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Chapter 9 is where the action is.
on 18 April 2013
I bought this book because it promised some interesting discussion and perspectives on the legal case against Oswald. I have long pondered the possibility that there were matters that might have compelled a judge to declare parts of the evidence as inadmissible and that, of course, would have jeopardised the prospects of a conviction.
Fortunately - for this reader - the book does, in the end, discuss the really important issue of the identification and transmittal of crucial evidence; specifically, the shells found on the 6th floor.
Unfortunately this most interesting and important material has to wait until the very last chapter of the book before it is presented.
First, the things that I didn't enjoy.
There is a great deal of material presented here and much of it isn't directly related to the assassination or the case against Oswald. This is particularly annoying because the author declares early on that he can't include all of the evidence because there is so much of it. That's true, there is. The combined efforts of the WC, Clarke Panel, Rockefeller Commission, Church Committee and HSCA do add up to a lot of paperwork. But at least half of the material that Barry includes here has no relationship or relevance to the matter at hand. The space dedicated to highlighting minor points of law and discussing other pseudo-legal matters could have been put to much better use, I feel.
Barry's writing style is a bit too `populist' for me and the early parts of the book are used to set the tone for the `us-against-them-we-are-being-lied-to' mood. Barry's entreaty to, "Think, The Matrix. Think, The Truman Show. Think, The Prisoner. This is what we are talking about, people!" illustrates the point here.
There is also a great deal that the author contends that I disagree with. His discussion of the SBT is standard-fare and actually has no real bearing on Oswald's guilt or innocence. If the SBT were shown to be wrong - which I don't think that it can - it would only mean that Oswald was assisted in his task and there was a conspiracy.
Anyway, I won't go on with the negatives because I do feel that Barry has raised a matter that has long merited examination and discussion; namely the handling of shells found on the sixth floor.
So, now the stuff that I did enjoy.
Barry has clearly spent a great deal of time and effort examining this vexed issue and following his reasoning will challenge most readers; it certainly posed a challenge to my ageing noodle!
The devil is in the detail with matters such as this, of course, and the author provides plenty of it. The author's discussion is very, very intricate and requires close attention. As it stands in the book it makes for stimulating reading for those who enjoy such conundrums but how might this have played out at trial? We can never know, of course.
Barry's arguments on the matter of the shells do pose some genuine questions.
For me, this matter is one of the most important issues relating to how robust the prosecution case might - or might not - have been and it is too rarely discussed. I have long been relatively happy to believe that the DPD and FBI were both very sloppy in their handling and transmittal of evidence but I'd be far less sanguine if something more worrying could ever be proved. Are we seeing incompetence or is it something worse?
It is known that Will Fritz was reluctant to surrender any of the evidence to the FBI in Washington and it was Wade who finally persuaded the Homicide Chief to allow material to go to the capitol for 24 hours. Fritz retained one of the shells in his desk and because of this he really might have compromised his case. Barry K thinks that there's more to it than Fritz just making a very rare mistake. I'm not sure; but what would a jury have said? What might a judge have ruled?
(A lifted palm-print was also retained in Dallas, but the author doesn't discuss that matter in this volume).
This reader has always felt that the many and various ways in which evidence - particularly the ballistic evidence - was named and numbered was needlessly arcane and was bound to lead to confusion. `Q' numbers, `K' numbers `C' numbers, exhibit names and so on. Is that what we are seeing here? Are we seeing honest confusion in the testimony and documentary record? Barry K says not.
This reader has never before seen the shell-custody-chain dealt with as methodically as it is here and I thank and congratulate Barry K for his efforts. The graphics and tables do help `visualise' what was going on.
The testimony that Barry highlights - especially that of Day - has long been familiar to this reader but, again, I think that the author has managed to make it more `stark'. I can imagine a fearsome defence advocate roasting poor Carl Day in the box with some of Barry's questions.
The bottom-line is (and always has been), were the DPD and FBI guilty of crass mistakes or is this a case of `tampering with evidence'? Barry contends that it's the latter. I truly don't think that it is. However, either way, the shell-case chain is compromised and confused. Does this make the case against a living Oswald `impossible'? Again, I don't think so but, it certainly doesn't make the case any easier, that's for sure.
Many of the arguments (on the shell issue) would obviously, have occurred to Oswald's defender(s) at trial. Had they done so, would the judge have been compelled to instruct the jury acquit on `a technicality'? Barry argues that we are not dealing with `a technicality' here, he pushes hard with the contention that only two shells were actually found and that at least one was later planted into the record. Again, I'm bound to say that I don't think that's what we are seeing; after all, the crime-scene photography clearly shows three shells and every witness who saw them saw three. But what would a judge and jury have made of the confusion? That's the important question.
I have long felt that a defence advocate might have hammered this crucial point and Barry is doing a job that was never done. Is there a `reasonable doubt' about the sanctity of the shell-case evidence? Barry K thinks so and I wouldn't want to fight him too hard over the matter.
The bottom-line here seems to be that either (a) the shell discovery and chain are genuine but poorly recorded or, (b) the discovery and chain have been falsified. Scenario (a) on its own might have or might not have been enough to jeopardise a prosecution. Within scenario (b) there would seem to be two sub-possibilities. (i) Knowing the discovery and chain to be genuine but poorly recorded, `overzealous' officers decided to help-things-along or (ii) Oswald was pro-actively framed.
With that said, it must not be forgotten that the bullets which struck the victims were proven to have been fired from Oswald's rifle. This means that if (any of) the shell hulls had been planted - as the author alleges - then all of the recovered bullets and residue would have to have been `planted' as well! For this reader that is impossible to accept.
For readers who contend Oswald's innocence, Barry k's work here may, over time, become, a standard reference volume. For those such as I who contend his culpability, the author has offered something that must be considered and answered.