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Rewriting History: Bugliosi Parses the Testimony

by Don Thomas

When Jesse Curry retired as police chief of Dallas, Texas, he wrote a book called "JFK Assassination File." In a 1969 interview for the Dallas Morning News around the time of publication, Curry stated,

"We don't have any proof that Oswald fired the rifle, and never did.

Nobody's yet been able to put him in that building with a gun in his hand." [1]

Curry’s statement is as true now as it was then, a problem which would not be obvious to a reader of Warren Commission apologist Vincent Bugliosi’s new book “Reclaiming History.” According to Bugliosi there is...

“a mountain of evidence conclusively proving that Oswald shot Kennedy,” (p. 832)

and he invokes this assertion whenever he needs an excuse to dismiss evidence to the contrary. The fact is the totality of the evidence that Oswald shot Kennedy amounts to little more than the proverbial molehill. The eyewitness testimony, for what it was worth, indicated that someone other than Oswald did the shooting. In this regard, one of the more shameful aspects of the Warren Commission investigation was its handling of the African-American witnesses. These individuals were among the Book Depository employees closest to Lee Harvey Oswald. Because they often ate lunch with him (Givens: 6WH354, Arce: 6WH364, Jarman: 3WH200) they had a special perspective on Oswald’s whereabouts during the lunch hour on the day of the assassination. The accounts of these witnesses tended to exculpate Oswald, but the Warren Commission took advantage of their status as second class citizens to ignore or distort, and in some cases, manipulate their statements. Bugliosi argues around, but never comes to grips with these problems, instead preferring to denigrate not the Warren Commission, but the Warren Commission’s critics.

Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz
Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz.

The official mythology holds that during the lunch hour Lee Harvey Oswald was hiding in the sniper’s nest on the sixth floor awaiting the President’s motorcade and was there to shoot the President at 12:30 Dallas time. In his interrogation Oswald insisted that he was on the first floor of the building when the President’s motorcade went by. To counter Oswald’s alibi the Warren Commission and Bugliosi relied on the testimony of Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz who led the interrogation. Fritz was not only underqualified for his job (admitting to the Warren Commission that he had no formal training in forensics (4WH203)) but demonstrably incompetent. His investigation of Kennedy’s murder was a succession of blunders, not the least of which was a failure to protect the crime scene. It was Fritz who was responsible for the misidentification of the murder weapon widely reported in the press as a Mauser rifle. It was Fritz who refused to allow the suspect access to legal counsel. It was Fritz who told Louisiana law enforcement officials that he didn’t need their witnesses because he already knew who killed the President [editor's note: the Rose Cherami incident]. Fritz picked up the evidence cartridges before they could be checked for prints and then pilfered one, apparently for a souvenir, and then returned it damaged. At the time of his testimony to the Warren Commission Fritz was still unaware that the remains of a chicken dinner found in the sniper’s nest belonged to a key witness to that days events, thinking that they were leftovers from days and weeks previous. In testifying to the Warren Commission a capella, that is, without notes,

Fritz gave a distorted version of Oswald’s alibi, claiming that Oswald had said that he had eaten lunch with two of the black employees, “Junior” and a “short fellow” (4WH213, 224). Fritz’ brief handwritten notes, donated to the National Archives thirty years after the fact, do not reflect that version, noting only,

"two negr. came in, one Jr.- + short negro-." (Fritz Notes, p. 1)

The Warren Commission and Bugliosi cite the two employees, Junior Jarman and Harold Norman, as denying that they ate lunch with Oswald, and therefore that Oswald’s alibi was a lie (WR180, 195). In doing so they ignored the account of the two FBI agents who were present during the interrogation and who, unlike Fritz, had filed a written report on Oswald’s statements. According to the FBI report, Oswald had actually said that he had eaten lunch alone.

"On November 22, 1963, he had eaten lunch in the lunch room alone, but recalled possibly two Negro employees walking through the room during this period. He stated possibly one of these employees was called "Junior" and the other was a short individual whose name he could not recall but whom he would be able to recognize." (WR622)

In fact, during their Warren Commission testimony, Junior Jarman and Harold Norman separately confirmed that they had "walked through" the first floor lounge, known as the domino room, to retrieve their sandwiches, thus independently corroborating Oswald's account. Significantly, Harold Norman testified that usually some of the employees, including himself, would play dominos in this room during the lunch hour, but on this particular day, because of the pending passage of the Presidential motorcade, no one was playing dominos (3WH189). When asked if anyone else was in the domino room, Norman, who did eat his sandwich in the lounge before joining his friends to watch the motorcade, responded that in fact somebody else was present, but he could not remember who it was (3WH189). Hence Oswald had somehow correctly guessed not only the people who had been in the lunchroom that day, but their actions, even though they were different from the usual. Thus, the statements by the black employees which actually corroborated Oswald’s alibi, is twisted by Bugliosi to make it appear that Oswald had lied.

To place this incident in proper perspective it is necessary to understand that there were two lunchrooms in the Book Depository. Texas was a part of the deep south and even the Mayor of Dallas acknowledged that the city had a reputation as the “Hate capitol of Dixie.” (WR41) The building superintendent, Roy Truly, told writer William Manchester (Manchester, pp. 132-133),

"Except for my niggers the boys are conservative, like me -- like most Texans."

The domino room
The domino room.
(Click to enlarge)

Truly further stated that he disliked John F. Kennedy because he was a “race-mixer” (Manchester, pp. 49, 132-133). The main lunch room on the second floor had soft drink and snack machines. The first floor lunch room was used by the minority employees: blacks, Mexican-Americans, a mentally handicapped man, and the depository’s one Marxist, Lee Harvey Oswald. Along with unionization, the civil rights movement was a major issue for the American Communist Party in the 1960’s. Because he ate there regularly and because there were only a handful of minority employees in the Book Depository, it would have been easy for Oswald to guess who had eaten lunch there. But on the other hand it would also have been easy for the Warren Commission to determine who actually had or had not eaten their lunch in the Domino room that day and by the process of elimination test Oswald’s alibi. But the Warren Commission knew that such a test was problematic for the official version. That is because another black employee, Charles L. Givens, had seen Oswald eating his lunch there. In a statement given to the FBI a few hours after the assassination, Givens recounted that he had seen Oswald eating his lunch by himself, reading a newspaper, in the first floor lunchroom (CD 5, p. 329 - see also Meagher [1971] for discussion).

Among the false claims made by Bugliosi in his effort to convince us that Oswald shot Kennedy is that he was the only employee to “flee” the Texas School Book Depository following the shooting. The truth is that several employees left the building (affidavits in CE 1381), including the aforementioned Charles Givens. In fact, the Dallas police put out an APB to have Givens picked up for questioning about the shooting.

Givens was the Warren Commission’s star witness. He alone, among all of the witnesses, is supposed to have seen Oswald on the sixth floor of the Book Depository during the lunch hour. But the truth is, contrary to Bugliosi’s account, Givens never testified to the Warren Commission. The Warren Commission flew ninety-four Dallas witnesses to Washington D.C. to testify before them. Yet, Givens, the only witness who could positively identify Oswald and place him at the scene of the crime at or near the time of the shooting, was not among them. Givens was deposed in private in Dallas by a single Warren Commission lawyer.

The problem with Givens’ deposition was spelled out in an article published in the Texas Observer by researcher Sylvia Meagher (Meagher in Texas Observer, 13 August 1971. The issue also contains a rebuttal of sorts by David Belin). Givens did indeed state in April 1964 that he had seen Oswald on the sixth floor at lunchtime on the day of the assassination. Hence, Givens gave two accounts of Oswald’s whereabouts, one in November that tended to corroborate Oswald’s alibi, and a second in April that tended to incriminate him. Yet his statement in November contained no mention of Oswald on the sixth floor, while the statement in April contains a denial that he had seen Oswald elsewhere. It is in that light that the special handling of Givens by the Warren Commission staff is seen as manipulative; that and the fact that the Warren Report contains no mention of Givens’ statement to the FBI. Meagher thus concluded that Givens’ April deposition was false, to which Bugliosi retorts,

“But why would Givens make up such a story? What would be in it for him? The conspiracy theorists don’t expressly say.”

But of course they do expressly say. Meagher pointed out that because of his troubles with the law, reportedly charges of gambling and drug use, Givens, an ex-convict, a black man in a southern town, was vulnerable to pressure from the authorities to support, or at least not contradict, the official line. Moreover, police Lieutenant Jack Revill told the FBI that Givens would change his story for money (CD 735, pp. 296-297).

Bugliosi (Reclaiming History, pp. 822-823) dismisses the account in the FBI report as one that Givens “supposedly” told, implying that the FBI agents report was false. But why would the FBI make up such a story? What could be in it for them? Bugliosi doesn’t expressly say, only arguing that their account must have been “garbled.” But it is Bugliosi’s account of events that is garbled. To contradict the FBI report Bugliosi states,

“Indeed, we can virtually be certain that he [Givens] did not tell the FBI that he saw Oswald around 11:50 a.m. in the domino room on the first floor, or if he did he was incorrect. His testimony to the Warren Commission that he saw Oswald on the fifth floor around that very time is supported by three other witnesses, -- Arce, Lovelady and Williams.”

Aside from the fact that Givens never gave any testimony to the Warren Commission is the fact that Givens stated in his deposition that the encounter with Oswald on the fifth floor took place around 11:30 (CD 5 p. 329), not 11:50. Thus, there is no time contradiction among the accounts, only to Bugliosi’s version of events. Bugliosi exploits the differing time estimates to garble the accounts when it is the sequence of events that is important. In Givens’ accounts, he saw Oswald three separate times over a span of about 25 minutes.

Junior Jarman, Oswald’s direct supervisor, told the FBI that he saw Oswald leave the first floor, boarding one of the freight elevators with his order pad in hand, presumably to fill an order for books, at approximately 11:30 (CD 5, p. 334). Charles Givens was part of a four (not six) man work crew that was laying plywood flooring on the sixth floor that morning. The crew broke for lunch early because the President’s motorcade was expected to pass the building during the noon hour. Although the four varied widely in their guesstimates as to the actual time that they broke for lunch, all four men recounted seeing Oswald on the fifth floor on their way down in the freight elevators, some recalling that Oswald had shouted to them to send one of the elevators back up. This was the last undisputed sighting of Oswald prior to the assassination. The estimated time of this event differed among the work crew from close to 11:30 to close to 12:00, but all agreed that it was before noon. Junior Jarman recalled that the four man crew arrived on the first floor for lunch at 11:45 (police report reprinted in Bonner, p. 286). Bugliosi estimates 11:50.

The front entrance of the Book Depository
The front entrance of the Book Depository where Carolyn Arnold reported seeing Oswald minutes before the assassination.
(Click for larger view)

The obvious question is, did Oswald then go up to the sixth floor in accordance with the official mythology, or did he go down to the first floor to eat lunch in accordance with his alibi. Givens was only one of four witnesses who stated that they saw Oswald on the first floor during lunchtime. William Shelley, the supervisor of the floor laying crew testified "I do remember seeing him when I came down to eat lunch about 10 to 12." (6WH328), as did the building's janitor Eddie Piper who said he saw Oswald "just at 12 o'clock." Bugliosi dismisses their accounts by saying that they may have seen Oswald on the first floor but it was probably earlier in the day, ignoring Piper’s statement that he had actually spoken to Oswald about eating lunch (6WH383)! Another important witness was Carolyn Arnold who told the FBI on November 26 that she left the building around 12:15 to go out to lunch with some of the other secretaries. Arriving on the sidewalk in front of the building they found a crowd gathering to await the President. The secretaries decided to join the crowd. While awaiting the President’s passage, Arnold recounted that she looked back through the glass door of the building and saw Oswald. This would have been around five or ten minutes before the assassination. When asked if she was absolutely certain that it was Oswald, she could only respond that she felt it was (CD 5, p. 41) [2]. Subsequently however, Arnold would claim that the FBI had misquoted her and that she had actually seen Oswald on the second floor, not the first (Summers, p.60). It seems more likely that time had eroded her memory and it was she not the FBI agents who had mis-remembered. Psychological studies on eyewitness accounts demonstrate that they become less reliable over time and that witnesses will often revise their accounts to bring them in accord with the accounts of others as if it were their own memories [3]. Hence, the accounts closest to the event before a witness can compare their memories to others that are the most reliable.

The coke machine in the second floor lunchroom
The coke machine in the second floor lunchroom where officer Baker encountered Oswald 90 sec after the shooting.
(Click to enlarge)

Arnold’s first account (which should be given more weight because it was the first account) is important with regard to the first credible sighting of Oswald immediately following the shooting. Patrolman Marrion Baker and superintendent Roy Truly encountered Oswald in the second floor lunch room less than two minutes after the shooting. In his interrogation Oswald said that after the President went by he went to the second floor to buy a coke. The Warren Commission reconstructed this chance meeting allowing Baker 90 seconds to park his motorcycle, run into the building, and along with Roy Truly, run to the back of the building and up the stairs to the second floor where they saw Oswald. The official mythology holds that Oswald left the sixth floor sniper’s nest immediately after shooting the President, moved to the back of the room where he then hid the rifle under a stack of book boxes, ran down the stairs to the second floor, arriving at the same time as Baker and Truly - and therein lies the contradiction. Baker was following Truly up the stairs, and as he testified, in a scanning mode with his gun drawn expecting to encounter assassins at every turn. Arriving on the second floor landing, separated from the office space by a heavy door, Baker testified that he caught a glimpse of someone through the window of this vestibule door moving from right to left. The someone turned out to be Oswald. Bugliosi misleads the reader (on p. 837) by neglecting to mention the problem posed by the heavy door.

Vestibule door on second floor landing
Vestibule door on second floor landing. Baker saw Oswald moving from right to left through the window of this door.
(Click to enlarge)

The Warren Commission concluded, that Oswald had gone through the door from the stairwell into the “vestibule” on his way into the lunchroom. But Baker did not see Oswald go through the door, nor could he say that the door was even partly ajar when he caught a glimpse of Oswald through the window,

"I can't say whether he had gone on through that door or not. All I did was catch a glance at him, and evidently he was -- this door might have been, you know, closing and almost shut at that time." (3WH255)

Having a witness testify to what "might have been," strongly suggests that Officer Baker's testimony was guided as much by what his interrogators wanted to hear as by what he actually saw. Ultimately, what "might have been" was transformed into a matter of fact by the time it was printed in the Warren Report. The Warren Report's account (CE 1118; WR150) begins reasonably enough, stating that,

"Since the vestibule door is only a few feet from the lunchroom door, the man must have entered the vestibule only a second or two before Baker arrived." (WR151)

But then, the Report goes on to ponder uncomprehendingly,

"Yet he must have entered the vestibule door before Truly reached the top of the stairwell, since Truly did not see him." (WR151)

Stairway on second floor of TSBD
Stairway on second floor of TSBD as viewed from near the vestibule door.
(Click to enlarge)

Of course, Oswald "must have entered the vestibule door," only if he was the assassin and had lied about being on the first floor at the time of the assassination. In posing the dilemma, the Commission presumed that Oswald was the assassin, that he had been on the sixth floor, and the fact that he had somehow just slipped passed Truly and through the door without Truly or Baker seeing the door open, is dismissed as if it were one of the holy mysteries. As far as the Warren Commission and Bugliosi are concerned, Oswald had come down the stairs and had entered through the vestibule door regardless of what the testimony indicated. Oswald would have had to have passed Superintendent Truly who was going up the stairs several paces ahead of Baker in order to be passing through the door at the time Baker saw him, yet, Truly saw no one. Also, if Oswald had just gone through this door, then Baker or Truly should have seen the door ajar and closing. This is so because the vestibule door had an automatic, anti-slam, closing device (7WH591; WR151). Furthermore, had Oswald gone through the door just ahead of Truly's arrival on the stairwell, it is unlikely that Baker would have glimpsed Oswald through the window of the door at all, for the reason that Oswald would have continued to the left toward the lunchroom on going through the door. To be seen through the window, he would have had to turn and be moving to the right, which of course, would not lead to the lunchroom, his known destination. and, as the Warren Commission admits,

"If the man had passed from the vestibule into the lunchroom, Baker could not have seen him." (WR151)

The stairway between the first and second floors near the front entrance of the Book Depository
The stairway between the first and second floors near the front entrance of the Book Depository.
(Click to enlarge)

Alternatively, if Oswald had been passing through the vestibule from the office hallway on his way to the lunchroom, he would not have opened the vestibule door at all and Baker's testimony begins to make sense and the dilemma disappears. By passing from the office hallway through the vestibule into the lunchroom, Baker would have caught a fleeting glimpse of Oswald through the window of the closed vestibule door, just as he testified he did. The authors of the Warren Report and Bugliosi failed to consider that this hallway leads to another set of stairs down to the first floor; and in fact, this route in reverse was the one taken by Oswald when he left the building. If Oswald used this same route to arrive at the lunchroom as Baker's testimony supports, he could have come up from the first floor exactly as he claimed, but could not have come down from the upper floors by the front stairs because this flight of stairs ends at the second floor. It is for this reason that the statement of secretary Carolyn Arnold is of such significance. Arnold told the FBI that she thought she saw Oswald through the front door, which is at the base of the front stairway, between 12:15 and 12:25. Her eyewitness account suggests that Oswald had been standing inside the front door, watching the motorcade pass by the building, and that he had then proceeded up these stairs to the second floor and taken the hallway to the lunchroom, exactly as he claimed he did. While not proving that Oswald had been on the first floor, this reconstruction, not the official version, is consistent with Baker's testimony.

Warren Commission's plat of Oswald's known route
Warren Commission's plat of "Oswald's known route" to the second floor lunch room.
(Click to enlarge)

In spite of Baker's account, the Warren Commission published a diagram, CE-1118 on page 150 of the Warren Report, which depicts the passage through the vestibule door from the stairwell as the "known route of Oswald," instead of the unsupported assumption that it really was. Bugliosi knows one thing for sure. If Oswald did not go through that door, he was not the assassin. The timing of this incident was much more constrained than the Warren Commission and Bugliosi seem willing to admit. This is because on leaving the building, Oswald ran into NBC newsman Robert MacNeil. Oswald directed MacNeil to a phone in the rear of the building. MacNeil called NBC headquarters in New York and the tape of the call has MacNeil saying that,

"Police chased an unknown gunman up a grassy hill" (MacNeil, pp. 207-213)

– which information the Warren Commission and Bugliosi were not anxious to share. The phone company billing registered the call from Dallas at 12:34. With the shooting occurring at 12:30 and Oswald leaving the building at 12:33 the encounter in the second floor lunch room really had to have happened as the Warren Commission calculated, at about 90 sec after the shooting, and with precious little time to spare.

Oswald in custody of Dallas Police
Oswald in custody of Dallas Police in the "burgundy-plaid" shirt. The shirt was torn open in the scuffle with officers during his arrest. A bus ticket in the pocket dated that afternoon provided further evidence that he had not changed clothes.
(Click to enlarge)

Another important aspect of Baker’s testimony is that he confirmed that Oswald was wearing the brown shirt that he was arrested in. And, as one scrutinizes the eyewitness testimony one realizes that the physical evidence of the burgundy-plaid shirt tends to contradict, rather than support, the allegation that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin of President Kennedy. This is because, without exception, the six Dealey Plaza eyewitnesses who were able to give a description of the clothing of the sixth floor gunman indicated that the man was not wearing a burgundy-plaid or "brownish" shirt. All described the color of the gunman's shirt as "white" or "light colored."

Carolyn Walther was interviewed by the FBI on the afternoon of the assassination. During the shooting she was located about 50-60 feet south of the corner of Elm and Houston.

"...she looked...toward the TSBD building and saw a man standing on either the fourth or fifth floor in the southeast corner window...this man had the window open and was standing up leaning out the window with both his hands extended outside the window ledge. In his hands, this man was holding a rifle with the barrel pointed downward, and the man was looking south on Houston Street. The man was wearing a white shirt and had blonde or light brown hair." (24WH522)

Arnold Rowland was standing on Houston Street, about 150 feet from the Book Depository. He described a man holding a rifle thusly,

"He had on a light shirt, a very light-colored shirt, white or a light blue or a color such as that. This was open at the collar. I think it was unbuttoned about halfway, and then he had a regular t-shirt, a polo shirt under this, at least this is what it appeared to be." (2WH171)

Howard Brennan was interviewed by agents of the FBI on the night of the assassination. Their report states,

"Brennan...said this individual was not wearing a hat and was dressed in "light color cloths in the khaki line." He added this individual may have been wearing a light-weight jacket or sweater; however he could not be positive about the jacket or sweater." (CD 5, p. 13)

Ronald B. Fischer was on the corner of Houston and Elm at the time of the assassination. He gave a description of the man that he saw in the easternmost window of the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository to Police shortly after the assassination.

"...he had on an open-neck shirt, but it - could have been a sport shirt or a T-shirt. It was light in color; probably white, I couldn't tell whether it had long sleeves or whether it was a short-sleeved shirt, but it was open-neck and light in color." (6WH194)

Robert Edwin Edwards was standing next to Ron Fischer. Questioned by Warren Commission counsel about the gunman's clothing, his response was short but to the point.

"Light colored shirt, short sleeve and open neck." (6WH203)

James N. Crawford was at the corner of Elm and Houston at the time of the assassination. Hearing shots he looked up to the open window on the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository and saw movement.

"I would say that it was a profile, somewhat from the waist up, but it was a very quick movement and rather indistinct and it was very light colored...when I saw it, I automatically in my mind, came to the conclusion that it was a person having moved out of the window." (WR68)

If one accepts the consistent eyewitness testimony that the assassin was wearing a white or at least, a light colored shirt, then, Oswald, wearing a dark colored shirt, could not have been the assassin. Thus, the Warren Commission may have been somewhat over-reaching in concluding that the eyewitness testimony supported their case against Oswald. The Warren Report states of these witnesses:

"Their testimony is of probative value, however, because their limited description is consistent with that of the man who has been found by the Commission, based on other evidence, to have fired the shots from the window." (WR147)

The Warren Commission’s statement is true if by limited one means limited to the parts of the descriptions that fit Oswald. The testimony of one eyewitness in particular, Arnold Rowland, was especially relevant.

Among all the witnesses who saw a gunman on the sixth floor, Rowland was alone in stating that he had seen the gunman on the west end of the building. In reading Rowland's testimony it is obvious that he was aware of the news reports that shots were fired from the window on the southeast corner. In that window, he insisted, he had seen another man; a man he described as an "elderly negro."

Bugliosi (p. 834) dismisses Rowland as a “looney bird.” It is clearly easier to make ad hominem attacks on the critics and witnesses than to analyze the facts. Bugliosi cites as evidence that Rowland fabricated his story the fact that there was no mention of the “negro” in the window in any of his FBI interviews. But, as Rowland explained to the Warren Commission,

"I told them I did see the Negro man there and they told me it didn't have any bearing or such on the case right then. In fact, they just the same as told me to forget it now." (2WH183)

Also contrary to Bugliosi’s version, Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig confirmed that Rowland told him of seeing two men, one with a gun, on the sixth floor of the Book Depository when he spoke to him in Dealey Plaza about ten minutes after the shooting (WR251-252). So, Rowland was not embellishing his story to the Commission as Bugliosi wants us to believe.

The Warren Commission considered Rowland's testimony unreliable, stating that his assertions lacked "probative corroboration" in the testimony of the other witnesses. But, on the contrary; on all key elements of his testimony Rowland was, in fact, amply corroborated.

Rowland said the gunman had on "a light-colored shirt, white or light blue." His description was consistent with that of the other five witnesses who gave a similar description of the gunman's clothing. Rowland's testimony differed from the others in that he asserted the man was on the west side of the building. But Rowland's testimony also differed in that he saw the gunman fifteen minutes before the assassination. Inasmuch as the other witnesses had seen the gunman only during or within moments of the shooting, Rowland's testimony is complementary rather than conflicting. The accuracy of Rowland's judgment of the time is unassailable. Rowland testified that about the time he saw the gunman in the window he heard the police dispatcher on a nearby motorcycle radio announce the time as 12:16 and that the motorcade was at Cedar Springs road near Turtle Creek. The police radio recording does show a broadcast that the motorcade was at Cedar Springs turning off Turtle Creek and the dispatcher does give the time as 12:16 (CE 1974, p. 159) [4]. Rowland's memory was accurate. He could not have known the details of the radio log at the time of his testimony except by having heard it as he said.

The Warren Commission could not accept Rowland's detailed testimony and still infer that Oswald was in place in the sniper's nest for the thirty minutes preceding the assassination. It is obvious now that the "negro" seen by Rowland was a Book Depository employee named Bonnie Ray Williams.

Exactly what Bonnie Ray Williams saw on the sixth floor that day is open to question. Williams was one of the four men working on the sixth floor that morning. He testified that when the crew went to lunch early that day they had agreed to return to the sixth floor to watch the President’s motorcade go by (3WH169). Williams retrieved his lunch from the Domino room, a “Chicken-on-the-bone sandwich.” He then went to the second floor lunchroom and bought a bottle of Dr. Pepper from the machine and took this meal to the sixth floor, evidently expecting to be joined by the other crew members.

First issue: when was Williams on the sixth floor? According to his testimony, Bonnie Ray Williams arrived on the sixth floor with his chicken dinner and a soda-pop about, or shortly after, 12 noon. Williams testified that he neither saw nor heard anyone else on the sixth floor. As to when he left, Williams said,

"I finished the chicken sandwich maybe 10 or fifteen minutes after 12. I could say approximately what time it was...approximately 12:20 maybe." (3WH173; WR68)

Crop of Dillard photo showing Bonnie Ray Williams and Junior Jarman on fifth floor moments after the shooting
Crop of Dillard photo showing Bonnie Ray Williams and Junior Jarman on fifth floor moments after the shooting.
(Click for larger view)

Williams then somehow sensed that he had friends on the fifth floor and joined them (did he stick his head out the window and see them?). He can be seen on the fifth floor in the Dillard photograph along with Junior Jarman and Harold Norman at the time of the shooting. Thus, the Warren Commission concluded that Williams probably left the sixth floor to join his friends on the fifth floor at about 12:20. Actually, Junior Jarman and Harold Norman testified that they arrived on the fifth floor about five minutes before the President's motorcade arrived and that Williams joined them some minutes after (3WH190), so an estimate of 12:25 for Williams' departure from the sixth floor would seem to be in greater accord with the testimony (keeping in mind that the Warren Commission and Bugliosi insist that one can easily move between any two points in the building without breaking a sweat in about a minute and a half). In any event Williams was certainly on the sixth floor at 12:16 when Rowland said he saw a negro man in the sixth floor window.

Second issue: where did Williams eat his lunch? The crime scene evidence team found the remains of the lunch and the soda bottle, and photographed it, along with a two-wheel cart next to a window on the third aisle of books. Williams was shown this photograph (CE 484) and allowed that he remembered sitting on this cart, and, perhaps he did. But as to the question of where he left the remains of his lunch he testified,

"I don't remember exactly, but I think I put some of them back in the sack. Just as I was ready to go I threw the sack down.....I think I just dropped it there." (3WH171)

Shown the crime scene photo (CE 484) depicting the sack and the Dr. Pepper bottle on the floor next to the cart, Williams was asked if he remembered leaving the bottle as shown in the picture and he answered,

"I am really not sure about it. I don’t think I left it there. I am not sure." (3WH171)

Thus, Williams was not certain about just where he left the remains of his lunch. But it is certain that he left the scraps of his lunch in the sniper’s nest window, exactly where Arnold Rowland saw him, in spite of the fact that the scraps wound up two aisles over. One clue as to what had happened is that when the crime scene detectives found them, the chicken bones were inside the lunch sack, suggesting that someone had tidied up the crime scene. By inference this person most likely would have been the hapless Captain Fritz, who arrived shortly before the crime scene detectives. The witnesses who arrived after Fritz saw the chicken lunch and pop bottle on the third aisle. All those witnesses who arrived ahead of Fritz saw the chicken bones scattered on the boxes in the sniper's nest. Deputy Sheriff Luke Mooney, the first person on the scene, was asked if he noticed a paper wrapper (the alleged gun case) lying near the window. He replied,

"I did see this one partially eaten piece of fried chicken laying over to the right...It would be laying over on top of these other boxes..." (3WH286)

"There was one of them partially eaten. And there was a little small paper poke" (3WH288)

"Saw the chicken bone was laying there. The poke was laying about a foot away from it." (3WH288)

Asked by Warren Commissioner Sherman Cooper,

"How far was the chicken, the piece of chicken you saw, and the paper bag from the boxes near the window, and particularly the box that had the crease in it." (3WH288)

The latter box was allegedly used as a gun rest by the assassin. Mooney, thinking that the chicken might have been the assassin's lunch, answered,

"I would say they might have been 5 feet or something like that. He wouldn’t have had to leave the location. He could just maybe take one step and lay it over there, if he was the one who put it there.....they were in close relation to each other, yes sir." (3WH288)

Sergeant Gerald Hill heard Mooney shout when he found the shell casings and he testified,

"On top of the larger stack of boxes that would have been used for concealment, there was a chicken leg bone and a paper sack..." (7WH46)

Patrolman Clyde A. Haygood also managed to get to the scene before Fritz. He testified,

"There was a lunch bag there, you could call it a lunch bag...there at the same location where the shells were."

Commission Counsel asked him if there was a coke bottle with it, and Haygood corrected,

"Dr. Pepper bottle." (6WH300)

Patrolman E.D. Brewer was looking over Haygood's shoulder and testified that he saw next to the sniper's nest window a,

"...paper lunch sack and some chicken bones or partially eaten piece of chicken, or a piece of chicken...a cold drink bottle, soda pop bottle." (6WH307)

Detective Les Montgomery, who arrived at the scene with Captain Fritz testified that,

"...there was one piece of chicken on a box and there was a piece on the floor -- just kind of scattered around right there...it would be the southeast corner of the building there where the shooting was." (7WH97)

Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig (6WH267-268), and Detective Marvin Johnson (7WH102), also testified that they saw the remnants of Williams lunch near the sniper's nest window. No officer who arrived ahead of Captain Fritz failed to see the lunch remnants, or saw them anywhere except at the sniper's nest window. Captain Fritz's version of the chicken bones is revealing, considering the importance of this evidence in corroborating the testimony of a key witness and for the reconstruction of events at the scene of the crime. The man who was in charge of the investigation of John F. Kennedy's murder testified,

"I will tell you where that story about the chicken comes from. At the other window above there, where people in days past, you know had eaten their lunches, they left chicken bones and pieces of bread, all kinds of things up and down there. That isn't where he was at all. He was in a different window, so I don't think those things have anything to do with it. Someone wrote a story about it in the papers, and we have got all kinds of bad publicity from it..." (4WH239)

The bad publicity was well deserved. It seems incredible that the police detective in charge of the investigation was unaware that the chicken bones were the remains of a lunch eaten by a man who was at the crime scene within minutes of the crime. Fritz disregarded, and apparently discarded, the lunch remains in his search for what he thought was "real" evidence. When the physical evidence was turned over to the FBI by the Dallas Police late on the night of the assassination and over the days succeeding, the chicken bones and Dr. Pepper bottle were not among the items delivered. Lieutenant Day was asked what had become of these remnants and he answered that he had kept the sack and bottle but thrown away the chicken bones (4WH278). The testimony that the chicken was only partially eaten is evidence that William's lunch was interrupted. The fact is that the physical evidence coupled with the eyewitness testimony, indicates that Bonnie Ray Williams was in the snipers nest at 12:16 and probably later. Whoever the assassin was he could not have moved into place until a few minutes before the shooting. Yet, he must have been lurking somewhere on the sixth floor, perhaps on the west end of the building just as Rowland had testified.

Danny Arce and Bonnie Ray Williams
Danny Arce and Bonnie Ray Williams enroute to giving their statements to police.
(Click to enlarge)

The Warren Commission could not allow Williams to admit that he was in the snipers nest and still use Givens' deposition to place Oswald at the scene of the crime, and there is a further problem. How did Williams and Givens fail to run into one another, and to the assassin whoever he was, during their time on the sixth floor if the Warren Commission’s version is true - and when exactly was Givens on the sixth floor?

Central to this issue is Givens' concept of time. In the interview with FBI agents Griffen and Odum on the late afternoon of the assassination Givens maintained that the work crew left the sixth floor at about 11:30 to go to lunch (CD 5, p. 329). The other work crew members estimated the time as much later: Lovelady said 11:50; (CD 5, p. 332) Arce thought "5 to twelve;" (6WH364). Williams testified that the crew normally knocked off for lunch about five minutes before noon but on this day because of the motorcade they left about 5 to 10 minutes earlier than usual (3WH167). What is at issue is the time of Givens' return to the sixth floor. Givens' testified,

"Well, I would say it was about 5 minutes to 12, then because it was --" (6WH351)

Commission counsel David Belin cut Given's off before he could explain why he thought it was 5 minutes to 12. Givens claimed that he ate his lunch on the sidewalk out in front of the Book Depository along with Junior Jarman and the other work crew members. Givens said,

"When did I eat lunch? I ate lunch after. Let's see, no; I ate lunch before I went up there, because I stood outside and ate my sandwich standing out there...standing in front of the building." (6WH351)

Furthermore, Givens also testified that before lunch he visited the restroom. If Givens ate his lunch out front before he went up to the sixth floor, then it would seem to have been much later than 11:55 when he went back up into the building. This reconstruction receives corroboration in the statements made to the police by Junior Jarman.

"At about 11:45 a.m. all of the employees who were working on the 6th floor came downstairs and we were all out on the street at about 12:00 o'clock noon. These employees were: Bill Shelley, Charles Givens, Billy Lovelady, Bonnie Ray (last name not known) and a Spanish boy (his name I cannot remember)." (Jarman police report reprinted in Bonner, p. 286)

The Spanish boy was Danny Arce and he also testified that Givens was with them on the sidewalk out front at noontime. (6WH365)

It is further significant that the other black employees, Jarman and Norman, on finishing their lunches decided that they would have a better view of the motorcade from the upper floors of the building and went up to the fifth floor. Was this when Givens also went upstairs, going to the sixth floor to retrieve his cigarettes? In any event, the weight of the evidence is that it was some time after noon that Givens went up to the sixth floor. It is in this context that one must consider the APB for Givens and the resulting questioning by the police and FBI.

The Dallas Police had learned within about an hour of the shooting that Charles Givens had seen the assassin. Inspector Herbert Sawyer put out the APB and is heard to say over the police radio at 1:46 PM,

"We have a man that we would like to have you pass this on to CID to see if we can pick this man up. Charles Douglas Givens, G-I-V-E-N-S. He is a colored male, 37, 6'3", 165 pounds, I.D. # Sheriff Department 37954. He is a porter that worked on this floor up here. He has a police record and he left." (CE 1974, pp. 83-84)

In his testimony, Inspector Sawyer explained the reason for the APB thusly,

"He is the one that had a previous record in the narcotics, and he was supposed to have been a witness to the man being on that floor. He was supposed to have been a witness to Oswald being there...somebody told me that. Somebody came to me with the information. And, again, that particular party, whoever it was, I don't know. I remember that a deputy sheriff came up to me who had been over taking affidavits, that I sent them over there, and he came over from the sheriff's office with a picture and a description of this colored boy and he said that he was supposed to have worked at the Texas Book Depository, and he was the one employee who was missing, or that he was missing from the building. He wasn't accounted for, and that he was suppose to have some information about the man that did the shooting." (6WH321-322)

The alleged sniper's nest in the southeast corner of the sixth floor
The "sniper's nest" in the southeast corner of the sixth floor.
(Click to enlarge)

Sawyer’s testimony contains a glaring contradiction. Did the mystery witness really tell Sawyer that Givens had seen Oswald on the floor, or did the witness only say that Givens had seen the assassin? Sawyer's testimony that someone had told him that Givens had seen "Oswald" on the floor is an anachronism if it is supposed to refer to Givens seeing Oswald puttering around on the sixth floor at noon or any other time. Oswald’s job required him to fetch books from the storage on the sixth floor and thus his presence there around noon would not be a cause for suspicion – certainly not justification for Givens to infer that Oswald was the shooter. At the time of Sawyer's broadcast Oswald was not yet connected to the shooting and therefore the fact that someone had seen him on the sixth floor was not yet of significance, as far as anyone knew. Sawyer's inclusion of Oswald's name in his statement renders his testimony as totally inconsistent with the time frame of the radio call. Because of this inconsistency, respected researcher Sylvia Meagher concluded that Sawyer was just plain lying. Oswald became a suspect in the assassination when he was captured at the Texas Movie Theatre at 1:50 p.m. and subsequently identified as an employee of the Book Depository. None of this was established until considerably after Sawyer's radio call, and of course, Sawyer must have been told about Givens some time considerably before he made the APB. But the contradiction disappears if one simply assumes that by the time Sawyer gave his testimony in 1964 he undoubtedly believed that Oswald and the assassin were one and the same, and therefore was speaking the truth as he knew it. But the question remains – did Givens see the assassin, as the mystery witness reported, and if so was it Oswald?

When Givens was subsequently questioned by the police he apparently told them that he did see the assassin. According to the testimony of Lt. Jack Revill,

"I asked him if he had been on the sixth floor...he said, yes, that he had observed Mr. Lee, over by this window...so I turned this Givens individual over to one of our Negro detectives and told him to take him to Captain Fritz for interrogation." (5WH35-36)

Did Givens actually say it was "Mr. Lee" at the window, or like Sawyer, did Revill confound Givens' statement? What exactly did Givens say to the police? A witness to Given’s statement was a secret service agent named Mike Howard. Howard related his account to Fort Worth Star Telegram reporter, Thayer Waldo, on 9 February 1964, apparently unaware that Waldo was a newsman. According to Waldo,

"Mike Howard then explained that the negro witness had been arrested in the past by the Special Services office of the Dallas Police for gambling; and, since he was familiar with that branch of the Dallas Police, he immediately gave himself up to that branch. Mr. Howard alleged that he had visited the negro witness while he was in custody of the Special Services in the Dallas Jail."

Waldo quotes Agent Howard as saying,

"Wait till that old black boy gets up in front of the Warren Commission and tells his story. That will settle everything. Yes, sir. He was right there on the same floor, looking out the next window; and, after the first shot, he looked and saw Oswald, and then he ran. I saw him in the Dallas Police station. He was still the scaredest nigger I ever seen. I heard him tell the officer, "Man you don't know how fast fast is, because you didn't see me run that day." He said he ran and hid behind the boxes because he was afraid that Oswald would shoot him." (CE 2516)

None of this may be a problem for Mr. Bugliosi, but for those of us who insist on a reliable account of the events that day, the implications are horrendous. If Charles Givens saw Lee Harvey Oswald shoot the president, then why on earth would he not tell the FBI and the Warren Commission? Or if he did not see Lee Harvey Oswald shoot the President why did he claim that he did? Was Givens a pathological liar? If so, then none of his statements should be used as evidence. Alternatively, were Inspector Sawyer, Lt. Revill and Agent Howard lying? In May 1964 the FBI interviewed Agent Howard (CE 2578) who adamantly denied that he had ever told Waldo that Givens had seen the assassin. The FBI then interviewed Waldo (CE 2579) who was equally adamant that Howard had said exactly that. Mark Lane, on retainer with the Oswald family, complained in a letter to the Secret Service that Howard had made up the story and planted it with the press in order to falsely incriminate his client’s son. The larger concern is not that any of these officers were lying – but that they might have been telling the truth. The problem is that Waldo’s version of Howard’s story meshes with the accounts by Revill and Sawyer.

Givens’ deposition is full of holes. He states that after retrieving his jacket he left the building and walked to a parking lot at the corner of Main and Record and was there when the President went by. He further states that he was walking in front of the Record Building when he heard gunfire [6 WCH 351]. At some point he decided to return to work and tried to reenter the book depository but was refused entry by the DPD who by this time had locked down the building. Meanwhile, inside the building the occupants were lined up and questioned by police until, according to Junior Jarman,

"somewhere between two and two-thirty when they turned us loose and told us to go home," (3WH208)

If Givens’ account as given in the deposition is true, then who among the buildings occupants knew that Givens had witnessed anything - and informed Inspector Sawyer of such before 1:46 p.m., the time of the APB?

Inspector Sawyer’s testimony that he was told that Givens had seen the assassin is supported by the physical evidence – the radio tapes. The account by Police Lt. Revill further strongly suggests that Givens did claim to have seen the assassin. One does not have to assume, as did Sylvia Meagher, that Sawyer, Howard and Revill were outright lying. In their minds Oswald and the assassin were one and the same. Thus, when Givens told the FBI that he had seen Oswald in the first floor lunch room and not on the sixth floor, there was no contradiction. Did Givens also tell the FBI that he saw the assassin shooting at the President, but that it wasn’t Oswald – and did the FBI then leave the latter assertion out of their report – just as they left Rowland’s assertion about the black man in the window out of those reports? Or if it was in their report, it would not have been the only instance where the Warren Commission redacted an FBI report before publishing it in their exhibits. The manner in which the Warren Commission’s staff handled the issue is troubling. Givens was deposed in private in an apparent effort to control the record. No effort was made to identify the mystery witness who reported to Sawyer even though it was almost certainly one of the book depository employees and most probably one of Givens’ friends (Bonnie Ray ?). Secret Service Agent Mike Howard was never called to testify. Thayer Waldo did testify to the commission but was not asked about his conversation with Howard.

Police detective Marvin Johnson
Police detective Marvin Johnson leaving the TSBD carrying the cigarette package, Dr. Pepper bottle and sack with remains of Bonnie Ray Williams' lunch.
(Click to enlarge)

One further important evidentiary detail is noteworthy. Charles Givens testified that his reason for returning to the sixth floor was to retrieve his cigarettes. Reporters recall that Captain Fritz announced to the press on the night of the assassination that along with the chicken bones and soda bottle, there was a cigarette package next to the sniper's nest window (Sauvage, p. 35; Meagher, p. 39). The report is corroborated by photographs of police Detective Marvin Johnson leaving the Book Depository carrying the lunch bag, the Dr. Pepper Bottle and, a cigarette package [5]. Lee Harvey Oswald did not smoke (9WH244) [6].

The physical evidence proves that the Warren Commission willfully manipulated Bonnie Ray William’s testimony. The Warren Commission also willfully misrepresented Marrion Baker’s testimony and Lee Harvey Oswald’s statements about his alibi. So we know who the liars are. Bugliosi parrots these lies in his book. In order for the Warren Commission’s version of Given’s testimony to be true, all of the other witnesses have to be mistaken, and the FBI, Dallas Police, and Secret Service accounts have to be wrong. This record may be acceptable for a prosecuting attorney, but it is certainly not acceptable to anyone determined to find a resolution based on the principles of evidence, logic, and consistency. In order to show that someone is guilty of a crime one must establish means, motive and opportunity. The connection between Oswald and the rifle shows that he had the means. To show opportunity one must have evidence that Oswald was on the sixth floor at the time of the shooting. As Police Chief Curry said – there just ain’t none. No reasonable person would argue that the eyewitness testimony proves that Oswald was not the shooter on the sixth floor because by its nature, eyewitness testimony is the least reliable form of evidence. But for what it was worth, the eyewitness accounts indicated that someone besides Oswald was the shooter. That truth is very different from the version related in Bugliosi’s book.


[1] Dallas Morning News, 6 Nov 1969. Article by Tom Johnson.

[2] Arnold's 26 Nov 1963 statement is published by Weisberg (1967) p. 210, with discussion on pp. 74-75. The original handwritten statement says 12:25. When retyped by the FBI the time was changed to 12:15 (Guth & Wrone 1980, p. xxxii).

[3] Reliability of eyewitness testimony: Buckhout, R. (1974) Eyewitness testimony. Sci. Amer. 231: 23-31. Leipe, M.R., G.L. Wells & T.M. Ostrom. (1978). Crime seriousness as a determinant of accuracy in eyewitness identification. J. Appl. Psychol. 63: 345-351.

[4] The motorcycle patrolman on Houston Street was W.E. Barnett.

[5] Photographs of Johnson holding cigarette package are reprinted by Trask, pp. 338 & 446.

[6] Oswald did not smoke and would fly into a rage if his wife lit one.

Books Cited

Bonner: Bonner, J.W., Investigation of a Homicide: the Murder of John F. Kennedy, Droke House, 1969

Guth & Wrone: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy: A Comprehensive Historical and Legal Bibliography, 1963-1979, DeLloyd Guth & David Wrone, Greenwood Press, 1980

MacNeil: The Right Place at the Right Time, MacNeil, R., Penguin Books, New York, NY, 1990

Manchester: Death of a President, William Manchester, Harper & Row, 1967

Meagher: Accessories After the Fact, Sylvia Meagher, Mary Ferrell Foundation Press, 1967, 1976, 2006

Sauvage: The Oswald Affair, Leo Sauvage, The World Publishing Co., 1966

Summers: Not in Your Lifetime, Anthony Summers, Marlowe & Co., 1998

Thompson: Six Seconds in Dallas, Josiah Thompson, Bernard Geis Associates, 1967

Trask: Pictures of the Pain, Richard Trask, Yeoman Press, 1994

Weisberg: Photographic Whitewash, Mary Ferrell Foundation Press, 1967, 2007

Articles Cited

Meagher, Sylvia, The Curious Testimony of Mr. Givens, Texas Observer, 13 August 1971 issue

Report and Document Citations

WR - Warren Report (e.g., WR151)

WH - Warren Commission Hearings Volume (e.g., 6WH351)

CE - Commission Exhibit (e.g., CE 1974)

CD - Commission Document (e.g., CD 5, p. 329)

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