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Clay Shaw Trial: 1969

Garrison: Hands Over The Reins

Oddly enough, after making the opening address, Garrison took virtually no further part in the trial. The task of presenting the state's case was left in the hands of his deputy, James Alcock. Although several witnesses confirmed Oswald's presence in Louisiana—a fact never in dispute—not until the testimony of Vernon Bundy, 30, was a connection between Shaw and Oswald established. Bundy, a heroin addict, told of a trip he had taken to Lake Pontchartrain in June 1963. "I was beginning to use my drugs … [when] behind me I noticed a black limousine approaching. A gentleman got out of the car and walked behind me." Concerned that the newcomer might be a narcotics agent, Bundy remained watchful. "I saw a man with a towel approaching from the white section of the beach." Alcock asked Bundy if he saw either one of these men in the courtroom. "I can see one," he replied and pointed to Shaw. When shown a photograph of Oswald, Bundy identified him as the man with the towel.

Next to testify was Charles Spiesel, a New York accountant. He spoke of attending a party in New Orleans in May 1963 at which both Ferrie and Shaw were present. When conversation turned to President Kennedy, Spiesel said that Shaw had laughed when somebody remarked, "Someone should kill that son of a bitch!" Talk of "a high-powered rifle" prompted Shaw to suggest that the gunman could escape in a plane flown by Ferrie.

Taken at face value, Spiesel's testimony was devastating, until chief defense lawyer Irvin Dymond began questioning him. After raising doubts about whether Spiesel had ever actually seen Ferrie (a man of remarkably memorable appearance, with glued-on orange hair and huge, painted eyebrows), Dymond asked: "Isn't it true you filed a suit with New York in 1964… claiming that over a period of several years the police and others had constantly hypnotized you and finally harassed you out of business?"

"That's right," Spiesel said, adding proudly that the suit was for $16 million. When asked how many different people had hypnotized him, Spiesel had to think for a moment: "It's hard to say. Possibly fifty or sixty."

With his next question Dymond drove a stake through the heart of the prosecution. "When you conferred with the District Attorney's office about testifying in this case, did you tell them about these lawsuits and having been under hypnosis?"

Spiesel grinned: "Yes, I mentioned it."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Clay Shaw Trial: 1969 - Garrison: Hands Over The Reins, Focus Shifts To Zapruder Film