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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

The Persecution of Clay Shaw

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

This article appears in the August 26, 1969, issue of Look Magazine and is a very good overview of the treatment of Clay Shaw.

Some highlights from the article:

Shaw's life in New Orleans:

"Once moderately well-off, Shaw at 56 is broke and in debt and has come out of retirement in quest of a job. Once highly respected, he goes about the city still, determinedly cheerful but wincing under the stares, usually from rubbernecking tourists in the French Quarter, where he lives, but also from old friends. He is the local two-headed calf, notorious the rest of his days. His reputation as a genteel, discreet homosexual was once accepted with forbearance. Laissez-faire New Orleans cared only that he lived with dignity. Now the gossips snigger."

Clay Shaw on Garrison:

"Personally, I think he's quite ill, mentally," Shaw replied. "He was, as you know discharged from the Army after a diagnosis of 'anxiety' and told to take psychotherapy. I know he has been to a number of analysts. I think, basically, he is getting worse all the time. I think there is a division of his mind. With one half of his mind, he is able to go out and fabricate evidence, and then by some osmosis, he is able to convince the other half that the fabrication is the truth. And then, I think, he believes it implicitly."

Clay Shaw as Clay Bertrand:

"Andrews later identified Eugene C. Davis, a tavern keeper, as Bertrand, but Davis denied it, and Andrews finally admitted he had made up the name. Garrison, however, took the name "Clay" and reasoned that, since Shaw's first name was Clay, Shaw was therefore Bertrand. He proceeded on that incredible premise, In Las Vegas, where he is fond of going, he told a reporter, "This won't be the first time I've arrested somebody and then built my case afterward." And he had himself a patsy, a man whose sex life would provoke prejudice against him and who would find it difficult to fight back. It was a perfect setup for fraud and persecution. He went ahead."

The paranoia of Jim Garrison:

"One reporter [Hugh Aynesworth] remembers a call on Garrison at his home this way: "It was like watching the late, late show -- people coming and going, the phone ringing every ten minutes. On the phone, Garrison sounded like a Bingo caller -- 'B-16, N-37' -- and so on.

"'It's the only way I can talk to my people without the Feebees [the FBI] knowing my every step,' Garrison grinned when he sat down with me. 'They'll never break this old Navy code I'm using.'

"His wife asked if it would be all right if she took the children for a walk. He meditated a while and then said, 'Oh, yes, I suppose so -- they always sleep late.' I asked him 'they' were, and he replied, 'There's a torpedo [hit man] from Havana, but they always sleep late.'"

At his office, besides having at least one room "bugged," Garrison also had a "one-way" mirror installed and allowed some photographers to make pictures through it of Shaw and others when questioned."

Clay Shaw Speaks:

"The District Attorney deliberately arrested someone he knew was innocent and set out to build a case against him by perjury, fraud and intimidation. This is provable. In February, 1967, when Jim Garrison announced he had solved the Kennedy assassination, he did not have a single one of the witnesses he later produced to testify against me. By his own admission, he dreamed it all up and then went out to find the evidence.

I think part of my job, as I extricate myself from the horror of this two-year nightmare, is to see that this man is removed from office. In public office, he is a dangerous man. And I keep asking myself how many other Garrisons can there be. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere else in the country. And this is true despite a law that says it is a crime for a prosecutor or any official to deprive a citizen of his constitutionally guaranteed rights under color of the law.

We had a combination of an overzealous, unscrupulous, megalomaniac, paranoid public official and a paralysis or disinterest on the part of other public officials and institutions that are supposed to protect the rights of the individual. The Mayor, the Governor, the Attorney General of the United States, the President -- all of them knew, I think, that an injustice was being done. Yet all our efforts to get any of them to do anything were unavailing. Given that example, other prosecutors of a similar bent are encouraged. If a prosecutor can violate the civil rights of an individual, and Federal officials sworn to protect those rights give him no let or hindrance, then it's open season for anyone who wants to do this kind of thing.

Two facts are self-evident to me: One, this was a deliberate conspiracy to use me as a scapegoat to provide Garrison with publicity and with a forum for his own criticism of the Warren Commission. Two, he succeeded because various people were afraid or unwilling for one reason or another to do anything about it.

And he isn't through yet. Now, I'm charged with perjury. He wants to prove that he isn't quitting, I think, and he can keep suspicions alive by hanging on. Second, if I file suit against him, he has a bargaining counter: he could say, "I'll drop my suit if you drop yours.' Finally, up for election, he can sidestep questions about the fiasco he made of the case by saying, 'I can't discuss that because it's still under adjudication.'

What a man like this has going for him is the will to believe. It's very, very strong in many people. It doesn't matter what the evidence is or how many nuts he puts on the stand; people just go on believing. Another thing is that nobody wants to get involved. The best known example of this attitude, I guess, is Kitty Genovese, stabbed to death leisurely over a half-hour while 38 of her neighbors in New York watched and heard her screams.

Well, we'd better start getting involved. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody."


Here is a letter that Look Magazine received about this article:

Rogers wrote back to Mr. Boyer:

This was all forwarded to Edward Wegmann, Clay Shaw's attorney, who gave the letters to Shaw:

I do not know if Clay Shaw sent a letter to Mr. Boyer.

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Meagher wrote a response to the above article and Look published her letter.


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