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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Harry Connick Sr., R.I.P.

This is a picture I took of Harry at his home on October 17, 2019.

I visited Harry Connick in 2019 to talk to him about Jim Garrison. I was in the process of writing my book, On the Trail of Delusion -- Jim Garrison: The Great Accuser. I was visiting New Orleans to examine the papers of Irvin Dymond, Clay Shaw's trial attorney. It made sense to try and visit with Harry, and I was very happy that he welcomed me into his home.

By the way, Harry Connick was the first person to call Garrison "The Great Accuser."

New Orleans Times-Picayune, October 25, 1969

Curb every passion, and be on the alert. Your great accuser, the Devil, is going about like a roaring lion to see whom he can devour.

My visit wasn't long because I didn't want to tire him out. But we talked about Jim Garrison and Harry was pretty scathing. He said that when he took office, he found all of the files were in total disarray. People were still in jail that should have been released, and he ordered his staff to do a complete review of every open file.

When Jim Garrison left office, he took most of his JFK files with him. However, he left a fair numbers of files and tapes. Connick donated three boxes of Garrison's files to the New Orleans Public Library, and he donated 11 boxes to the NARA. There are many tape recordings from the Garrison era and I have published some of these on my YouTube channel. These tapes prove that Garrison was taping meetings at his office. I have to wonder just how many tapes Garrison made during his tenure.

Harry shared the Garrison files left in his office with the HSCA (excluding the grand jury testimony):

Rest in peace, Harry.

On the Case Against Clay Shaw

Q: What was your view of Garrison’s investigation into the Kennedy assassination?

Connick: It was worthless. It was absolutely unfounded. I think those people who were

in New Orleans, who were inside, the people who worked in that court, knew Garrison

pretty well. Garrison had a habit of accusing people with things that he really couldn’t

support. He was a very impressive figure. He was very articulate. He was a nice man, I

think, very easy to get along with. If he said something, people would listen, and he was the D.A., too, and if he talks about an assassination, that’s glamorous with a lot of people. There’s so damn many people who believe in conspiracies, it’s incredible. I mean, I don’t care what it is. But there’s never any evidence. There was never one bit of

evidence to indicate that he had anything.

I knew one of the people, a fellow named William Gurvich, who eventually became one of my investigators, was a detective in that investigation, and after awhile Bill Gurvich sort of supported what a lot of us felt all along anyway, that he had

absolutely nothing to support that allegation against Clay Shaw. So Bill Gurvich was

responsible for getting a fellow named Hugh Aynesworth of Newsweek to do a

story, front-page story on the assassination probe, which really debunked everything

Garrison was trying to prove, and that, I think, turned the tide significantly. Then when

he went to trial, he had nothing to show, nothing to show, and lost. Didn’t take the jury

long to find Clay Shaw not guilty.

On Garrison's files

Q: Back in the 1990s they had that Kennedy assassination records review board, and

they talked about records that may have been in your office. Can you explain what that

was all about?

Connick: When we took office, there were two file cabinets. Originally there were four

file cabinets of Clay Shaw files. The four files became two when we got there. From

what we understand from people who were in that office at that time, the files were

savaged. They were rummaged and people took out whatever they wanted to take out. That left two files with really a lot of junk in it. So we could have very easily dumped it, because, in my view, it was worthless, but we kept it there.

For whatever it was worth, people would come down, people interested in the

Garrison case, the Shaw case, and we gave them total freedom to look at whatever they wanted to look in there. In fact, one of the people who came that I remember vividly was a fellow named Posner, Richard [Gerald] Posner, who wrote a great, great book on the Garrison investigation. It is called Case Closed. I think he found something in there, that Garrison hadn’t paid his income taxes or whatever it was, state income taxes. But at any rate, we had those things.

The federal government wanted us to give them to them because somebody in Washington had the bright idea that this was valuable, without knowing anything other than that they were there, I mean not knowing who Garrison was or who Clay Shaw was or anything about the investigation. They wanted to put all of this stuff in the archives. Well, included in that stuff was some grand jury records which, by Louisiana law, have to be kept secret, and it would be a crime to tell somebody what went on in a grand jury. So I resisted that because I was following the Louisiana law. Besides, that grand jury probe that Garrison had was a dismal venture into somebody’s figment of his imagination. It was terrible. Anyway, so I said no.

They had a hearing down here, and I went for the hearing and I was ordered to turn those over, so I did. So I thought those things had been destroyed, frankly, and the person who was ordered to destroy them didn’t destroy them, a fellow named Garrett Raymond [phonetic], who was an investigator from my office. Instead of destroying the

grand jury files, he put them in the back of his trunk and took them home. I didn’t know that. I henceforth called him the thief, Gary Raymond the thief. But they had that up there, too, but it’s a lot of crap.

Connick had wanted the files destroyed. He thought they were worthless. But Gary Raymond kept them.

On the 1973 election

Q: Do you think Garrison was disengaged or overconfident in the ’73 election?

Connick: I think he always was. He sort of disparaged anybody who ran against him.

He called me “The man from U.N.C.L.E.” [laughs] Because I had worked for the U.S.

Attorney’s Office. At that time there was a television show called The Man from

U.N.C.L.E. It was Illya Kuryakin [that was a fictional character played by David McCallum) and some other movie actor, and they had a great show, a weekly thing called The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Garrison called me “The man from U.N.C.L.E.” He called me “altar boy.” [laughs] So, you know, which amused all of us. He was a very popular D.A., got elected, I think, by accident, but regardless of what he did, he was still popular. His office was a shambles, was a mess, a lot of plea bargaining, a lot of things that we wanted to correct immediately, and we did. One of the things he used in the campaign, this is his technique of campaigning. He would say, in a very deep, resonant voice, “We have never lost a murder trial.” And I looked at the record. It was Ray Comstock who was helping me in the campaign, and he was a policeman, became my chief investigator. He checked it out and said, “Boy, it’s true. He never has lost a murder trial in the last four years.”

I said, “How many did he try?”

He said, “Well, he tried five this year. He tried about five a year for four years.”

I said, “That’s all?”

And he said, “Yes, that’s all.”

I said, “You mean to tell me, we have so many homicides in the city and we have

so many people arrested for homicide and so many charged with homicides, and he only tries five a year?” At that time they had eight judges out there. I said, “You mean to tell me some judges don’t even try one murder case a year? Five out of the eight will try one murder case a year?”

Well, to me, that’s devastating. To me, I wouldn’t brag on that.

He would make that statement about—this is why he wasn’t a good campaigner,

in my opinion. He thought he could rely on himself, and he made a big mistake. He

could against some people, but I wouldn’t let him against me. I tore him up. He would

make that statement, “We haven’t lost a murder case,” you know.

I said, “Well, let me explain, ladies and gentlemen, what the record is. He hasn’t

tried a hell of a lot of cases. This is how many murders were committed this year and this year,” four years in front of the election campaign. “And this is how many were accepted by his office. And this is how many he actually brought to trial. And all the rest were plea bargained or dismissed.” And I told them, I said, “Eight judges sitting on the bench in Criminal District Court, and he only tried five murder cases this year, and there are three judges out there who haven’t tried one. You mean to tell me a judge can’t try more than one murder case a year? We’ve got a lot of murder cases to be tried, but he would prefer to plea bargain. And when he plea bargains, these people get out earlier. And when they get out earlier, they come back.” And I gave examples of that. “They come out and commit more crimes.” He’s got a million-point-two—no, that was from another campaign.

Anyway, we hit him on those kind of things and we ran a good campaign and we

were very vigorous in it. He couldn’t respond to it.

We had a debate. I remember John Snell was the moderator. We tore him up. We mentioned one case that he didn’t do well in, and I had been using that one

case, waiting for him to take the bait. He said, “We did good in this case. This is the

case that we [unclear].”

I picked up another file. We were on television. I said, “This is the case that I’m

talking about, the same man, and you didn’t do anything with him. We all know what

happened to that little piddling sentence he got in that. What about this more serious

case?” Anyway, he just wasn’t prepared to debate, and you could tell he was uneasy. He didn’t do his homework.

Garrison as a "moral midget"

New Orleans States-Item, December 14, 1973

Q: Describe the “moral midget” comment that you had made describing Garrison.

Connick: I felt that—did I make that statement?

Q: It was in a newspaper article, so I don’t—

Connick: I think what I had in mind was some of the things that Garrison was doing, first of all, he would be accusing people with no evidence to support it whatsoever, which was really unfair. He tended to hang out places. We knew that he had connections with or knew people in the French Quarter and had extremely good evidence to the effect that they were reducing charges for money, and that someone who would be a homosexual, say, would be arrested in the public restroom at City Park or at the De Ville Hotel down at the canal, down on Tulane Avenue and [unclear] Avenue, wherever, and with a “crime against nature.” They’d bring the case to the D.A. and few had the money. The sum was $1,000. You could have it reduced to a battery, and we know for a fact that it happened.

I couldn’t prove it, but we had very good information that somebody prominent in his office also took a substantial amount of money to reduce a drug charge. That came from extremely reliable sources.

Previous Relevant Blog Posts

The truth about the handling of Garrison's files.

Coverage of the 1969 Democratic primary for District Attorney

This blog post contains a listing of tapes at NARA received from Harry Connick, Sr.


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