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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Why do Conspiracy Theorists Still Believe Julia Ann Mercer?

Here is the complete Julia Mercer story. I know it's long, but I wanted to include all the relevant documents so that researchers can easily access everything. This story is even crazier than we thought.

Mercer said that "along the back side of the truck were what appeared to be tool boxes." She did "not see too clearly" the man who was "under the wheel of the car and slouched over the wheel," [what?] The other man took out "what appeared to be a gun case."

Mercer was shown a picture of Oswald and she was clear that he was not the man "who had taken the rifle from the truck."

Mercer said, "the person in the truck had a rather large round face similar to RUBY's, but she could not identify him as the person."

There really was no need to further investigate Julia Mercer's story. She couldn't identify the two men with the truck, and it certainly seems strange that a grassy knoll gunman would arrive by truck over an hour and half before the motorcade, and in full view, walk with a gun case up the grassy knoll. And Officer Murphy's corroborated report explained what actually happened.

Julia Mercer's affidavit (shown above) was printed in the 26 volumes of evidence, and

Mark Lane opened his book, Rush to Judgment, with her story: (starting on page 29)

"Miss Mercer signed an affidavit for the Dallas Sheriff's office on November 22, describing the incident in detail, and it was published in the volumes of evidence by the Warren Commission. Yet the Commission did not call her as a witness. Neither was she questioned by a Commission investigator, nor did any reference to the event appear in the Commission Report, not even her name. The Commission did not try to identify the three police officers so as to question them or to locate the truck which Miss Mercer had described."

Josiah Thompson also discussed the Julia Mercer story in his book Six Seconds in Dallas. He took a very different approach by debunking the incident. He notes: (page 219)

"Officer Joe Murphy was immediately questioned by FBI Agents Henry J. Oliver and Louis M. Kelly. Their report, reproduced at left [see above], effectively puts to rest any lingering doubts about the pickup truck seen by Julia Ann Mercer."

In early 1968, according to Jim Garrison, Julia Mercer's husband contacted his office and he met them at the Fairmount Hotel: (page 217 in On the Trail of the Assassins)

"... I handed her copies of her statements as they had been printed in the Warren Commission exhibits. She read them carefully and then shook her head.
'These have all been altered,' she said. 'They have me saying just the opposite of what I really told them.'"

I find it hard to believe that she had never looked at her statements.

Garrison then wrote her amendments to her statements and had her sign them:

Her notation reads as follows: (1/18/68)

"The signatures on this affidavit (which is entitled "Sheriff's Department. County of Dallas, Texas") are not mine but are very good imitations - except that the Capital "A" is not close. I did not sign anything of this kind and, furthermore, there was no woman present at any time when I was questioned.
It is not true that the truck had "Air Conditioning" printed on the side. I clearly stated that there was no printing on the sides.
I did not say that I did not see the driver too clearly. The fact is that I looked right in his face and he looked at me twice. This is why I was able to recognize him when I later saw him shoot Oswald on T.V."

Her notation reads as follows: (1/15/68)

"Four pictures were selected by me as the driver of the truck. One of them was Jack Ruby. I remember seeing his name on the back of the picture when they turned it over. I again recognized Jack Ruby when I saw him shoot Oswald and I said to my family, who were watching TV with me, "That was the man I saw in the truck." When they showed me the pictures and I picked out Jack Ruby's picture, this was on Saturday morning, the day after the President's assassination and the day before Ruby shot Oswald."

Her notation reads: (1/15/68)

"It is not true that the above truck had "Air Conditioning" printed on the driver's door. Every time I was questioned - which included at least two times by the F.B.I. -- I clearly stated that there was no printing on the truck. Furthermore, even before Ruby shot Oswald, when the FBI agents showed me pictures I selected Jack Ruby's picture as one of those which appeared to be the driver. When one of the agents turned the picture over, I saw "Jack Ruby" on the back." Julia Ann Mercer

On the side of the document, she wrote: "Nov. 23, 1963 was when I picked out the picture of Jack Ruby."

A few weeks later Jim Garrison sent Julia Mercer this letter:

I don't have the photograph that Garrison sent to Mercer. However, it was probably a picture of a laundry truck from New Orleans. Richard Sprague had identified a laundry truck on a side street during the motorcade and Garrison believed it "had been driven from New Orleans to Dallas and was used in the assassination." (Wegmann conference with Gurvich, August 29, 1967)

Here is the statement that Garrison had typed up:

Now Mercer says she saw the actual rifle wrapped in paper.

At the end of January 1968, Jim Garrison appeared on the Johnny Carson show and he brought up Julia Mercer's story:

There were a few problems with Julia Mercer's so-called identification of Jack Ruby as the driver of the car. First, he couldn't have been there. He was at the office of the Dallas Morning News. Journalist George Lardner spoke to Hugh Aynesworth on February 1, 1968. Here is an excerpt from his notes:

Warren Commission Exhibit 1479, Volume XXII, page 900

C. Ray Hall Exhibit 3, Volume XX, page 49

The other problem with Julia Mercer's identification of Ruby is that she initially said that "the person in the truck had a rather large round face similar to Ruby's ..." The mug shot she was shown was from 1954:

Gary Mack sent an email to David Reitzes in 2002 saying "Find [Jack Ruby's 1954 mug shot -- which is the only one the DPD had in 1963 -- and you'll see a heaver, round-faced Ruby. Ruby had aged nine years and lost a lot of weight, so Mercer could not have seen the real Jack Ruby."

Jim Garrison published A Heritage of Stone in 1970, and he included the revised Julia Mercer story: (page 43)

"About one hour before the assassination, Julia Ann Mercer, a 23-year-old resident of Dallas, driving a rented white Valiant automobile, was held up in traffic and observed a man dismount from a truck at the foot of the grassy knoll with what was obviously a rifle wrapped in brown paper. The driver of the truck, as she subsequently informed uninterested federal investigators, was Jack Ruby."

Later on, on page 170 Garrison writes:

"As she pulled to a stop, she noticed on her right a green, unmarked pickup truck parked next to the curbing. To her considerable surprise, she saw a young man dismount from the truck and remove a rifle. The rifle was wrapped in brown paper, but its outlines were quite unmistakable."

Garrison also writes that "when asked if the young man resembled Lee Oswald, whose face already was being hammered into history as the lone assassin, she replied that he did not resemble Oswald in any way." Of course, "Had the FBI taken action on the Mercer identification of Ruby at Dealey Plaza, Ruby would have been arrested on Saturday, and he could not have killed Oswald on Sunday."

Here are the relevant paragraphs about Julia Mercer:

"I also enclose the statements of Julia Ann Mercer. These were dictated to me by her, written by me on the falsified Bureau and Sheriff's Office statements and signed by her. I cannot emphasize the potent integrity of her as a witness, a highly intelligent ... one sufficiently intelligent to know the danger of her position from what she saw. I probably made a mistake not calling her as witness (to confirm the existence of a conspiracy) at the Shaw trial but I thought we could make it without exposing her.

The full meaning of what Julia Ann Mercer said (+ of its concealment by authorities) will grow upon you, I am sure. For one thing, it puts into the proper perspective the real Jack Ruby (and his anti-Castro activities, as a member of the Mafia branch of the Agency in the late '50's and early '30's). For another, it clarifies how - by the time Sunday came - Ruby had been maneuvered into a posture, from which he could not extricate himself, when he was told to eliminate Oswald. And finally, it provides a lead for one of the men on the grassy knoll who is, as well, an excellent candidate as the man who killed Tippitt (sic) (with an automatic, needless to say, and not a revolver). You might want to photostat the Mercer statements and cross-file the copies under Laverne Crafard - wherever he is now."

Garrison believed that the Julia Mercer story was relevant to his suspicions that Larry Crafard, who worked for Jack Ruby at the Carousel Club, might have been a grassy knoll assassin, or the man who killed Tippit.

Julia Mercer talked to author Henry Hurt in 1983 and once again embellished her story: (page 115 of Reasonable Doubt)

"On Sunday morning, the day after Miss Mercer made the identification, she was watching the assassination coverage on television with friends and saw Ruby shoot Oswald. Instantly, she shouted that they were the two men she had seen on Friday and had identified for the FBI. Ruby, she said, was the driver and Oswald the man with the rifle."

Of course, this is nonsense. Oswald was at work in the Texas School Book Depository at 11 am.

Jim Garrison included the Julia Mercer story in his 1988 book, On the Trail of the Assassins:

"Julia Ann Mercer, an employee of Automat Distributors, was driving west past the grassy knoll on Elm Street. Caught in a traffic jam, she found herself stopped alongside a pick-up truck parked way up along the curbing. She saw a young man, with a rifle in a case, dismount and clamber up the steep incline onto the knoll."

Garrison then writes:

"Long before, I had learned that Julia Ann Mercer had seen a man carrying a rifle case up the grassy knoll an hour before the assassination. Police officers standing on the nearby overpass observed what was happening and made no move to interfere."

Garrison was alarmed about what happened to Mercer's statements:

"But to me the responses to her statements were even more chilling. They proved that law enforcement officials recognized early on that a conspiracy existed to kill the President. Both local and federal authorities had altered Mercer's statements precisely to conceal that fact."

Bizarrely, Garrison adds this footnote:

"There was a coda to the Julia Ann Mercer story. In the late 1970s, when I was in private law practice, the House Select Committee on Assassinations convened. Because I had seen too much critical material disappear in the hands of the federal investigation, I was not enthusiastic about sending the committee anything."

But he did write the HSCA about Mercer and he sent them her statements.

Garrison then complained about the HSCA not finding Mercer:

"Because of the exceptionally high casualty rate among important assassination witnesses, I described her only by her maiden name, which she had signed on her statements. In an accompanying letter, I explained the reason to the committee and said that if they intended to call her as a witness and would assure me that there would be a serious offer to protect her, I would be happy to send her married name and present address."

Garrison wrote that "Julia Ann Mercer [was] possibly the most important witness we encountered during our investigation ... What Mercer had seen virtually added up to a prima facie case of conspiracy."

Despite her importance, Garrison did not call her to the witness stand during the Clay Shaw trial:

"However, her testimony would be peripheral to our case against Clay Shaw, who was only a small part of the overall conspiracy. Considering the number of witnesses who had been murdered or otherwise disposed of by "accidents," I decided that we could not needlessly endanger her life. For the same reason, I continued not make available to the press or the federal government her married name or her residence."

The letter Garrison sent is above, and there is no mention about how to find Julia Mercer. Unless, of course, there is another Garrison letter to the HSCA that I don't have.

Since Julia Mercer was Garrison's "most important witness," how could Oliver Stone resist putting her story in his film JFK? (page 117 in JFK: The Documented Screenplay)


Julia Ann Mercer, 28, looks at Jim with sincere eyes. Her husband, a prosperous Republican businessman, watches from the corner. Jim - along with Al - has her testimony in front of him.

JIM: ... in the sheriff's report, Mrs. Mercer, it says you were at Dealey Plaza two hours before the assassination but that ...

MERCER: Yes, it was about 11 in the morning. I was driving west on Elm Street, toward the Triple Underpass, in a rented car -- a blue Valiant. I'll never forget that day.

FLASHBACK TO Dealey Plaza in 1963. It's a normal scene -- cars, traffic, people starting to arrive for Kennedy's appearance. We catch a glimpse of Julia Ann Mercer, 23, driving, then stopping in traffic.

MERCER: (voice-over) ... there was quite a bit of traffic and I was stopped alongside a green pickup truck. It was very noticeable because it was blocking traffic and it was parked with two wheels on the curb. When I saw the gun, I thought -- the Secret Service is not very secret.

She glances over at the man in the driver's seat. It's Jack Ruby, wearing a green jacket. Then she sees a young white man in his mid-20s, in gray jacket, brown pants, plaid shirt and wool stocking hat, getting out of the passenger side, going to the rear of the van, opening a tool compartment and removing a package that looks like a rifle wrapped in paper. He walks up the embankment in the direction of the picket fence. Ruby looks over and stares at Julia Ann, who turns away and notices three police officers standing near a motorcycle on the overpass bridge. Her eyes lock with Ruby's a second time and as the traffic moves, she drives. on.

MERCER: (voice-over) The next morning, Saturday, I went to the FBI office and the agents showed me the photographs ...

In the Dallas FBI office, Mercer sits at a table looking at photos. Two FBI agents stand near her showing her photos. She shakes her head "no" several times, until they put a shot of Jack Ruby in front of her. She holds it up.

MERCER: (voice over) I picked out three pictures that looked generally like the driver of the truck and then ...

MERCER: That's the man.

FBI AGENT: (to Second Agent) Jack Ruby.

SECOND AGENT: What about these others? You said they might be him.

MERCER: They look a little like him. But no, (holding up the Ruby photo) I'm sure this is the man.

Back in the present, Jim continues to question Mercer.

JIM: You mean you identified him on Saturday, the day before Ruby shot Oswald?

MERCER: That's right. When I saw him on TV, I was shocked. I said to my family, "that was the man I saw in the truck."

JIM: (skeptical) ... but you didn't seem nearly so sure in your statement to the Warren Commission.

MERCER: That's what bothers me, Mr. Garrison. You see, they've been altered. My statements ...

Jim is silent. Mercer picks up the report and finds the pertinent paragraphs:

MERCER: This says, "Mercer could not identify any of the photographs as being identical with the person she had observed slouched over the wheel of a green Ford pickup truck. "That's not true. I recognized him and I told them so ... They also said it was a dark green air conditioning truck, which it was not. And here ... (she goes to another report) ... on the Dallas Sheriff's report. This is really strange. See that notarized signature on the bottom of the page? That's not my signature. And there was never any notary present during any of my questioning. (she hands the papers back to Jim) I guess that's all ...

JIM: Mrs. Mercer, as a former FBI man, it's difficult to accept this.

MERCER: I know, but Mr. Garrison, the FBI is just not doing their job.

Husband: I'm a Republican, Mr. Garrison, and I don't go in for this kind of government bashing, but I must tell you something's not right when they don't even bother to call Julia in front of the Warren Commission.

JIM: They didn't call a lot of people, Mr. Mercer. I think it's now safe to say the Warren Report is a work of fiction.

Later on in the film there is a scene set in Garrison's office in 1968: (page 131)

AL: We haven't tried to get Julia Anne Mercer in?

JIM: No, she could get hurt. If you believe what's happening to these other people.

NUMA: She's the best damn witness we have!

JIM: I just don't want to do it. What else?

The Julia Mercer story was also too good to leave out of James DiEugenio's book Destiny Betrayed. He recounts her story and adds: (page 214)

"In other words, if this is accurate, Ruby should have been brought in for questioning on that day. The day before he shot Oswald. But also, this provided Garrison the rationale for why Ruby did what he did on the 24th in the basement of the Dallas jail. Garrison now theorized that Ruby must have been asked to do this job since he had such close ties to the Dallas Police. But further, if he hesitated, he would be reminded that he had played an earlier role, and if he refused, that earlier role could easily be revealed."

James DiEugenio again brings up Julia Mercer in his book, The JFK Assassination, in his section "Ruby's Busy Day." (page 352) He notes the Mercer sighting at 11:00 and then adds:

"Ruby is seen at the offices of the Dallas Morning News at about the time of the assassination. An employee said he disappeared for a 20-25 minute span, and then returned after. This was only four blocks from Dealey Plaza, and there is more than one photo taken at the Plaza which resembles Ruby. Was Ruby trying to arrange an alibi for himself while monitoring what happened at the crime scene?"

DiEugenio ignores the Dallas Morning News employees who saw Ruby at the offices at 11:00 am (see above). His footnote for Ruby's so-called disappearance is Henry Hurt's book Reasonable Doubt (page 184). Here is what Hurt writes:

"Among the few certainties is that Jack Ruby was in the offices of the Dallas Morning News around the time of the assassination. However, one reporter who knew Ruby told the FBI that Ruby was "missed for a period of about twenty to twenty-five minutes" before reappearing shortly after the assassination."

Interesting that James DiEugenio would not say that the information came from Hugh Aynesworth. Ruby was moving around the offices and it's not surprising that people might not be able to account for every minute while he was there. However, James DiEugenio does not mention this witness:

It amazes me that so many people believe Julia Mercer's story. And it kept on getting better and better. As Vincent Bugliosi notes: (page 884 of Reclaiming History)

"But why presidential assassins, hired by the CIA or mob or anyone else, would deliberately draw attention to themselves by parking illegally and blocking traffic on a busy street in the presence of three Dallas police officers as well as lay witnesses like Miss Mercer is not known. Of course, conspiracy theorists never let common sense get in the way of their hallucinatory theories."

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