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Monday, 06 July 2020 15:12

Dovey Roundtree Spins her Search for Vivian

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Did Dovey Roundtree throw herself into the case a bit too hard? Jim DiEugenio examines the inconsistent stories surrounding the potential alibi witness, “Vivian,” and wonders if it is a story she spun beyond recognition to defend her client.


One of the aims of Soledad O’Brien’s series is to picture Dovey Roundtree as some kind of female Clarence Darrow. There is no doubt that Roundtree was an accomplished attorney who threw herself into the case of her defendant Ray Crump.

The question is, did she throw herself into the case a bit too hard?

Every lawyer knows that having an alibi witness is important in a homicide case. Without one, the question would resound:  what was Crump doing on the towpath at the time Mary Meyer was jogging there? Crump’s first excuse was that he was fishing in the nearby river. But there was no fishing pole to be found. Roundtree then maintained that Crump was really there because he had been with a female friend named Vivian. In her book written by Katie McCabe, Justice Older Than the Law, she said that Crump only made up the fishing pole tale because he was afraid his wife would find out he had been with another woman. (Roundtree, p. 195). Crump then said that he did not want to give that woman’s name away, because the police would go after the woman in some pernicious way. Roundtree tried to explain to Crump that this woman would be potentially necessary to his defense and, as a lawyer, she would protect her any way she could.

So Crump told Roundtree that Vivian picked him up early that morning. This was on the corner that he usually caught a ride to for his day construction job. (ibid) They then headed for the area of the canal where he sometimes fished. On their way there, the two stopped at a liquor store to buy some cigarettes, chips, and whiskey. In the wooded area, they did some drinking, “fooled around,” and then he fell asleep on the rocks at the water’s edge. He slipped into the river and climbed out to see that Vivian was gone. He looked for her and then walked in the direction headed for a bus stop. At this point, he encountered a policeman approaching him. Afraid he was under some kind of suspicion, he told the man he had been fishing.

In her book, Roundtree said that she and her assistant Purcell Moore spent much time and energy tracking down this woman. They finally reached her by phone and, because of the ensuing conversation, the attorney was convinced the alibi was true, since Vivian said that what Crump had told Roundtree was the case. And indeed the police had found a liquor bottle and bag of chips at the scene. Roundtree said the woman’s voice was full of fear though and, therefore, she did not want to tell her story to a judge. The woman was also angry that Ray had told her about what they did and, further, that the lawyer had called her at home.

In 2011, former Time reporter Zalin Grant wrote an article about the Meyer case. He had done some earlier research on the matter, but decided not to publish it at that time. He said he had interviewed Roundtree about the alibi aspect back in 1993. Roundtree had told him then that she did not buy the fishing story and she had to pull the truth out of her client. So Crump told her that he had missed the truck that took him to work and he had decided to stop by the home of a girlfriend to see if she wanted to do something.

The girl had a car, so they bought a six pack of beer and a bottle of gin and went to the park and “fooled around”. This had happened previously between the two and, since they had imbibed too much, he fell asleep. The girl left on her own. Dovey knew this was a good alibi, but it would greatly pain Crump’s mother. So, when the defendant told her he did not want to involve Vivian, she pushed it no farther.

Please note the differences in the two versions and please note they come from the same source, Dovey Roundtree. In the first version, Crump got picked up by the girl on a corner. In the second one, he went to her house, which means that Crump knew where she lived, negating the whole tale about Roundtree and her assistant turning over the town to find her. And in this earlier Zalin Grant story, Roundtree did not talk to Vivian.

Nina Burleigh interviewed Roundtree in 1996 for her book about Meyer called A Very Private Woman (1998). This time around Roundtree said she could not find the alibi witness, which implies they looked for her and failed to find her. But further, in Burleigh’s notes, she indicates that Crump only told Roundtree this story near the end of the trial! The reader should also note that Roundtree had told author Leo Damore in 1990 that Crump had heard an explosion like the backfire of a car. But in 2009, Roundtree said that Crump did not hear anything.

Obviously not all of these stories can be true.  But if we take the worst case scenario, it appears that Roundtree understood that Crump’s story about being near the towpath fishing without  a pole, this was simply not credible. And that dumping his cap and jacket in the river could be construed as making it more difficult for witnesses to identify him after the fact. If that was the case, it appears that she helped Crump fashion this so-called “alibi witness”.

Roundtree, however, could not maintain a straight story about “Vivian”. When something like that occurs, it is almost always a giveaway that the tale is simply a tale and not what actually happened. Roundtree considered the Crump case very important to her and her career. The idea that she somehow could not recall significant details about a crucial witness in that case is just not credible. For example, if Crump knew where “Vivian” lived and if Roundtree had talked to the woman.

It would appear from this adduced record, that Roundtree did something that lawyers sometimes do:  she spun a story beyond recognition to defend her client. Then what alibi did Crump have? The fishing story without a pole? That is something which, from the evidence above, even his lawyer did not believe.


Jim would like to credit the above discoveries and inconsistencies about Roundtree to JFK researcher Tom Scully and a poster at Let's Roll Forums who calls himself Culto.

Last modified on Monday, 06 July 2020 16:30
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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