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Clay Shaw Trial: 1969

Garrison: Hands Over The Reins, Focus Shifts To Zapruder Film

Defendant: Clay L. Shaw
Crime Charged: Conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy
Chief Defense Lawyers: Irvin Dymond, Salvatore Panzeca, Edward F. Wegmann, and William J. Wegmann
Chief Prosecutors: James Alcock, William Alford, Jim Garrison, Alvin Oser, and Andrew Sciambra
Judge: Edward A. Haggerty
Place: New Orleans, Louisiana
Dates of Trial: January 31-March 1, 1969
Verdict: Not guilty

SIGNIFICANCE: The assassination of President John F. Kennedy has become the most analyzed and dissected murder in history.

By late 1966, public confidence in the Warren Commission's report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was undergoing a serious crisis. With each new inconsistency, both real and imagined, suspicion grew that, far from being the work of a lone gunman, the killing in Dealey Plaza had been a well-engineered conspiracy. The most vocal proponent of this view was Jim Garrison, the charismatic district attorney in New Orleans, Louisiana. In March 1967, Garrison stunned the world when he announced the arrest of local businessman Clay L. Shaw on charges of conspiring to assassinate the President of the United States.

Almost two years later, on January 31, 1969, Garrison finally got to make these charges in a courtroom. Before Judge Edward A. Haggerty, he fleshed out the bare bones of his theory in a 42-minute address that dealt with alleged presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and the time he spent in Louisiana prior to the Dallas tragedy. According to Garrison, Oswald and the late David Ferrie, an eccentric ex-pilot, had met with a shadowy figure named Clay Bertrand. Between them, these three men plotted Kennedy's assassination. It was Garrison's contention that Clay Bertrand was really the defendant Clay Shaw, who, Garrison noted, had flown to the West Coast on November 15, 1963, where he remained until after the shooting, thereby establishing an alibi for himself. Following the assassination, said Garrison, FBI agents undertook a "systematic and thorough search for Clay Bertrand" in New Orleans but were unsuccessful. Garrison would produce conclusive evidence, he said, that the person they should have been looking for was Clay Shaw.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972