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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Did Clay Shaw Admit to Aloysius Habighorst that he was Clay Bertrand?

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

In January 1968, police officer Aloysius Habighorst made the following statement to Garrison's investigators:

Towards the end of July, 1968, for some reason, Mr. Habighorst went on television in New Orleans and told his story about Clay Shaw admitting to being Clay Bertrand. It was immediately denied by Shaw's attorney, Edward Wegmann.

New Orleans Times-Picayune, July 27, 1968

The revelation caused quite a stir and a police investigation was launched.

New Orleans Times-Picayune, July 28, 1968

Garrison's office then released fingerprint cards and the booking sheet of Clay Shaw to the press. Clay Shaw had signed the fingerprint cards, but the booking sheet was only signed by a sergeant and a doorman.

New Orleans States-Item, July 30, 1968

Here is the booking sheet:

Here are the documents as printed in the July 30, 1968 edition of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

The police investigation found no wrongdoing on the part of Habighorst.

New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 6, 1968

What is amazing here is that Habighorst's appearance on TV was authorized by the District Attorney's office. Now why would Garrison do that? Was he trying to prejudice the public against Clay Shaw?

We now fast forward to the start of the Clay Shaw trial, One of Shaw's defense lawyers, Sal Panzeca, interviewed police officer Jonas Butzman, who was present when Shaw was fingerprinted:

On February 19, 1969, the issue of the fingerprint card came up in court. James Alcock, second in command to Garrison, asked that the jury be removed while Judge Haggerty heard oral arguments on admissibility. The first witness was Louis Ivon, Garrison's chief investigator. He had driven with Clay Shaw and his attorneys to Central Lockup where Shaw was fingerprinted. He was asked on three occasions if any of Shaw's lawyers were present during fingerprinting:

"B of I" is the Bureau of Identification.

Then police officer Aloysius Habighorst took the stand. Two other officers were also in the B of I room:

Habighorst said that Clay Shaw signed the fingerprint card, and even reviewed it:

It's hard enough to believe that Clay Shaw would tell them he was Clay Bertrand, and even harder to believe that he would review the card and not say anything. Habighorst was then asked if Shaw's lawyer was in the room:

Habighorst was then asked if Wegmann was excluded:

The questioning continued:

And, the regulations state that lawyers are not permitted in the B of I room:

Habighorst was asked if Wegmann was present when Shaw supposedly gave his alias:

At this point, Judge Haggerty stepped in and asked how far away Edward Wegmann was from where Shaw was being fingerprinted. It was 30 feet. It's questionable whether Wegmann was able to hear Habighorst.

Usually, the officer fingerprinting the suspect does not ask him questions. He fills out the fingerprint card with information from the arrest record. And that is why you don't need lawyers there.

The next witness was Captain Louis Curole, Platoon Commander at the Central Lockup:

He was asked if Edward Wegmann was in the B of I Room:

Captain Curole was asked about the field arrest report:

And this form is usually brought to the B of I room:

Further to the point:

Even Judge Haggerty understood the implication:

And further:

Habighorst had told the court he did not have that information and that is why he questioned Shaw. Now, the court realized that they would have to rule on Habighorst's credibility. And so Curole was asked the penultimate question:

And so the information regarding aliases should have been obtained by Habighorst from the arrest record. Sergeant Jonas Butzman, whose job was to guard Clay Shaw while he was in central lockup, was then called to the stand:

And, he never heard the name Bertrand:

On redirect, Butzman confirmed that he was close enough to hear whatever was said by Clay Shaw:

Police officer John Perkins was the next witness. While he was not in the B of I room on March 1st, he was called to stand to testify about standard procedures:

And so, the standard procedure is to get the suspect to sign the fingerprint card, and then fingerprint them. And standard procedures is to send copies of the arrest record to the officer who is doing the fingerprinting.

And, in his four months of service, Perkins had not seen it done differently:

The next witness was Clay Shaw's attorney, Edward Wegmann:

Shaw's copy of the Arrest Register Report did not include Clay Bertrand as the alias.

Wegmann then testified that he was not in the B of I room:

The next witness was Sal Panzeca, a lawyer who worked for Edward Wegmann. He told Garrison's men that they were not to ask questions of Shaw:

And then Clay Shaw was called to the stand. Remember, the jury is still out:

Shaw said he was separated from his lawyer upon entering the B of I room:

Shaw was asked about the fingerprint card:

Did Clay Shaw tell them he had an alias?

And was Shaw asked questions when he was fingerprinted?

It was finally time for Judge Haggerty to rule.

Alcock tried to interject but was stopped:

Alcock was not happy:

Alcock then moved for a mistrial, which was instantly denied.

Alcock indicated he would file a bill of exception.

And now I have to turn to James Kirkwood's American Grotesque for some color about the ruling: (page 359)

"Alcock was completely stunned. The entire courtroom was astonished. Finally the prosecuting attorney gulped down his amazement and immediately moved for a mistrial. Judge Haggerty, in a superb piece of underplaying, merely said, "Denied." Alcock announced he would immediately file for writs of review with the Louisiana Supreme Court to reverse Judge Haggerty's ruling. Haggerty's attitude was Go ahead, file away, file all the writs you want. With that he announced court was adjourned for the day, saying if no word was received from the Supreme Court by 8:45 the next morning, he would telephone the court in Alcock's presence. If the review would not be granted by 9 A.M., Judge Haggerty declared, court would resume on schedule.
Alcock's face was still a deep shade of persimmon as he strode out of the courtroom. The defense lawyers, who could not have been more pleased by this decision in their favor, were nevertheless so completely surprised they were barely able to exhibit their overt pleasure and could be seen merely wagging their heads in astonishment.
The press had something to skid down the hall about this afternoon. Although many claimed this was Judge Haggerty's token gift ruling for the defense, whatever it was, he had pulled off the gesture with complete bravado. It seemed to put roses in the judge's cheeks, clear the eyes and, even, steady the hands.
The Hanging Ladies, the Rolfes and the members of the District Attorney's staff all looked as if someone had broken the rules of the game."

New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 20, 1969

Alcock argued with the judge that the jury should decide the issue, but Haggerty was having none of it, and he he issued his final ruling:

James Kirkwood noted that about this time a limerick was making the rounds of the press section: (page 360)

The judge's attack was quite vicious

On an officer name Aloysius

He implied that he lied

And poor Alcock soon cried,

"Goodbye, Al, we're sure gonna miss yez!"

John MacKenzie wrote a very good article for the Washington Post about Judge Haggerty on March 16, 1969:

While the article lauds Haggerty's decision on Habighorst, it is nonetheless fairly critical of Garrison; the judges in New Orleans in general; and Haggerty in particular. That didn't stop Judge Haggerty from showing off the article. The following is taken from James Kirkwood's interview of Irvin Dymond:

Kirkwood: Yes. What about - oh, I know what was interesting which didn't have really anything to with the case except, when they were talking about Clay being fingerprinted and Eddie Wegmann not being in that room. Right? Well, now if he wanted him there, and if Wegmann has wanted to be with him, then that would seem to violate ... but I mean the whole -- when you had a couple of police officers who said "This is the way we do." Well Jesus, shouldn't somebody call them up and say "Hey listen, we're in trouble. The judge is ..."

Dymond: (can't hear it)

Kirkwood: Because - you know when I saw - when that came out, I saw a lot of people getting out of prison.

Dymond: Well I think ... again, that the fingerprinting process is very rarely used in evidence in a criminal case. And it would really be immaterial unless it was an item ... evidence ... (as it was here?)

Kirkwood: Because of the alias, or supposed alias. Boy, the judge was talking to me about that yesterday. He still is up in arms about ...

Dymond: That son of a bitch.

Kirkwood: He said in the first place ... violated the law by taking the card and making it public, and waiting that long and this and that. And he keeps saying, "I don't give a Goddam who knows I said I didn't believe him." But he said, "I don't --"

Dymond: Yes, he's really - really (proud?) ... (of having said that?).

Kirkwood: Well that was - you know in a way that as his big moment. And that was his token -

Dymond: Contribution to the defense?

Kirkwood: Contribution to the defense. One of the few. But nevertheless it was kind of a splashy one. And - you know that's funny, Irvin, he - Jack MacKenzie of the Post wrote that up and it wasn't printed until I think March 15 or 16. After the trial. But it was a whole article based on that Ash Wednesday when he said "I don't believe him, I don't care who knows it." Now, in that article, MacKenzie really took Haggerty to task. About the many times he changed, 180 degrees, and the Warren Report, and consistently ruling for the state. He said, in the article, "hard-drinking, nervous" - and this and that. Singing the songs, ruling for the state - it also made references to the fact that Garrison was known to have many judges in his pocket - all of this in the article, and the Judge takes it. Had his minute clerk and the guy who takes the stuff down tearing that office apart because he wanted to show me that. And he gave me a copy of it even. And he said, you know, "Now read this. Now don't you think this is great?" Boy, it's not great. I mean, the point that MacKenzie was making is that once he stood up and did something and just by the fact of doing it surprised everybody so much that that's why it was newsworthy. Not because the judge was doing anything particularly right. But the whole article slammed him. And ... he's got it on a piece of paper, you know, glued up there and the picture, he likes the picture very much and he wants to have that reproduced, and he called up the UPI while I was there, and he said, you know ... MacKenzie, you know, and this thing - March 15 or 16 - and I want that picture that looks serious and "That's when I took my stand," he said. "That's when I took my stand." Tickled the hell out of me. You know? That man - I don't know what he knows about law or not - he's not a bright man. Because he doesn't have what we call the governor - an eye on himself. He doesn't know the picture he presents of himself, and did to the press, and does to me. I don't think he has any idea.

Dymond: No. I don't think he does either. Jim, you can't drink that much whiskey and not have it affect you.

Now, how do the conspiracy books treat the Habighorst incident?

Jim Garrison in On The Trail of The Assassins says that the Judge ordered the jury removed form the court (page 242)

"We instructed the court attaché to call Officer Habighorst. But before Habighorst could take the stand, Judge Haggerty suddenly ordered the jury removed from the court."

James DiEugenio, in Destiny Betrayed, thinks that Haggerty made a legal error: (page 308)

"As for Escobedo, New Orleans police procedure has always required that a suspect's counsel be nearby when routine booking was taking place, which was in fact the case at Shaw's booking."

But, of course, the issue is not the booking, but the fingerprinting. There is no mention of Jonas Butzman's testimony in DiEugenio's book.

Joan Mellen, in her book, A Farewell to Justice, writes that: (page 309)

"The ruling was so capricious that some wondered whether Haggerty was affected by dislike of Habighorst's brother Norbert, a bad cop, who had held back information and was serving ten years for killing the brother of police superintendent Joseph Scheuring."

Mellen might have something there - but not the way she thinks. Don Carpenter, in his book Man of a Million Fragments, writes: (page 80)

"Shaw dealt not only directly with Mayor Chep Morrison; he also worked with various assistants of Morrison. One of those was W. Ray Scheuring, Executive Assistant to the mayor. In a bizarre chain of events, Scheuring was killed in early 1961 during an altercation with an off-duty policeman on the Greater New Orleans Bridge leading to the West Bank of the Mississippi River. The man was the brother of New Orleans police officer Aloysius Habighorst. Habighorst's brother was represented at trial by Irvin Dymond, who later served as Shaw's lead attorney during his criminal trials. Officer Habighorst was the booking officer when Shaw was arrested, and later testified that Shaw had freely admitted that he used the name "Clay Bertrand" as an alias, an important factor in the case against Shaw. The story emerged about a year after Shaw's arrest, and approximately a year before his trial; some have speculated that the story originated out of Officer Habighorst's hard feelings toward Irvin Dymond, who Habighorst felt did not do an adequate job defending his brother against the charges of killing Schuering."

Of course, Oliver Stone couldn't help but include a scene, in his film JFK, with Habighorst and Clay Shaw. And, in the courtroom, he has Judge Haggerty instructing the jury to leave the room (like Garrison's book) and he ignored the fact that it was James Alcock who requested that the jury be removed. Garrison wasn't even in the courtroom at the time.

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