‘I really believe that if Marina had agreed to come back [to her husband] that night the president would not have been shot’

June 18 2007

‘I really believe that if Marina had agreed to come back [to her husband] that night the president would not have been shot’

June 18 2007

‘I really believe that if Marina had agreed to come back [to her husband] that night the president would not have been shot’



QSome 1,000 books have been written about the Kennedy assassination. Why did you devote 21 years of your life to writing Reclaiming History? A: I first got involved in this case in 1986 when I co-prosecuted Oswald for the Kennedy assassination [for a televised mock trial in London], Gerry Spence—the famous lawyer from Wyoming—defended Oswald. And we worked at it for five months, just like any other murder case. It was unscripted; we had a regular federal judge, regular federal jury, the original Warren commission witnesses. And I saw that the conspiracy theorists, in making charges against the Warren commission of suppressing the truth and distorting the evidence, were guilty of these precise things. I also found that there was no substance to any of their charges. So I decided to start writing the book.

Q: Why did it take so long?

A: Two reasons: first, it’s the only book— surprisingly—that has ever attempted to take on all of the conspiracy theorists and destroy their theories. The second reason is that there are two realities. One was that this was a simple case at its core. Within hours of the shooting virtually everyone in Dallas law enforcement knew that Oswald had killed Kennedy. And when they found out what a complete kook he was they realized that he’d acted alone. But because of the unceasing and obsessive fanaticism of thousands upon thou-

sands of Warren commission critics and conspiracy theorists, this simple case has been transformed into the most complex murder case, by far, in world history. And when you’re trying to write a book for the ages—and that was my intent—you have to address yourself to all these theories.

Q: You list 44 possible associates of Oswald in the conspiracy theorist world. Why has there been such resistance to the lone gunman finding?

A: I think there was an almost instinctive desire that there be a conspiracy because the belief that powerful forces in the American government killed Kennedy gives more meaning to his life and death. Jackie [Kennedy] herself said that we don’t even have the satisfaction of his dying for a cause like the civil rights movement, he had to be killed by some silly little Communist. People also found it intellectually incongruous that someone they perceived to be a king could be struck down by someone they perceived to be a nonentity.

Q: You claim the very thoroughness and objectivity of the Warren commission provided conspiracy theorists with their ammunition. There’s irony.

A: Yeah, the conspiracy theorists claim that the Warren commission suppressed the truth, but when you read their books, they base almost everything they say on the Warren commission. It produced 27 volumes and anyone who’s conspiracy-inclined can find something to support their cockamamie theory.

Q: At what point were you sure the Warren commission got it right?

A: Early on. As a prosecutor I knew that when you’re innocent of a crime chances are there’s not going to be any evidence of guilt pointing towards you. Why? Because you’re innocent. But now and then, one thing, two things, and in rare situations maybe three things can point toward your guilt even though you’re innocent. But I set forth 53 separate pieces of evidence pointing toward Oswald’s guilt, and under those circumstances it would not be humanly possible for Oswald to be innocent. Now, on the more important issue of conspiracy, there’s absolutely no credible evidence that the CIA, mob, or military industrial complex was involved. As I told the jury in London, three people can keep a secret but only if two are dead. Now we’re dealing with close to 44 years, and not one word has leaked out that any of these groups were involved. Secondly, there’s no evidence that Oswald was connected to any of these groups. The FBI conducted 25,000 interviews and they couldn’t find any connection. And even if one of these groups decided to kill Kennedy, Oswald would have been one of the last people on earth they would have gone to. He was not a great shot— he was a good shot but not an expert shot— he had a $12 mail-order rifle, he was extremely unstable. Here’s a guy that defects to the Soviet Union pre-Gorbachev. And then he gets over there, wants to become a Soviet citizen, but he’s turned down. What does he

do? He tries to commit suicide. Just the type of guy that the CIA or mob would want to rely upon to commit the biggest murder in American history. And one final thought: once Oswald shot Kennedy, there would have been a car waiting for him to help him escape to Mexico or wherever. Certainly the mob or CIA wouldn’t want their hit man apprehended and interrogated. More likely there would have been a car waiting to drive him to his death. Instead, he’s out on the street with $13 in his pockets trying to flag down buses and cabs.

Q: Much of your book reads like a novel, stranger than fiction, in fact. Indeed, you present Oswald as a character from Conspiracy Central Casting: involved with the military, defected to Russia, involved in pro-Castro forces.

A: Oh, I understand. But you touched on something when you said it reads like a novel. It has been said that the story surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy is the most fascinating story ever told, and the evidence of that is that more words have been written about the assassination than any other single one-day event in world history.

Q: The story also illustrates the precarious power of happenstance. You write of Oswald trying to reconcile with his wife the night before the assassination. If he had, do you think the course of history would be different?

A Yes. I really believe that if Marina had agreed to come back that night, President Kennedy would not have been shot. But if he is in a conspiracy with the CIA or mob to kill Kennedy, is he going to be going back to Irving, Texas, the night before, asking his wife to come back to him? I just don’t think so.

Q: You’ve studied two of the 20th century’s most notorious murderers—Oswald and Charles Manson, whom you prosecuted. Did you find similarities in terms of motivation?

A: Well, they were both very, very angry people, angry at society. But we’re never going to know why Oswald killed Kennedy. But there are certain pieces of circumstantial evidence that we can look to, one of which is that Oswald had delusions of grandeur. His diary was called The Historical Diary. A squad-mate in the Marines said Oswald wanted to do something that 10,000 years from now people would be talking about. And I agree with the Warren commission that Oswald’s love of Castro and the Cuban revolution, and his belief that maybe he’d be helping them by killing an enemy, was partially responsible for his motivation. But there’s no evidence Oswald hated Kennedy. In fact, he was in favour of his civil rights

bills. However, we know he hated the United States of America, there’s no question about that. I’m reading Oswald’s biography and there was a word in there that leapt off the page to me because of my experience in the Manson case. Manson did not know the people whom he was killing. He did know that they were members of the establishment, and he hated the establishment, so these were representative killings. So I see this entry in Oswald’s diary that reads that, “I’ve lived under Capitalism, I’ve lived under Communism,” and “I despise the representatives,” there’s that word, representatives, “of both systems.” So when he was shooting at Kennedy, very possibly, without knowing, he was shooting at the United States of America. My gut feeling is that he did not put much preparation into this act. But he did know that Kennedy was going to be driving right below his window, and he probably felt he could not pass up this rendezvous with history.

Q: Reclaiming History runs over 1,600pages. There’s a CD of footnotes. Are you concerned readers might be overwhelmed?

A: Ideally I’d like them to read the book from the first page on, but I don’t expect that and it’s not necessary. Each of the sections is a separate story. The umbilical cord is the assassination.

Q: How did you preserve your sanity while writing this book?

A: I was dipping into the world of insanity dealing with these people but I retained my sanity. But I was working seven days a week, 70, 80, 90 hours a week. There were points when I felt that I’d bitten off more than I can chew, and it may have taken a physical toll on me. There’s absolutely no bottom to the pile, and there were points where I’d just put my hand to my head and say, “My God, I have to slow down here. It’s too much for one person.”

Q: It’s said the Kennedy assassination marked the end of innocence in American life and the beginning of collective doubts about the veracity of government. Do you think that conspiracy theory is now an intractable part of American psyche?

A: I think it’s part of our psyche, and it’s part of the psyche of people throughout the world. When something major happens there’s this instinctive feeling that a dark hand had to be involved, that things that are horrible are not done by just one person, so I don’t think that this book or any book’s going to change that fact. Certainly the Kennedy assassination helped because of these great numbers of people with their constant books and radio and TV talk shows and lectures and movies like Oliver Stone’s movie JFK. Oliver Stone is not going to like me, by

the way. He doesn’t come across well in the book at all. His movie is one continuous lie. I should amend that: he did have the correct date and the location and the victim, but other than that his movie is one continuous lie. He’s been asked to debate me. I haven’t heard that he said no, but he has not accepted.

Q: So you don’t believe your book will shut down the conspiracy industry?

A: No, it’s going to continue on, there’s no question, but only among the jagged margins. Typical conspiracy believers, they’re not going to be dissuaded. Some are now even saying that I was employed by the CIA.

Q: Oh, so you’re in on it too.

A: [laughs] Yeah. Even before the book came out, they were savaging me. They were re-

viewing the book, saying it’s a terrible book. How could they know it was a terrible book?

Q : But doesn’t that confirm your point about the necessity of weighing facts?

A: Yeah. You have to look at the evidence, and my background as a prosecutor helped me there. I dedicated this book: “To the historical record, knowing that nothing in the present can exist without the paternity of history, and hence the latter is sacred and should never be tampered with or defiled by untruths.” I have no ego when it comes to being a writer—I have an enormous ego as a trial lawyer—but that’s not too bad. M

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