Strakon Lights Up, No. 35

What if they'd told Jack Ruby
to stay home that day?

A wire story from Amalgamated Press Intercontinental, filed November 22, 1968
HUNTSVILLE, Tex. — Exactly five years after assassinating President John F. Kennedy and murdering Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit, Lee Harvey Oswald sat quietly in his cell on Texas's Death Row today, still maintaining his innocence but also maintaining his silence on the pointed questions some interviewers have put to him since his conviction in January 1966.

He has kept silent on those issues even while harshly criticizing his defense team for failing to effectively confront the state's case against him.

In the unlikely event the ex-Marine marksman, professed Marxist, and former Soviet defector does possess any of the secrets attributed to him by a handful of conspiracy extremists, he seems determined to take that knowledge with him to the electric chair. Most commentators and legal scholars interpret Oswald's silence as additional, albeit unnecessary, support for the trial's finding that he was the lone assassin of the President.

After his arrest by the Dallas police, Oswald told reporters that he was a "patsy," claiming that he hadn't killed anyone. At trial, however, attempts by his defense team to clear the assassin or mitigate his guilt by linking him with shadowy Cuban conspirators, spies, and Mafia figures were disallowed by the judge. The defense also mounted desperate attempts to challenge the chain of custody of a bullet found in Dallas's Parkland Hospital, FBI forensics procedures involving the murder rifle, evidence relating to the President's autopsy, and other elements of the prosecution's case, all to no avail. Defense efforts to demonstrate that federal authorities intimidated and coerced witnesses, including Oswald's wife Marina, and that other witnesses changed their accounts several times were vetoed by the judge or disbelieved by the jury.

The jury seemed most impressed by the state's extensive presentation of films of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy reaching across the back of the moving limousine immediately after the shooting, as well as photos of Mrs. Kennedy in her blood-stained dress, standing beside Lyndon Johnson as he was being sworn in. A few conspiracy extremists have tried to argue that that evidence, strictly speaking, did not bear directly on Oswald's guilt or innocence.

Also impressing the jury was Oswald's impassive demeanor in the face of the prosecutorial avalanche. "I'll always see those tight, pursed lips of his," one juror said after the verdict. "That was infuriating."

Former Chief Justice Earl Warren remained silent about the case while serving on the high court, but after his retirement last week, he characterized the defense team's "conspiracy" strategy as "shocking and irresponsible." Warren said he was thankful and relieved that "our judicial system worked. Imagine the public hysteria and suspicion that would have resulted had the jury allowed itself to be swayed by the fantastic allegations dreamed up by the defense. It could have undermined the American people's confidence in the integrity of our country's fundamental institutions."

Mike Line, controversial author of Misjudgment, a self-published attack on the state's case against Oswald, responded to Warren's statement by insisting that "if our fundamental institutions are fundamentally corrupt, then the people ought to lose confidence in them." Like the other "Kennedy conspiracy" books, Line's tome failed to achieve widespread distribution and has sold only a few hundred copies.

"Maybe if people had a little less of that precious confidence, we wouldn't have 900,000 soldiers in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia," Line said. "And maybe Lyndon Johnson wouldn't have been re-elected to a second full term a couple weeks ago."

As a veteran of two disappointing interviews with the convicted double murderer, Line attempted to discount Oswald's continued coyness on the matters of interest to the handful of conspiracy theorists. "He couldn't get a lot of his exculpatory evidence introduced in court, and the jury just waved away the evidence he did get in," Line said. "If nobody was willing to listen to him then, who's willing to listen to him now except for a few of us 'nuts'? Why should he say anything interesting?"

Line added, "It's also very possible that Oswald had something to do with the events leading up to the assassination. He may feel partly responsible. On the other hand, he may be afraid of what might happen if he does talk. I don't want to think such things could happen in our country, but maybe there are some death sentences that can't be appealed or delayed."

In his book, Line claims that the Texas prosecutors deliberately failed to present many of their best witnesses "when it turned out they knew too much" and withheld evidence that might have helped their case "because it proved too much." Instead, Line writes, "prosecutors fed the jury an enormous quantity of extremely low-quality evidence, and they ate it up."

Texas and federal officials describe Line as a "raving paranoiac" and "crazy subversive." And of Lee Harvey Oswald, one senior law-enforcement officer had this to say: "Of course no one's interested in him or what he has to say any more. He was tried in open court and convicted by a jury of his peers. Who can challenge that?"

April 19, 2000

Another foray into alternate history by Strakon:
"The end of the Occupation"
(posted July 8, 2004)

© 2000 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.

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