There is a crack in everything That's how the light gets in
The Justice System is broken
Cracks are appearing in the US Justice System. Popular culture is at the forefront of exposing those cracks. It started with Dylan’s 1975 hit Hurricane, an anthem to Rubin Carter the falsely accused and sentenced boxer, and continued with the release of the 1988 documentary, The Thin Blue Line which detailed how Dallas police framed an innocent man for the murder of a police officer.
Then came the 1990’s and the widespread use of DNA testing. Such scientific breakthroughs became the cornerstone of a new organization formed to take on suitable cases where DNA testing may prove the innocence of people on death rows across the country, or serving lengthy prison terms for other serious offences.
Since commencing in 1992, the Innocence Project has been instrumental in the exoneration of 337 prisoners through DNA evidence alone. Several other prisoners have been exonerated through evidence other than DNA.
In very recent times, some of these cases have become the subject matter of searing documentaries such as Making a Murderer and Fear of 13. Popular culture is taking the issue to the masses and those cracks are ever widening – so much so, it is apparent that the system is broken. The drivers of legal processes are no longer “justice” or “fairness”, but clearance rates, political ambition, and sometimes just garden variety revenge or prejudice.
The Reid Interrogation Technique
This technique was developed in the 1950s. It is used with suspects and witnesses alike and has two primary aims
Scenario building (a description of the movements of the suspect/s before during and after the crime and including motivation for the crime)
The technique is used by nearly all agencies in the US, private and government alike, who have a need to question witnesses or suspects. It relies heavily on 1950s pop psychology and while it does succeed in having the guilty face court, it does not discriminate between the guilty and innocent. If you “fail” the pop psychology test (including visual examination of body language), you are in grave danger of moving from “witness” or one of a number of “suspects” or “persons of interest” to “primary suspect” or even “sole suspect”. This places people from ethnic backgrounds, addicts and those with physical, mental or developmental problems, and various personality disorders particularly at risk. It should be noted here that Canadian courts are very wary of accepting confessions obtained by this technique, and the technique itself is banned in Europe.
Lee Harvey Oswald
Lee Harvey Oswald was no different than the 340 people exonerated through DNA and other evidence via the Innocence Project.
The Reid Interrogation Technique, among other things, seeks to deny by any means possible, the opportunity for the accused to have legal representation during interviews. It seeks to deny the opportunity for the accused to provide an alibi. It seeks to extract a confession through various psychological ploys. It seeks to build a case against the accused, and if the evidence needs enhancing, bending, disappearing, or being magically found in places already searched multiple times, so be it. If witnesses need to be helped or encouraged to forget or remember certain details, so be it.
All of the above happened with Oswald.
Dallas police repeatedly (and in my opinion, spuriously) claimed Oswald wanted no one but John Abt – attorney to the Communist Party. But when Oswald was put before the press, he begged for someone (anyone!) to come forward and represent him. He made no mention of Abt at all. At that, the press show was quickly ended by police.
The only interrogator who seems to have made an attempt to draw out his alibi was Postal Inspector Harry Holmes. Holmes was the only person in that room, apart from Oswald, not trained in the Reid Interrogation Technique. According to Holmes, Oswald was stopped by police on his way out of the front entrance and was asked to stand aside while they took his details. After being vouched for by his supervisor, he was allowed to leave. This version of events is echoed in the very earliest newspaper accounts. In fact, it appears to be borne out in the photographic record as well, via a still frame from the Darnell film showing a very Oswald-like figure in the darkened corner of the front landing. The keepers of this film have thus far refused to allow access to the original so that a clearer scan can be obtained.
Will Fritz, who led the interrogations, was noted for his ability to obtain confessions. Indeed, after every interrogation session, the press would invariably ask if he (Oswald) had confessed yet. A number of ruses were tried without success.
In attempts to scare a confession out of Oswald, fake evidence was produced such as the infamous Back Yard Photos allegedly showing Oswald holding a rifle and pistol and two left wing publications. In building a case, witnesses were led to change their stories. For example, Kennedy aide Kenny O’Donell testified that he thought the shots had come from the rear. He would later claim however, that he told the FBI he thought they came from the front. According to O’Donnell, he was told that was impossible, so he went along with the official story, not wanting to cause more pain for the Kennedy family. This story of influence over testimony is one repeated a number of times by others.
IF Oswald had confessed, he would probably have survived at least that weekend. All the authorities wanted was not to have to go to trial with the evidentiary house of cards they had built. In a normal, run-of-the-mill case, the state of the evidence would not have mattered. The DA, Henry Wade, had an iron grip on the Dallas justice system. He could have taken evidence manufactured by a 6 year old with vison problems and still have won. What made this case so dangerous to prosecute was not the poor quality of the evidence per se, it was the glare of the international media on that evidence. As a matter of history, Wade’s Dallas DA’s office holds the record among all counties nationwide for the number of DNA exonerations.
The whole reason that this case has dragged on for so long can be summarized in this way;
Oswald’s quick demise
50 plus years of chasing shadows to find plotters and shooters
Pinning the blame on false sponsors
Conspiracy theorizing and parlor games
These things have allowed the media and politicians to turn the word “conspiracy” into a pejorative while theorists themselves are cast as wild-eyed tin-foil hat wearers.
This case screams to be stripped back to the basics and placed into the Innocence Project paradigm where it belongs. It does not fall on the Innocence Project to prove someone else guilty in order to prove another’s innocence. Nor should such a task fall upon private researchers.
The Oswald case does not fit the Innocence Project requirements on the remarkable circumstance that he was murdered before going to trial.
But all rules need to have at least one exception. If you found merit in what has been stated here, please petition the Innocence Project to take the Oswald case on. Let the light shine through those cracks.