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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Why Didn't Richard Case Nagell Testify at Clay Shaw's Trial?

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Conspiracy theorists offer different reasons why Richard Case Nagell did not testify at Clay Shaw's trial.

James DiEugenio, in his book Destiny Betrayed, writes: (page 294)

"For instance, Richard Case Nagell had a grenade thrown at him from a speeding car in New York. Nagell brought the remains of the grenade to Garrison and told him he did not think it was wise for him to testify at Shaw's trial."

DiEugenio's source is page 436 of Dick Russell's book The Man Who Knew Too Much: (page 436)

Of course, anything that Richard Case Nagell says is suspect. So, we have to take this with a grain of salt. But note that he says it was a "practice Mark IV hand grenade." A practice grenade is inert - it won't go off. I also cannot find any reference to a 'Mark IV' hand grenade anywhere (although here is a reference to a British Army MK IV from World War I).

Here is a Mk. II practice hand grenade. "The manual describes the practice grenades as being similar in every way to the live grenade but omitting the explosive charge, detonator, fuze and filling hole plug."

Jim Garrison has a very different story about Nagell and the Shaw trial in his book On The Trail of the Assassins. Garrison claims that Nagell arrived "shortly before the trial, willing to testify against Shaw." After talking with Nagell, Garrison decided not to use him as a witness: (page 229)

"However, he was also as inflexible as ever about identifying the intelligence agency with which he had been associated - and might still be associated. I understood his concern about the non-disclosure agreement which he apparently had signed with his parent agency. But it was all too clear to me what a field day the defense lawyers would have when they discovered on cross-examination that he would not disclose his affiliation. In short order they would be coming at him just as the sharks had come at Santiago's fish. By the time they finished with Nagell, the jury would have been left with the impression of a crackpot. One such incident, one such discrediting, is all it takes to undo an entire case. I decided that with Nagell we could not take the risk."

Of course, Nagell wouldn't identify the "intelligence agency with which he had been associated." He wasn't associated with any.

For once I agree with Garrison: "the jury would have been left with the impression of a crackpot." I don't believe that Garrison ever intended to call Nagell to the stand. His name did not appear in the memo listing trial witnesses that Tom Bethell leaked to the Shaw defense team.

There is not one word in Garrison's book about a practice hand grenade. You'd think someone would have taken a picture of Garrison, Nagell and the 'remains.'

But wait, there's more!

Richard Case Nagell has a third reason why he was not called to the stand. This is from the first edition of Dick Russell's book, The Man Who Knew Too Much: (page 443 - 444)

"One of the key witnesses in Jim Garrison's conspiracy case was Perry Russo, a young insurance agent and acquaintance of David Ferrie. Russo told a reporter in February 1967 of a party he had attended at Ferrie's apartment, placing the date at probably September 15. There Ferrie introduced him to a "Leon Oswald," whom Russo could not positively identify as being Lee Harvey. Nagell told Garrison that it assuredly was not, since the real Oswald had been in his own company on the night in question. This was a major reason, Nagell believed, why Garrison did not call him as a witness in the Clay Shaw trial; Nagell's testimony might have cast doubt on Garrison's case."

There you have it. Lee Harvey Oswald was with Nagell, and not at the party with Ferrie and Bertrand.

My head is hurting.

None of this nonsense bothers conspiracy theorist James DiEugenio. He actually believes that a second Oswald, Leon Oswald, was at the party with Ferrie and Russo. I will discuss that in a future blog post.

Stay tuned.

Previous Richard Case Nagell Blog Posts

The Importance of Richard Case Nagell to Some Conspiracy Theorists

Jim Garrison and a few conspiracy theorists think Nagell is a very important witness. But is he really?

Genesis of the Richard Case Nagell story

David Kroman met Richard Case Nagell at the Springfield Medical Center for Federal Prisoners. Stephen Jaffe, a Garrison volunteer, wrote a memo, relating Nagell's story through the eyes and ears of David Kroman.

Nagell was convicted of armed robbery and was sentenced to ten years, but his conviction was overturned because of startling new evidence.

Richard Case Nagell and the JFK Assassination

There is no credible evidence that Nagell had any foreknowledge of either Lee Harvey Oswald or the JFK assassination.

Nagell claims he met Oswald in Japan, Texas, Mexico City, and New Orleans. There is no credible evidence that he ever met Oswald.

Nagell went to Cuba and met with Fidel Castro and even played ping-pong with the man.

Insane Conspiracy Theories about Richard Case Nagell

Richard Case Nagell said that he knew the two Oswalds - Lee Harvey and Leon. Some conspiracy theorists believe this madness.

Combine one part crazy and one part ridiculous and what do you come up with? An early attempt at a unified conspiracy theory of the JFK assassination.

Two Smoking Guns of the Richard Case Nagell Story

Nagell sent conspiracy theorist Dick Russell one page of a military intelligence file which seemed to indicate that he was monitoring Oswald and his wife on behalf of the CIA. But does the whole document really show that?

Did Richard Case Nagell had an Oswald Military ID in his possession when he was arrested in September 1963?

Richard Case Nagell and Jim Garrison

Richard Case Nagell believes that he wasn't called to testify at Clay Shaw's trial because his testimony would have blown up Jim Garrison's case.

At a conference in September 1968, Garrison and his investigators discuss his face-to-face meeting with Nagell in New York City.

William Martin, an Assistant District Attorney working for Jim Garrison, tried to retrieve a tape that Nagell said contained the voices of three JFK assassination conspirators.

Richard Popkin, author of "The Second Oswald," writes Jim Garrison about Richard Case Nagell. Garrison staffer Tom Bethell thought the Nagell lead was useless.

Richard Case Nagell's Mental Health

Nagell won a full disability pension in 1982 and the 60+ page court case provides complete details on his mental problems.

Richard Case Nagell told a psychiatrist why he shot up the bank in El Paso in 1963.

The FBI spoke to Nagell's ex-wife, his mother, his sister, and one of his friends. They all agreed that Nagell had significant mental health problems.

Nagell visited the American consulates in Zurich and Barcelona in 1969. He was a deeply disturbed man.

Richard Case Nagell's Evidence

None of the so-called evidence that Nagell promised would materialize on his death has shown up. Did this evidence ever exist?

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