What is wrong with the people on the jury in Robert Groden's recent trial? Black is white, good is bad, wrong is right. I thought Groden could get a fair trial in Dallas. But I'm wrong again.
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Dallas is two months shy of its commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the murder of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dealey Plaza, which probably will come off somewhere midway between tragedy and comedy.
For more than two years, The Sixth Floor Museum, the city's official assassination museum in the School Book Depository Building, has lied about its involvement in the Dallas Police Department's campaign to cleanse Dealey Plaza of people who preach assassination theories to tourists.
Emails and now a lengthy legal deposition — the sworn testimony of a career police officer involved in the police department's "Dealey Plaza Initiative" — show irrefutably that The Sixth Floor was the lead agency goading the police all along.
Why does any of it matter? It matters because the same irrational forces behind The Sixth Floor's war on conspiracy theories are shaping the coming observances in Dallas in November. The old guard — not anybody younger than 60, but the old people — still suffers morbid shame over the assassination.
They want to hide the assassination itself from global view the way a physically wounded person might hide a scar or deformity. Maybe the most telling aspect of the whole "50th" observation is that the word "assassination" has been banned from it, like a funeral where guests have been told they may not utter the word "dead." It's just "The 50th," and it's not about the assassination. It is to be only about Kennedy's life and legacy. Why would anyone celebrate Kennedy's life in Dallas? This is where he got shot.
In this bizarre effort to mask the true nature of the event, the old guard has enlisted, of all things, The Sixth Floor, the very museum that is supposed to explain the assassination. In April 2011 when I started reporting on a police crackdown on free speech at Dealey Plaza, I told you the director of The Sixth Floor, Nicola Longford, insisted to me that neither she nor her museum had any role in the crackdown's most dramatic episode, the arrest and jailing of Robert Groden. Groden is an author who was a consultant in 1978 to the House Select Committee on Assassinations and in 1990 was a consultant to Oliver Stone in the making of the film JFK.
Before his arrest on June 13, 2010, Groden had been ticketed by city police more than 80 times for selling books and magazines in Dealey Plaza. All of those tickets were thrown out by city courts who found that Groden had violated no law or ordinance. So the city tried to get his attention a new way. They hauled him off to jail.
Groden is 68 years old, with health problems. He told me that when he was taken to Lew Sterrett Justice Center in Dallas, he told anyone who would listen that he needed to take important prescription medications while there. But he was not allowed access to his medications during his overnight stay in jail.
Groden is now suing the city in federal court for civil rights violations, and that suit has produced a trove of city emails. On June 14, 2010, the day after Dallas Police Sergeant Frank Gorka arrested and jailed Groden, Gorka emailed his boss, then Deputy Chief Vincent Golbeck of the Central Patrol Division. Gorka wanted Golbeck to know that, even though Groden was already out of jail, "He did not enjoy the jail experience."
Gorka tells Golbeck in the email that Groden was in jail for nine hours and had to pay a bail bond of $339 to get out. And then he tells him the best part. Groden "was not allowed his medications."
Golbeck sends his whole division an email telling them this is the way to go. "This is the action you should be taking on repeat offenders in Dealey Plaza. Citations are the price of doing business and not effective."
In the transcript of a lengthy deposition carried out on August 20, Groden's lawyer Brad Kizzia questions Gorka on his knowledge of the law pertaining to Groden's selling of books and magazines at Dealey Plaza prior to Gorka's arrest of Groden. Gorka tries several times to give the impression he didn't know a lot about the law governing sale of books and magazines on city-owned land and arrested Groden because Golbeck told him to.
"I was informed by Executive Assistant Chief Golbeck to go to the location and address a complaint about vendors in the park," he said.
But later when Kizzia continues to work the question, Gorka admits that, before arresting Groden, Gorka had read a Dallas city attorney's opinion saying there was no law against selling books and magazines in a park. And why would there be no such law, if there are laws against selling other stuff? Because books and magazines fall under the constitutionally protected regime of speech and freedom of the press.
I reached Golbeck last week, who retired this year and is living in another part of the country. Golbeck, by the way, had a long, distinguished career with the police department virtually unblemished by controversy. Golbeck told me that he alone ran the Dealey Plaza Initiative, acting on what turned out to be bad advice from the park department. "The whole Groden incident," he said, "is my responsibility. I was division commander of central patrol at the time."
He said, "We thought we had good legal advice. I should have done my own due diligence, probably. I relied on the park department, who should know their shop."
Golbeck told me he knew there were issues of freedom of speech: "I knew we were walking a very tight rope on the legality of freedom of speech, but at the same time he was running a business out there and blocking sidewalks."
So let's go back and count.
We have Gorka, a Dallas police sergeant, also with a long, clean career, who arrested Groden even though Gorka had read a legal opinion saying Groden was not breaking the law.
We have Golbeck, chief of the Central Patrol Division, who says he ran the operation on what he now knows was slipshod legal advice.
We have this pretty unattractive "can't beat the ride" element in which Groden had to spend nine hours in jail without his meds and pay a few hundred bucks to get out, with Gorka gloating over the part about the meds.
So where did all of this come from? What was the urgency? In a city with more crack houses than you can shake a nightstick at, why were police resources ever devoted to what was called the "Dealey Plaza Initiative" in the first place? Golbeck said to me, "We were getting some high-level complaints from The Sixth Floor Museum [and] from Downtown Dallas [Inc.]."
Pause. Rewind. OK, forget Downtown Dallas Inc. They're a kind of mini-Chamber of Commerce booster outfit. They complain about cigarette butts. I guess that's their job. But focus on the museum.
In July 2011, I asked Longford, director of The Sixth Floor, about the Groden arrest. She emailed me: "Concerning the city of Dallas and activities in Dealey Plaza, we are not party to the matters you have referenced, and it would thus be improper for us to comment." That has been the museum's position ever since.
We now know that's a lie. In a July 1, 2010, email from Dallas Police Lieutenant Anthony Williams to Gorka and other downtown police officers, Williams recaps and explains the whole sequence of events. Police met with officials of The Sixth Floor on June 9, 2010, according to Williams; the next day Longford sent an email "commendation" to Golbeck "thanking Lieutenant Williams and the officers of the CBD for the enforcement efforts around and on Dealey Plaza"; on June 13, Sixth Floor IT manager Brad Hamilton filed a police complaint about Groden; Groden was arrested and jailed that day. Why?
Look, Longford and her staff are museum people trying to run a museum. Their museum depends on old money in this town, and the old money is morbidly interested in the accusation of conspiracy in the murder of JFK. Why? Because they are the ones who always get accused.
William Manchester's 1967 book Death of a President said rich people in Dallas — the owners of The Dallas Morning News in particular — allowed and fomented a depraved culture of extremism that eventually had to cough up something like a Lee Harvey Oswald.
That's the real accusation. That's the ghost the old guard fears will come up out of the cemetery at Dealey Plaza on November 22, and that's why they won't allow anyone to utter the words that might call it up. This is all shame and superstition.
Gorka did not respond to my efforts to reach him. Longford declined to comment.
At the end of last week I spoke with John Judge, head of the Coalition on Political Assassinations in Washington, a loose confederation of Kennedy scholars and assassination theorists. The group, called COPA, has been the sponsor and host of Dealey Plaza anniversary observances every decade since the assassination. Effectively banished from Dealey Plaza for the 50th, they have been negotiating with Mayor Mike Rawlings for some months, hopeful the city would withdraw or soften its plan for exclusive access, heavy security and police cordons on November 22.
Judge told me Rawlings recently offered the group a compromise by which they would be allowed to gather at a site some blocks from and out of view of Dealey Plaza. He said COPA had not agreed to the terms, because it still objects to the whole idea of being pushed from sight.
I said, look. If I'm a reporter from Chicago or Berlin or somewhere, and I get sent to Dallas, Texas, to cover some prayer service for a dead guy, I'm already in a bad mood. But if you tell me they have set up a special concentration camp for conspiracy theorists so nobody in the media will see them? Guess where I'm goin'.
Not to worry. Stories like this one always get out.
What is wrong with the people on the jury in Robert Groden's recent trial? Black is white, good is bad, wrong is right. I thought Groden could get a fair trial in Dallas. But I'm wrong again.
Oswald’s Rifle and Paraffin TestsNot only was the Warren Commission unable to demonstrate that Oswald had committed the crime alone, but two important pieces of evidence showed that he had almost certainly not played any part in the shooting:the poor physical condition of the rifleand the absence of gunpowder residues on Oswald’s cheeks.
The Condition of the Sixth–Floor Rifle
The experts from the US Army and the FBI who had tested the rifle discovered that it was actually not usable in its original state:Shims had to be applied to the telescopic sight before the rifle could be aimed.1Even after the telescopic sight had been repaired, it proved unreliable and inaccurate.2The condition of both the bolt and the trigger pull meant that the rifle could not be aimed accurately.3The rifle discovered on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository could not have caused any of the wounds to Kennedy, Connally or Tague, except by accident.
Oswald’s Paraffin TestA few hours after the assassination, Oswald underwent a test that was routinely carried out on those suspected of having fired a gun. Liquid paraffin wax was spread on his hands and his right cheek. When hardened, the paraffin wax would extract from deep in the pores of his skin any fine residues given off by the firing of a gun, even if he had washed his skin in the meantime.Barium and antimony, which are found in gunpowder residues, are also found in several common substances such as printing ink, which Oswald certainly had handled on the morning of the assassination. The presence of these substances is not sufficient evidence of having fired a gun, but their absence is sufficient evidence of having not fired a gun.In other words:Firing a gun would deposit barium and antimony on parts of the skin close to the gun.If barium and antimony were found on Oswald’s skin, they may have been deposited by the firing of a gun. But they may instead have been deposited by other means: for example, the handling of books.If barium and antimony were not found on Oswald’s skin, he almost certainly did not fire a gun.Three Tests Proved Oswald’s InnocenceTest 1: Spectrographic AnalysisOswald’s paraffin casts were subjected to two analyses. Spectrographic analysis, the method normally used by the police, showed evidence of barium and antimony on Oswald's hands, but not on his cheek.4Test 2: Neutron Activation Analysis on Oswald Spectrographic analysis was considered sufficiently reliable for criminal investigations, but in this case a more incisive test was also used. Neutron activation analysis, which is capable of identifying the presence of substances in quantities much too small to be captured by spectrographic analysis, also showed no incriminating quantities of residues on Oswald’s cheek.5 The result was reported in an internal Warren Commission memo: “At best, the analysis shows that Oswald may have fired a pistol, although this is by no means certain. … There is no basis for concluding that he also fired a rifle.”6Test 3: Controlled Neutron Activation AnalysisIn order to check the validity of the neutron activation analysis of Oswald’s paraffin casts, a controlled test was made. Seven marksmen fired a rifle of the same type as that found on the sixth floor. The standard paraffin test was administered, and the paraffin casts were subjected to neutron activation analysis. All seven subjects showed substantial amounts of barium and antimony on their hands and, more importantly, on their cheeks.7The absence of significant quantities of residues on Oswald’s cheek meant that he almost certainly had not fired a rifle that day.Oswald’s Involvement in the AssassinationAlthough Lee Oswald was strongly associated with the rifle and bullet shells that were discovered on the sixth floor of the TSBD, it is extremely unlikely that he fired that rifle on the day of the assassination. The only realistic conclusion is that the evidence was planted, and that he had been framed.Was Lee Oswald Framed for the JFK Assassination?The JFK Assassination Single–Bullet TheoryNotes“They [the US Army marksmen] could not sight the weapon in using the telescope, and no attempt was made to sight it in using the iron sight. We did adjust the telescopic sight by the addition of two shims, one which tended to adjust the azimuth, and one which adjusted an elevation”: Warren Commission Hearings, vol.3, p.443.According to the FBI’s firearms specialist, “Every time we changed the adjusting screws to move the crosshairs in the telescopic sight in one direction it also affected the movement of the impact or the point of impact in the other direction. … We fired several shots and found that the shots were not all landing in the same place, but were gradually moving away from the point of impact.”: Warren Commission Hearings, vol.3, p.405.Problems with the bolt and the trigger mechanism: “There were several comments made — particularly with respect to the amount of effort required to open the bolt. … There was also comment made about the trigger pull … in the first stage the trigger is relatively free, and it suddenly required a greater pull to actually fire the weapon.”: Warren Commission Hearings, vol.3, p.449. “The pressure to open the bolt was so great that that we tended to move the rifle off the target.”: ibid., p.451.According to an FBI memo, “The results show Punctate traces of nitrate found in the paraffin on the right and left hands consistent with that of a person who handled or fired a firearm. The paraffin of right check [sic] showed no traces of nitrate.”: FBI HQ JFK Assassination File, 62–109060–8.The presence of almost identical, small quantities of barium and antimony both on the inside of the cast, which had touched Oswald’s cheek, and the outside, which had not, suggests that the cast had become contaminated. The results were complicated by the fact that they were conducted later than the spectrographic tests, which involved applying chemicals to the casts, then washing the casts. This has the effect of removing substantial amounts of barium and small amounts of antimony. The apparent contamination of the paraffin cast of Oswald’s right cheek allowed the Warren Report unjustifiably to discard the evidence of the neutron activation analysis; see Warren Report, p.562, which incorrectly states that both of Oswald’s hands tested negative.Memo from Redlich to Dulles, 2 July 1964, Investigation and Evidence File, RG 272, Series 12, box 4, folder 3, National Archives. The FBI’s message to the Warren Commission that “as a result of these [neutron activation analysis] examinations, the deposits found on the paraffin casts from the hands and cheek of Oswald could not be specifically associated with the rifle cartridges” (FBI HQ Oswald File, 105–82555–94) is a red herring. All those involved knew that NAA can only identify the presence of particular elements, and cannot distinguish between the sources of those elements.Even after the control casts had undergone the same chemical treatment as Oswald’s casts, they still displayed substantial amounts of both barium and antimony. See Harold Weisberg, Post Mortem: JFK Assassination Cover–Up Smashed, Weisberg, 1975, p.437. Because the tests required the use of a nuclear reactor, they were carried out on behalf of the FBI at a reactor owned by the Atomic Energy Commission.
I knew Robert Groden in NJ back in the 80's & 90's (we had a lot of things in common, music, tv, etc) and he was a great, very intelligent, dedicated guy with an amazing encyclopedic mind. He had a wonderful wife and several great kids, but I don't think they made the move to Dallas .
Ironically, he and Gary Mack of the Sixth Floor museum put out a great little conspiracy oriented magazine called Coverups back then which I also on occasion contributed to. I'd love to know why or how Gary Mack changed to the "dark side" unless it was the lure of being a spokesman and on air consultant to tv shows (He was originally a newscaster for NBC methinks)
I'm always amazed by the number of people "firing on the grassy knoll" - Charles Rogers, John Files, badge man, the (alleged) Secret Service agent, etc. and the various trios of tramps running around. They must have all gotten in each others way. When the Single Bull***t theory fails, give 'em a big solid helping of disinformation just to confuse everything........
Very sorry to hear about his problems....
Jim Schutze is a national treasure of inquiry, and does for Dallas journalism what microscopes have done for science.
Okay, maybe that's a little over the top, but I continue to feel like I haven't read the 'inside story' of a matter until Schutze has covered it. This article is no exception.
"Why would anyone celebrate Kennedy's life in Dallas? This is where he got shot."
Because you honor people who have died, regardless of location. Twit.
Is it legal for Groden to sell books on public property? If it is, then certainly he should not have been sent to jail. However, I can see why the museum complains. Things have gotten better, but a few years ago I used to get harassed by those guys in the green aprons. On the one hand they make the place vibrant and interesting. On the other hand, they try to convince tourists and locals that witnesses saw smoke coming from behind the picket fence when as if Kennedy was shot with a Revolutionary-era flintlock rifle. I guess I should live with my disagreement with them but those guys down there have been a bit abrasive.
This is an absolute outrage. Bob Groden has been treated miserably at the hands of Dallas officials and the Sixth Floor museum. Breaking human rights.
Shame! Shame on you Dallas, and shame on you Sixth Floor Museum.
Why so scared of Mr Groden?
Unfortunately, common decency doesn't come in to play when a cook wishes to make money by hawking his wares in what should be a solemn place. I would like to see the area become a small national park. Right up to the street. Let cooks have their free speech elsewhere so that 99.9% of the population which isn't stupid can go to, learn about, reflect on and honor the death of a President.
As the retired officer told me years ago one night after a few beers...He jammed his finger into the table hard enough to hurt and said "LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING. I WAS THERE THAT DAY, AND WHAT THEY SAY IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED. BUT I AIN"T SAYING NOTHIN CAUSE ANYBODY I KNOW THAT TALKED IS NO LONGER WITH US."
It seems to me that conspiracy theories should be good for business at the Sixth Floor Museum. The more people who take an interest in the subject, the more people who will likely pay the admission to go to the museum. Maybe the museum believes it has enough visitors without anyone promoting conspiracy theories.
Quote: "William Manchester's 1967 book Death of a President said rich people in Dallas — the owners of The Dallas Morning News in particular — allowed and fomented a depraved culture of extremism that eventually had to cough up something like a Lee Harvey Oswald."
I can't believe that the "old money" really is concerned about some perception that may have existed 50 years ago. From the business and image perspective, that's ancient history. After all, since 1963 the television series and Dallas Cowboys have defined the image of Dallas. And North Texas has gone on to become one of the most successful regions in the United States in terms of population and economic growth.
A wise man once said that the JFK assassination is a black hole from which nothing can escape. Nothing in this article dissuades me from that opinion.
The most important clue to the JFK assassination can be found in this Youtube video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMuF1u94cic
Why is Tosh Plumlee not allowed in the Plaza? What has he done wrong? Oh Yes he was there that day when JFK was assassinated and If he told his story there then he would go to jail. He has been banned from the Plaza, life time. Why?
After all these years Dallas is still known (perhaps rightly so by their actions) as hate city. I recall as a child the vitriol that my fellow 1st graders expressed towards the President-something that they obviously got from their parents.
i was the first hire to co-mingle with the theorists back in the mid 90s and was a meet and greet international greeter. I had a blast a 6.00 an hour
sorry... it's the f%$^& comments SW u use here. shows posted comment, then page refresh loses it, then, well fuck it; if Gavin hasn't seen this already, he ain't doin his job.
Thanks for the information. As one that has defended the Museum administrators — I believed the denials — I sit here discouraged. This is all inexcusable behavior on the part of the Museum and the City of Dallas.
In many interviews I have stated "Dallas didn't kill President Kennedy. It was extremist views turned into actions by evil people. It could have happened anywhere." I have never believed a lone shooter killed President Kennedy and caused the injuries to Governor Connally. I have serious doubts that Lee Oswald was a shooter or even involved. I have every right to have my opinions and to voice them. So does Mr. Groden.
You wrote, "William Manchester's 1967 book Death of a President said rich people in Dallas — the owners ofThe Dallas Morning News in particular — allowed and fomented a depraved culture of extremism that eventually had to cough up something like a Lee Harvey Oswald." The behavior of the City and the Museum officials speak for themselves. There is something very wrong here. Very wrong.
Owner, JFK Lancer Productions & Publications
"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when at first we practice to deceive" themes of deception and self-deceit in Twelfth Night. The 6th Floor, Gary Mack, Dallas Police Department, the Parks Dept, Mayor Rawlings & Downtown Dallas, Inc. owe Mr. Grodan all that he & his attorney are asking for. God Bless the little man & his ability to bring suit to matters such as this.
@RhetoricalQuestion I honestly believe we should have had a brief ceremony at Dealey Plaza, and then had the entire city observe 60 seconds of silence around 1:00 PM. I wouldn't have had a bunch of politicians speak, or promoted a great deal of news coverage.
I also believe the "conspiracy" folks are an important part of the Kennedy story where Dallas is concerned. They sprang up within days of JFK's murder, and they've been there ever since.
To learn the Sixth Floor Museum people were involved in trying to silence a writer, and then lied about it, is very troubling.
@cajunscouse9 What's the point of honoring the death of a President if it means citizens are required to take "their free speech elsewhere"? We're going to honor America by completely ignoring the rights given to us in the Constitution?
@cajunscouse9 Why should free speech be only where you deem fit?
'Land of the free' haha.
@cajunscouse9 Gawd, this was so confusing until I realized that "cook" means "kook".....
@thegrote Pretty much what my mama says, and she was there, and so was her daddy, who was also a police officer.
@MaxConcrete Put yourself in they shoes. How many 70--somethings and 80-somethings do you know, and have you known them all their lives, and how well have they adapted to the change of the last 50 years? My racist granddaddy is still just as racist as he was then.
@MisterMean Get it right. It's not "hate city", it's "City of Hate". Sheesh!
@agross6325 Except it wasn't negative. He tested positive for nitrates on his hands and negative on his cheek. However, testing negative on his cheek did not mean he didn't fire a rifle. It is not a reliable test because parrafin is not always found on the cheek of someone firing a rifle. Typical misinformation regurgitated by conspiracy buffs who do not know the facts...
@ozonelarryb I have seen it a few times -- we're meant to have people working on a solution. I'll check with them again. Sorry. I take it you tried clearing the cache?
I would hardly label what the conspiracy theorist are doing as honoring the death of a president. Also, I'm not saying there should not be free speech. I am saying people should show actual respect and not hawk their outlandish stupidity in what essentially is hallowed ground. Make it a national park is my idea. To preserve the location and the solemnity it deserves. Free speech? Have it all you want, but there is no law stating you can say whatever you want wherever you like. Try yelling "fire" in a theater and see how far your right to free speech will take you. All I am asking is for common sense and common sense says don't defile where a president was murdered with stupid theories.
@casiepierce What ever.
seriously, NO. i just reloaded the page a couple times.
see my other post about this.
the livefyre is slow to pick up on cookies, ie recognize us. even when the home page sees me, and shows my handle at the top it still can take forever, or never without refresh, to get recognized on a page with commenting available.
eg, this page has 1900 lines of code. somewhere, prob way down, is the cookie check to see if i am a returnee. And that often fails, even when the home page sees me, ie , why does it not knowthat it already knows me??
also, loading this page to reply to you, your reply to me was at the bottom of the comments list until the last moment of the page load when it finally got placed as a reply..