List of people involved in the trial of Clay Shaw

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Prominent New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw was tried for the assassination of John F. Kennedy from January 29, 1969 to March 1, 1969 and later acquitted. The prosecution was led by the city's District Attorney at the time, Jim Garrison, and focused on the theory of that a conspiracy involving Shaw had murdered the President. The following people were major witnesses or participants in the trial.

Jim Garrison[edit]

Jim Garrison (November 20, 1921 – October 21, 1992) [1] the District Attorney of New Orleans. He is the only person to bring a trial for the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Clay Shaw[edit]

Clay Shaw (March 17, 1913 – August 15, 1974)[2] was a successful businessman, playwright, pioneer of restoration in New Orleans' French Quarter, and director of the International Trade Mart in New Orleans.

New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison prosecuted Clay Shaw on the charge that Shaw and a group of right-wing activists, including David Ferrie and Guy Banister, were involved in a conspiracy with elements of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to kill President Kennedy. Garrison arrested Shaw on March 1, 1967.[3] At the time of his arrest Clay Shaw was a closeted homosexual and Garrison’s original theory for the case held the assassination of President Kennedy was a “homosexual thrill crime.” [4]

Perry Russo[edit]

Perry Raymond Russo (May 14, 1941 – August 16, 1995)[5][6] was the key witness for the prosecution in the trial of Clay Shaw in New Orleans in 1969. His role later led to a cameo in the popular drama film on the subject, JFK, and much of his activities were portrayed by a fictionalized composite character played by Kevin Bacon.[7]

Russo was an insurance salesman from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Following the death of Garrison suspect David Ferrie on February 22, 1967, 25-year-old Russo sent a letter to the DA's office, saying that he had known Ferrie and would help the investigation in any way he could.[8] He told reporter Bill Bankston that Ferrie had told him about a month before the assassination: "We will get him, and it won't be long," and on another occasion: "You know we can get Kennedy if we want him."[9]

At the trial of Clay Shaw, Russo testified that he had attended a party at David Ferrie's apartment, where Lee Harvey Oswald (who Russo said was introduced to him as "Leon Oswald"), David Ferrie, and "Clem Bertrand" (who Russo identified in the courtroom as Clay Shaw) talked about killing President Kennedy. The conversation included plans for the "triangulation of crossfire" and alibis for the participants.[10] Under cross-examination, Russo revealed that he had only remembered his scenario when subject to both hypnosis and an injection of sodium pentothal.[7] Russo's testimony that Ferrie's associate "Leon" had a beard and dressed in a dirty, unkempt fashion akin to a 'beatnik' was contradicted by Maria Oswald and others, who stated that Oswald had never presented himself like that, and Clay Shaw's defense team also argued that Russo had misidentified a Ferrie friend with a similar name.[citation needed]

Later in life, Russo recanted part of his testimony to author Patricia Lambert, saying that Shaw "was in fact innocent" and "he did not conspire to kill the president" while also believing that "I don't think they should have prosecuted him", Russo stood by his belief that he had witnessed Ferrie using threatening language about Kennedy but viewed this as having no connection to Shaw whatsoever.[11] He continued to believe that some kind of larger conspiracy occurred until his death from a heart attack at age 54.

Charles I. Spiesel[edit]

Charles Isaac Spiesel (December 25, 1918 – February 28, 2010),[12] an accountant from New York City belatedly added to the witness list of the prosecution, testified for direct examination at the trial of Clay Shaw on a trip to New Orleans in June 1963 he met while a patron of Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar in the French Quarter David Ferre who later on that evening invited Spiesel to a party he attended in a building located at or near the corner of Dauphine Street and Esplanade Avenue where Spiesel witnessed Ferrie and Shaw discuss the possible assassination of President John F. Kennedy.[13] On cross-examination, chief defense counsel F. Irvin Dymond questioned Spiesel as to whether he had ever publicly complained of "hypnosis and psychological warfare" being used on or against him. In reply to Dymond’s question Spiesel testified he had indeed been hypnotized against his will in both New York and New Jersey, and during several of his visits to New Orleans. Upon further cross-examination by Dymond concerning hypnotism Spiesel explained, "they plant certain thoughts in your mind and you are given the illusion that they are true" and he had become "rather an expert" at knowing when people were trying to hypnotize him. Spiesel further testified under Dymond's cross examination he had lost his business in New York City as an accountant the result of officers of the NYPD mentally torturing and hypnotizing him and in response had filed a 16 million dollar lawsuit in proper person for damages against the City of New York later dismissed by the court. Dymond next asked Spiesel whether it was true that when his daughter would leave New York City to go to school at Louisiana State University he would fingerprint her and then again fingerprint his daughter upon her returning home, to which Spiesel answered in the affirmative. Dymond then asked Spiesel for why he would fingerprint his daughter before she would leave for college and again upon her returning home, in answer to which Spiesel explained the reason was to make sure the girl who returned home was the same one he had sent there.[14]

David Ferrie[edit]

In the early 1960s, David Ferrie (March 28, 1918 – February 22, 1967) became involved with Guy Banister, former Special Agent In Charge (SAC) of the Chicago office of the FBI, right-wing political activist, segregationist, and private investigator. Ferrie was regarded as an excellent aviator and employed with Eastern Airlines as a pilot from 1951 until fired in 1961 following charges brought against him for indecent behavior with juvenile boys.[15] Ferrie also worked with Banister's associate, Sergio Arcacha Smith, an anti-Castro Cuban exile. In early 1962, both Banister and Arcacha Smith maintained offices in the Newman Building at the corner address of 544 Camp Street / 531 Lafayette Street, New Orleans.[16] Ferrie was often seen at Banister's office.[17]

Ferrie claimed to be a liberal on civil rights issues, but he was "rabidly anti-Communist," often accusing previous U.S. Presidential administrations of "sell-outs" to communism. According to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Ferrie "...found an outlet for his political fanaticism in the anti-Castro movement."[18][19]

Ferrie was Garrison's chief suspect in the murder of President Kennedy. It was Garrison's further theory Ferrie drove to Houston on the night of November 22, 1963 to rendezvous with and fly from the country the true assassins of President Kennedy.[20] However, Ferrie died less than a week after the New Orleans States-Item newspaper broke the story of Garrison's investigation.[21]

Jack Martin[edit]

Jack Stuart Martin was an alias of Edward Stuart Suggs. Suggs (born on July 1, 1915) was an American private investigator who worked at Guy Banister's private investigation office in New Orleans. On the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Banister and Martin were drinking together at a local bar. On their return to Banister's office, the two men got into a heated argument. According to Martin, Banister said something to which Martin replied, "What are you going to do — kill me like you all did Kennedy?" An angry Banister pistol-whipped Martin with his .357 magnum revolver.[22]

In the ensuing days, Jack Martin told reporters and authorities that a man named David Ferrie may have been involved in the assassination. Martin told police that Ferrie "...was supposed to have been the getaway pilot in the assassination."[23] He said that Ferrie had outlined plans to kill Kennedy and that Ferrie may have taught Oswald how to use a rifle with a telescopic sight. Martin claimed that Ferrie had known Lee Harvey Oswald from their days in the New Orleans Civil Air Patrol, and that he had seen a photograph, at Ferrie's home, of Oswald in a Civil Air Patrol group.[24] Such a photograph was subsequently confirmed to exist, and is now distributed widely.[25]

Guy Banister[edit]

William Guy Banister (March 7, 1901 – June 6, 1964) was a career member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and a private investigator. He was an avid anti-communist — member of the Minutemen, the John Birch Society, Louisiana Committee on Un-American Activities and publisher of the Louisiana Intelligence Digest.[26][27]

Based in part on information gained from Jack Martin (who was an employee of Banister), New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison became convinced that a group of right-wing activists and Minutemen, including Banister, David Ferrie, and Clay Shaw, were involved in a conspiracy with elements of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to kill Kennedy. Garrison would later claim that the motive for the assassination was anger over Kennedy's attempts to obtain a peace settlement in both Cuba and Vietnam.[28][29] Garrison also believed that Banister, Shaw, and Ferrie had conspired to set up Oswald as a patsy in the JFK assassination.[30]

Dean Andrews[edit]

A Secret Service report issued in December 1963, two weeks after the assassination of President Kennedy, stated attorney Dean Adams Andrews, Jr. (October 8, 1922 - April 1981)[31] had said Lee Harvey Oswald visited Andrews' office on approximately three occasions during the months of June and July 1963, seeking legal advice from Andrews concerning his citizenship status, his wife's status and his undesirable discharge from the Marine Corps.[32] Andrews described his encounters with Oswald in testimony before the Warren Commission in July 1964.[33]

On November 25, 1963, Dean Andrews informed the FBI that three days earlier (on the day of the assassination of President Kennedy) he received a telephone call from a man named Clay Bertrand who asked him whether he would be willing to defend Oswald (Kennedy's accused assassin).[32][34] Andrews subsequently repeated his claim regarding the phone call in testimony before the Warren Commission in July 1964.[35] Andrews described Bertrand as a "swinging cat" (what Andrews defined as a bisexual) who occasionally guaranteed fees for some of Andrews' homosexual clients.[36]

Neither the FBI nor the New Orleans Police Department were able to locate a Clay Bertrand in New Orleans.[37] According to the FBI, Andrews admitted that Bertrand was a "figment of his imagination". However, Andrews would later deny the FBI report, claiming that he had never suggested that Bertrand might not be real.[38] Later, Andrews would claim that Bertrand was a cover for his friend Eugene Davis. In later years, Andrews continued to maintain that he had, in fact, received the phone call asking him to defend Oswald, but claimed that he was afraid to reveal the caller's true identity.[39]

Eugene Clair Davis[edit]

When Dean Andrews refused to name Clay Shaw as "Clay Bertrand" to the Orleans Parish Grand Jury, D.A. Jim Garrison indicted, and convicted, Andrews of perjury. Andrews then said that he had used the phony "Bertrand" name as a cover for his friend and client, Eugene Clair Davis (July 8, 1924 - May 31, 1984), operator of a gay bar in the French Quarter.[40] Andrews explained that Davis did not know Oswald, and that a phone conversation with Davis had given him the idea to represent the accused assassin.[41] Davis later denied being "Clay Bertrand."

Aloysius Habighorst[edit]

Aloysius Habighorst (December 14, 1932 - September 12, 1980)[42] was an officer of the New Orleans police department. Habighorst testified that when he booked Clay Shaw for the assassination of President Kennedy, he asked Shaw if he used any aliases, and Shaw responded, "Clay Bertrand." However, Captain Louis Curole had assigned Sgt. Jonas Butzman to guard Shaw during the procedure, and Sgt. Butzman testified that Habighorst had not questioned Shaw, and that the name "Clay Bertrand" had not been spoken by either man. Habighorst also stated that he had allowed Shaw to have his lawyer present for the procedure, a claim contradicted by several eyewitnesses.[43]

Edward O'Donnell[edit]

Lieutenant Edward O'Donnell was an officer of the New Orleans police department. O'Donnell claimed that Perry Russo told him that Russo's testimony against Clay Shaw was false.[44]

There is an alleged copy of Russo's admission that he did not hear Clay Shaw discuss killing President Kennedy in Patrica Lambert's "False Witness."[citation needed] However, in several public interviews, such as one shown in the video, The JFK Assassination: The Jim Garrison Tapes, Russo reiterates what he said at the trial of Clay Shaw: that Shaw attended a meeting at David Ferrie's apartment where Kennedy's assassination was discussed.[45][46]

O'Donnell's credibility remains questionable. He was a bitter enemy of Jim Garrison, who had brought up police brutality charges against him and Tony Polito, his partner. According to Wendall Roache of US Customs, O'Donnell an INS operative with "detailed knowledge of Cuban exile activities in New Orleans".[47]

O'Donnell was close to the Gurvich family, who were known in New Orleans as "character assassins and black-mailers" according to Dean Andrews, a lawyer involved in the case. William Gurvich was hired by Garrison as an investigator after he offered to work for a modest wage. He would later make every attempt to discredit Garrison in the press. Lou Ivon, Joe Oster, and others at the office had suspected Gurvich of being a "plant". Gurvich was a detective who specialized in security for government-subsidized shipping in the Port of New Orleans. His father was an FBI agent who, according to J. Edgar Hoover, "violated all manner of Bureau rules and regulations."

Andrew Sciambra[edit]

Andrew Joseph "Moo Moo" Sciambra (October 29, 1934 - July 27, 2010)[48] was an assistant district attorney for the Parish of Orleans for many years and during the investigation and trial of Clay Shaw.[49] On February 25, 1967 District Attorney Jim Garrison sent Sciambra to Baton Rouge to interview Perry Russo who had written a letter to Garrison following the death of David Ferrie stating he had known Ferrie and would aid Garrison in whatever way possible for his investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy. Following his interview of Russo at Baton Rouge on February 25, 1967 Sciambra composed a 3,500-word memorandum to Garrison dated February 27, 1967 stating Russo had told him he had seen Clay Shaw only twice—once at a dedication speech given at the Nashville Street Wharf in New Orleans by President Kennedy and a second time at David Ferrie's service station; the memorandum made no mention of any conspiratorial meeting, a Lee or "Leon" Oswald being with Ferrie and a white-haired man, a "Clay" or "Clem Bertrand," or an assassination plot.[50] Sciambra would later testify under oath at Clay Shaw’s trial the omission from his memorandum of any mention of a conversation Russo had said for the interview he had witnessed at the apartment of Ferrie between Oswald, Shaw and Ferrie for the planning of the assassination of President Kennedy was simply an "error on my part." [51]

Edward A. Haggerty, Jr.[edit]

Judge Edward A. Haggerty, Jr. (October 1, 1913 - December 2, 1990)[52] presided over the trial of Clay Shaw.

F. Irvin Dymond[edit]

Frederick Irvin Dymond (February 17, 1914 - January 17, 1998)[53] was lead defense counsel for Clay Shaw.[54]

Alvin V. Oser[edit]

Alvin Vonderhaar Oser (April 16, 1935 - October 13, 1997) [55] was one of the chief prosecutors for the trial of Clay Shaw.[56]

James R. Phelan[edit]

James Richard Phelan (July 31, 1912 - September 8, 1997)[57] was a staff writer for The Saturday Evening Post [58] who came to New Orleans, at the request of New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison, to cover the investigation and trial. He was the first to report discrepancies in Perry Russo's story. He called Jim Garrison at home and when he met with the D.A., he pointed out that Russo's original testimony made no mention of the "plot party."[59] Assistant D.A. Andrew Sciambra, the man who questioned Russo, said that "he must have left that detail out." When Sciambra could not produce notes from the original conversation, saying he burned them, Phelan went public with the story.[59]

Vernon Bundy[edit]

Vernon Bundy testified that in June or July 1963 he witnessed Clay Shaw meet with Lee Harvey Oswald at the seawall steps of Lake Pontchartrain near where Bundy was there seated preparing to inject himself with heroin.[60] When Bundy failed a polygraph examination, assistant DAs James Alcock and Charles Ward tried in vain to convince Garrison not to use Bundy as a witness.[61] According to author James Kirkwood, in exchange for Bundy's assistance, Garrison quietly sprung Bundy from prison.[62]

Alvin Beaubouef[edit]

Alvin Roland Beaubouef, Sr. (born September 6, 1945) was one of two men (the other man was Melvin Stacey Coffey) who accompanied David Ferrie on his drive from New Orleans to Houston, Texas on the night of the assassination. According to attorney Milton Brener, Beauboeuf was offered $3,000 and a position with an airline by Garrison investigator Lynn Loisel if he would "fill in the missing links" of Perry Russo's so-called "story."[63]

Sergio Arcacha Smith[edit]

Sergio Vicente Arcacha Smith (January 22, 1923 – July 5, 2000)[64] was a Cuban exile who in the early 1960s was head of the New Orleans chapter of the CIA-backed Cuban Revolutionary Council, an anti-Castro group.[65] The forerunner of the Cuban Revolutionary Council was a group called the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front, known in Spanish as the Frente Revolucionario Democrático (FRD).[66][67] Arcacha Smith had served under Castro's predecessor, the military ruler Fulgencio Batista.[68] Garrison believed that Arcacha Smith could link David Ferrie, Clay Shaw and Oswald together at the Trial of Clay Shaw in New Orleans, Louisiana. Texas Governor John Connally refused to extradite Arcacha Smith to Louisiana for the trial.[28] Jim Garrison continued his prosecution without Arcacha Smith's testimony.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Chriss, Nicholas C (March 2, 1967). "New Orleans Civic Leader Accused. Quizzed for Five Hour's About Conspiracy in Assassination". New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2010. One of New Orleans' best-known civic leaders was arrested Wednesday by Dist. Atty. Jim Garrison and accused of conspiring to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Social Security Death Index.
  6. ^ Transcript of Russo’s testimony at Clay Shaw's trial on February 10, 1969, HSCA Record 180-10097-10190, p. 10.
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ Patricia Lambert, False Witness (New York: M. Evans and Co., 1998), p. 304 fn. 4
  9. ^ Cross-Examination of Perry Russo by Defense Attorney Dymond, State of Louisiana vs. Clay L. Shaw, February 10, 1969.
  10. ^ Testimony of Perry Raymond Russo, State of Louisiana vs. Clay L. Shaw, February 10, 1969.
  11. ^ Patricia Lambert, False Witness, M. Evans and Co., 1998, pages 173-74
  12. ^
  13. ^,4126772
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ David Ferrie, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 12, p. 110.
  17. ^ David Ferrie, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 12, p. 111.
  18. ^ David Ferrie, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 12, p. 109.
  19. ^ 544 Camp Street and Related Events, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 13, p. 127.
  20. ^
  21. ^ Jim Garrison Interview, Playboy magazine, Eric Norden, October 1967.
  22. ^ 544 Camp Street and Related Events, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 13, p. 130.
  23. ^ David Ferrie, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 12, pp. 112-13.
  24. ^ FBI Interview of Jack S. Martin, November 25, 1963 & November 27, 1963, Warren Commission Document 75, pp. 217-18, 309-11.
  25. ^ PBS Frontline "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald", broadcast on PBS stations, November 1993 (various dates).
  26. ^ 544 Camp Street and Related Events, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 13, pp. 126-7.
  27. ^ Summers, Anthony. Not in Your Lifetime, (New York: Marlowe & Company, 1998), pp. 225-226. ISBN 1-56924-739-0
  28. ^ a b Jim Garrison Interview, Playboy magazine, Eric Norden, October 1967.
  29. ^ Garrison, Jim. On The Trail of the Assassins, (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1988), pp. 12-13, 43, 176-178, 277, 293. ISBN 0-941781-02-X
  30. ^ Garrison, Jim. On The Trail of the Assassins, (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1988), pp. 26-27, 62, 70, 106-110, 250, 278, 289. ISBN 0-941781-02-X
  31. ^
  32. ^ a b Commission Exhibit No. 3094, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 26, pp. 704-705.
  33. ^ Testimony of Dean Andrews, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 11, pp. 326-331.
  34. ^ Commission Exhibit No. 1931, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 23, p. 726.
  35. ^ Testimony of Dean Andrews, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 11, pp. 331-334.
  36. ^ Testimony of Dean Andrews, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 11, p. 335.
  37. ^ "Who was Dean Andrews?". Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  38. ^ Testimony of Dean Andrews, Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 11, p. 334.
  39. ^ Summers, Anthony. Not in Your Lifetime, (New York: Marlowe & Company, 1998), p. 241. ISBN 1-56924-739-0
  40. ^ Lambert, pp. 116, 312 fn. 24.
  41. ^ Lambert, pp. 120-21
  42. ^
  43. ^ "Clay Shaw admits an alias". Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  44. ^ "Russo recantation". Retrieved September 17, 2010. 
  45. ^ The Lighthouse Report, "The Last Testament of Perry Raymond Russo", Will Robinson, October 10, 1992.
  46. ^ The JFK Assassination: The Jim Garrison Tapes, John Barbour, 1992.
  47. ^ Mellen, Joan (2007). A Farewell to Justice. Potomac Books. p. 147. 
  48. ^
  49. ^ Andrew 'Moo Moo' Sciambra, who worked on Jim Garrison investigation of JFK assassination, dies at age 75, The Times-Picayune, July 28, 2010.
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^ F. Irvin Dymond, the New Orleans lawyer who won an acquittal for businessman Clay Shaw in 1969 on charges he conspired to kill President John F. Kennedy, died Saturday of cancer at East Jefferson General Hospital, The Times-Picayune, January 18, 1998.
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^ Pogrebin, Robin (September 12, 1997). "James R. Phelan, 85, Is Dead; Biographer of Howard Hughes". The New York Times. 
  59. ^ a b JFK online: Excerpts from James Kirkwood's interview with James Phelan; from James Kirkwood, American Grotesque, 1992 ed., pp. 161-73:
  60. ^
  61. ^
  62. ^ Kirkwood, James. American Grotesque. pp. 174-175
  63. ^ JFK-online:Alleged attempted bribery of Al Beauboeuf
  64. ^
  65. ^ Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC): New Orleans Chapter, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 5, p. 61.
  66. ^ "Jerry P. Shinley Archive: Sergio Arcacha Smith and the FRD (Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front): JFK assassination investigation: Jim Garrison New Orleans investigation of the John F. Kennedy assassination". Retrieved September 17, 2010. 
  67. ^ Cuban Revolutionary Council: A Concise History, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 4, p. 57.
  68. ^ Summers, Anthony. Not in Your Lifetime, (New York: Marlowe & Company, 1998), p. 231. ISBN 1-56924-739-0