AUTHOR'S NOTE: The following document was retyped by me (David Lifton) on 2/5/99, from a poor Xerox copy of an original, and with certain marginalia that I had penned in decades ago, probably when I was writing the article for OPEN CITY (the L.A. underground paper which published my two-part article on Garrison). I have made some minor changes, but remained faithful to the original text. Where I added anything significant, I used square brackets and annotated it "DSL, 2/99".
This memo sums up my personal experiences with Garrison, starting about six months earlier, and sketches out the story of how Kerry Thornley, who I had by then known for about three years, went from a Garrison witness to someone who became the subject of a Garrison "conspiracy theory" and the object of Garrison prosecution for perjury. Essentially, Thornley's testimony didn't agree with Garrison's hypothesis, and rather than change his theory to fit the facts, he charged Thornley with perjury.
Supplementary documents to this memo would include:The 9/28/67 notarized statements by Kerry Thornley, which I worked with him to prepare;
My own January 1968 affidavit, sworn out when I realized that Garrison had turned on Thornley, and was attempting to get him on a perjury charge.
Garrison's eight page press release dated February 21, 1968, announcing that Thornley was being charged with perjury for his testimony before the New Orleans Grand Jury and outlining his Thornley conspiracy theory.
The March 12, 1968 letter sent from Garrison's office to Los Angeles commercial artist Fred Newcomb---on Garrison's letterhead (but signed by Harold Weisberg)--- supplying Newcomb with photographs of Thornley and requesting that he alter two such photos to make them look like Oswald---the purpose (apparently) being to use the altered photographs to elicit identifications of Thornley as the "second Oswald."
And many other related correspondence between myself and Thornley, between Thornley and Garrison; and various tapes, and memos.
The four notarized statements which are dated Sept. 28, 1967 should be considered one self-contained unit. This is how Kerry Thornley was originally brought to Garrison's attention when these statements were mailed to him by me on Sept. 28, 1967.
Almost the entire next day was spent putting together the various things Kerry had said in some coherent order, that would be relevant to any future scholar studying his deposition. That is the 12 pages statement dated September 28. The material concerning the U-2 and the Russian instruction came out during that day, and so were added as separate statements. The fourth statement is more about how I met Kerry.
On September 28,  Kerry and I met again. He went over the entire batch of statements, initialing and correcting where necessary. He signed them, we had them notarized, and Xerox copies of the originals were sent to Garrison. I still had not spoken to or met with Garrison; my liaison with that office had simply consisted of a few phone calls to Eric Norden, and one with Tom Bethell; and, I think, one with Bill Turner.
(Later, Garrison and his fellow investigators would charge that Kerry Thornley went to Florida, and deliberately avoided meeting him in New Orleans. At that time, I had not yet even met Garrison, and was in fact finding it most difficult to bring anything to his attention, let alone set up meetings between him and Kerry). (I believe that Kerry flew to Florida, direct. I'm not sure.)
Sometime later, Garrison was in town. This was in the middle of October . He had dinner at Maggie Fields' house, which was attended by Ray Marcus, Lillean Castellano, Steve Burton etc. He made no effort to contact me on his own, at that time. When I learned that he was in town, I called Ray Marcus and raised quite a fuss, practically demanding that he at least tell me the hotel at which Garrison was staying, so I could contact the man.
No, I was told; I could not be given that information. However, after raising a big enough fuss, Ray did communicate to Garrison that I lived in Los Angeles, and was most interested in knowing what he was going to do about the Heindel business, now that he had those [Thornley] statements. For a while, my curiosity had to subsist on phone calls from Ray, which would start: "Jim said to tell you. . . ". Anyway, finally, Big Jim decided to see me. In fact, he asked me out to dinner. I was now going to meet "the man".
* * *
I arrived at the Century Plaza Hotel where he was registered under his pseudonym. I think he was using Frank Marshall that time. The next time he was in town, it was "Claude Culpepper." My first impression of him, when he opened the door to his room, is that he is much taller and heavier than I had thought he was, and almost a bit shy and self-conscious. The very next "first impression" I had was that he was going way out of his way to impress me, intellectually speaking. After all, HE was the District Atty. of New Orleans who was conducting an assassination investigation; and (yet) his whole tone and manner was simply not that of a person who was really in charge of his own thinking, and quite confident about it. Having gotten something of a run-around from the staff, bureaucrats, and hero-worshippers who surround him, you would think he would at least be consistent and behave like some kind of a king! But instead, there was this obvious attempt to flatter [little ole] me.
At the dinner table, the conversation turned to Ruby. He expressed the thought that Oswald and Ruby were so well known to each other, before t he assassination, and that there was so much evidence to effect. I told him that this was news to me. That although I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there may have been some connected between them, I had as yet seen no solid evidence to that effect. He jeered at me a little bit at this point, and I was dutifully humble. He told me to write down certain page numbers from the 26 volumes "on your napkin", and that when I went home I should look at them. Citing one reference by heart, he stated that that page of the volumes contained a phone bill of Jack Ruby, and on that phone bill was the telephone number PE 8 1951, Ft. Worth, Texas. he then cited another pages number which was Oswald's address b book, and stated that the number appeared there, too. "Fort Worth?" I asked. He assured me that it was. I had never heard about PE 8 1951 before, and I was most impressed. (If true, here was solid evidence that both LHO and Ruby had a mutual acquaintance, of which I had been totally unaware.)
I assured Garrison that I would look it up as soon as I got home. Meanwhile, the conversation went on. I don't remember everything that was discussed. I wrote some notes on it, at the time, which I have not located, but are somewhere in my files.
One thing I do remember is that I was very unimpressed, so unimpressed that I started to feel a bit guilty; that maybe I was some sort of b bigot who didn't understand the way a "Southerner" thinks. But Garrison struck me as being such a slow-thinking plodder; so utterly simple minded, that I couldn't really b believe he had any answers to "The Crime of the Century."
When I came home that night, I looked up those Ruby references. PE 8 1951, Fort Worth Texas, did appear on Ruby's phone bill. Then I turned to the other reference---Oswald's address book. Sure enough, it was there, also. Who could this be, I wondered? Turning a few pages further on, right there in LHO's address book, I discovered that it appeared (still) again, only this time the phone number was identified in the LHO address book at being that of KUTV (sic; KVTV ? ? - - dsl, 1999) a Fort Worth TV station!
This completely invalidated its use in the context of proving that both men had a joint private acquaintance. (As it turns out, Garrison was fully aware of this, at the time he first told me of these two numbers).
I met Garrison for dinner again, and I brought this to his attention. I'll never forget what happened.
"David, stop arguing the defense," he would say, raising his voice in a threatening manner. "But what does it mean, Jim? Is there someone at the TV station whom you can prove knew both men?"
"It means whatever the jury decides it means," i.e. would say, with considerable annoyance. "But what do you think, Jim? What is the truth of the matter?"
And then came the shocker, for in reply to that, he stated, with considerable annoyance and contempt: "After the fact, there is no truth; there is only what the jury decides." (Emphasis in original)
I have repeated this story many times to many people. When I first heard him say it, I had to expend a considerable amount of energy to keep my face from reddening and saying some nasty things. I remember thinking that perhaps this is just the way some DA's think. But in retrospect, I think it is the most important thing he ever said to me. I think it represents Jim Garrison's approach to fact-finding and truth-finding and justice, all in one convenient nutshell. And the pity of it is he is just so utterly simple minded that he does not see how corrupt it is. I should have reacted much more strongly that I did to statements such as this. At the time, I kept writing these things off, with the idea that I had never met a DA before, and that I was perhaps a bigoted fast-taking New Yorker who was not appreciating the "basic goodness" of DA Garrison, whose "style" was simply different from mine, and was one with which I was not prepared to cope.
I saw Garrison several times that week. The main subject of our conversations at the Century Plaza Hotel was John Renee Heindel. I told him that I thought the following hypothesis ought to be explored: that "Hidell" appearing on that Klein's rifle order form, was the remains of a disbanded attempt to frame LHO and Heindel as "co-patsies" in a two-shooter scenario. What I had in mind was this: if the authorities had been able to frame two "ex Marines" for the shooting, and murder both, they would never have had to cope with all the problems which have been raised by the fact that---today---it is only necessary to prove that more than one shooter existed to prove a conspiracy existed.
A two shooter frame-up would have [resulted in an official version which may have - - dsl, 2/99] had its implausibilities, but I thought they would have been far easier to handle than the problems of one shooting doing it all alone. Anyway, the very least Garrison might do is call in Heindel, question him, and find out where he was on Nov. 22; also, perhaps there had been some attempt to get Heindel to go to Dallas on Nov. 22. This would be important. Finally, since Heindel was in the same outfit, perhaps he could shed some light on LHO and on his activities in New Orleans, since Heindel lived in New Orleans.
On the basis of the notarized statements that had been sent him, Garrison had already called in Heindel. Garrison told me he was most suspicious of Heindel. He acted, Garrison told, me, like a man who had something to hide. It was clear, however, that Garrison had gotten no information from Heindel at that point that shed any light on the hypothesis I had broached.
Then Garrison started to ask me whether or not I could get Thornley to cooperate with Garrison's office by coming to New Orleans to "identify" Heindel. I explained, as politely as possible, that there were several real difficulties associated with this. First of all, Kerry---philosophically speaking---was opposed to testifying in court where the State might use that testimony to send a man to prison. I explained that Kerry was a "libertarian" and tried to explain what that was.
Finally, I broached the most sensitive subject of all. I told him that Kerry knew Garrison from when (years before) Kerry had previously been in New Orleans, and did not like him for a number of reasons. I did not go into the reasons, simply saying that as far as I was concerned, the whole thing was a matter of personality, but that the problem did exist.
I asked whether a picture of Heindel would do, just as well (for identification purposes). I explained that Kerry had done me a real personal favor by extending to me the cooperation he had extended to get all these statements worked out, that they were accurate, and that I wished he wouldn't push the matter any further.
I tried to handle the whole thing as diplomatically as possible, and telling him frankly that I was putting myself in a position where, by trying to effect communication between Garrison and Thornley, both of whom I would like to consider as friends, I might lose the friendship of both.
Garrison was rather wishful and wistful on the subject. He expressed great respect for Kerry, and asked me to communicate to him the idea that he, Garrison was (also) a libertarian and anti-establishment a DA as one could be. Wouldn't Kerry please reconsider? What Kerry's aid, he, Garrison, could "throw a coupe of bricks through the windows of the establishment."
So, on Tuesday, October 17, 1967, I sent Kerry a telegram requesting that he please call me collect. The next afternoon, Wednesday, October 18.
Here is what Garrison apparently wanted. He wanted to have Kerry come to New Orleans and "identify" Heindel as the man he named in his statement. Then, he wanted to get Heindel before the Grand Jury and let him deny that he knew Oswald or spoke Russian with Oswald. He then was going to charge Heindel with perjury. Although this was made perfectly clear and was made quite explicitly, I never viewed it in these terms until some time had passed.
I had no reason, at that time, to doubt that Kerry's identification of Heindel was accurate. I was most sure that was true. (Since that time, I have learned that when Kerry did see pictures of Heindel, it was not the man he saw speaking Russian with Oswald. Also, since that time, I have interviewed another Marine in that unit [Donald Erwin Lewis, I think---dsl, 1999] who is quite definite in his recollection that Oswald spoke Russian with someone. But again, the description simply doesn't match that of Heindel. What is clear from both Kerry's recollection and that of the other Marine (Donald Erwin Lewis) is that Oswald spoke fluent Russian with someone at El Toro, California, but that the identity of that person is still in question. Furthermore, it may have been more than one person, because, from the description, Thornley's "other person" and Lewis' "other person" are not the same person. (Thornley's Russian speaking incidents" were also witnessed by Nelson Delgado.) See Thornley's statement.
Because I did not doubt Kerry's identification of Heindel, Garrison, to me, was doing the "right" thing, by going after Heindel, who must have been hiding something. (re the limited statement he gave t the WC---DSL, 2/99). I realize now (this is 5/68 - - - dsl, 2/99) that I had, in effect, prejudged Heindel. Its a mistake I now regret. Had I not prejudged Heindel, I would have realized the legal crudities and cruelties inherent in what Garrison was going to do.
In his memoir, On the Trail of the Assassins, Garrison claims that his own staff discovered and located Thornley, and completely conceals the fact that Lifton brought Thornley to Garrison's attention, and put Thornley in touch with him.
Garrison apparently wanted to establish a conflict of testimony between "A" and "B". He was then going to arrest "B" and charge him with perjury. In this case, "A" was Kerry Thornley, and "B" was John Heindel. Thornley, in other words, was to be Garrison's star witness against John Heindel, in a perjury case.
As we sat at the Century Plaza hotel and talked about this matter, I observed several things which I now realize have significance, but whose true import I was unaware of at that time. Garrison would constantly brag to me about how much power he had. "I can pick up that phone" (pointing to a phone) "and have Heindel charged right now." (He later did this to Thornley, ordering his arrest without giving him the benefit of a preliminary hearing). Garrison would talk about the great news stories that would develop, should such an arrest be made. He would muse aloud as how the news story leads might sound: "John R. Heindel, alias, 'Hidell,' was today arrested in New Orleans in the conspiracy investigation being conducted. . . etc."
We both wondered aloud what effect that might have, when reporters, in the leads to their stories, would learn for the first time (and/or: have to deal with the fact that) the rifle really ordered under Oswald's name at all, but under the nick-name of another man. Moreover, that name belonged to someone the Warren Report said was "a fictitious person" but in fact he actually existed and lived in New Orleans. Finally, the rifle had not been sent to Oswald's actual residence, but had only been sent to Oswald's post office box.
I asked Garrison whether he thought that the DA's office, when his arrest was made, shouldn't explicitly indicate that the gun was ordered under the name "Hidell" and that an affidavit in the 26 volumes over John Heindel's signature stated that Hidell was his nickname. "No," he said. "Let them look that up for themselves," as if we must leave something for the press to do on their own.
At another point during this session, Garrison looked up and mused: "John Heindel; John Carter." (Pause). Then, as if announcing a certainty: "John Heindel is John Carter, and they both lived at that rooming house together."
This jolted me. it was, after all, a possibility; but nothing more. "No," Garrison answered, it was obvious that this was in fact the case. And for the rest of the meeting, John Carter was John Heindel! My two-patsy hypothesis, which I hoped Garrison would merely consider and investigate, was now an established fact, by mental edit. (For readers who are not aware, John Carter is an individual who lived at Oswald's rooming house. There is very little else known about him.)
As far as Garrison was concerned, John Heindel was John Carter who lived in the rooming house with Oswald; "The Warren Report could not have been written without Heindel's cooperation, which had to begin the moment that shooting took place in Dallas," intoned Garrison.
Thus, as of that morning, 10/19/67, Garrison was convinced that Heindel was at least cooperating with "the bad guys"; and if Garrison could charge him with perjury, using Thornley as his legal lever, perhaps Heindel could be induced to talk and confess to anything he knew.
Garrison kept saying "This could be the break I've been waiting for" or words to that effect. He was really quite excited about the whole thing. Although I was happy to see him finally interested in Heindel, I was perturbed to see him elevate a mere hypothesis of mine into established fact, complete with such detail that he "knew" now that Heindel must be, in fact, Carter.
* * *
During this meeting at the Century Plaza, Garrison kept pointing to other people who would walk by, and especially to anybody who had a briefcase, and tell me that "That's an FBI agent."
The entire hotel, if he was to be believed, was flooded with FBI agents. People were "tailing" Garrison. He seemed really frightened. There is no question about that. He thought he might be killed. He insisted we talk either at dinner, or out by some chairs near the pool or pond, so that our conversations not be picked up by all the bugging devices. If anybody walked by with a briefcase, Garrison would nudge me and murmur that such a person was carrying a very sensitive "directional" microphone. Any doubting looks I might give off were met with "I know; I once worked for the Bureau."
I left Garrison that morning, and he took a plane home to New Orleans. I fully expected to hear about the arrest of John Renee Heindel, within a day or two. October 19, 1967 was a Thursday, and I distinctly remember discussing with him the fact that it would make the Sunday papers, if done soon. I wrote a letter that day to Vincent Salandria, telling him how I thought Garrison would arrest Heindel and charge him.
That Thursday evening, I finally succeeded in contacting Donald Erwin Lewis, another Marine in Oswald's unit, who might have witnessed the Russian speaking incident. I learned then, for the first time, that Lewis' memory was quite vivid, on the subject. He, too, remembered Oswald speaking Russian with someone, but the description was "completely different." This, I realized, could not possibly be Heindel. For the first time, I started to realize that Kerry's identification might really not be that solid. Anyway, later that night (October 19), I sent Garrison a telegram informing him of what I had learned. He knew that I had been trying to contact Lewis, as well as Delgado, and wanted to know what either of them said, should I find out.
My telegram (of which I have a confirmation copy) reads, in part (referring to Donald Lewis as "Larry"):
"Dear Jim, Larry called. Had substantial conversation with him. Please note: Incident vividly repeat vividly recollected but description definitely repeat definitely does not match, and is totally inconsistent.. . . If I had a photo at this end, Larry will easily be able to identify. Has clear recollection. Provides vivid description of individual plus other new details. On basis of what I have been told by you. . . Larry would definitely be able to rule out (Heindel). Am genuinely concerned that incident is valid but square peg is being put in round hole as far as this specific incident alone is concerned. Please call me further details which I can supply, if and as you want them."
I also called Garrison's office to make sure that this information was understood by Bethell, and would be passed on to Garrison.
On October 18, 1967, Kerry called me collect in response to a telegram I sent him, requesting that he do so. I told him of Garrison's wish to have him come to New Orleans and see if he could identify Heindel. (The exact date of all phone calls can be established from my phone bill). It was on October 19 that I met with Garrison and told him of Thornley's response.
I had told Kerry that if he would agree to talk, Garrison would send him a telegram asking him (Kerry) to call Garrison collect. The telegram would be signed Frank Marshall. Kerry finally agreed. This phone call with Kerry occurred the day before Garrison left the Century Plaza hotel on October 19. IT was then, I believe, that I gave him Kerry's address in Tampa, Florida, so that he would contact him by wire. (At the time, Kerry did not have a phone).
* * * * *
I did not hear from Kerry again nor from Garrison again, for weeks. I was busy at the time, and simply assumed that Garrison was following it all up. There had been no arrest of Heindel, but that didn't surprise me. After all, it was now apparent that oswald spoke Russian with at least one person other than the one Kerry remembered. The situation obviously did not warrant any perjury charges against Heindel, who might very well be telling the truth.
Meanwhile, some very interesting things were happening with Kerry and Garrison, of which I had no knowledge. I learned of them weeks later, for the first time. It was Sunday, November 19, 1967. Garrison was back in Los Angeles. I called him at the hotel. I had done so much phoning for his office, in trying to track down Delgado, Donald Lewis, telegrams and call to them, that I wanted to give him an expense voucher that totaled almost $60, for my phone bill. (Garrison's office was most prompt in honoring this voucher, within days of its presentation).
I was about to leave my apartment for Garrison's hotel on Sunday, November 19, 1967, when I met my girl friend, Judy. Since she had never met Garrison, I asked her to come along. I'm glad I did. For what happened so frightened me, t hat I was thankful to have a witness, and afterwards, I was so conscious of its significance, that I went to a restaurant so that I could immediately create a set of notes, under that date, of just exactly what Garrison had said.
Ray Marcus was meeting with Garrison when I arrived. Ray was just leaving. Garrison was in his bathrobe, and he was very apologetic and charming, as I had my girlfriend with me. It makes all the more significant what he said, for there is no doubt in my mind that he would have been far less polite had she not been present.
We sat down in chairs. Garrison then fixed me with this "mystical" stare of his, and said, in a slow even tone, as if making some type of biblical pronouncement: "Thornley lied." (He stretched out the word "lied", by pausing on the "I" sound for about a second or two.)
This took me quite by surprise. After all, only three weeks ago, Thornley was to be Garrison's Star Witness-to-be.
Why, I asked, did he say Thornley lied?
Again, "Thornley lied," (as if, by repeating it, it gained in validity.)
Then Garrison told me: "Thornley lied when he said he didn't know Oswald in September 1963" Again, I was dumfounded. (In the air was the feeling that I had somehow been "used" to "deceive" Jim Garrison).
I politely offered the thought that I would go wherever the evidence led. What evidence did he have that this was the case?
Then, Garrison told me: "We have so many witnesses who saw them together at that time we have stopped looking for more."
Then, another pontifical pronouncement:
"Thornley's with the CIA."
"But why do you say that, Jim?" I asked.
"Thornley worked at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia."
So what, I wanted to way. My "So what?" type of rebuttal was met by his incredulity, as if ' What do you mean, "So what?"; Isn't it obvious to you what this means?!"
Then, Garrison informed me that on the night of the assassination, Kerry was observed to be quite elated over JFK's death.
Its true that Kerry saw great irony in the death of JFK, and might have even expressed happiness over it. This in bad taste. (Kerry has some remarks to make explaining this; and he did so, quite well, on the radio broadcast that will soon be transcribed.)
In short, Kerry's humor, however in bad taste it might be interpreted to have been, had more to do with his own sense of irony and his own ideas about Government, (and the type of man that makes leading other men his life's work). But this is all really besides the point.
Garrison had the stupidity and nerve to think that Kerry's actions that night were those of a member of a conspiracy who was openly applauding the success of a plot of which he was a part!!! That is exactly what he told me.
* * *
PLEASE NOTE: On January 18, 1968, before Kerry went to New Orleans to testify, I executed a signed notarized statement of what had taken place at this November 19, 1967 meeting with Garrison (establishing that Garrison, as of that early date, and well before Thornley testified, had already made up his mind about the invalidity of the information he was eliciting under oath. DSL, 2/99)
What had apparently happened between October 19, 19867 and November 19, 1967 (when I visited with Garrison, only to learn that he thought Thornley had lied) is that Kerry Thornley had gotten himself placed on Garrison's "shit list."
How had this occurred?
I was frightened by what I saw in Garrison's hotel room, but I really didn't know what to do next. On the one hand, there was a real desire just to not take him seriously. After all, Garrison has changed his mind so frequently on so many matters of importance, that who really cared, anyway? I had just about concluded that "Garrison" represented a phase a lot of Commission critics had to go through in their pursuit of the truth; I had just about written him off; I was grateful he would reimburse me for my fifty-five odd dollars, and that would be the end of it.
Later, Garrison issued a subpoena for Kerry to appear in New Orleans. It was at that time that I contacted Thornley for the first time since I had made the arrangements, for he and Garrison to get together.
Kerry knows this end of the story much better than I do. But it goes something like this. After October 19, here is what had happened. Garrison had sent Kerry a telegram asking him to call the office, using the name Winston Smith (the man in 1984 who ends up loving Big Brother). Kerry made two phone calls, before finally getting to Garrison. During the first call, he was actually talking to Garrison, who was pretending to be someone else. Kerry may be wrong. Anyway, following a second call or telegram, Kerry got fed up with Garrison's antics and wrote him a letter, telling Garrison where he could go.
The letter attacked Garrison for his methods---and for so freely using the power of subpoena, and ended up with a quote from Robert Ingersoll to the effect that it was better to let the guilty go free, than to punish the innocent.
Well, that did it.
Shortly after this, within weeks in fact, Kerry was shifted from the list of Garrison's "star-witnesses-to-be" to Garrison's "bad guy" list.
And what is really outrageous is that Kerry's subpoena to come to New Orleans to testify (which he did) was not issued by a man who sought to find out facts, or find out truth, but to do to Kerry exactly and precisely what Garrison had intended doing to Heindel!
In other words, Garrison had a theory about Heindel, a theory which posted Heindel's involvement in the assassination, at least after the fact: Garrison thought Heindel "knew something" and was "hiding it."
The method for "breaking" Heindel was to get Heindel to testify, get Thornley to testify, establish a conflict of testimony. Then, Heindel was to be charged with perjury; with Kerry (and others) presumably being the witnesses against Heindel.
Now, Garrison called Kerry to New Orleans to do the same thing to him. (This is said in hindsight. I should have realized it at the time, but it was really not at all apparent to me what was about to take place.)
Kerry testified. The trap was baited with the truth. For when Kerry said he had not had anything to do with Oswald in Septmber 1963---which as far as Kerry is concerned is the truth, with absolutely no qualification---there was then established a conflict in testimony with another witness who said otherwise.
In Garrison's world, the crime of perjury had occurred.
Who was the other witness? A girl named Barbara Reid.
* * *
Kerry knows his case better than I do, and this short writeup is purely to give a running account as to how it evolved from this end. But it is important to note that Barbara Reid leaves much to be desired as a credible witness. Among other things, I have interviewed people who tell me that it is well established that she had an altar in her home, and was actually a practicing witch! This, and other equally fascinating things will all have to come out at a trial. (Perhaps her alter can be subpoenaed as evidence Exhibit A).
The point here is to examine Garrison's methodology. On October 19, 1967, Garrison had made up his mind, in some mystical way that only he knows, that Heindel-was-John-Carter-was-a-liar-and-a-bad-guy." The solution, I now realize, was to establish a Thornley Heindel conflict in testimony, and then charge Heindel with perjury.
When Thornley refused to voluntarily deal with Garrison, Garrison turned on Thornley.
Meanwhile, certain Warren Report critics have apparently egged Garrison on in his venture against Thornley.
(One person, here in California, recently expressed "regret" at the role she had played in getting Thornley arrested).
"Regrets" aren't enough, however. Arrests hurt people and disrupt lives, and violate civil liberties, and cause great mental anguish.
I recently had a conversation with a critic [Vincent Salandria] who has been an ACLU attorney, on occasion. I pointed out that there was absolutely no "beyond-a-reasonable-doubt" type evidence indicating Kerry's involvement in anything.
"Don't give me that civil liberties bull shit," he replied. "We're going after the assassins of President Kennedy."
It is in this manner that the complete suspension of judgment and standards occur.
Although many conspiracists repented of their initial support for Garrison and his reckless tactics, others vehemently defend him, as shown in this widely-circulated e-mail exchange between Lifton and Garrison supporters Lisa Pease and Gary Aguilar..
Certain Warren Report critics are playing the same role, today, with respect to the Garrison investigation, that one might expect be played by some members of the John Birch Society with respect to an HUAC investigation. Garrison is "their man." They try to steer him in the right direction. And it does take some steering, for in many ways, Garrison has become the Frankenstein of a small group of Warren Report critics.
My realization as to what Garrison's methodology really boiled down to did not hit home, until he had actually charged Kerry with perjury, in February (1968). Had I realized that this is what was in the works, I would have urged Kerry not to have gone near the state of Louisiana, no matter how guilty he might look if he refused to testify!
I cannot understand, at this date, why I didn't realize then that Garrison's summoning Kerry to Louisiana to testify was no more than a legal ploy, to establish a conflict of Grand Jury testimony; which would then be used as a basis for Garrison to order his (Kerry's) arrest for perjury. Perjury in Garrison's world, apparently, was defined as any testimony that disagreed with his latest pet theory on the assassination.
It now all seems so obvious. It didn't at the time. Thus, when Kerry and I had conversations in January, 1968, about Garrison's recent subpoena of Kerry, I urged Kerry to go to New Orleans and testify, really thinking that if he did so, it would clear the air once and for all. Garrison would see that Kerry was innocent, that he had nothing to hide, and a silly theory expressed in a Los Angeles hotel room on November 19 (1967) would have bitten the dust.
I was so naive it was really pathetic.
Garrison's office issued a press release explaining why Thornley was accused of perjury. It's another of those documents that would be amusing were it not for the fact that Thornley was thrown in jail (although only briefly) on this basis of this sort of "logic."
And during this period of time, I actually phoned up certain other critics innocently asking for advice as to what I should tell Kerry, who was wondering what tack he should take. "Tell him to go to New Orleans", said one (Vincent Salandria). "If he has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear," or words to that effect.
Later, this same man, the former ACLU attorney (Salandria), would outdo Henry Wade. For he is the one who said to me: "Don't give me that civil liberties bull shit. We're going after the assassins of the President!"
And the pity is, he really believes it! With any of these people, whenever you try to cite evidence that Kerry might be innocent, they simply jack up the conspiracy theory one more notch, so as to include that one item of evidence, in their new theory.
* * *
Today, in the case of Thornley, there are many critics who assume that Garrison "must have something" on Kerry, merely because he has charged Kerry Thornley with a crime, and enunciated various theories to the New Orleans States Item that Kerry was part of "covert federal operations" in New Orleans in the fall of 1963.
I've known Kerry for about three years. I first looked him up after I read his book about Oswald, because I was so upset that he accepted Oswald's guilt, and the Warren Report's conclusions. (Kerry has since written articles, given interviews (Fact, Dec 66) and personally appeared on radio (Joe Dolan Show, San Francisco, summer of 1966), modifying his position on this whole matter. Kerry changed his position on the Warren Report and was publicly propounding his changed position months before Jim Garrison ever became interested in the case.)
In addition to knowing Kerry, I also know the 26 volumes, and I am pretty familiar with large areas of the evidence, having spend almost three years with the material. Finally, I've had a potent dose of Jim Garrison and his methodology. I have witnessed the genesis of a case against Heindel, which was aborted at the last minute, probably by sheer chance, barely avoiding the false arrest of an individual on insufficient information.
I have also listened to Garrison's varying public pronouncements on this case. I still would like to hear satisfactory explanations for the fact that well after Garrison claimed to have "solved the case" "weeks ago" (a claim which was made in Feb. 1967, a scant 12 weeks from the time he first received his set of the 26 volumes) he changed the number of shooters involved in the case he had "solved" from two (March 1967) to five (May, 1967) to seven (Playboy interview, October 67) and later even 15.
Correspondingly, the same is true as to the nature of the plot. In his Playboy interview, for example, he is on public record as not taking seriously the idea that the assassination was a high level plot, but rather the work of a group of politically insignificant right wing nuts who were "sick." To quote Garrison in that interview: "The assassination was less an ideological exercise than the frenzied revenge of a sick element in our society"; and "If you go far enough to either extreme of the political spectrum, Communist or Fascist, you'll find hard eyed men with guns who believe that anybody who doesn't think as they do should be incarcerated or exterminated." (Playboy, Oct. 1967, p. 158).
I don't know too many "hard eyed men with guns" on the left, but that is another matter. Garrison soon was appropriately scolded by certain critics for having "copped out." (When I brought the subject up at the time I was meeting with him, he said he had absolutely no evidence that it went any higher, or included President Johnson or anything of that kind. So how could he say so? Many people pointed out to him at the time that Johnson was certainly vulnerable on the charge of covering up.) One month later, in November 1967 at Century Plaza Hotel, he upped the ante in his famous "your friendly President" speech. "Who had the most to gain?" Garrison asked. "Your friendly President, LBJ", etc.
Now one asks: Had Garrison made some startling new discovery, between October and November, 19657, justifying Johnson's inclusion in the plot talk? Or was it, as it was in the case of the changing number of shooters, simply the fact that he had been scolded by enough of his critic befrienders (or "brain-trusters") for not being "hard line" enough? From what I know, the latter is undoubtedly the case. These changing statements, among many others, have made Garrison a justifiable target for ridicule. Any man can change his mind on the basis of new evidence, but Garrison seems to change his because of an inability to have made it up independently in the first place, compounded by an inability to distinguish between what is merely hypothesis, and what is provable fact.
When such fluid hypothesizing carries over into the area of charging people with crimes and making arrests, innocent people are going to get hurt. I think Kerry Thornley is just such a case.
Rather than trying to be all things to all Warren Report critics, I wish Garrison had instead professionally stuck to the evidence and made his contribution in court, whatever that may turn out to be. The fact that Garrison gets a rise out of the establishment when he shouts "conspiracy" does not mean his investigation is solid, or its charges just. Because of the credibility gap (of the Johnson years---dsl, 2/99), any public official who alleges to have discovered the existence of a right wing conspiracy to assassinate JFK would immediately attract the kind of hostile and controversial attention that Garrison has attracted.
Of course, I have prejudged Kerry's case. But then, I can't claim to be objective about it. I could never serve on his jury. I have known Kerry for three years now. I know Garrison, the 26 volumes, and the way he treats the evidence, in general. Finally, I know the details of how Kerry and Garrison came to clash, in this manner, with Garrison now becoming Kerry's prosecutor, with his goal being to convict Kerry of perjury and send him to prison.
To those who read this who find it incredible that Garrison might be wrong, despite the fact that he has charged Kerry with a crime, that Garrison surely "must have something," be reminded of what occurred a few short years ago, when millions of people thought that a particular document must be the Absolute Truth, because it was signed by Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Los Angeles, California
May 2, 1968