Had it not been for an e-mail Parris Mayhew sent to local media on Thursday, The Case of the Sniper's Perch might have gone unnoticed till too late. Caruth C. Byrd v. Aubrey Mayhew -- so named for the two men who've claimed since forever to possess the infamous window removed from the Texas School Book Depository -- had been scheduled to go to trial at the beginning of February in Judge Gena Slaughter's courtroom in Dallas County District Court. But Mayhew, now 81 and living in Nashville, showed up in court earlier this month straight off a Greyhound from Nashville nearly blind and in ill health -- and prepared to defend himself, as he's done ever since Caruth Byrd attempted to sell the morbid keepsake on eBay two years ago. Slaughter gave Mayhew a week to find another attorney; he did not -- refused to do so. Which is why Parris sent out the S.O.S. last week in advance of today's scheduled start date.
"At the moment my father doesn't have any representation," Parris told Unfair Park late last week. "Unfortunately, my father has a lot of experience with copyright law because he's a music publisher, so he's familiar with how to respond to the court in basic way. But the judge ordered him to get an attorney, and out of desperation, my girlfriend, who's in marketing at Hugo Boss, said, 'Let's put out a press release.'" Parris -- a filmmaker and co-founder of New York hardcore band the Cro-Mags -- wrote of his father's "pathetically weakened condition" and how Aubrey Mayhew "lives in the lobby of an old former movie theater owned by his son ... is blind, on multiple medications for heart, anxiety, depression and countless other afflictions [and] is mostly deaf, has a defibrillator and can barely walk."
After the jump, the sordid history of the window -- and the legal documents. (And this update: Mayhew now has an attorney, Paul Fourt, who has till March 16 to get up to speed on the details of the case.)
The fight over the window has been well chronicled here: Ann Zimmerman first wrote about it for the paper version of Unfair Park in 1997, when a man named Martin Barkley offered hushed conspiracy theories about the true origins of the window on display in the Sixth Floor Museum, which belonged to Byrd and which Barkley insisted wasn't the real thing. Unfair Park again got to it in February 2007, when Byrd -- son of Col. D. Harold Byrd, who, at the time of John Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, owned the building located at Elm and Houston streets and leased it to the Texas School Book Depository -- put the window up for auction. As we recounted two years ago, for those in need of the short version of the long tale:
Mayhew or Byrd definitely has the real window. Byrd's daddy owned the building at the time of the assassination and had one of his workers remove a window six weeks after Kennedy's killing. Mayhew bought the building from Byrd in 1970 with the intention of turning it into a museum himself until city leaders forbade him. He also had a window removed -- the correct one, he insists.
"The window Byrd took out was at the other end of the building, and they only took out half of it, which means they had to replace half of it. If someone would inspect it, like a master carpenter, he would see the window has been replaced and repaired," Aubrey told Unfair Park in February 2007. "I also have a letter from a very wealthy civic leader who was half-owner of the Texas School Book Depository who said he witnessed them taking the window out and told them they were taking it out of the wrong window."
Just don't ask to see the documents. He won't share them.
But he'll have to now, as the trial is about to get under way and ownership of the window will be settled -- at least, as far as the law's allowed, because both men aren't likely to go quietly even after the judge's ruling.
Byrd brought the suit because he said Mayhew's claims to the window interfered with its sale: "Plaintiff is unable to sell the window at its fair market value because of Defendant's claims concerning the window." (It did go for $3 million -- but, alas, not really.) And if Mayhew is ruled to own the window, well, Byrd's lawsuit claims "his possession was acquired wrongfully and in a manner inconsistent with the rights of Colonel Byrd."
In other words, Byrd is saying that he owns the window. And if doesn't, he wants it back. To which Mayhew has always said Byrd "don't have the window [and] never has had it." Sooner than later, this will all be over. On second thought, as with all things related to the assassination of John Kennedy in Dallas, probably not.
Caruth Byrd v. Aubrey Mayhew Third Amended Petition