Sunday, 18 February 2024 10:31

Our Lady of the Warren Commission: Part 1/2

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Johnny Cairns reports on a long sit down, completely set up interview between Ruth Paine and her oh so friendly and uninquisitive host, Thomas Mallon.

“I frankly don’t like to talk to the people who think it was a conspiracy….” Ruth Paine (November 20th, 2023). 

“The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.” House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA)

On November 15th, 2023, I set course for a place once dubbed the ‘city of hate’ Dallas, Texas, a city forever haunted by the specter of November 22nd, 1963. This journey was not just a traversal across the Atlantic; it was a pilgrimage borne of a reverence for President Jack Kennedy

My itinerary in the United States was bursting with pivotal events, among these seminal moments was a night imbued with historical significance at Irving's Dupree Theater on November 20th. Attending 'An Evening of Conversation: (with) Ruth Paine & Thomas Mallon,' I wanted to take an opportunity to see Mrs. Paine and delve into her narrative, all be it one entrenched in the lore of the Warren Commission Report.

The Dupree Theatre, usually pulsating with the dynamism of the arts, had metamorphosed into a solemn sanctuary of contemplation that evening --its seats filled with an eclectic mix of individuals— Warren Commission stalwarts and those who advocate for the innocence of Lee Oswald, sat side by side united by a shared reverence for history.

We had all gathered to witness Mrs. Ruth Paine, a figure whose role in the Kennedy case oscillates between acclaim and controversy. As the most frequent witness before the Warren Commission, her accounts played a significant role in condemning Oswald as the lone assassin of President Kennedy— a portrayal I find quite contestable. Her testimonies, often cited as crucial in cementing Oswald's culpability, added layers of complexity to an already convoluted historical puzzle. As she spoke, the air brimmed with a mix of reverence and skepticism.

Right on cue and wielding a tone steeped in certainty, Mrs. Paine delivered her highly questionable condemnation of the late Lee Oswald;“It was Lee who murdered President Kennedy, and he acted alone,”she declared, her voice imbued with a conviction that brooked no opposition.

Voltaire’s words echoed in my mind, “It is better to risk saving a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.” Yet, in the Dupree Theater, Ruth Paine’s stance was unyielding, projecting Oswald's guilt as an indisputable fact to the captivated audience.

When Mrs. Paine declared Lee Oswald guilty of assassinating President Kennedy, she entered a realm where ethics and legal principles intersect. Such public declarations, especially from those closely linked to a high-profile event, carry an inherent moral duty to provide evidence, even though not legally required. Her statements, lacking substantial corroboration, significantly influence public opinion, placing on her an implicit obligation for fairness and evidence-based assertions. Moreover, her avowed disdain for Oswald, highlighted by a remark about regretting her association with him, raises questions about her objectivity in this historical discourse.

Mr. Mallon, assuming a notably sanctimonious demeanor, then steered the discussion towards the attempted assassination of General Edwin Walker on April 10, 1963. His shift in focus, however, was not underpinned by the presentation of empirical evidence, eyewitness accounts, or ballistic analysis against Oswald. Instead, he chose to spotlight the highly contentious backyard photographs, just then projected onto the overhead screen.Picture1

Thomas Mallon. Something which helps to explain the Assassination of The President and that was Oswald’s attempt in April of 63, to shoot General Edwin Walker… This is Oswald in the backyard of the house on Neely Street in Dallas, holding a rifle and a copy of the Daily Worker and he has got his pistol at his waist. Marina took these photographs in the backyard in Neely Street, I think on March 31st 1963. About 10 days later, he used that rifle, which was the same rifle he would kill the President with, to shoot at General Walker”.

Mr. Mallon, I must press upon a critical point: How do you reconcile the significant leap in logic required to use photographs, taken weeks before the attempt on General Walker's life and months prior to President Kennedy's assassination, as conclusive or even suggestive evidence of Oswald's involvement in both crimes? These photographs, temporally distant from the events in question, seem to offer scant connection to the actual incidents. Could you elucidate how such a substantial leap in deductive reasoning is justified in this case, especially in the absence of more direct, contemporaneous evidence?

Marina Oswald, A Credible or Compromised Witness?

The issue of Marina Oswald’s credibility is not only discussed in depth in my series, 'Assassination 60’’, but is also a well-acknowledged concern among experts on the case. Freda Scobey, a lawyer on the staff of Warren Commission dissenter Richard Russell, was one of the first to highlight the inconsistencies and contradictions in Marina's testimonies, casting serious doubt on her reliability as a witness. Scobey's observations underscore the problematic nature of using Marina's testimony as a reliable source. (see this)

Moreover, as highlighted by my compatriot, Scott Reid, an expert on the Walker shooting, in his critical article 'Oswald and the Shot at Walker:Redressing the Balance,' zealous prosecutor, Norman Redlich, voiced similar reservations regarding Marina in a 1964 memorandum. He specifically addressed Marina's pattern of deception: 'Marina Oswald has repeatedly lied to the (Secret) Service, the FBI, and this Commission on matters which are of vital concern to the people of this country and the world… (Marina) may not have told the truth in connection with the attempt on General Walker.' (see this)

Fellow commission counsel, J. Lee Rankin also voiced similar concerns to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, stating; “Marina’s testimony on the Walker shooting to the FBI and Secret Service was giving the Commission lawyers fits because it was riddled with contradictions.” Marina’s statements, Rankin complained, “Just don’t jibe.” (Gerald McKnight, Breach of Trust; p. 57)

And for those still harboring any skepticism, I earnestly encourage delving into the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) 29-page report, "Marina Oswald-Porter, Statements of a Contradictory Nature." This segment offers a thorough exploration of the discrepancies within her testimonies. It diligently documents the divergences in her narratives across different aspects of the case, presenting a compelling study of inconsistency. (see this)

Taken together, these factors paint a picture of a witness whose credibility has been seriously compromised. As such, the reliance on Marina's testimony by Mr. Mallon to link Oswald to the Walker case becomes a weak foundation for his argument, raising profound questions about its overall validity.

Oswald Denies the Backyard Photographs

According to the report by Captain Will Fritz, chief of the Homicide & Robbery Division, regarding the interrogation of Lee Harvey Oswald, Oswald himself contested the authenticity of the Neely Street photographs. Fritz's account reveals that Oswald denounced the backyard photographs as sophisticated forgeries. He reported that Oswald claimed: “I again asked him about his property and where his things might be kept, and he told me about the things at Mrs. Paine’s residence and a few things on Beckley…I showed Oswald an enlarged picture of him holding a rifle and wearing a pistol. This picture had been enlarged by our Crime Lab from a picture found in the garage at Mrs. Paine’s home. He said the picture was not his, that the face was his face, but that this picture had been made by someone superimposing his face, the other part of the picture was not him at all and that he had never seen the picture before. When I told him that the picture was recovered from Mrs. Paine’s garage, he said that the picture had never been in his possession… He denied ever seeing that picture and said that he knew all about photography, that he had done a lot of work on photography himself… and (that it) had been made by some person unknown to him. He told me that he understood photography real well, and that in time, he would be able to show that it was not his picture, and that it had been made by someone else”. (WCR; p. 607-609)

The Legal Considerations of the Backyard Photographs

“As far as I know, according to the local laws here, a wife cannot be a witness against her husband”, Marina Oswald. (Volume I; p.18)

As I also highlighted in ‘Assassination 60’, the question of whether Marina Oswald could have legally testified against Lee raises interesting forensic considerations for the case. Under Texas law, spouses are generally permitted to serve as witnesses for each other in criminal cases. However, a crucial exception exists they cannot testify against each other unless one spouse is being prosecuted for an offense committed against the other. In the context of Oswald's hypothetical trial, Marina's testimony would have been excluded based on this spousal privilege. This means that the controversial backyard photographs, which were allegedly linked to Lee, could not have been admitted into evidence to be used against him. This is because Marina's testimony, which was the sole source of corroboration for the photographs, would have been inadmissible due to the spousal privilege.

A Tribute to Priscilla

"…Priscilla Johnston [sic] … also had contact with Oswald in Russia. [Priscilla was] formerly [a] State Department employee at the American Embassy and [her] contact with Oswald was official business." (FBI Memo, November 23rd 1963.)

Thomas Mallon. “Ruth, could you speak, to why you think this (Walker shooting) is so key to understanding the assassination?”

Ruth Paine.It certainly is.”

At this, Mrs. Paine paid tribute to Priscilla Johnson McMillan, symbolized by a folder in her possession. Addressing the audience, Mrs. Paine conveyed, “That she (Priscilla) described it (the attempt on Edwin Walker) as the Rosetta Stone to understand the attempt on the President (Kennedy), (Oswald’s) trying to kill the President. That knowing what was going on in his mind and how he plotted and did all the preparation for trying to shoot General Walker. Said so much about his personality, his sense of being, not recognized and that he wanted to have notoriety.”Picture2

During the tribute, an image of Mrs. Johnson-McMillan suddenly appeared on the screen. Just then, my phone vibrated with a message. Neale Safety, the secretary of Dealey Plaza UK, had sent a message to the DPUK WhatsApp group. It read “Michael, Priscilla & Ruth at a CIA BBQ…” This one liner had undoubtedly become the highlight of the evening.Picture3

For those interested in learning more about Mrs. Johnson, I strongly recommend the insightful series 'Priscilla and Lee; Before and After the Assassination,' authored by Peter R. Whitmey. (see this)

The Oswald Paradox: Seeking Fame or Framed by Fate?

Mrs. Paine & Mr. Mallon’s narrative is a rehash of the weary, well-worn trope that the Warren Commission clung to in their attempts to explain Oswald's hypothetical motives in the assassination of President Kennedy. As I dissected in 'Assassination 60', this theory buckles under the weight of its own contradictions. If Oswald was indeed driven by a deep-seated craving for notoriety, a thirst to bask in the infamy of such a heinous act, then why did he vehemently and persistently proclaim his innocence during his harrowing detention at the hands of the Dallas Police? His resolute denials, voiced with an unwavering firmness even in the face of grave accusations, starkly undercut the narrative that he was a man hungry for the dark spotlight of historical infamy. This incongruity casts a long shadow of doubt over the simplistic explanation offered by the Warren Commission and echoed by Mrs.Paine & Mr. Mallon, challenging us to look beyond the surface in our quest for truth.

Pleading Innocence: The Forgotten Voice of Lee Oswald

Reporter. “Did you shoot the President?”
Lee Oswald. “I didn't shoot anybody, no sir.”

Reporter. “Oswald did you shoot the President?”
Lee Oswald. “I didn't shoot anybody sir I haven't been told what I am here for.”

Reporter. “Kill the President?”
Lee Oswald. “No sir I didn't. People keep asking me that.”

Reporter. “Did you kill the President?”
Lee Oswald. “No, I have not been charged with that in fact no one has said that to me yet. The first thing I heard about it was when the newspaper reporters in the hall asked me that question.”

Lee Oswald. “I don’t know what dispatches you people have been given but I emphatically deny these charges… I have not committed any acts of violence.” (see this)

Oswald's Last Defense: Proclaiming Innocence Against History

On November 24, 1963, in the dim, oppressive confines of the City Hall basement, a critically wounded Lee Harvey Oswald lay in a dire state. Surrounded by the urgency and chaos of the moment, his life precariously hanging by a thread, a profound silence enveloped him. Officer B.H. Combest of the Dallas Police Department, amidst the turmoil, sought to extract a final confession or declaration from Oswald, particularly about the assassination of President Kennedy. This was Oswald's moment, if ever there was one, to claim the notoriety that some believed motivated him. Yet, in this charged atmosphere, where each second could have been his last, Oswald chose silence. He uttered no words of confession, no statements of guilt or pride; he merely shook his head in response to direct prompts. This silence, in such a critical juncture, resonated with a powerful implication of innocence. It stood in stark contrast to the allegations that he sought fame through infamy. Oswald's refusal to embrace a narrative of notoriety in these final, fleeting moments, where a single word could have immortalized him in infamy, spoke more emphatically than any verbal declaration could. His silence in the face of death, under the weight of such grave accusations, became his most resounding and final testament to his claim of innocence. (Volume XII; p. 176-186)Picture4

Mrs Paine: On what firm bedrock of evidence do you anchor your assertion that Oswald was propelled by a voracious yearning for infamy and fame? This supposition appears to starkly contrast with the profound narrative woven by his actions, most notably his resolute silence in the face of imminent mortality.

This pivotal silence speaks volumes, challenging the notion of his supposed thirst for recognition.

As Mrs. Paine's trenchant condemnations of Oswald continued, they resonated powerfully with the audience, evident in the synchronized nods of her supporters, symbolizing a shared conviction. She complained; “I seem to think that the shooting of Walker is absolutely crucial to understand what was going on with Oswald and what happened… not enough has been said about it!”This crescendo of influence reached its zenith when she directed a leading question to the assembled crowd, skillfully crafted to further cast Oswald in the role of the guilty. Her inquiry, loaded with implication and designed to sway opinion, hung heavily in the air, compelling the audience to view the situation through her lens of accusation; "How many of you know that Oswald, and most of you should because you are here, but how many of you 'know' that Oswald tried to kill Edwin Walker in April” (1963).Picture5

In a choreographed motion, her hand ascended first, soon echoed by a sea of hands in the crowd. Recognizing this solidarity, Mrs. Paine responded with a mix of satisfaction and camaraderie, remarking, “There you go, good crowd, “laughing as her supporters returned the favor. I would call it kind of a dull crowd. It was hard to comprehend that no one asked the obvious question:

Why would Oswald try to kill a right-wing fascist like Walker and then shoot the most liberal president since FDR? I mean, you must know Ruth that Kennedy sent in troops to put down a riot over integration at Ole Miss staged by Walker in 1962? You do know that don’t you? And you also must know that Kennedy retired Walker from the service for distributing John Birch Society material to his troops?Picture6

Absent one sentient person, the dog and pony show continued.

Thomas Mallon.“How did it finally come to light that he had shot Walker?”

Ruth Paine.“ When he went out to try and shoot Walker, he wrote a note for Marina… it started out here is the key to the post office box, if I am arrested here is where the police station is and of course she was frightened, terrified as she didn’t know what to do, who to tell… so she (Marina) tried to threaten him, I am going to hide this and if you ever do anything crazy like this I will go to the police with it, but it didn’t work. The amount of preparation that he did, for trying to shoot Walker, is in no way mimicked in the preparation he did before shooting Kennedy, because that was an impulse. He was working on a place that turned out to be on the parade route, with the car going by. He learned that when he was at work on Wednesday (November 20th) called and came and got right out to my house, he had never come out on a weekday, he had never come out before asking permission, this was very different… He came out to get his rifle which was hidden in my garage, which I did not know. Got it and went in and shot the President as we ‘know’. It was a little bit later that the note came to light.

Thomas Mallon.“How did the note reach her?”

Ruth Paine.“…I sent the book to Marina (which contained the note). Of course, what is the first thing a Secret Service man going to do when he sees a book? See what falls out, and out came this note. She was confronted with this note and had to explain that it was the note he wrote when he went out to try and shoot Walker. If that note had not been found then I don’t think that we would ever have found out, because she was not going to tell”.

The Walker Note

“Did it seem strange to you at the time, Marina, that Lee did make these careful plans, take pictures, and write it up in a notebook, and then when he went out to shoot at General Walker, he left all that incriminating evidence right in the house so that if he had ever been stopped and questioned and if that notebook had been found, it would have clearly indicated that he was the one that shot at General Walker?” Wesley Liebeler.

If Exhibit A in the case against Lee Oswald—anchored by Mrs. Paine and Mr. Mallon's account of the attempt on General Walker—draws heavily from Marina Oswald's testimony, then Exhibit B is undoubtedly the infamous 'Note,' which surfaced, via Mrs. Paine, only after Oswald's death. This 'Note,' has become a cornerstone of controversy. Its posthumous discovery raises pressing questions: What does the 'Note' truly prove? At the heart of this debate, several critical concerns undermine the 'Note's' validity and its connection to Oswald:Picture7

  1. Absence of Mention of General Edwin Walker: The note's content does not reference General Edwin Walker, which is a significant omission if it was intended to be related to the assassination attempt on him. This raises questions about the note's intended purpose and relevance to that specific incident.
  2. Lack of Signature and Date: The note's anonymity and lack of a temporal marker further cloud its authenticity. An unsigned and undated note lacks the definitive characteristics necessary to firmly tie it to a specific individual or time frame, undermining its credibility as a piece of evidence.
  3. Fingerprint Analysis Results: The FBI's analysis revealed that none of the seven latent prints found on the note matched Lee Harvey Oswald or Marina Oswald. This forensic evidence is crucial as it directly challenges the assumption that Oswald had physical contact with the note, casting serious doubts on its connection to him.View Source
  4. Secret Service Inquiry into Mrs. Paine's Possible Involvement: Mr. Gopadze of the Secret Service accosted Mrs. Paine over the “Walker note” suspecting her potential role in its creation. “
  5. Expert Consensus on the 'Walker' Note's Authenticity: The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) consulted three experts to assess the authenticity of the 'Walker' note. Notably, there was no majority consensus that the note was written by Lee Harvey Oswald. This raises serious doubts about the note's legitimacy and its alleged connection to Oswald.View Source
  6. Oversight in Dallas Police Search: Despite an extensive search of the Paine residence on November 22-23, 1963, specifically aimed at uncovering evidence that could incriminate Lee Oswald, the Dallas Police failed to uncover the 'Walker' note. This oversight is particularly striking given Ruth Paine's testimony indicating the thoroughness of the search. The fact that such a potentially incriminating item eluded the police during their detailed search adds a layer of mystery to the case and raises questions about the note's whereabouts during this critical period.

    Ruth Paine:“I was just preparing to go to the grocery store when several officers arrived again from the Dallas Police Office and asked if they could search…and held up their warrant and I said, yes, they could search. They said they were looking for something specific… Before I left, they were leafing through books to see if anything fell out but that is all I saw… “(WC Volume III; p. 86-87)

    th, 2023, and Mrs. Paine stated that the note was contained within “a little book we had, a small book of advice to Russian mothers. It happened to be in the kitchen where we were reading, which made it different from the things in the garage… but they didn’t get that note because it was in my kitchen.”Picture8

    Considering your statement, Mrs. Paine, that the note was hidden “inside a little book of advice to Russian mothers'”in your kitchen – a location and item distinct from those in the garage – several deeply perplexing and troubling questions arise.

    Firstly, if this book was indeed in regular use by Marina in the days or weeks prior to the President’s assassination, it seems utterly baffling that neither of you noticed a note concealed within its pages? This oversight becomes even more confounding when considering the ease with which the Secret Service later discovered it. How is it possible that this note remained undetected in a book that was actively being used?

    Secondly this is 1960’s Texas, this period was marked by intense suspicion towards anything remotely associated with communism or the Soviet Union, it stretches credibility to suggest that a book intended for Russian mothers would go undetected by Texas police officers during a property search. My own visit to the property at 2515 W Fifth Street, in November 2023, offered insightful perspectives on this matter. As I toured the house, I found that the garage could be accessed directly from the kitchen/dining area, a detail clearly illustrated in the floor plan I have referenced above. This observation becomes critical when considering Mrs. Paine’s own admission of having given the police unfettered access to search her home in her absence, thus leaving them unsupervised. Given this level of access, and the fact that the garage is directly connected to a central living area of the house, the suggestion that their search would exclude the kitchen, and by extension, overlook a culturally and politically charged item like the book, seems strained. (see this)
  7. Marina Oswald's Initial Disavowal of Knowledge: In a striking turn of initial testimony, Marina Oswald professed complete ignorance regarding the existence of the ‘Walker’ note. This initial declaration of ignorance is pivotal, casting a veil of doubt over her subsequent revelations and the evolution of her narrative. View Source
  8. Evidence Destroyed? The scenario as detailed in Marina Oswald's testimony regarding the Walker shooting incident indeed unravels into a web of paradoxes and inconsistencies. Her claim that she urged Oswald to destroy a notebook, rich with intricate details of the attack on General Walker, stands in stark contrast to their apparent preservation of the 'Walker' note. This dichotomy is not just perplexing but contradictory. If Oswald, as suggested by Marina, felt compelled to incinerate the notebook due to its incriminating nature, it is logical to assume that similar caution would extend to all related materials, including the 'Walker' note, pictures of Walkers home found in the Paine garage and the notorious Neely Street photographs. The decision to eradicate one potential piece of evidence while seemingly safeguarding others defies logical reasoning and casts a shadow over their approach to handling such sensitive materials.

Marina Oswald. “I was so afraid after this attempt on Walker's life that the police might come to the house. I was afraid that there would be evidence in the house such as this book… I told him that it is best not to have this kind of stuff in the house…I suggested to him that it would be awfully bad to keep a thing like that in the house.” (Volume XI; p.293-294)

The scenario presented by Marina Oswald's testimony regarding the Walker shooting incident is fraught with paradoxes and inconsistencies. It is indeed paradoxical that while she claimed to have urged Oswald to destroy a notebook detailing plans for the attack on General Walker - an act acknowledging the danger of retaining incriminating evidence - she seemingly allowed the 'Walker’ note to remain in their possession. This contradiction is puzzling. If Oswald took the drastic step to burn a notebook for fear of its incriminating nature, logic would dictate that all related materials, such as the 'Walker' note, the infamous backyard photographs, and the photographs of Walkers property would also be destroyed to eliminate any trace of involvement.

This inconsistency in the handling of evidence is succinctly highlighted by Wesley Liebeler's poignant question:'If Oswald was guilty in the Walker shooting, why would Oswald keep the photos and the note around for almost eight months?'

Go to Part 2 of 2

Last modified on Thursday, 07 March 2024 09:31
Johnny Cairns

Johnny Cairns is an electrician living in Edinburgh. He first got interested in President Kennedy through his father, Robert Cairns. Since then, he has held an undying admiration for Jack Kennedy and what he stood for. Through familiarizing himself with the facts of this crime, he has also become an advocate for the innocence of his alleged assassin, Lee Oswald. Through the various friendships developed with other researchers and making the trip to Dallas in 2018, he has spoken at JFK Lancer presenting the case for Oswald’s innocence and co-authored a book which is due for release at the end of 2021, titled “Case Not Closed.”

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