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Clay Shaw was acquitted in less than an hour.
On March 1, 1967, New Orleansmarker District Attorney Jim Garrison arrested and charged New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw with conspiring to assassinate President Kennedy, with the help of Lee Harvey Oswald, David Ferrie, and others. On January 29, 1969, Clay Shaw was brought to trial in Orleans Parish Criminal Court on these charges. A jury took less than an hour to find Clay Shaw not guilty. To date, it is the only trial to be brought for the assassination of President Kennedymarker.


Jim Garrison is the only prosecutor to bring a trial for the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

To support his prosecution of Clay Shaw, Garrison attempted to prove the following:

  • Clay Shaw was the "Clay Bertrand" who purportedly contacted New Orleans attorney Dean Andrews, to see whether Andrews would be interested in representing Oswald at trial.

  • Vernon Bundy testified that he saw Lee Oswald and Clay Shaw together, on the seawall along Lake Pontchartrainmarker, in New Orleans during July 1963. He said that Shaw spoke with Oswald and gave Oswald some money.

  • Perry Russo testified that Clay Shaw, Oswald, and David Ferrie were present at a party at Ferrie's New Orleans apartment in September 1963, during which they discussed the assassination of JFK, including the "triangulation of crossfire" and the need to have an alibi for that day.

Key persons and witnesses

  • Jim Garrison, District Attorney of New Orleans, who believed, at various points, that the John F. Kennedy assassination had been the work of Central Intelligence Agency personnel, anti-Castro Cuban exiles, "a homosexual thrill killing," and ultra right-wing activists. "My staff and I solved the case weeks ago," Garrison announced in February 1967. "I wouldn't say this if we didn't have evidence beyond a shadow of a doubt."

  • Clay Shaw, a successful businessman, playwright, pioneer of restoration in New Orleans' French Quarter, and director of the International Trade Mart in New Orleans.

  • Perry Russo, who, after David Ferrie's death, informed Garrison's office that he had known Ferrie in the early 1960s and that Ferrie had spoken about assassinating the President. He became Garrison's main witness when he claimed to have overheard Ferrie plotting the assassination with a white-haired man named Clem Bertrand, whom he later identified in court as Clay Shaw.

  • David Ferrie, a former Eastern Airlines pilot and associate of Guy Bannister. Ferrie drove from New Orleans to Houston on the night of the assassination with two friends, Alvin Beauboeuf and Melvin Coffey. The trip was investigated by the New Orleans Police Department, the Houston Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigationmarker, and the Texas Rangers. These investigative units said that they were unable to develop a case against Ferrie, and Garrison initially accepted their conclusions. Three years later, however, Garrison became suspicious of the Warren Commission version of the assassination, after a chance conversation with Louisiana Senator Russell Long. Ferrie died on February 22, 1967, less than a week after news of Garrison's investigation broke in the media. Garrison later called Ferrie "one of history's most important individuals".


In the afternoon of November 22, 1963, the day of President Kennedy's assassination, Guy Banister and Jack Martin sat drinking in the Katzenjammer Bar, next door to 544 Camp Street, New Orleans. On their return to Banister's office, the two men got into a heated argument over telephone bills. According to the police report taken that night, Banister drew his .357 Magnum revolver and pistol-whipped Martin several times after telling Martin not to call him a liar. An ambulance was called and carried the injured Martin to Charity Hospital.
Over the next few days, Jack Martin told authorities and reporters that Banister had often been in the company of David Ferrie, who, Martin claimed, had been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Martin told the New Orleans police that Ferrie "was supposed to have been the getaway pilot in the assassination". According to Martin, Ferrie had known Lee Harvey Oswald from their days in the New Orleans Civil Air Patrol and had seen a photograph, at Ferrie's home, of Oswald in a Civil Air Patrol group. He said that Ferrie may have taught Oswald how to use a rifle with a telescopic sight, and that Ferrie had threatened Kennedy's life, even outlining plans to kill him. He also said that Oswald had Ferrie's library card when Oswald was arrested, but added that this may have been a misunderstanding of something he had seen in the news.

Martin claimed that Ferrie had driven from New Orleans to Texas on the night of the assassination. (In fact, Ferrie and two friends drove 350 miles to the Winterland Skating Rink, in Houston, Texas, about 240 miles from Dallas, that evening.) Ferrie acknowledged that he wanted to open an ice rink in New Orleans and wanted to gather information about that business. Of significance to some researchers is a claim that Ferrie allegedly spoke at length to rink manager Chuck Rolland about the cost of building and operating the rink. Rolland denied having had any conversations with Ferrie.

Some of this information reached New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who quickly arrested Ferrie and turned him over to the Federal Bureau of Investigationmarker (FBI), which interviewed Ferrie and Martin on November 25. Martin told the FBI that Ferrie may have hypnotized Oswald into assassinating Kennedy. The FBI considered Martin unreliable. Nevertheless, the FBI interviewed Ferrie twice about Martin's allegations. The FBI also interviewed about twenty other persons in connection with the allegations, said that it was unable to develop a substantial case against Ferrie, and released him with an apology. (An inquiry by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, conducted a decade and a half later, concluded that the FBI's "overall investigation of the 544 Camp Street issue at the time of the assassination was not thorough")

Garrison initially accepted the FBI's conclusions. However, three years later, Garrison's viewpoint began to change after a chance meeting with Louisianamarker Senator Russell Long. Senator Long believed that Oswald was not the only person to play a role in the assassination.

That comment spurred Garrison, in the autumn of 1966, to re-examine the Kennedy assassination. Guy Banister had died of a heart attack in 1964. But Garrison re-interviewed Jack Martin, who told the district attorney that Banister and his associates were involved in stealing weapons and ammunition from armories and in gun-running. Garrison wrote "The Banister apparatus [...] was part of a supply line that ran along the Dallas–New Orleans–Miami corridor. These supplies consisted of arms and explosives for use against Castro's Cuba." Garrison's allegations have never been corroborated; his only source for these claims was Martin.

According to Guy Banister's personal secretary, Delphine Roberts, David Ferrie was a frequent visitor to the 544 Camp Street address of Guy Banister. The House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated Roberts' claims could not determine the reliability of her statements.

Reportedly, Garrison initially believed that the assassination was a "homosexual thrill killing." However, as Garrison continued his investigation he became convinced that a group of right-wing activists, which he believed included David Ferrie, Guy Banister, and Clay Shaw (director of the International Trade Mart in New Orleans), were involved in a conspiracy with elements of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to kill President Kennedy. Garrison would later claim that the motive for the assassination was anger over Kennedy's foreign policy, especially Kennedy's efforts to find a political, rather than a military, solution in Cubamarker and Southeast Asia, and his efforts toward a rapprochement with the Soviet Unionmarker. Garrison also believed that Shaw, Banister, and Ferrie had conspired to set up Oswald as a patsy in the JFK assassination.

Garrison tried to keep his investigation secret from the local press but on February 17, 1967, the New Orleans States-Item published a story on Garrison's activities with the headline: DA HERE LAUNCHES FULL JFK DEATH PLOT PROBE.

On February 22, 1967, less than a week after the newspaper broke the story of Garrison's investigation, David Ferrie, then his chief suspect, was found dead in his apartment from a Berry Aneurysm. In his apartment, two unsigned typed letters were found. The first, found in a pile of papers, was a screed about the justice system, beginning with, "To leave this life is, for me, a sweet prospect." (The entire letter can be read here.) The second note was written to Alvin Beauboeuf, Ferrie's friend. Regarding the coroner's finding that Ferrie died of natural causes, Garrison said "I suppose it could just be a weird coincidence that the night Ferrie penned two suicide notes, he died of natural causes."

Garrison suspected that Ferrie had been murdered despite Ferrie's notes and the coroner's report to the contrary. The day the newspaper story first ran, Garrison aide Lou Ivon stated that Ferrie telephoned him to say: "You know what this news story does to me, don't you. I'm a dead man. From here on, believe me, I'm a dead man...." Ferrie had told others around this time that he felt he would die in the near future because of his deteriorating health.

With Ferrie dead, Garrison began to focus his attention on Clay Shaw, director of the International Trade Mart. Garrison had Shaw arrested on March 1, 1967, charging him with being part of a conspiracy in the John F. Kennedy assassinationmarker.

Earlier, Garrison had been searching for a "Clay Bertrand," a man referred to in the Warren Commission report. New Orleans attorney Dean Andrews testified to the Warren Commission that while he was hosptialized for pneumonia, he received a call from "Clay Bertrand" the day after the assassination, asking him to fly to Dallas to represent Lee Harvey Oswald. According to FBI reports, Andrews told them that this phone call from "Clay Bertrand" was a figment of his imagination. However, Andrews testified to the Warren Commission that the reason he told the FBI this was because of FBI harassment.

In his book, On The Trail of the Assassins, Garrison claims that after a long search of the New Orleans French Quarter, his staff was informed by the bartender at the tavern “Cosimo’s” that "Clay Bertrand" was the alias that Clay Shaw used. According to Garrison, the bartender felt it was no big secret and, sure enough, “my men began encountering one person after another in the French Quarter who confirmed that it was common knowledge that 'Clay Bertrand' was the name Clay Shaw went by.” However, a February 25, 1967 memo by Garrison investigator Lou Ivon to Jim Garrison states that he could not locate a Clay Bertrand despite numerous inquiries and contacts.

When Garrison's evidence was presented to a New Orleans grand jury, Clay Shaw was indicted on a charge that he conspired with David W. Ferrie, Lee Harvey Oswald, and others named and charged to murder John F. Kennedy." A three-judge panel upheld the indictment and ordered Shaw to a jury trial.


Garrison believed that Clay Shaw was the mysterious "Clay Bertrand" mentioned in the Warren Commission investigation. In the Warren Commission Report, New Orleans attorney Dean Andrews claimed that he was contacted the day after the assassination by a "Clay Bertrand" who requested that he go to Dallas, Texas to represent Lee Harvey Oswald.

At the trial, the prosecution sought to have entered into evidence a fingerprint card with Clay Shaw's signature on it and, which also had on it, Shaw's admission that he had used the alias "Clay Bertrand." In regard to this, Judge Edward Haggerty, after dismissing the jury, conducted a day long hearing, in which he ruled the fingerprint card inadmissible. He said that two policemen had violated Shaw's constitutional rights by not permitting the defendant to have his lawyer present during the fingerprinting. Judge Haggerty also announced that Officer Habighorst had violated Miranda v. Arizona and Escobedo v. Illinois by not informing Clay Shaw that he had the right to remain silent. The judge said that Habighorst had violated Shaw's rights by allegedly questioning him about an alias, adding, "Even if he did [ask the question about an alias] it is not admissible." Judge Haggerty exclaimed, "If Officer Habighorst is telling the truth — and I seriously doubt it!" The judge finished with the statement, "I do not believe Officer Habighorst!"

Jim Garrison's key witness against Clay Shaw was Perry Russo. At the trial, Russo gave his account of an "assassination party" at David Ferrie's apartment, where Ferrie, Oswald, and "Clay Bertrand" (who Russo identified in the courtroom as Clay Shaw) talked about killing the President. The conversation included plans for the "triangulation of crossfire" and alibis for the participants. Russo’s version of events has been questioned by some historians and researchers, such as Patricia Lambert, once it became known that much of his testimony was induced by hypnotism and by the drug sodium pentothal, sometimes called "truth serum."

Moreover, a memo detailing a pre-hypnosis interview with Russo in Baton Rouge, along with two hypnosis session transcripts, had been given to journalist James Phelan by Garrison. There were differences between the two accounts. Both Russo and Assistant D.A. Andrew Sciambra testified under cross examination that more was said at the interview, but omitted from the pre-hypnosis memorandum. James Phelan testified that Russo admitted to him in March 1967 that a February 25 memorandum of the interview, which contained no recollection of an assassination party, was accurate. However, in many public interviews, such as one shown in the video The JFK Assassination: The Jim Garrison Tapes, Russo reiterates the same account of an assassination party that he gave at the trial.

In addition to the issue of Russo's credibility, Garrison's case also included other questionable witnesses, such as Vernon Bundy, a heroin addict, and Charles Spiesel, who testified that he had been repeatedly hypnotized by government agencies. However, defenders of Garrison, such as journalist and researcher Jim Marrs, argue that Garrison's case was hampered by missing witnesses that Garrison had sought out. These witnesses included right-wing Cuban exile, Sergio Arcacha Smith, head of the CIA-backed, anti-Castro Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front in New Orleans, a group that David Ferrie was reputedly "extremely active in", and a group that maintained an office in the same building as Guy Bannister. According to Garrison, these witnesses had fled New Orleans to states whose governors refused to honor Garrison's extradition requests. However, Sergio Arcacha Smith had left New Orleans well before Garrison began his investigation and was willing to speak with Garrison investigators if he was allowed to have legal representation present. Further, witnesses Gordon Novel from Ohio may have been extradited if Garrison pressed the case in Ohio and Sandra Moffett was offered by the defense but opposed by Garrison's prosecution.

The testimony of witnesses who placed Clay Shaw, David Ferrie and Oswald together in Clinton, Louisiana the summer before the assassination has also been deemed not credible by some researchers, including Gerald Posner and Patricia Lambert. However, when the House Select Committee on Assassinations released its Final Report in 1979, it stated that after interviewing the Clinton witnesses it "found that the Clinton witnesses were credible and significant" and that "it was the judgment of the committee that they were telling the truth as they knew it."

Verdict and Juror Reaction

At the trial's conclusion — after the prosecution and the defense had presented their cases — the jury took less than an hour on March 1, 1969, to find Clay Shaw not guilty.

Attorney and author Mark Lane claims to have interviewed several jurors after the trial. Although these interviews have never been published, Lane has claimed that some of the jurors believed that Garrison had in fact proved a conspiracy to kill Kennedy, but he had not adequately linked it to Shaw or provided a motive.
However, James Kirkwood also spoke to several jury members who denied ever speaking to Lane  and also contradicted his claim that the jury believed there was a conspiracy.


Garrison later wrote a book about his investigation of the JFK assassination and the subsequent trial called On the Trail of the Assassins. This book served as one of the main sources for Oliver Stone's movie JFK. In the movie, this trial serves as the back story for Stone's account of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations stated that available records "...lent substantial credence to the possibility that Oswald and [David] Ferrie had been involved inthe same [Civil Air Patrol] C.A.P. unit during the same period of time." Committee investigators found six witnesses who said that Oswald had been present at Civil Air Patrol meetings headed by David Ferrie.

In 1993, the PBS television program Frontline obtained a group photograph, taken eight years before the assassination, that showed Oswald and Ferrie at a cookout with other Civil Air Patrol cadets. However, as Frontline executive producer Michael Sullivan said, "one should be cautious in ascribing its meaning. The photograph does give much support to the eyewitnesses who say they saw Ferrie and Oswald together in the C.A.P., and it makes Ferrie's denials that he ever knew Oswald less credible. But it does not prove that the two men were with each other in 1963, nor that they were involved in a conspiracy to kill the president."

In On the Trail of the Assassins, Garrison states that Shaw had an "extensive international role as an employee of the CIA". Shaw denied that he had had any connection with the CIA.

In 1979, Richard Helms, former director of the CIA, testified under oath that Clay Shaw had been a part-time contact of the Domestic Contact Service of the CIA, where Shaw volunteered information from his travels abroad, mostly to Latin America. By the mid-1970s, 150,000 Americans (businessmen, and journalists, etc.) had provided such information to the DCS.

Further reading

  • Joe Biles, In History's Shadow: Lee Harvey Oswald, Kerry Thornley & the Garrison Investigation. ISBN 0-595-22455-5
  • Milton Brener, The Garrison Case: A Study in the Abuse of Power.
  • James DeEugenio Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1992) ISBN 1-879823-00-4
  • William Davy, Let Justice Be Done: New Light on the Jim Garrison Investigation (Jordan Pub, 1999) ISBN 0-9669716-0-4
  • Jim Garrison, A Heritage of Stone (Putnam Publishing Group, 1970) ISBN 0-399-10398-8
  • Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1988) ISBN 0-446-36277-8
  • James Kirkwood, American Grotesque: An Account of the Clay Shaw-Jim Garrison-Kennedy Assassination Trial in New Orleans. ISBN 0-06-097523-7
  • Patricia Lambert, False Witness: The Real Story of Jim Garrison's Investigation and Oliver Stone's Film JFK. ISBN 0-87131-920-9
  • Jim Marrs, Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1989) ISBN 0-88184-648-1
  • Joan Mellen, A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK's Assassination, and the Case That Should Have Changed History (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc., 2005) ISBN 1-57488-973-7
  • Anthony Summers, Not in Your Lifetime (New York: Marlowe & Company, 1998) ISBN 1-56924-739-0
  • Harold Weisberg, Oswald in New Orleans: Case for Conspiracy with the C.I.A. (New York: Canyon Books, 1967)


  1. Clay Shaw and The JFK Assassination
  2. HSCA Final Assassinations Report, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 142.
  3. James Phelan, Scandals, Scamps, and Scoundrels, (Random House, 1st Edition 1982) pp. 150-151.
  4. Hugh Aynesworth, "The Garrison Goosechase", Dallas Times Herald, November 21, 1982
  5. All Those Assassination Suspects
  6. Milton E. Brener, The Garrison Case (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1969), p. 84.
  7. Patricia Lambert, False Witness (New York: M. Evans and Co., 1998), p. 304 fn. 4.
  8. Perry Russo was Jim Garrison's Conspiracy Witness in the Clay Shaw Trial
  9. David Blackburst Archive: David Ferrie's Houston Trip: JFK assassination investigation: Jim Garrison New Orleans investigation of the John F. Kennedy assassination
  10. Playboy Interview
  11. JFK Record No. 180-10112-10372
  12. 544 Camp Street and Related Events, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 13, p. 130.
  13. Marrs, Jim. Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy, (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1989), p. 494. ISBN 0-88184-648-1
  14. Marrs, Crossfire, p. 494.
  15. David Ferrie, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 12, pp. 112-13.
  16. FBI Interview of Jack S. Martin, 25 November 1963 & 27 November 1963, Warren Commission Document 75, pp. 217-18, 309-11.
  17. FBI Interview of David Ferrie, November 25, 1963, Warren Commission Document 75, pp. 288-89.
  18. Summers, Anthony. Not in Your Lifetime, (New York: Marlowe & Company, 1998), p. 351. ISBN 1-56924-739-0
  19. The Mystery of David Ferrie
  20. Posner, Gerald Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, (New York: Random House Publishers, 1993), p. 428. ISBN 0-679-41825-3
  21. FBI Interview of David Ferrie, 25 November 1963 & 27 November 1963, Warren Commission Document 75, pp. 288-89, 199-200.
  22. 544 Camp Street and Related Events, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 13, p. 126.
  23. Marrs, Crossfire, pp. 496–497.
  24. Louis Sproesser, The Garrison Investigation: November 1966 to February 1968 (Sturbridge, Mass.: Southern New England Research, 1999), p. 9, citing the New York Times, November 22, 1966
  25. Summers, Not in Your Lifetime, p. 226.
  26. Marrs, Crossfire, p. 497.
  27. Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins (New York: Warner Books, 1992), p. 43.
  28. Summers, Not in Your Lifetime, p. 233.
  29. 544 Camp Street and Related Events, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 13, p. 129.
  30. Assassination a Homosexual Thrill Killing
  31. Playboy interview
  32. Garrison, Jim. On The Trail of the Assassins, (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1988), p. 12. ISBN 0-446-36277-8
  33. "Shoot Him Down" : NBC, the CIA and Jim Garrison by William Davy
  34. The Patsy - Oswald
  35. Marrs, Crossfire, pp. 501-2.
  36. David Ferrie's purported suicide notes
  37. Garrison. On The Trail of the Assassins, p. 138.
  38. Gus Russo, Live by the Sword (Baltimore: Bancroft Press, 1998), p. 402.
  39. Gerald Posner, Case Closed (New York: Random House, 1993), p. 436.
  40. Testimony of Dean Adams Andrews, Jr., Warren Commission Hearings, Volume. 11 p. 334.
  41. Garrison, On The Trail of the Assassins, pp. 85-86.
  42. Lou Ivon: No "Clay Bertrand"
  43. Marrs, Crossfire, pp. 504-5.
  44. James Kirkwood, American Grotesque (New York: Harper, 1992), pp. 353-59
  45. Memorandum, February 28, 1967, "Interview with Perry Russo at Mercy Hospital [under influence of sodium Pentothal on Feb. 27, 1967."]
  46. Lambert, False Witness, pp.72-73.
  47. Way Too Willing Witness by Dave Reitzes
  48. James Phelan, "Rush to Judgment in New Orleans", Saturday Evening Post, May 6, 1967.
  49. Attempt to Use Insane Witness Blows Up In Garrison's Face
  50. 544 Camp Street and Related Events, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 13, p. 127.
  51. David Ferrie, House Select Committee on Assassinations - Appendix to Hearings, Volume 10, 12, p. 110.
  52. Marrs, Crossfire, pp. 507-8.
  53. Warren Commission Exhibit No. 1414 (Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XXII, 828-30). "Arcacha moved from New Orleans to Miami in October 1962, and from Miami to Houston in January 1963, and took a job as an air conditioning salesman in March 1963" (House Select Committee Statement of Mrs. Sergio Arcacha Smith, undated; David Blackburst, Newsgroup post of November 29, 1997).
  54. citing to New Orleans States-Item, May 23, 1967
  55. Edward J. Epstein, The Assassination Chronicles, New York, 1992, p. 248
  56. Shaw trial transcript, Feb. 6, 1969, pp. 5-13
  57. Impeaching Clinton by Dave Reitzes
  58. Mark Lane, Plausible Denial (New York: Thunder's Mouth, 1991), p. 221.
  59. Davy, William, Let Justice Be Done, New Light on the Jim Garrison Investigation, Jordan Publishing, 1999. P.173. ISBN 0-9669716-0-4.
  60. James Kirkwood, American Grotesque (New York: Harper, 1992), p. 510
  61. Ibid. 557; summary of Kirkwoods research and juror responses.
  62. Oswald, David Ferrie and the Civil Air Patrol, House Select Committee on Assassinations, Volume 9, 4, p. 110.
  63. Oswald, David Ferrie and the Civil Air Patrol, House Select Committee on Assassinations, Volume 9, 4, pp. 110-115.
  64. PBS Frontline "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald", broadcast on PBS stations, November 1993 (various dates).
  65. Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins, p. 87.
  66. Holland, Max. The Lie that Linked CIA to the Kennedy Assassination
  67. Final Report of the Subcommittee on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy of the Select Committee on Assassinations, House of Representatives, p. 218

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