Flaws in the ‘Airtight’ Case

Mark Lane:
Oswald Innocent? A Lawyer’s Brief

The people vs. Oswald

When a criminal case is brought in federal court against an individual, it is entitled, “The People of the United States against” the named defendant. No federal charge was lodged against Oswald; however, in the most significant sense the case became the entire country and its institutions against one man. Very likely no prospective defendant in the history of civilization has been tried and condemned through the utilization of the media as was Oswald.

The American Civil Liberties Union commented on Dec. 6:

It is our opinion that Lee Harvey Oswald, had he lived, would have been deprived of all opportunity to receive a fair trail by the conduct of the police and prosecuting officials in Dallas, under pressure from the public and the news media.

From the moment of his arrest until his murder two days later, Oswald was tried and convicted many times over in the newspapers, on the radio, and over television by the public statements of the Dallas law enforcement officials. Time and again high–ranking police and prosecution officials state[d] their complete satisfaction that Oswald was the assassin. As their investigation uncovered one piece of evidence after another, the results were broadcast to the public.

… Oswald’s trial would … have been nothing but a hollow formality.

In a section headed “Police Responsibility for Oswald’s Killing” the ACLU stated that the concessions to the media “resulted in Oswald being deprived not only of his day in court, but of his life as well.”

On Dec. 4 the chancellor–elect of the Philadelphia Bar Association stated that Lee Oswald had been “lynched” and that this was an “indictment” of the legal profession for its failure to protect Oswald (New York Times, Dec. 5). These two comments, made after the death of Oswald and buried by the news media under the avalanche of news attacks against Oswald (including the FBI leaks of other crimes alleged to have been committed by him), constitute to date almost the only indication of sanity in the country.

After Oswald’s death, the FBI acted to prevent certain information from reaching the public. “Most private citizens who had cooperated with newsmen reporting the crime have refused to give further help after being interviewed by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” (New York Times, Dec. 6). The FBI acted, not to protect the rights of a defendant, but, after he was murdered, to protect the inconsistent evidence from further scrutiny. Mrs. Oswald, still in Secret Service custody, hidden in an unknown location, was quoted on the front pages of papers throughout the country Dec. 6 and 7 as implicating Oswald in another crime. Such a quotation could have come only from a Secret Service or FBI leak. No one else had access to her. And so the insanity accelerates until the few remaining vestiges of doubt as to Oswald’s guilt are obliterated from the American scene.

However, let it not be said that the lawyers are not aroused by an attorney’s giving statements to the public in relation to a pending case. “A Dallas Bar Association grievance committee met three hours last night on charges that Tom Howard, attorney for Jack Ruby, had violated legal ethics by discussing Ruby’s case with the press … No charges had been placed against District Attorney Henry Wade.” (New York Post, Dec. 6).

When an entire society moves in for the kill, logic is a weapon of doubtful value. Were logic to prevail, a number of questions might be raised for rational deliberation. For example, one might inquire why the FBI, having questioned Oswald just a week before the assassination and having discovered that he worked in a building directly on the President’s line of march, and knowing that Oswald had purchased a rifle, did not watch him on the day of assassination. Certainly, a small portion of the millions of dollars bestowed upon the FBI each year and utilized for following persons of unorthodox political views and tapping their telephones might have been available under these circumstances, as part of what the FBI and Secret Service referred to as the “greatest security provisions ever taken to protect an American President.”

The question of motive

Whether the Dallas police through complicity or complacency permitted the murder of the defendant by a police department friend after two warnings through the FBI that such an attempt would be made should be a matter for press discussion. Whether or not the FBI showed Mrs. Oswald, the defendant’s mother, a picture of Ruby before Ruby murdered Oswald would ordinarily demand media debate.

There are two matters not even commented upon by the press to date — Oswald’s motive and Oswald’s plan for escape. Oswald seemed to respect President Kennedy. If Oswald were a leftist, pro–Soviet and pro–Cuban, did he not know that during the last year, with the assistance of President Kennedy, a better relationship was in the process of developing between the U.S. and the Soviet Union? Even the relations between the U.S. and Cuba, while still extremely unfriendly, have progressed past the stage of military intervention. Fidel Castro himself stated, just before the President’s death, “He (Kennedy) has the possibility of becoming the greatest President of the United States … He has come to understand many things over the last few months — I’m convinced that anyone else would be worse.” (New York Times, Dec. 11).

The press made much of the fact that Oswald had been seen with a copy of the Worker, a Communist publication, and that he had received at least two letters from the Communist Party. A New York newspaper referred to him editorially as a “Communist murderer.” Did Oswald not know that the U.S. Communist party supported Kennedy when he ran for the presidency in 1960 and that within the last six months Gus Hall urged the Communist Party, which he leads, to endorse and support Kennedy again?

Why should Oswald wish to assassinate the President; and after firing at the President, how did he plan to escape? Did he wish to flee from the building? If so, why did he remain in the lunchroom sipping a soda? Was he in a hurry? If so, why did he take a ride on a bus? It was a very warm day in Dallas. Mrs. Kennedy, sweltering in the open moving car, later said that she was looking forward to the cool relief of riding through the underpass just ahead. Why then, did Oswald, seeking to escape the police, go home to pick up his jacket? If he was planning to leave the city, why did he then go to a movie just as the city–wide search was gaining intensity?

These are genuine areas for speculation by the press now that the defendant is dead. These are, nevertheless, almost the only areas left unexamined by the media.

Perhaps some day, when America is ready for the sunlight of reason to penetrate the rational mind, now frozen to a false and unfair conclusion, this article and others far more comprehensive may be read.

A Lawyer’s Brief

Four weeks after the murders of President Kennedy and Lee Oswald, the National Guardian published an extended essay by Mark Lane, who pointed out that the existing evidence was not sufficient to have convicted Oswald at trial. Soon afterwards, the essay was expanded and published by the magazine as a pamphlet.

This Version

The National Guardian no longer exists, and copies of Lane’s pamphlet are now collectors’ items. The text has been available online for many years at http://karws.gso.uri.edu/jfk/. It is available here for the first time in correct HTML, and has been split into sections for ease of reading online.

Top of the page

Website created by Lab 99 Web Design: http://www.lab99.com/

22 November 1963

This website uses cookies. Find out more.