The Clay Shaw trial testimony of Jeff Biddison
CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT
PARISH OF ORLEANS
STATE OF LOUISIANA
STATE OF LOUISIANA vs. CLAY L. SHAW
EXCERPT OF THE TESTIMONY TAKEN IN OPEN COURT
February 25, 1969
TESTIMONY OF ARTHUR JEFFERSON BIDDISON
B E F O R E: THE HONORABLE EDWARD A. HAGGERTY, JR., JUDGE, SECTION "C"
ARTHUR JEFFERSON BIDDISON, having been first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:
DIRECT EXAMINATION BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: For the record, would you kindly state your full name, sir?
A: Arthur Jefferson Biddison.
Q: Where do you reside?
A: 1414 Chartres Street, New Orleans.
Q: How long have you lived there, sir?
A: Since 1957.
Q: What is your occupation, Mr. Biddison?
A: I am a real estate man.
Q: How long have you been in the real estate business?
A: Eight or nine years.
Q: Mr. Biddison, do you know Clay Shaw, the Defendant in this case?
A: Yes, I do.
Q: How long have you known him approximately?
A: Approximately twenty-three years.
Q: Mr. Biddison, referring back to the year 1963, did you own an automobile at that time?
A: Yes, I did.
Q: Can you tell us what kind of automobile it was?
A: It was a 1960 black Cadillac sedan.
Q: I show you a photograph which has been introduced in evidence and marked for identi- fication as State-2, and ask you whether you are able to identify this either as your automobile or one which was similar in appearance to your automobile?
Q: As which can you identify it, yours or a similar car?
A: I can identify it as my automobile.
Q: How do you do that?
A: By the house in the background belonging to the man I sold it to.
Q: Would his name be Hyatt?
Q: Mr. Biddison, from your previous testimony as to how long you have known Mr. Shaw, I would gather you did know him then in 1963, is that correct, sir?
Q: Was he a close friend of yours at that time?
Q: During the year 1963, Mr. Biddison, did you ever have occasion to lend this automobile to Mr. Shaw?
Q: Could you tell us how you are able to be so positive in that answer, sir?
A: This car was used by me in my business and Mr. Shaw had a car of his own at that time.
Q: Do you recall what kind of car he had at that time?
A: A black Thunderbird I believe.
Q: Did you ever lend this automobile to anyone else that you remember?
A: No, this was my personal company car.
Q: More particularly, did you ever lend this automobile to anyone for a sufficient period for them to be able to take a trip out of town?
A: Not in 1963.
Q: When, if ever, did you?
A: In 1966 when I had two cars. In the summer and fall of 1966.
Q: Now, Mr. Biddison, during the years you have known Mr. Clay Shaw, have you ever known him to go under any name other than Clay Shaw or Clay L. Shaw?
Q: In other words, have you ever known him to use an alias?
Q: Have you ever known any individual by the name of Clay Bertrand?
Q: Have you ever known any individual by the name of Clem Bertrand?
Q: Mr. Biddison, during the years you have known Mr. Shaw were you reasonably familiar with his circle of friends?
Q: Did you ever know, or hear of, a man by the name of Leon Oswald or Lee Harvey Oswald?
A: No, not until the assassination.
Q: Since the assassination have you seen photographs of Oswald?
Q: Do you know Mr. Shaw to be acquainted with anyone by the name of Leon Oswald or Lee Harvey Oswald?
Q: Have you heard him mention that name?
Q: Have you ever known a man by the name of David W. Ferrie?
Q: Do you know if Mr. Shaw ever knew him?
Q: Did you hear Mr. Shaw mention David W. Ferrie or Dave Ferrie before being charged in this case?
Q: I show you State-1, purporting to be a photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald, and ask you if you have ever seen that man in person?
A: No, I have never seen this man in person.
Q: Have you ever seen that man in the company of the Defendant, Clay Shaw?
Q: I show you another photograph which has been marked for identification as State-3, and introduced into evidence, purporting to be a photograph of the late David W. Ferrie, and ask you to examine that photograph and tell me whether you have ever seen that man in person?
Q: Have you ever seen that man in the company of the Defendant, Clay L. Shaw?
Q: Now, Mr. Biddison, I show you a photograph which has been marked for identification as State-19, and offered into evidence, purporting to be a photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald with a beard drawn in in pencil, or some other material. I ask you to examine that photograph and ask if you have ever to your knowledge seen the man depicted in that photograph?
Q: Have you ever seen the man depicted in this photograph or one similar to him in appearance, in the company of Clay Shaw?
Q: During the years you have known or been acquainted with Clay L. Shaw, have you become acquainted with his manner of dress?
Q: Have you ever known him to wear tight pants?
Q: Have you ever known him to wear a hat?
Q: Have you ever known him to own a hat other than in military service?
Q: Mr. Biddison, do you recall when Mr. Clay Shaw took a trip to Europe back in 1966?
A: Yes, I do.
Q: What, if anything, particularly recalls to your mind that event?
A: I drove him to the ship, we went to lunch and to the ship when he boarded the ship. I had leased his home to Mr. and Mrs. A. Rosada for the period he was supposed to be away.
Q: Do you have a copy of that lease with you?
A: Yes, I do.
MR. ALCOCK: May we see that if you are going to question him about it?
MR. DYMOND: Yes.
(Whereupon, it was marked for identification as Defense Exhibit 53.)
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Mr. Biddison, I show you the document which you have just presented to me and which I have marked for identification as D-53, and ask you if you can tell us what this particular document represents?
A: It represents a lease between Mr. Clay Shaw and Mr. Alberto Fowler, the son-in-law of Mr. and Mrs. Rosada, who leased through my office Mr. Shaw's home for --
Q: What address is that?
A: 1313 Dauphine Street, for an initial period of three months commencing on the 4th day of May 1966 to the 3rd day of August 1966.
Q: You say you negotiated this lease as a real estate agent?
A: As a real estate agent, agent to Mr. Shaw.
MR. DYMOND: In connection with the testimony of this witness we would like to offer, file and produce in evidence the document marked as D-53.
MR. ALCOCK: No objection.
THE COURT: Let it be received in evidence.
(Whereupon, the document offered by Counsel was received into evidence.)
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: To your knowledge, Mr. Biddison, was this lease ever extended from its initial period?
A: Yes, it was.
Q: For what period of time, if you know?
A: For two periods of time, from August 4th to September 3rd and with the approval of Mr. Shaw it was extended again twice through September 20th.
Q: Even though he was returning prior to that time?
Q: Of what year are you speaking?
A: 1966. There were two extensions.
Q: During the time that Mr. Shaw was out of the country did you receive any mail at your home for him?
A: Not to my knowledge, not at my home.
Q: Did you receive mail for him from any place else?
A: Yes, at my office.
Q: To what name was it addressed?
A: Mr. Clay Shaw, 900 Royal Street, or care of Marilyn Tate Company, and some mail was brought to our office by Mr. and Mrs. Rosada from his home, and some mail was mailed directly to me at my home knowing I would be forwarding the mail to Mr. Shaw in Europe.
Q: What did you do with this mail which you received for Mr. Shaw?
A: On two occasions what I thought would be mail that didn't need to be deposited in the bank or business affairs and that sort of thing, I put in envelopes on two occasions and mailed to him in Spain and England.
Q: For the purpose of determining what type of mail this was, Mr. Biddison, whether it consisted of bank deposits and such, did you have occasion to look individually at each piece of mail received by you for Mr. Shaw?
A: Yes, I opened all mail because I was not going to mail everything. It was at my discretion what I forwarded to him.
Q: Did you at any time receive any mail either at your office, at your residence or any place else addressed to Clay Bertrand prior to the commencment of the trial of this case?
A: Never prior to the commencement of the trial of this case.
Q: How long do you say you have been living at that address?
A: Since 1957. I restored the building. It was not a post office address prior to that time.
Q: What year was that, sir?
Q: Could you tell me what type of mailbox you have there, is it a locked mailbox or one that is not locked?
A: It is a cast-iron post box of probably 1910, 1920 vintage, mounted on the side of my garage entrance to my home, which is the main entrance to my home.
Q: Does it have a locked top on it or not?
A: No, sir.
Q: Who ordinarily took the mail out of your mailbox at home?
Q: Have you ever taken, prior to the commencement of this trial, a letter out of that letterbox addressed to Clay Bertrand?
Q: At the address at which you have lived ever since it was a municipal number, Mr. Biddison, has anyone ever lived there by the name of Cliff Boudreaux?
Q: Have you ever received any mail at your address addressed to Cliff Boudreaux?
MR. DYMOND: We tender the witness.
CROSS EXAMINATION BY MR. ALCOCK:
Q: Mr. Biddison, does anyone reside with you at that address now?
Q: In 1966 did anyone reside with you at that address?
A: For a short period after he returned from Europe, Mr. Shaw stayed at my home until he could get back in his home. This was in September 1966.
Q: Can you recall approximately when Shaw took up residence in your home, or temporary residence in your home?
A: It was about five to ten days before the 21st of September, at which time he was able to get back into his home.
Q: He got back in his home on September 21st?
A: Yes, according to our records, and I believe that is the correct date.
Q: And he resided in your home approximately one week? Would that be a fair estimate?
Q: At this time who was residing in your home, that is beside yourself and the Defendant?
A: Just myself.
Q: Has anyone else ever resided with you at that location?
Q: Who was that?
A: Mr. Fred Tate.
Q: When did he reside there?
A: 1964 and 1965 I believe.
Q: Anyone else?
A: Mr. Clifton Gomez.
Q: When did he reside there?
A: Up until about 1961.
Q: From what date?
A: From the time the building was first restored in 1957.
Q: Is he a relative of yours?
A: No, he was a business partner in that restoration.
Q: Has anyone else resided at your address at 1414 Chartres Street?
A: No, but I have had many guests in my home, but no permanent residents.
Q: Going back to the year 1963, how often would you say you saw the Defendant in that year?
A: I saw Mr. Shaw very seldom in 1963 because we had completed the restoration of the Spanish Stables prior to that and Mr. Shaw was fully involved in his promotion, selling bonds to build the International Trade Mart.
Q: I take it you saw very little of him in 1963?
A: 1963, yes.
Q: How about the summer of 1963?
A: Particularly in the summer.
Q: Have you ever lent your Cadillac automobile to the Defendant?
A: Yes, I have.
Q: When was that?
A: In the fall of 1966.
Q: Was that the same black Cadillac that has been described?
Q: Do you recall if he made any out of town trips in that Cadillac?
A: I believe he drove to the best of my recollection to see his parents in Hammond, Louisiana, on one occasion.
Q: How many times did you lend him your automobile during that period?
A: At the most three times.
Q: Can you recall on what dates those were?
A: No, I cannot.
Q: Is it your testimony, Mr. Biddison, you received to the best of your recollection no mail in the summer of 1966 or the early fall of 1966 at your home for the Defendant?
A: That's my best recollection.
Q: Could that be incorrect?
A: No mail forwarded to Mr. Shaw. There may have been letters addressed directly to him at my home.
Q: That would necessarily have to be someone who would know you were close acquaintances, would it not?
A: That's correct.
Q: Do you know whether or not when the Defendant left on his European trip he executed a change of address?
A: No, I have no recollection of that. It was my understanding Mr. Shaw's mail was forwarded to my office.
Q: Having no recollection, would you dispute --
A: I am still getting mail for Mr. Shaw at my office addressed to him at my office even today.
Q: Even today?
Q: Mr. Biddison, have you ever executed a change of address form with the Postal Department?
A: Have I?
Q: Are you familiar somewhat with the form used?
A: No, I cannot say that I am.
Q: I am going to show you what has been marked for the purpose of identification as State-27, and ask you first of all if you are familiar with the form depicted in this exhibit?
A: Yes, I have seen such a form.
Q: Have you seen that particular form?
A: No, I have not.
Q: Where have you seen a similar form?
A: I have had them in my office for forwarding clients' mail and mail myself. I believe it is a pink form.
Q: You are familiar with the form, is that correct?
Q: Having seen this form before and being familiar with it, can you say what this depicts?
A: It depicts the change of address for Mr. Clay L. Shaw canceling a forwarding order to 1414 Chartres and forwarding the mail to 1313 Dauphine Street.
Q: To your knowledge did the Defendant ever execute such a form?
A: To my knowledge, no.
Q: You are testifying then, as you recall it, the Defendant did return to his residence on September 21, 1966, is that correct?
A: To the best of my recollection, yes.
Q: Mr. Biddison, do you know who your postman is?
A: Yes, I do.
Q: Have you had the same postman for some period of time?
Q: Do you know his name?
A: I do now.
Q: What is his name?
A: James Hardiman.
Q: Approximately how long has he been your postman?
A: As far as I know he has always been my postman at that address.
Q: Have you ever had any difficulty with Mr. Hardiman?
Q: Did you have occasion to ask Mr. Hardiman about his testimony in this case?
A: Yes, I did, when it was published in the newspaper.
Q: Would that be after he testified?
A: No, prior to that.
Q: What was published in the newspaper?
A: Mr. Garrison's opening statement.
Q: Did that name anybody in the opening statement?
A: I beg your pardon?
Q: Did they name Mr. Hardiman in the opening statement?
A: No, they named me and my address in the opening statement.
Q: Did you know about Mr. Hardiman prior to the article being published in the newspaper, about his possible testimony in this case?
Q: Do you know of any reason that may be particular to yourself and Mr. Hardiman, why Mr. Hardiman would say something untrue about delivery of mail to your address?
MR. DYMOND: I object to that, if the Court please.
THE COURT: I sustain the objection.
BY MR. ALCOCK:
Q: Have you always, as far as you know, found Mr. Hardiman to be a truthful person?
MR. DYMOND: We object, Your Honor. This man is not on the stand as a character witness for Hardiman, and even if he were he could only testify as to reputation.
THE COURT: Are you trying to prove his character?
MR. ALCOCK: I am not trying to prove good character, I am trying to determine whether or not there was any prior relationship between this man and Mr. Hardiman, which would influence Mr. Hardiman.
MR. DYMOND: The nature of the question is such as to try to show truthfulness on the part of Mr. Hardiman, and if the State desires to do that I suggest the only way they can properly do so is by witnesses testifying as to his reputation.
THE COURT: I think he has already answered the question, was there any previous difficulty between Mr. Hardiman and the witness. I sustain the objection.
BY MR. ALCOCK:
Q: Do you recall how much mail you received at your office for the Defendant during the period he was in Europe?
A: What comes to mind is tons of it. I had a great deal of mail for Mr. Shaw that summer.
Q: Did you open every piece of mail?
A: Every piece of mail.
Q: Personal letters as well as --
A: Personal letters as well as business letters. I have been Mr. Shaw's agent for many years and I have his complete confidence to handle such matters for him.
Q: Have you and the Defendant resided together on any occasion prior to the fall of 1966?
A: Prior to the fall of 1966?
Q: Where and when?
A: 537 Barracks Street in 1947 to 1948 and at 906 Esplanade to 1950.
Q: Did you own 906 Esplanade?
A: Mr. Shaw did.
Q: On any other occasions did you reside with the Defendant?
A: Subsequent to that time?
Q: Are you from New Orleans originally?
A: No, sir.
Q: Where are you from?
A: Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Q: Are you a close social friend of Mr. Shaw?
A: I am a business and social friend of Mr. Shaw.
Q: Was anyone else residing at 1414 Chartres Street at the time the Defendant was in Europe aside from yourself?
Q: Have you got mail, Mr. Biddison, for other individuals at your address at 1414 Chartres Street?
Q: Who might they be?
A: I received mail at my home address last summer for approximately three months for Mr. C. C. Bunker, who was my houseguest. I have received mail this winter in December and January for Mr. Sherman Schroeder, who was a guest of mine and had mail forwarded to my address while he was away from the city here.
Q: Anyone else?
A: I have received mail at my home for many people over the years.
Q: Let us say from 1963 on.
A: I received all the mail for my invalid mother, Lydia F. Biddison, and I received mail for my deceased father Val Gene Biddison. I receive Social Security checks for my mother, Mrs. Biddison. Other names escape me for the moment. There are others.
Q: The mail you received at your office for the Defendant, had that been forwarded from 1313 or was it mailed directly to your office?
A: I had received mail directly at my office at that time, mail brought to my office for the tenant of Mr. Shaw's home that was not redirected. Both types of mail I received at my office.
Q: Did you actually receive letters that had been forwarded by the Postal Department to 900 Royal Street from 1313?
A: To the best of my recollection that was a business change of address Mr. Shaw used after his retirement, because I got magazines and all sorts of things directed to my office, I even do today.
Q: I am referring to the mail you got during the summer and fall of 1966.
A: I was receiving mail at that time too. Mr. Shaw was a licensed salesman at my office after his retirement.
Q: Did you receive any mail forwarded to you by the Post Office at 900 Royal Street from 1313?
A: No, not by them.
Q: But you received mail sent to your office?
A: I did.
Q: By the people who lived at his house, tons of it?
A: Not tons of it, but I received mail that would come to my office for Mr. Shaw usually in large quantities.
Q: How much mail did you receive from the office at 1313 Dauphine?
A: I would say two or three letters a week perhaps. They brought them in irregularly to us.
Q: Do you still own the black Cadillac?
A: No sir. I was negotiating to sell it in the summer and fall of 1966, and I sold it in the late fall of 1966 to my maintenance man, Mr. Hyatt who still owns the car.
Q: Do you recognize the exhibit displayed to you by Mr. Dymond as being your former automobile?
A: Yes, because of the location it was taken.
Q: That is the way you recognize it, because of the house it was taken in front of?
Q: Do you ever recall lending any of your houseguests your automobile, the house guests you have named?
Q: 1414 Chartres Street became a mailing address in 1957, would that be correct?
Q: Were you subpoenaed to appear here today, Mr. Biddison?
Q: You came of your own volition?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Because of your friendship with the Defendant?
A: Yes, sir.
MR. ALCOCK: No further questions.
REDIRECT EXAMINATION BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Did you testify Mr. Shaw worked as a salesman for you after his retirement?
A: Yes, sir, he is a licensed salesman in my office and actively engaged in the sale of real estate after his retirement from the International Trade Mart.
Q: Getting back to 1966, when Mr. Shaw was in Europe; you testified you received no letters addressed to Clay Bertrand?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: Did you received any letters addressed to Clem Bertrand?
Q: At any address?
MR. DYMOND: That is all I have.
MR. ALCOCK: No further questions.
THE COURT: You are excused.
(Whereupon, the witness was excused.)