Youngblood testified before the Commission. As you know, I interviewed these witnesses on March 3rd and 4th at which time they told me of the assassination events just as they were set forth in their statements previously provided to us by the Secret Service...All four witnesses impressed me as being credible... In my opinion all these witnesses did their very best to recount the situation as they recollected it. Notwithstanding that, it is my conclusion that they do not accurately recall many of the details on the precise time or sequence of shots or their exact movements and reactions during the crucial 5 or 6 seconds."
So what's going on here? None of the other commission lawyers wrote memos detailing their feelings about the veracity of their witnesses.
Specter continues: "Since the question had not been resolved as to the (?) on interviewing witnesses with or without a verbatim transcript in advance of their testimony, I did not interview Robert K. Jackson, Arnold Louis Rowland, James Robert Worrell or Amos Lee Euins in advance of their being called to testify before the Commission. In my view their testimony would have been somewhat better organized and more coherent with a pre-testimony interview, but all factors considered, their testimony went reasonably well...Mr. Jackson was the oldest and most mature of this group and was a very credible witness...James Worrell was a very dull and inarticulate witness. He impressed me as being honest and straight forward, but not very alert. I do not place a great deal of reliance on his testimony...Amos Lee Euins was an inarticulate young negro boy (age 16) who, nevertheless, did a reasonably good job in relating what he saw. He impressed me as being credible and I evaluate his testimony as being believable. I concluded that it was not worthwhile to resolve the number of minor inconsistencies among his various statements and testimony."
So, aha! This memo is a mea-culpa of sorts. Specter called some witnesses that upset the grumpy old "Why can't this be over already?" Warren, and now he's putting on the record that he agrees with Warren that he should have conducted pre-testimony interviews with these witnesses. (Y'know, so he could have steered around their problematic recollections, such as seeing an extra man on the sixth floor or hearing one shot too many...)
But, wait. We've skipped someone. Arnold Rowland...
Being a Dick to Arnold
Here's Specter on Rowland:
"Arnold Louis Rowland presented the picture of being a good-looking, bright, well-dressed young man. While he has the face of an 18 year-old, he has the carriage and demeanor of an individual somewhat older. He gave the impression of being alert and intelligent, and he testified that he had straight A's during most of his high school career and had an I.Q. of 147. At the conclusion of his testimony he broke down when Senator Cooper asked a well-intended question as to whether it occurred to Mr. Rowland to call to the attention of a nearby policeman the presence in the window of a man with the gun. Rowland answered that that was a recurring dream which he had which indicated his deep emotional involvement in the event.
There are many details of Rowland's testimony which (raise?) significant doubt as to whether he could have observed and remembered so much. He testified that he had told the FBI on two occasions about the negro gentleman in the alleged assassination window which, of course, must be checked out. My impression was the witness was telling the truth as he remembered it, but he had obviously thought about the subject on a great many occasions as has passed the assassination scene frequently which may provide the basis for his reconstruction of the event.
Congressman Ford did not notice that the witness was (?) (?) became upset and began to ask a line of questions which the Chief Justice interrupted. Congressman Ford asked me to ask the questions informally of Rowland which I did in the intervening recess, but they were not put on the record because Rowland did not return to the afternoon session. The Chief Justice very graciously sent Rowland on a tour of Washington with his chauffeur. Rowland told me that he passed by the assassination scene every day on his way to work, but he had never gone back to the scene and stood there to try to recreate what he saw. I (?) drafted a brief memorandum to Congressman Ford on this subject which I am attaching to this memorandum for transmission to him if you approve."
So, yikes, the Chief Justice took pity on Rowland and stopped him from being further questioned. Clearly, the Commission felt sorry for the young lad, and would let his testimony stand on its merits.
I'm joking, of course. On March 16, General Counsel Rankin followed up on Specter's memo by asking the FBI to conduct an investigation into just who the negro Rowland thought he saw on the sixth floor could have been. But he didn't stop there. Rankin's memo concluded:
"During the course of his testimony, Mr. Rowland also provided the Commission with certain information about himself. He states that he has an IQ of 147 and that through his junior year in high school he had a straight-a average but he received "a couple of B's" in his senior year and claims that he received his IQ test in May of 1963. For your information, Rowland has attended W. H. Adamson High School and that his eyes were examined several months ago by a "firm of doctors" named Finn and Finn and that he had "much better than" 20-20 eye sight. Moreover, Rowland advised the Commission that he had been accepted at Texas A & M, Rice, and SMU. Finally, Rowland testified that he has taken special courses in sound and study of echo effects at Crozier Tech, which is a school in Dallas. His instructor was Sam Foster. The Commission requests that your Bureau investigate all aspects of Mr. Rowland's testimony concerning the person alleged to have been at the southeast corner window. Moreover, the Commission would like the FBI to report on the accuracy of the aforementioned personal facts concerning Mr. Rowland. Finally the Commission would like a name check of your records and indexes for any information which they may contain on Arnold Louis Rowland."
So, yeah, the Commission asked the FBI to find some dirt on Arnold Rowland, an 18 year-old boy whose original sin was his claiming he saw a man who may or may not have been Oswald with a rifle in the southwest window 15 minutes before the shooting, (which is a fact backed up by his wife, who verified that he'd tried to point this man out to her, yep, 15 minutes before the shooting), and whose second sin was his claiming he saw a negro man in the sniper's nest at this same time, which could very well have been true, and innocent, seeing as Bonnie Ray Williams had already admitted to being on the sixth floor at this time.
In any event, Rankin's ploy was successful. The FBI tracked down old teachers and counselors of Rowland's and compiled a series of quotes questioning his reliability, and questioning whether he was, gadzooks, a communist. The Commission then, on 4-7-64, called his wife to the stand and forced her to admit, under oath, that her husband sometimes exaggerated his own accomplishments!
Well, for F's sake! This had nothing to do with the issue at hand--whether or not Rowland would make up that he'd told the FBI about the negro man on the sixth floor, and that they didn't seem interested! The FBI, of course, failed to follow up on this in any meaningful way and ask the numerous agents who'd talked to Rowland if they could recall such a thing, and whether they ignored this part of Rowland's story because they thought he was talking about the fifth floor, etc...
In short, Rankin asked the FBI to perform a hatchet job, and they readily complied....
Above: Buell Wesley Frazier, Oswald's friend and co-worker.
Trying to Fool Buell
If the testimony of the last two day's witnesses suggests there are some issues which can never be resolved, however, testimony taken on this very day positively proves it. On 3-11-64, the Warren Commission calls Buell Frazier to the stand, to see if they can succeed where the Dallas Police, the FBI, and the Secret Service have failed--that is, to see if they can get him to agree that the paper bag Oswald brought to work was big enough to have held the rifle. No such luck. Frazier tells them the bag covered "I would say roughly around 2 feet of the seat...If, if you were going to measure it that way from the end of the seat over toward the center, right. But I say like I said I just roughly estimate and that would be around two feet, give and take a few inches." Counsel Joe Ball then asked him its width. He replies: "Well, I would say the package was about that wide...Oh, say, around 5 inches, something like that. 5, 6 inches or there. I don't..." He then describes its appearance: "You have seen, not a real light color but you know normally, the normal color about the same color, you have seen these kinds of heavy duty bags you know like you obtain from the grocery store, something like that, about the same color of that, paper sack you get there." Frazier later describes Oswald's walk into the depository: "He got out of the car and he was wearing the jacket that has the big sleeves in them and he put the package that he had, you know, that he told me was curtain rods up under his arm, you know, and so he walked down behind the car...he had it up just like you stick it right under your arm like that...The other part with his right hand...Right, straight up and down."
Under repeated questioning from Ball, Frazier gives a little but not enough. He testifies: "I didn't pay much attention to the package other than I knew he had it under his arm." Ball eventually shows him the bag purportedly found by the sniper's nest. Ball asks him if the bag he saw in Oswald's possession was about the same length. Frazier responds "No, sir." Ball asks him if it was about the same width. Frazier responds: "Well, I would say it appears to me it would be pretty close but it might be just a little bit too wide. I think it is, because you know yourself you would have to have a big hand with that size but like I say he had this cupped in his hand because I remember glancing at him when he was a walking up ahead of me." Ball asks him if the bag he saw was the same color as either the bag found in the sniper's nest or the replica bag created on 12-1. Frazier replies: "It would be, surely it could have been, and it couldn't have been. Like I say, see, you know this color, either one of these colors, is very similar to the type of paper that you can get out of a store or anything like that, and so I say it could have been and then it couldn't have been." Ball keeps pressing, and asks Frazier what he told the FBI on 12-1. (Ball keeps from the record that Frazier had been shown the bag before 12-1--and had first been shown the bag on the night of the shooting, before it had been discolored--and had insisted it was not the bag he'd seen in Oswald's possession that morning.) In any event, Frazier answers: "I told them that as far as the length there, I told them that was entirely too long." He's then asked about the width. Frazier relents: "Well, I say, like I say now, now I couldn't see much of the bag from him walking in front of me. Now he could have had some of it sticking out in front of his hands because I didn't see it from the front, The only time I did see it was from the back, just a little strip running down from your arm and so therefore, like that, I say, I know that the bag wouldn't be that long. So far as being that wide like I say I couldn't be sure." Ball then pounces and asks if the bag carried by Oswald could have been as wide as the bag from the sniper's nest. Frazier admits: "Right." Ball then tries to get Frazier to admit that he wasn't sure about the length either. Frazier cuts him off: "What I was talking about, I said I didn't know where it extended. It could have or couldn't have, out this way, widthwise not lengthwise." (2H210-245).
When it came to the length of the bag, Frazier hadn't budged an inch. Literally. The package he saw was still 11 inches too small to be the bag now in evidence.
His story was as problematic as ever.
Frazier's sister, Linnie Mae Randle, follows him onto the hot seat. Her description of the bag is almost as problematic as his, seeing as it confirms his opinion that the package was too small to conceal the rifle. She describes her sighting of Oswald on the morning of the assassination: "He was carrying a package in a sort of a heavy brown bag, heavier than a grocery bag it looked to me. It was about, if I might measure, about this long, I suppose, and he carried it in his right hand, had the top sort of folded down and had a grip like this, and the bottom, he carried it this way, you know, and it almost touched the ground as he carried it..." (She later compared it to the replica bag) "Well, it wasn't that long, I mean it was folded down at the top as I told you. It definitely wasn't that long...The width is about right...What he had in there, it looked too long." Counsel Ball then asks "This package is about the span of my hand, say 8 inches, is that right? He would have about this much to grip?" She responds: "What I remember seeing is about this long, sir, as I told you it was folded down so it could have been this long." He then asks: "I see. You figure about 2 feet long, is that right?" She answers: "A little bit more." Ball measures out the length on the replica sack. He asks "Is that about right? That is 28 1/2 inches." She answers: "I measured 27 last time." (2H245-251).
The Warren Commission thus goes 0 for 2. Two witnesses saw Oswald with a bag on the morning of the 22nd. Two witnesses testified the bag was too small to conceal the rifle. The bag photographed by the FBI and placed into evidence was 38 inches long and almost 9 inches wide, much larger than the bag described by Randle, and more than twice as large as the bag described by Frazier. This issue has never been resolved.
And yet... Oh my! It was only yesterday that Chief Justice Warren encouraged his commission's staff to prep their witnesses in advance and create a "clean" record without inconsistencies. And here, the very next day, his long-time buddy Joe Ball has presented the commissioners with a monstrous inconsistency--the only witnesses to see Oswald carrying a bag on 11-22-63 both swear it was too small to have held the rifle!
Howard Willens shows us his journal entry for 3-11-64. It reads, in part:
2. Testimony was taken today of Frazier and Randle. There was considerable debate and some consternation among some members of the staff regarding their testimony concerning the paper
sack which they saw Oswald carrying on the morning of November 22. They firmly testified that the sack carried was no longer than could fit between a cupped hand and the armpit, whereas the rifle, even when broken down, is some 35 inches, which is considerably longer than could fit in this position. This confirms, in rather a significant way, the intention of the Commission to pursue a
neutral and complete fact-finding mission as opposed to ratifying the FBI report or in fact leaving a public record without inconsistencies.
Well, WOW. Our friend Howard is almost certainly trying to make sweet lemonade out of sour lemons. Frazier's testimony did not "confirm" the noble intentions of the commission. No, far from it. It showed instead the futility of trying to keep the record clean in a case this messy.
(Note: Frazier would later claim that Joe Ball did everything he could to get him to change his testimony regarding the bag and give Warren the "clean" record without inconsistencies he desired. In a 2-16-87 interview with Gus Russo first published in 1998, Frazier would complain: "They had me in one room and my sister in another. They were asking us to hold our hands apart to show how long the package was. They made me do it over and over--at least ten times. Each time they measured the distance, and it was always 25 inches, give or take an inch. They did the same with my sister and she gave the same measurement...But I don't understand what the problem is--Lee could have taken the rifle in on another day and hidden it in the warehouse. Why did he have to take it in on Friday?" Many years later, Frazier returned to this question, telling Hugh Aynesworth in a November 16, 2008 Dallas Morning News article: "I know what I saw, and I've never changed one bit" and declaring, when asked his response to the Warren Commission's disregard of his testimony, "I wasn't surprised. They seemed to have a pre-arranged agenda when they questioned Linnie and me. Our refusal to agree with their agenda simply caused them to state that we were mistaken." And this wasn't his last word on the subject. An April 1, 2013 article in the Dallas Morning News described a recent appearance of Frazier, along with Aynesworth, at the Irving Central Library, and noted "To this day, Frazier insists that the package Oswald took to work wasn’t long enough or big enough around to hold a rifle — even if its stock had been disassembled from the barrel."
Frazier's comments to Russo indicate that he failed to appreciate that Oswald hadn't been to the Paine residence (where his rifle was in storage) for more than a week, and that the paper bag purportedly found in the depository on 11-22 and believed to have held Oswald's gun had been made with paper believed to have come from the roll of paper in use on 11-22-63. As these rolls were replaced every few days, the commission had little choice but to propose that Oswald had made the paper bag at work on the 21st, transported it to the Paine residence after work, and used it to transport the rifle into the building on the 22nd. To conclude otherwise, after all, would not only call into question the progeny of the paper bag supposedly found in the sniper's nest, and submitted into evidence by the DPD and FBI, but the progeny of all the evidence against Oswald. There were but two roadblocks to the commission'sselling this scenario, and avoiding this question about the evidence--Frazier and his sister--and the Warren Commission's treatment of Frazier and his sister indicates they were well aware they were an obstacle.
It is with some pride then that I report that on September 25, 2014, at the AARC conference in Bethesda, Maryland, I asked Frazier an important question the commission failed to ask. I explained to him that the commission, and the single-assassin theorists crawling in their footsteps, not only push that the bag he saw in Oswald's possession on 11-22-63 was large enough to hold the rifle--somethingFrazier, by the way, once again denied at the conference--but that they simultaneously push that Oswald transported the bag out to Irving in Frazier's car on 11-21-63. I asked him if the paper used in the depository was crinkly and stiff when folded over, as I had assumed. And he said yes. I then asked him if there was any way Oswald could have smuggled more than 7 square feet of industrial wrapping paper out to Irving, within his clothes or otherwise, on 11-21-63. And Frazier's face hardened. He thought for a moment, and looked down at the floor. I read his face as saying "Wow, it's even worse than I thought." He then looked me in the eyes and responded as firmly and clearly as anyone has ever responded to a question... He said "That did not happen.")
After the testimony of Frazier and Randle, FBI agent Cortlandt Cunningham testifies, and reveals yet another problem with the "Oswald brought the rifle in the bag" theory. In order to fit the rifle in the bag, the rifle would have to have been dismantled. If it was dismantled to fit in the bag, however, it would have to have been re-assembled before it could be fired. Cunningham testifies that the rifle could be re-assembled in two minutes using a screwdriver. No screwdriver was found in the sniper's nest. No screwdriver was found on Oswald. No screwdriver was found in Oswald's rented room. To the Commission's credit, they ask Cunningham if the rifle could be assembled without the use of a screwdriver. He says it could be assembled with a dime. They time him assembling it with a dime. It takes him six minutes. (2H251-253).
(Note: there is reason to believe Cunningham rehearsed this assembly in order to get it "right." As reported in a November 1994 article in The Fourth Decade, and in a subsequent book entitled No Case to Answer, Ian Griggs, a former policeman, bought an M/C rifle and familiarized himself with its parts before attempting to replicate Cunningham's purported assembly of the rifle in six minutes. While Griggs concluded the assembly of a rifle of this type using only a dime was possible, he reported that it was quite difficult for him to turn the screws, and that he, in fact, gave up after running overtime on several attempts and developing blood blisters on his fingers and a cut on his right thumb.)
Well, yikes, there's a big ole gaping hole in Cunningham's testimony. Cunningham worked in the FBI's ballistics department. He test-fired the rifle numerous times. Since, as anyone familiar with guns knows, the assembly of a rifle inevitably affects its accuracy, why hadn't Cunningham test-fired the rifle immediately after its re-assembly, to see if it remained accurate enough to hit the shots purportedly made by Oswald? And, assuming he hadn't thought of it, why didn't the Warren Commission ask him to perform these tests? Certainly someone on the Commission realized that what they were asking of this rifle--that it be disassembled, wrapped up in a paper bag, carried around, re-assembled with a dime, and still fire accurately from its very first shot--was highly unlikely? (This issue, not surprisingly, has never been resolved.)
And yet, despite all these problems--the witnesses to the shooting itself suggesting there was more than one shooter, the bag Oswald brought to work being too short to hold the rifle, the dubiousassumption Oswald put together the rifle with a dime--the commission still seems determined to pin the tale on the Oswald. Like a ball (or a Ball) rolling downhill, the inertia is just too great.