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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Garrison's Approach to the Handling of Evidence

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Here is an excerpt from a letter that Fred Newcomb wrote to Richard E. Sprague on December 2, 1969:

The Mary in the letter is Mary Ferrell.

Hey, nothing like using D.A. credentials to "terrorize" a postmaster.

Garrison was flippant with the evidence. Here is a picture of Garrison at his home with the whips found in Shaw's apartment:

Here is an excerpt from Edward Jay Epstein's Counterplot, contained in The Assassination Chronicles: (page 186 - 187)

"Early next morning, I went to the District Attorney's office, which is housed, next to the Parish Prison, in the Criminal District Court Building, a massive structure at Tulane Avenue and South Broad. Garrison had not yet arrived, but one of his assistants, James C. Alcock, told me that Garrison had left word that I should "start going through the evidence." I did so with Jones Harris, a New Yorker of independent means who had devoted the better half of the last three years to a private investigation of the assassination. Six cardboard cartons were brought out containing personal belongings of Clay Shaw: letters, photographs, financial records, blueprints for renovating houses in the French Quarter, the manuscripts of plays he had written years ago, calendars, checkbooks, address books. In one box were a black costume, a net mask, and some plastic slippers -- all of which Shaw had claimed were part of his 1965 Mardi Gras costume. Alcock said that the District Attorney's staff had yet to examine all this material, and he suggested that Harris and I look through Shaw's address books and financial records in hopes of discovering some information that might interest Garrison. We were left alone with the evidence.
Though none of these materials, as far as I could see after examining them, had anything directly to do with the assassination, the odd way in which Garrison treated them did give me, when I thought about it later, "a new perspective on the case." I recalled that a judge's order had forbidden discussion or disclosure of any evidence in the case. The very fact that Harris and I were allowed to examine objects seized from Shaw's home and designated "evidence" seemed to be a direct violation of that order. Why, I wondered, should the District Attorney risk having his case thrown out of court on a technicality by letting outsiders go freely through the evidence? Moreover, it seemed curious that Clay Shaw's papers had not already been rigorously scrutinized by Garrison or his staff, especially since Garrison had told several people, including me, that one of the main reasons for arresting Clay Shaw on March 1 was to prevent him from destroying his personal papers. Six weeks had passed, and yet from what I saw it appeared that no real investigation of Clay Shaw was going on at all - but only a search for peripheral characters connected with David Ferrie. If Garrison believed that Shaw had openly conspired to kill the President, why was the inquiry into his activities being treated with such apparent nonchalance?"

Epstein makes some very good points. One would have expected the D.A.'s office would have conducted a forensic accounting of Clay Shaw's finances. And an in-depth look at his travel. Did he go to Rome for Permindex? Was he ever in Dallas? It really does seem like Garrison was uninterested.

One person who was interested was Don Carpenter, author of the magisterial Man of a Million Fragments: the true story of Clay Shaw. He went through every box of material of the International Trade Mart archives at Tulane University (over 130 boxes), and he also examined Clay Shaw's finances:

And, Shaw's international travel:

Why is this important? Well, consider the allegations that Clay Shaw visited Clinton, Louisiana with David Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald. As I have written previously, John Manchester testified that he had the Cadillac they supposedly drove in checked out and that it was registered to the Trade Mart. Because Don Carpenter had gone through the records he was able to write:

"Shaw testified at trial that the International Trade Mart had never owned any vehicle. A review of balance sheets and other financial records for the Mart, from its inception through the 1960s, also shows no evidence of vehicle ownership or leasing by the Mart."

Had Jim Garrison been interested in finding the truth, he would have investigated the Trade Mart's use (or non-use) of cars. As my post showed, he told the HSCA that Manchester's testimony was enough and that there was no need for any checking.

Jim Garrison had no interest in running a real investigation.

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