Arguments Against Points 1–6

Mark Lane:
Oswald Innocent? A Lawyer’s Brief

1 : A number of witnesses saw Oswald at the window of the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository

Since it is alleged that Oswald fired through that window, that assertion is important. Wade was unequivocal, stating, “First, there was a number of witnesses that saw the person with the gun on the sixth floor of the bookstore building, in the window — detailing the window — where he was looking out.” Subsequently, it developed that the “number of witnesses” was in reality one witness, who was quoted as follows: “I can’t identify him, but if I see a man who looks like him, I’ll point him out.” (Newsweek — Dec. 9) Such “identification” is at best speculative and would not be permitted in that form at trial.

2 : Oswald’s palm print appeared on the rifle

A palm print, unlike a fingerprint, is not always uniquely identifiable. Nevertheless, palm prints possibly belonging to the suspect and present on a murder weapon must be considered important evidence. If the rifle did belong to Oswald, the presence of palm prints there might be normal and need not lead to the inevitable conclusion that Oswald fired the fatal shots. However, speculation in this area is not now required to rebut Wade’s second point. The FBI now states that “no palm prints were found on the rifle.”

This conclusion, first carried in the Fort Worth press, was later leaked to reporters by the FBI in off–the–record briefing sessions. The FBI at that time took the position that “we don’t have to worry about prints in this case.” The FBI indicated anger with Wade for stating that a palm print was present when in fact it was not.

3 : Oswald’s palm print appeared on a cardboard box found at the window

Wade stated, “On this box that the defendant was sitting on, his palm print was found and was identified as his.” Inasmuch as a palm print is not always uniquely identifiable, depending on the number of characteristics that are readable, the palm print very likely was not definitely “identified as his.”

It had been alleged earlier that the defendant ate greasy, fried chicken at the window. The presence of a palm print indicates that he wore no gloves and took no precautions to prevent a trail of fingerprints and palm prints. Nevertheless, no prints of the defendant were found on the floors, walls, window ledge, window frame or window. Only a movable cardboard carton, subsequently present at the police station while the defendant was also there, is now alleged to have his print.

An over–zealous investigatory staff might arrange to secure such a print after the fact. Certainly, the handling of this case by the Dallas authorities was marked by over–zealous desire to convict the defendant. A district attorney who states falsely that a palm print is present on the murder weapon might make a similar statement in reference to a cardboard carton.

4 : Paraffin tests on both hands showed that Oswald had fired a gun recently

Paraffin is applied to that portion of the human body which might come in close contact with the gas (released by a weapon’s firing) containing solid particles of burned nitrates in suspension. To determine whether a pistol (i.e., a gun) has been fired, tests are made of both hands. To determine whether a rifle has been fired, tests are made of both hands and the area on both sides of the face near the cheekbone, the cheek remaining in immediate contact with a rifle when the trigger is pulled.

In the service, as any veteran, including Wade, well knows, a rifle is always referred to as a rifle. It is never, under fear of company punishment, called a gun (pistol). At Wade’s press conference, this dialogue took place:

Reporter :
What about the paraffin tests?
Wade :
Yes, I’ve got paraffin tests that showed he had recently fired a gun — it was on both hands.
Reporter :
On both hands?
Wade :
Both hands.
Reporter :
Recently fired a rifle?
Reporter :
A gun.
Wade :
A gun.

Wade’s answers, while truthful, were a study in understatement. The district attorney neglected to state the additional facts that tests had been conducted on Oswald’s face and that the tests revealed that there were no traces of gunpowder on Oswald’s face (Washington Star, Nov. 24). One fact emerges here with clarity. The paraffin test did not prove Oswald had fired a rifle recently. The test tended to prove Oswald had not fired a rifle recently. This fact alone raises that reasonable doubt that a jury might utilize in finding the defendant not guilty.

5 :The rifle, an Italian carbine, had been purchased by Oswald through the mail and under an assumed name

Wade said, “It (the rifle), as I think you know, has been identified as having been purchased last March by Oswald, from a mail–order house, through an assumed name named Hidell, mailed to a post office box here in Dallas.” Wade said this was the weapon that killed the President.

Wade had made a very different statement in reference to the murder weapon just a short while before.

Just after the arrest of Oswald, Dallas law enforcement officials announced that they had found the murder weapon. Wade and his associates studied the rifle. It was shown to the television audience repeatedly as some enforcement official carried it high in the air, with his bare hands on the rifle. After hours of examination Wade said without hesitation that “the murder weapon was a German Mauser.”

The next day it was reported that FBI files showed that Oswald purchased an Italian carbine through the mail. It was sent to a post–office box maintained by Oswald in his own name and also A. Hidell. (Clearly no serious effort to escape detection as the purchaser of the rifle was made by Oswald, if he did purchase it.)

Armed with the knowledge that Oswald could be connected with an Italian carbine (it then not being known that the Italian rifle in question might not be able to fire three times in five seconds), Wade made a new announcement. The murder weapon was not a German Mauser, it was an Italian carbine. This prosecution reversal established a high point in vulnerability for the trial — the trial that was never to take place.

6 : Oswald had in his possession an identification card with the name Hidell

Wade said, “On his (Oswald’s) person was a pocketbook. In his pocketbook was an identification card with the same name (Hidell) as the post–office box on it.”

Almost immediately after Oswald was arrested the police asserted that he was guilty of assassination, was a Communist, was the head of the New Orleans Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and had used an alias, “Lee,” the name under which he had rented his $8–a–week room. The following day, after the FBI had revealed that Oswald had purchased a rifle under the assumed name Hidell, the Dallas DA announced for the first time that Oswald had carried an identification card under the assumed name Hidell on his person when he was arrested the previous day.

One wonders why the police and the DA, in announcing Oswald’s political background, failed to mention another alias readily available to them. Clearly, the suspect was immediately searched when arrested. Clearly, an identification card made out to another person fitting Oswald’s description exactly was proof of another assumed name. Why did the Dallas authorities publicly “discover” the ID card for Hidell after the FBI said that Oswald purchased a rifle under the name Hidell?

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.

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22 November 1963

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