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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Did the Clay Shaw Trial Jury Believe There Was a Conspiracy?

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

Some conspiracy books claim that while Clay Shaw was acquitted, the jury also believed there was a conspiracy in the JFK assassination. It's a bit of a nonsensical question since the jury were not asked to make any determination of a conspiracy in the assassination. And, while Garrison might have put the Warren Report on trial, Shaw's defense team was focused only on getting a 'not guilty' plea. They had neither the time, the resources, or the interest in putting on a defense of the Warren Report.

Here is what two of the conspiracy books say about this issue. Bill Davy, in his book Let Justice Be Done (on page 173), says that "interviewed after the trial, some jurors felt Garrison had proved a conspiracy but he had not adequately linked it to Shaw or provided a motive." There is no source for that statement.

Joan Mellen, in her book, A Farewell to Justice (on page 318), says "The jury told Mark Lane they had agreed that there had been a conspiracy, with the United States government a participant." Her source for that was an interview with Mark Lane.

Here is a little excerpt from the LA Free Press of March 14-21, 1969.

But, there was no such article in the next issue.

Here is what Lane told Muhammad Speaks in September 1969:

These claims are very definitive. Was the jury convinced that Garrison had "destroyed the Warren Report"?

One of the few people to actually speak to jurors was James Kirkwood, author of American Grotesque. Here are some pertinent excerpts from his book:

Sidney Hebert, the jury foreman.

He told Kirkwood that "He [Lane] never talked to any juror that I know of." He did make one comment on the Warren Report - "In fact, I didn't think too much of the Warren Report either until the trial. Now I think a lot more of it than I did before this trial."

Oliver Schultz

Kirkwood: Do you think Mr. Garrison in his closing remarks wanted to use Mr. Shaw to get at the Warren Report.

Schultz: I think like he thinks. I think somebody higher up had more to do with that and what I thought that he was trying to do was bring him to say - you know, bring out some more names or something, you know? So he could convict these other ones, bring them down here and convict them. I thought this whole case was - trying to get the higher-ups. And I still say it's the higher-ups that had more to do with it than just the fellow that shot him, you know."

David Powe

David Powe was contacted by Mark Lane, and in his interview with Kirkwood wondered "How did his name [Clay Shaw] get in the hat to be pulled out? This frankly is the question that is being asked. If he's not guilty, why pick Clay Shaw? Why not pick someone else?"

Larry Morgan

"I asked Larry Morgan what he thought the weakest part of the state's case was, and he said, "Well, the whole thing. I was surprised, I just couldn't picture the type of case the state put on. The caliber of witnesses was really unbelievable for the seriousness of the case. That's my opinion ... After it was all over, it was like - wow, what happened! What - that's it? We just couldn't imagine the state had brought up a case against Clay Shaw - absolutely nothing!'

That being said, Morgan also said that "There's something still to this and whether Clay Shaw's involved in it, I don't know. I'm sure myself that there's more to this than anyone knows about."

Charles Ordes

"I kept waiting for the state to present a case. I don't think they had enough to get this far. I was surprised that it was even presented on this evidence. I was just waiting for something to happen. I just kept waiting, you know, something's gonna come up. I just can't see where they had a case. I feel the grand jury should have stopped them.

As for conspiracy, Ordes said this about Shaw, "I think maybe he could have been involved in the conspiracy had there been one. But none of this has ever been proved. The possibility's always been there."

Clay Shaw's defense team put together a document with comments from various jurors taken from the press:

Given the above document, and the quotations from the Kirkwood book, there is no way that Mark Lane's statement that all the jurors believed in a conspiracy can be sustained. A few did, but most had quite ambiguous feelings - and their attention was clearly focused, as it should have been, on the guilt of Clay Shaw.


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