JFK Deep Politics Quarterly

The People v. Lee Oswald-- Which Victim?

by Walt Brown, Ph.D

Had Lee Oswald survived his captivity, an admittedly unlikely scenario in hind-sight, eventually he would have had his day or days in court, and despite the persistent, nagging doubts we all have, even to the point of "conviction" among some that Oswald was not guilty, period, of shooting the President and only inferentially suspect in the slaying of Officer J.D. Tippit, the state of Texas would have eventually strapped him into the electric chair and passed serious voltage through him until he was pronounced dead.
The question then becomes, "For which victim?" Texas had, after all, 3 options. Put Oswald on trial for the murder of the President, a state crime then, or for the murder of the officer, or for attempted murder of the Governor of the state. It seems unlikely, on the other hand, that there would have been three trials, or even two, as we can easily see how the judicial wheels would have liked to see Oswald strapped to the electrodes and silenced at the first opportunity. This being the case, the question is again posed: "Which victim?"
Logic suggests the obvious: Oswald would have had to be convicted for the killing of the President. But how much of the events of the case as we know them are logical? Very few indeed. We also know that the case against Oswald was exceedingly thin with respect to JFK (WC and its apologists to the contrary notwithstanding...).
What if the case had been "People v. Lee Harvey Oswald, in and for Dallas County, on the charge that Oswald did kill J.D. Tippit by shooting him with a gun"? This may sound far-fetched, but think it through.
Oswald was initially a suspect in the Tippit case, and his suddenly discovered absence from the TSBD made him suspect in the Presidential assassination at just about the time he was being sought for the Tippit slaying. Although we do not have anything even approaching verbatim records of Oswald's interrogation, it is reasonable to think that some questions were asked about the Tippit event, since we know Oswald was asked why he had a pistol, and that he answered, in effect, "You know, it's a guy thing."
Oswald was initially charged, and initially arraigned for the killing of Tippit, early in the evening of November 22. Over four hours later, he was charged in the death of the President, and thereafter arraigned another two hours later.
How would the two cases compare, using the legal scales as a balance? In the Tippit case, a motive of sorts could be inferred. Oswald was on the lamb from earlier evil doings, and killed the officer to stay on the loose, just as he would assault Officer McDonald in the Texas Theater, with the suggestion that he hoped to use his pistol on him. By comparison, Oswald was relatively calm when "confronted" by Officer Baker in the TSBD lunchroom of within seconds of the assassination. In the JFK case, not even the WC could really give Oswald a motive, since all their character witnesses painted a picture of an Oswald who respected JFK and the things he stood for, and the best the Com-mission could conclude was that a born loser was looking for his page in history.
With respect to putting the accused at the scene, there were a host of witnesses at the Tippit site, albeit with some confusion that an attorney could have played upon, but when all was said and done, a lot of people identified Oswald in police lineup and gave statements that it was he they saw at Tenth and Patton, circumstantially, at the time of the death of the officer. Helen Markham, hardly a type to make a case with, saw it all. In Dealey Plaza, you have a decent number of people who saw a gun in an upper floor window of the TSBD, but nobody identified Oswald in a lineup for that crime, and Howard Brennan's picture belongs in the dictionary next to the entries for "prevarication." [see also "lying," and especially "perjury"] The comparison is analogous with respect to the two weapons in question. Oswald was relieved of a pistol in the Texas Theater, and although ballistics checks were impossible because the gun had been re-barreled, the cartridges found at the scene matched, through the medium of ballistic science, with cartridges subsequently fired. And the key, of course, is that the pistol was on Oswald's person. The rifle found at the TSBD was laid at Oswald's door (or Paines' garage) circumstantially, and a prosecutor would have been hard put to be convincing that the President was killed by that gun, CE 139, to the exclusion of all others. About the best you could say for the Mannlicher is that Oswald's alter ego, Hidell, purchased it, and it was found, after a "Mauser" confusion, in the vicinity from which one or more shots had been fired. Long after the Commission ceased its labors, no less than Jesse Curry (in his book JFK Assassination File) , and Wesley Liebeler, on a talk radio show, indicated they would have been hard put to place Oswald physically at the scene of the assassination.
Oswald's whereabouts, again with some confusion among witnesses, was known at the time of the Tippit shooting, but can only be circumstantially--and then under tortured circumstances--be suggested for the JFK shooting. "Oswald" left a trail of witnesses from Tenth and Patton, past Ted Calloway and others (although Oswald answered Calloway when asked what was going on--strange behavior for a killer), all the way to Johnny Brewer and Julia Postal. On the other hand, Oswald was inside the TSBD when the President was shot; where exactly, we may never know.
To inject a fine point of law, J.D. Tippit received the legally mandated Texas autopsy, whereas we know JFK did not receive a Texas or any other kind of autopsy, as his remains were treated to a government look-see at Bethesda which mocked both the man and the majesty of his office. And therein may have been Texas's way out. Try Oswald for Tippit, because let's face it folks, we know he killed the President, yet there's this technicality of an autopsy, and dagnabit, we didn't do one on the President, so we'll fry the little Commie for shooting a Texas officer either way.
And that may have been how Texans wanted it. In 1963, the "Commie killed the police officer" scenario, set in a southern courtroom with a judge and jury of good ol' boys (not unlike the Warren Commission) would have made "The People v. Lee Harvey Oswald" (for Tippit), make the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird look like a cliffhanger.

Used by permission of the author. All rights rserved. JFK/DPQ PO Box 174 hillsdale, NJ 07642 USA

Back to JFK/DPQ Home Page
Research Articles
About the Editors
Capt. Fritz Notes
Jim Garrison Interview
JFK Links
More JFK Links
Final Thoughts

Updated February 28, 1997