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Tuesday, 11 July 1995 20:24

The Transcript from Harry's Hell

Jim DiEugenio comments on a press release concerning Connick's testimony that he ordered the Garrison files destroyed (and some misleading statements that conclude it).


From the July-August, 1995 issue (Vol. 2 No. 5) of Probe


WDSU Local Evening News, 7/11/95

Lead In:

There have been many mysteries surrounding the murder of President John F. Kennedy including a mystery right here in New Orleans: What happened to the files of former prosecutor Jim Garrison?

Connick:

I think everything connected with that case should have been retained and preserved in some way.

Cut to:

live in-studio anchors Norman Robinson and Susan Roesgen sitting with reporter Richard Angelico.

Norman:

You'll recall that the District Attorney testified that the files had been stolen.

Susan:

But for the first time we know what happened to at least some of the JFK files because Richard Angelico found them. Richard.

Richard:

Well Susan and Norman, the story of the missing original grand jury testimony is bizarre to say the least. Harry Connick says it was stolen. But a former staffer of Connick's says the District Attorney knows better about the missing Kennedy files.

Cut to:

A montage segment of the Zapruder film, HSCA Report cover, photos of Oswald in handcuffs, films of Garrison and Shaw, booking photos of Ferrie and Shaw.

Richard's Voice-Over:

The assassination of John Kennedy spawned dozens of conspiracy theories. But the Warren Commission named Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin. Many found that hard to believe. Among them New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. After a highly publicized investigation, he arrested New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw, charging that Shaw, Oswald and a local pilot named David Ferrie plotted Kennedy's death here in New Orleans. Shaw was acquitted, Garrison's investigation discredited.

Cut to:

Angelico in front of Court House.

Richard:

For years the records of that investigation lay in storage at the DA's office gathering dust. Now a federal commission, the Assassination Records and Review Board wants those records and two weeks ago called on current district attorney Harry Connick to produce them.

Cut to:

Film of the Review Board hearing.

Richard's Voice-Over:

Connick told the committee only a small portion of the records remain. Most of them, he said, had been stolen.

Connick:

There are a lot of folks who were connected with that investigation and prosecution and were in that office you know, from that time of the trial until we took office in '74. And I think a lot of that material is probably in their custody. I think those files were rifled and I think they took from those files things that would be of great interest to the American public, and to the world as a matter of fact.

Richard's Voice-Over:

Connick clearly pointed the finger of blame for the missing records at Garrison's office. Had a crime been committed asked the committee chairman? To which Connick replied:

Connick:

Our criminal code calls that theft.

Cut to:

Angelico walking down the street in front of the Court House.

Richard:

Those were strong words from the DA But now a former member of Connick's staff has come forward with equally strong words. He says Connick did not tell the committee the entire truth.

Cut to:

Montage segment of the two page affidavit being shown on the screen.

Richard's Voice-Over:

In this sworn affidavit the former staff member says, "Recent news articles indicate DA Harry Connick has testified before the Assassination Records and Review Board that records of Garrison's were "pilfered" from the files of the DA's office. Nothing could be further from the truth. Harry Connick, elected District Attorney, Chief Law Enforcement Officer of Orleans Parish, personally ordered those records destroyed. I know, and do hereby swear this to be the truth because I was one of two or three individuals ordered by Harry Connick to destroy them."

Cut to:

Angelico in an office with a table in front of him. Copies of the grand jury testimony are on top.

Richard:

These are the records the former staffer says that Connick ordered him to destroy: the original testimony of more than 40 witnesses who appeared before Garrison's grand jury. Many of them major players in the investigation The documents include the testimony of Perry Raymond Russo, the man who placed Shaw with Oswald and Ferrie. Mark Lane, the original conspiracy theorist. Dean Andrews, a New Orleans lawyer, who claimed to have gotten a call asking him to represent Oswald. And even the testimony of Marina Oswald, Lee Harvey Oswald's widow. According to the affidavit, Connick's reasons for destroying the records were simple: he needed more storage space.

Cut to:

The affidavit.

Richard's Voice-Over:

The former staffer says when he suggested the records were of historical significance, Connick told him: "This investigation was a figment of Jim Garrison's overactive imagination. Burn this son-of-a bitch and burn it today."

Cut to:

Close-up shots of the bound grand jury testimony.

Richard's Voice-Over:

But the staffer disobeyed Connick and kept the records for over 21 years until turning them over to me. Last week we asked Connick about his testimony before the Assassination Records and Review Board and his contention that many of the records had been stolen by Garrison's staff.

Cut to:

Inside of Connick's office. Angelico is sitting opposite of Connick at his desk.

Richard:

The grand jury testimony in the Shaw case should have been kept do you think?

Connick:

I think everything connected with that case should have been retained and preserved in some way.

Richard:

We have a, I found an affidavit from a former staff member of yours who says that you ordered him to burn the grand jury transcripts.

Connick:

No, no. (Smiles, giggles nervously.)

Richard:

I'll let you look at it and see what it says.

Connick:

I don't, I don't, it. . .so what's the point.

Richard:

Well, he saw you tell the committee that and he says you ordered him to burn the grand jury transcripts of the Shaw-Garrison investigation because you simply needed storage space when you moved into office.

Connick:

That, that, that may well be so. . . we, we dispose of a lot of records, have disposed of a lot of records, um-huh.

Richard:

Hmm. He maintains in the affidavit that, that he suggested to you-

Connick:

I will, I will accept that as, as valid. . .

Richard:

Huh?

Connick:

I will. He's saying that we should have kept it, is this what he's saying?

Richard:

He's saying that he came to you and said maybe we should keep this because this is not John Smith killing John Doe, this is Garrison's investigation of Shaw. It may have some historical significance. And you said the case has been disposed of, the man not guilty, burn the records.

Connick:

Right.

Richard:

Because you needed storage space. . .

Connick:

Uh-huh.

Richard:

Do you dispute that? Do you recall that?

Connick:

I, I don't recall that, I don't recall that. But if I did do it, so what, its done.

Richard:

Yeah.

Connick:

We've destroyed a lot of records.

Cut to:

Inside of Sal Panzeca' office. Angelico and Panzeca sitting at a table with the grand jury testimony between them.

Richard's Voice-Over:

As a final footnote to this story, we showed the transcripts to Sal Panzeca, a former member of Shaw's defense team. His reaction:

Panzeca:

We were not able to see the documents at the time I was working on this case, uh, today we would be and I think that the Garrison case would never have gone to trial.

Cut to:

In studio, Angelico sitting at a desk with the two anchors.

Richard:

These records were provided to us on the condition that we forward them to the Assassination Records and Review Board. We will do that. We have also provided a copy to an assassination expert for his review to determine if these files will shed some light on the assassination investigation. We'll let you know what they find.

Norman:

Richie, does an original copy of the grand jury testimony exist anywhere else.

Richard:

Well, Connick told me that he had some copies of grand jury testimony. I don't know if what he has is some of the other originals or if they're copies. He says he can't make that public because its grand jury testimony. He'll probably burn those.

Susan:

Now since you've gotten actually your hands on these, conspiracy buffs who are still out there would want to know, did you see anything surprising in it?

Richard:

Not from what I know of the Kennedy assassination. I mean one of the things I read first was Perry Raymond Russo's grand jury testimony because he's the one who placed Oswald, Shaw, and Ferrie together. But if you step back a little bit and you know what happened to Perry Raymond Russo, he was given sodium pentothal, he was hypnotized at one point because he had no independent recollection of this. And under hypnosis it was suggested to him that there was a gray-haired man at a party he went to. So when you put this all in context nothing's really new. And that's why we're giving them to the expert so that he can go through them and give us a synopsis of everything.

Susan:

Good, maybe we'll get more. Great story Richard.

Norman:

And the mystery continues.


It's too bad that Angelico's report didn't stop after the Connick interview. Two fallacies were appended to it at that point. First, the implication by Panzeca is confusing. Defense lawyers are not allowed to contest the prosecution's case to a grand jury today just as they were not back then; so its hard to decipher what he means when he says the case would not have gone to trial if he would have known what was in the grand jury testimony. Secondly, Angelico repeats the ancient James Phelan canard about Russo. As the recent revelations in the actual interviews, trial testimony, and Bill Turner's unpublished manuscript show, Russo mentioned the name Bertrand before he was hypnotized and without being prompted.-Eds.


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