In his book ON THE TRAIL OF THE ASSASSINS, Jim Garrison told many lies to convict Clay Shaw

Jim Garrison's JFK Assassination Book On the Trail of the Assassins

Small Lies, Big Lies, and Outright Whoppers

One has to be very careful about saying that someone is "lying," since the number of liars in the world is far fewer than the number of people who are mistaken, or deluded, or honestly believe some very silly notion.

But there are liars, and one of the worst was the late Jim Garrison, whose book On the Trail of the Assassins was the basis of Oliver Stone's movie JFK. The following is a list of lies in On the Trail of the Assassins. To qualify as a lie on this list, a statement:

(1.) Must have been something of which Garrison had first-hand knowledge. Things that he was told and probably believed don't count. Thus a lot of silly factoids about the case, such as the tales of Julia Ann Mercer or the testimony of Roger Craig, are repeated by Garrison. These don't get included for the simple reason that Garrison probably believed them.

(2.)Must be material to Garrison's case. Thus stray and random errors of fact don't count. The lies included here serve to strengthen Garrison's case against Clay Shaw, to make Garrison look better as an investigator and prosecutor and to conceal misconduct on the part of Garrison and his staff.

In the following table the source for each of Garrison's claims is On the Trail of the Assassins (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1988). References to the historical reality are from:

Patricia Lambert, False Witness, New York, 1998

Milton E. Brener, The Garrison Case, New York, 1969

Edward J. Epstein, The Assassination Chronicles, New York, 1992.

David Blackburst, David Reitzes, and Jerry Shinley, all members of the newsgroup alt.assassination.jfk, made major contributions to the following.

Garrison's claim in On The Trail of the Assassins Historical Reality Garrison's agenda
The Case Against Clay Shaw
It was well known in the French Quarter that "Clay Bertrand" — shadowy figure supposedly connected to the assassination — was Clay Shaw (pp. 85-86). Two Garrison investigators, Lou Ivon and Andrew Sciambra, concluded that "Clay Bertrand" was unknown in the Quarter. Had witnesses existed to identify Shaw as "Bertrand" Garrison would doubtless have subpoenaed them. Lend credibility to a central tenant of his case - that Shaw was "Bertrand."
"Patient, plodding footwork" on part of staff identified Clay Shaw as "Clay Bertrand" (p. 87). Garrison's identification was based on the notion that when homosexuals use aliases "They always change their last names, but never their first names" (Hugh Aynesworth, "The Garrison Goosechase," Dallas Times Herald, Nov. 21, 1982). Conceal crackpot nature of his inference that Shaw was "Bertrand."
Witness Perry Raymond Russo was telling story of "assassination party" in Baton Rouge (pp. 162). Russo told no such story until brought to New Orleans, given "truth serum" and then hypnotized. Lend credibility to key witness, conceal key weak point in prosecution's case.
Witnesses William Morris and Mrs. Jessie Parker had corroborated Russo's testimony that "Bertrand" was Clay at the time of Shaw's arrest (p. 86). Both witnesses turned up much later, and were unknown to the Garrison staff at the time of Shaw's arrest (NODA interview of William Morris, July 12, 1967; NODA affidavit of Mrs. Jessie Parker, Sept. 12, 1967). Conceal that his entire basis for the arrest of Shaw was Russo testimony induced by drugs and hypnosis.
Witness Mrs. Jessie Parker called the DA's office to tell them that Clay Shaw had signed an airport "VIP room" guest register as "Clay Bertrand" (p. 86). DA's office received a "tip" about Mrs. Parker and contacted her. She at first refused to identify Shaw as Bertrand, and then did when asked to take a lie detector test (Parker trial testimony, NODA affidavit of Mrs. Jessie Parker, Sept. 12, 1967). Conceal liklihood that she was an unwilling witness, coerced into giving the testimony the prosecution wanted.
Witnesses in Clinton, La. were known to tie David Ferrie and Clay Shaw at the time Shaw was arrested (pp. 105-109). First lead on the Clinton story did not come until May 18, 1967, two and a half months after Shaw was arrested (Lambert, pp. 190, 321 fn. 13). Conceal the lack of evidence against Shaw at the time of his arrest.
Witnesses Jules Ricco Kimble, David Logan, Nicholas and Mathilda Tadin, and Raymond Broshears had linked Shaw to Ferrie at the time Ferrie died (p. 117-121). None of these witnesses was known at the time of Ferrie's death, and only the Tadins testified at the Shaw trial. Imply he had evidence linking Shaw and Ferrie at the time of Shaw's arrest.
Clay Shaw had "extensive international role as an employee of the CIA" (p. 87). Shaw, like thousands of business people, academics, and journalists, gave information to the Domestic Contact Service. He was no sort of operative, and was never paid by the CIA (Lambert, p. 325, footnote 14). Portray Shaw as sinister spook.
Italian press reports tying Clay Shaw to Permindex and therefore to the CIA appeared too late for use in the Shaw trial (pp. 87, 251). Claim that Permindex was a CIA front, coming from a disreputable Communist daily, became known in New Orleans in April 1967, almost two years before the trial (New Orleans States-Item, 4/25/67, Times-Picayune, 5/16/67). Garrison was aware of the charges (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, pp. 372-373). Conceal the fact that the reports lacked credibility, else Garrison would have used them in court or in public statements.
Dean Andrews implicitly admitted to him that Clay Shaw was indeed "Clay Bertrand" (p. 82). Garrison never made this claim during 1960s or 1970s while Andrews was alive, and no sources from the 1963-1970 period corroborate Andrews saying this. Provide support for the notion that Shaw was "Bertrand."
Witness Vernon Bundy, who tied Oswald to Clay Shaw, was interviewed "extensively" and Garrison's staff was "satisfied that he was telling the truth" (p. 156). Bundy failed lie detector test, and Garrison was told Bundy was lying, but used him at trial anyway (Lambert, p. 100; Brener, p. 129). Conceal lack of credibility of key witness.
Clinton, LA witness John Manchester testified he had "checked the license plate" of big black car in town, and traced it to Trade Mart in New Orleans, linking Shaw to Oswald and Ferrie (p. 107, 232). The prosecution in the Clay Shaw trial expressly admitted that he had done no such thing. The Trade Mart owned no automobile. Fortify credibility of "Clinton witnesses."
"Everyone" of the Clinton witnesses recalled the driver of the big black auto, noting that "whenever someone passed by . . . he nodded politely and said hello" (p. 106). Witnesses said no such thing (trial transcript, February 6 and Febuary 7, 1969). Imply that witnesses, who in fact barely saw the driver, were able to give a solid identification of him as Clay Shaw.
Andrew Sciambra found a woman in Jackson, LA, who interviewed Lee Oswald for job at State Mental Hospital (p. 108). Untrue. Woman in question merely claimed to have found employment application, and that account lacks corroboration, credibility (Lambert, p. 281). Fortify "Clinton/Jackson" scenario.
All Clinton witnesses identified David Ferrie in company of Shaw and Oswald in the town (p. 106). Only one witness identified Ferrie, and one more said Ferrie could have been in Clinton (Shaw trial transcripts, February 6, pp. 59-60, 85, 111; February 7, pp. 10-11). Fortify evidence linking Oswald to Ferrie.
Jury acquitted Shaw because Garrison was not able to provide a plausible motive for Shaw (p. xii). Jury didn't think Garrison had a case. Claim that if information "discovered" since trial about Shaw's "CIA contacts" had been known, Shaw would have been found guilty.
LIFE Magazine withdrew support for his investigation because of concern with Garrison's supposed mob ties (p. 163). LIFE, which had hoped for journalistic coup, withdrew when top editors concluded that Garrison had no case (Lambert, pp. 82-83) Imply that factors extraneous to Garrison's case caused LIFE to withdraw.
Sinister character "Richard Matthews," presumably a CIA operative, was at Shaw trial, frequently whispering with Shaw. No person corresponding to Garrison's description of "Matthews" was in the courtroom (Lambert, p. 284). Imply sinister Shaw/CIA connections.
Judge Haggerty summarily and unexpectedly excluded the testimony of Officer Habighorst, who claimed that Shaw had admitted to using the "Bertrand" alias during booking (p. 242). Haggerty excluded Habighorst's testimony after an entire day of testimony that bore on the officer's credibility. Conceal the fact that Habighorst's testimony lacked credibility and was implausible, and imply unfair treatment from Judge Haggerty.
Reporter James Phelan had a "brief career" attacking credibility of Garrison's chief witness, Perry Raymond Russo (p. 238). Phelan, a writer for the Saturday Evening Post, had a distinguished career that spanned three decades (Contemporary Authors, Vol. 161, 1998, p. 301). Attack journalistic critics of his "case" against Shaw.
One Edward Whalen had been hired by Clay Shaw and David Ferrie to assassinate him (p. 122-124). Had there been any basis for the charge, Garrison would have charged Shaw with the crime and called Whalen as a witness for the prosecution. Portray Shaw and Ferrie as sinister characters capable of murder.
Discussed "mystery death" of Clay Shaw (p. 274). Shaw died after bout with metastatic cancer, and in presence of caretaker. Imply sinister machinations.
Garrison's Handling of the Case
He had "selected" March 1, 1967, as the day he was to arrest Shaw (p. 145). Garrison arrested Shaw in a fit of pique when Shaw insisted on calling his attorney and resting before taking a lie-detector test (Lambert, p. 283). Imply that solid evidence against Shaw existed; conceal the erratic, volatile nature of his decisions.
Members of his staff called Shaw's lawyer, Salvadore Panzeca (p. 145). Shaw himself made several calls before locating Panzeca (Lambert, p. 283). Portray himself and his staff as protecting the rights of the accused.
He (Garrison) was in the courtroom during the testimony of Clay Shaw (pp. 249-250). Garrison was not present. Conceal the fact that Garrison had distanced himself from the case against Shaw by leaving it to subordinates.
Implies he was in the courtroom when the verdict was announced, and says he "had very little emotional reaction" (p. 250). Garrison was not in the courtroom, and flew into a rage when aides brought the news to him (Milton Brener, The Garrison Case, p. 269). Conceal his distancing himself from the case by not attending court sessions, and conceal his emotional reaction.
Denied his staffers offered witness Alvin Beaubouef a large amount of money and a job if he gave the testimony the DA's office wanted (p. 161-162, 320-321). Conversation offering money and job was tape recorded, and was admitted by DA's office at the time. The only issue was whether they were attempting to get false testimony, or induce Beauboeuf to tell the truth (Brener, pp. 163-169; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 15, 1967, Lambert, pp. 202-203). Conceal questionable tactics on the part of his staff.
He was prevented from extraditing Gordon Novel from Ohio to testify for the prosecution (p. 181). He could have extradited Novel had he wanted to, but failed to press the case in Ohio (Epstein, p. 248; Garrison interview with Bud Fensterwald, Aug. 26, 1967 [notes at Assassination Archives and Research Center]). Imply that Novel had valuable testimony that Garrison was prevented from using.
Claimed he was unable to extradite "key witness" Sandra Moffett to testify (p. 181). At the trial, the defense tried to bring Moffett to New Orleans, since she contradicted the testimony of key prosecution witness Perry Russo. The prosecution impeded the effort. (Shaw trial transcript, Feb. 6, 1969, pp. 5-13). Imply that sinister forces prevented him from using witnesses that would have bolstered his case.
Denied he decided to put Charles Spiesel, paranoid crackpot witness on the stand, blamed his staff (p. 230). Staff members told Garrison that Spiesel was crazy, but Garrison decided to use him anyway (Lambert, p. 284). Evade responsibility for disastrously poor decision.
Claimed to be in the courtroom when Spiesel testified, to have been "swept by a feeling of nausea" when Spiesel's insanity was revealed (p. 276-277). Garrison was not present for Spiesel's testimony (Los Angeles Times, Feb. 8, 1969). Dramatize his claim that a "clandestine operation" had planted Spiesel as a prosecution witness.
Garrison the Investigator
Discovered the "changed parade route" that supposedly showed Dallas officials to be part of the conspiracy. Supposed "change" was first mentioned in 1964 volume by Joachim Joesten. In fact, there was no "change." Puff his abilities as an investigator.
Clearly implies that David Ferrie was arrested on the Monday after the JFK assassination (p. 7). Ferrie heard Garrison was looking for him, and came in to the DA's office (Lambert, pp. 27-28). Conceal fact that Ferrie was cooperative and forthcoming.
In wake of Ferrie death, his staff secured all medicine bottles at the scene, and he quickly inferred that Ferrie committed suicide with an overdose of Proloid (pp. 142-143) Medicine bottles were in possession of coroner, not Garrison's staff, and "Proloid" theory was suggested to Garrison in October, six months after Ferrie's death. Inflate his investigative prowess, reinforce Ferrie "suicide" theory.
Claimed to have discovered suspect and Oswald "look-alike" Kerry Thornley through his own investigative efforts (pp. 71-72). Thornley was brought to Garrison's attention by researcher David Lifton, who was appalled when Garrison began to consider Thornley a suspect. Inflate his own investigative prowess. Conceal fact that Lifton, like many other researchers, came to view Garrison as reckless and irresponsible.
Claimed investigator William Gurvich, who defected from his investigation, was a marginal figure. Gurvich was a central figure in Garrison's probe, with full access to Garrison's evidence. Conceal the fact that a well-respected, highly knowledgeable insider had concluded his prosecution of Shaw was bogus.
Garrison's Witnesses
Considered using a "lie detector" test on Perry Raymond Russo, but decided not to because such tests are "imperfect and inadmissible in court" (p. 152). Garrison had two such tests administered to Russo, and he failed both (Lambert, pp. 92-93, 114-115). Conceal unreliability of key witness.
Witness Jack Martin was pistol whipped by Guy Banister when he mentioned sinister "goings on" in Banister's office involving arms and anti-Castro Cubans (p. 5). Martin's original story was that he and Banister had a quarrel over long-distance charges (Lambert, p. 23). Fortify his thesis that anti-communist, CIA nexus was responsible for the assassination.
Claimed Banister to be "an occasional" drinker who "never had been known to drink heavily during the day." (p. 5). Banister had a history of excessive drinking, violent behavior (Lambert, p. 277). Imply that Banister was highly sensitive to Jack Martin's supposed knowledge of "goings on" at Banister's office.
Described witness Jack Martin as "a quick-witted and highly observant, if slightly disorganized, private detective." (p. 29) Garrison described him in December of 1966 to journalist Richard Billings as "an undependable drunk," "a totally unreliable witness," and "a liar." Lend credibility to a witness who provided key links in Garrison's theories.
Martin refused to sign any statements about what he saw in Guy Banister's office (p. 39). Martin was happy to sign statements, and signed several (Lambert, p. 279). Conceal the real reason for his failure to use Martin's testimony - Martin's lack of credibility.
Claimed the "notes" from statement of one David Logan, who connected Ferrie and Shaw, were stolen from his office (pp. 119, 319). Transcript of Logan interview was in Garrison files, and placed in the National Archives along with other papers after his death (Lambert, p. 281). Conceal real reason for failure to use Logan's testimony - his lack of credibility.
Ferrie, Banister, and Oswald
On weekend of assassination, numerous witnesses linked Oswald and Ferrie (p. 6). Only Jack Martin linked Ferrie and Oswald initially, and his claim was that Ferrie had taught Oswald to fire foreign weapon, not that Oswald had frequented Banister's office (Lambert, p. 25). Conceal flimsiness of his evidence linking Ferrie to Oswald.
David Ferrie and two friends left New Orleans for Houston "approximately an hour" after the assassination (p. 7). They left six hours after assassination (Lambert, p. 278). Imply that they had some role in an assassination conspiracy.
Claimed news media "sniffed out" David Ferrie in the days following Garrison's charges against him (p. 138). Ferrie sought out reporters, vehemently denied any role in assassination, blasted Garrison (Lambert, p. 282). Portray Ferrie as evasive and defensive.
David Ferrie committed suicide (pp. 141-143). Ferrie died of a Berry Aneurism, a kind of stroke. Imply that Ferrie was guilty, and killed himself to avoid prosecution.
Claimed Guy Banister's office had a "stack" of Fair Play for Cuba leaflets, discovered on Banister's death (p. 36-37). Garrison's source, Mrs. Mary Banister, actually said there were "some" leaflets in Banister's files. Imply connection between Banister and Oswald beyond Banister's well-known habit of "keeping tabs" on subversives.
Claimed Federal agents descended on Banister's office "within an hour or two" of his death and "carted off the locked filing cabinets" containing his files. (p. 37). Banister's files were dispersed to various state and local agencies, with none in the hands of the Federal government. Imply intense Federal government interest in Banister.
Garrison the Man
Claimed he personally had perjury charges against Dean Andrews dropped because of Andrews poor health (p. 243). Charges were dropped by Judge Shea - Garrison was not even in office at time (Lambert, p. 285). Portray self as generous and compassionate.
Claimed that the day after the story of his JFK investigation "broke" in the press, he left his office via private elevator to avoid talking to reporters (p. 131). Garrison held impromptu press conference, made many wild charges (Lambert, p. 203). Conceal his own lack of self-control, impulsive reaction to conflict.
Denied he said that Texas oil millionaires conspired to kill Kennedy (p. 288). He said precisely this in several interviews in the Fall of 1967 (Lambert, p. 286). Conceal his tendency to jump from one theory to another, depending on which buffs had his ear at a particular time.
Denied knowledge that Carlos Marcello, New Orleans Mafia boss, was a mobster (p. 288). Marcello was one of the top mobsters in the country, singled out by Bobby Kennedy for prosecution (John H. Davis, Mafia Kingfish). Downplay charges that Garrison was himself cozy with the local mob.

Several themes run through Garrison's long series of lies. Garrison, confident that the reader will not know the details of his prosecution and the labyrinthine way it developed over two-plus years, presents a "case" he was not capable of presenting to the jury in New Orleans: a case that convicts Clay Shaw. Telling a few lies, or just little lies, can't achieve this. He has to tell a long series of whoppers.

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