June 20, 1967
To: Jim Garrison, District Attorney for Parish of Orleans
From: Sgt. Edward O'Donnell
Subject: Perry Russo Interview
Sgt. Edward O'Donnell would report that sometime in the beginning of June 1967 of being summoned to Mr. Andrew Sciambra's office. Upon meeting Mr. Sciambra, in the District Attorney's Office, he requested that I give a polygraph examination to one, Perry Russo. I told him I would be available anytime for this service. He informed me that Perry Russo would like to meet me prior to the taking of this test, as he has had a bad experience with Roy Jacob, who had given him a polygraph test sometime this past year. Mr. Sciambra went on to state that he felt Roy Jacob used improper polygraph technique and had antagonized Perry Russo in doing so.
On Friday afternoon, at approximately 3:00 p.m. June 16, 1967, Mr. Sciambra brought Perry Russo to the Polygraph Room, located at Police Headquarters. I spoke with Perry Russo for approximately one hour at this time. During this interview, Perry Russo inquired about the nature of the polygraph examination. He wanted to know how it works. I explained the technique to him. He then suggested that I should ask him ten or twelve questions which he would submit to me and that he would purposely lie to some of them and see if I could determine which ones he lied to. I told Perry Russo that to demonstrate the polygraph technique for him to pick a number and write it down on a piece of paper and then put this paper in his pocket and not let me know what number he picked. During the test he was to answer no to all of the questions, forcing him to deliberately lie to the number which he picked. This particular type of test is known as a Peak of Tension, type B. This test was concluded and I immediately told Perry Russo the question which he had lied to. Arrangements were then made with Mr. Sciambra and Mr. Perry Russo to have Perry Russo come back within the next few days to take a Standard Polygraph Examination relative to the case in point. It should be noted that while Perry Russo was in the polygraph room at this time, it was impossible to obtain a polygram which could be evaluated. This was because of the subject's erratic pneumograph tracing which could be caused by general nervous tension or by the fact that the person intended to lie during the test. Perry Russo explained that when the tubing was placed on his chest, it caused an uneasy feeling. Perry Russo and Mr. Sciambra then left this office stating that they would contact me within the next few days to conduct further tests.
O'Donnell recounted the unsuccessful attempt to administer a polygraph to Russo in sworn testimony at the Clay Shaw trial.
On Monday, June 19, 1967, at about 1:45 PM, Mr. Sciambra brought Perry Russo to the Polygraph Room. Mr. Sciambra then stepped outside and waited in the Traffic Office. I conducted an interview with Perry Russo from 1: 4S RM. until 3:45 Rm. A great deal of this time was spent by Perry Russo talking about himself and his problems. I wrote out a list of questions which I intended to ask Perry Russo during the examination. These questions are as follows: 1 -- Were you born in New Orleans? 2--Are you 26 years of age? 3--Do you intend trying to lie to me during this test? 4--Have you told me the complete' truth about this matter? 5--Do you smoke cigarettes? 6--Did you know David Ferrie? 7-Were you ever at David Ferrie's apartment on Louisiana Avenue? 8-Do you ever watch TV? 9--Did you ever see Clay Shaw at Ferrie's apartment? I 0--while at Ferrie's apartment, did you ever meet a person named Leon Oswald? I I-Do you ever drink coffee? 12-While at Ferrie's apartment, did you hear these people discuss ways to assassinate Kennedy? 13--Did you take part in this discussion? 14--Did you hear Shaw mention the assassination of Kennedy?
The above questions were read to Perry Russo and he was asked if he understood them and if he could answer yes or no to these questions. He stated that he could, that the questions were perfectly clear to him. I then put the necessary attachments on Perry Russo and attempted to give him a Standard Polygraph Examination, using the above mentioned questions. After asking three questions, the test was stopped due to Perry Russo's erratic pneumograph tracing and his physical movements. Upon shutting off the instrument and taking the attachments from Perry Russo's body, the interview continued. Perry Russo expressed that he was under a great deal of pressure and wished that he had never gotten involved in this mess. I told him to forget about the pressures that I only wanted to obtain the truth from him relative to this case. It was explained to him that for his own peace of mind he should examine his conscience and determine what the truth is and once he does this he can stand on the truth now or ten years from now, and not have any misgivings about what he has done. I then told him, you know the questions that I intend to ask you during this test, is there anything you would wish to clarify with me. I then asked him was Clay Shaw at this party, he replied do you want to know the truth, I stated yes, he said I don't know if he was there or not. I told Perry that Shaw was the type of a man that if you were to see him, he would stand out in your mind and I asked him if he would give me a no or yes answer to this question. He stated that if he had to give a yes or no answer, he would have to say no. I then asked him why he went into court and positively identified Shaw as being at this party at David Ferrie's apartment. He stated that Dymond turned him on. The first question Dymond asked me was, do I believe in God. This is an area which I am highly sensitive about. He further stated that prior to going to the preliminary hearing, he was going to state that he did not know if Clay Shaw was at this party or not at this party. He was then asked if this conversation he heard at Dave Ferrie's apartment sounded like a legitimate plot to assassinate Kennedy. He stated, no it did not, it appeared to him like another bull session, like they were always having. He stated that quite frequently he and other people would sit around discussing such topics as the perfect murder or ways of defrauding insurance companies and getting away with it, but this doesn't mean that they would actually do such a thing. He was then asked to describe the conversation which he heard at David Ferrie's apartment and he stated that this was very vague in his mind and at this time he could not say who was saying what. He then expressed a desire to me to meet with Clay Shaw. I asked him what reason he would want such a meeting and he stated he would like to talk to Clay Shaw to size him up to determine if he was the kind of a person that would take part in such a plot. He then expressed a desire to me to know the contents of Mr. Garrison's complete case against Shaw. I asked him why he wanted to know this and he stated this would help him to come to a decision. I then told him that regardless of what Mr. Garrison has or does not have, he should make his own decisions after examining his conscience and determining what the truth is. He then asked me if he could leave and that he would call me later on in the week and he would come back by himself and I could go ahead with the test. I agreed to this and took him outside into the Traffic Office, where he met Mr. Sciambra. I then went upstairs to the District Attorney's Office, where I met Mr. Garrison and Assistant District Attorney Mr. Alcock and informed them of this interview and what I had learned while conducting this interview.
Sgt. Edward O'Donnell
This, of course, confirms Phelan's conversations with Russo. Russo's willingness to testify against Shaw was based on the assumption that Garrison "must have something" on Shaw -- other evidence besides Russo's account. Russo was therefore shocked and appalled when he discovered that he was Garrison's whole case. But he was too scared to back out.