by JENNIFER EMILY / Dallas Morning News
Conspiracy theorists can rejoice.
A mock trial held Friday examining whether Lee Harvey Oswald killed President John F. Kennedy in November 1963 ended in a hung jury. The jury voted 9-3 in favor of guilt. A verdict must be unanimous.
In another nod to the questions surrounding the assassination of the 35th president, about three-fourths of the 150 who watched the trial in Dallas County’s Old Criminal Courts Building indicated by a show of hands that they did not believe the gunman acted alone.
The mock trial was part of the State Bar of Texas’ convention, which is in Dallas this week.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Sarah Saldaña, who prosecuted the case, vowed Oswald would face another jury. The case was prosecuted as a federal crime, even though killing a president was still a state crime in 1963.
“We’re retrying the case,” Saldaña said. “It’s difficult to believe there were three jurors who weren’t swayed by the unequivocal evidence.”
Dallas County Medical Examiner Dr. Jeffrey Barnard, who played the 1960s version of himself, said afterward that he could have been more persuasive with the autopsy evidence had his testimony not been compressed because of the time constraints placed on the mock trial.
“I might have gotten at least one of the three,” he said. For the occasion, Barnard bought a dark vintage suit that he likes so much he plans to work it into his regular clothing rotation.
Toby Shook, who defended Oswald, also decried the shortened time for the mock trial. A real trial might have taken two months.
Shook said his client was shortchanged because closing arguments were eliminated because the event ran well past its scheduled two hours.
“I’d have walked him,” Shook claimed, holding the unlit cigar he chomped on throughout the trial. A tan Stetson sat on the table in front of him during testimony.
Jurors should get another chance. There have been requests already for repeat performances, said State District Judge Martin Hoffman, who presided over the case and helped organize the event.
The jury included State District Judge Andy Chatham and Robert McClelland, a doctor who treated Kennedy and Oswald in the emergency room.
Chatham, a felony court judge, said after the three-hour trial that he voted guilty. He believes Oswald acted alone.
“To coordinate a conspiracy setting up a lone gunman would be such a massive undertaking that it would surely crumble under its own weight over time,” Chatham said.
The 82-year-old McClelland said he is a conspiracy theorist. He voted not guilty.
“I believe the people who killed him were two men behind the picket fence,” McClelland said as people lined up afterward to meet him.
The courtroom was within view of the site where Kennedy was killed. It’s where Oswald probably would have stood trial had he not been gunned down by Jack Ruby.
Among the evidence presented Friday were the famous Zapruder film, clips of Oswald speaking to the media, autopsy drawings and a replica of the rifle that was used.
The audience gasped during the Zapruder film as the second shot struck Kennedy’s head.
Witnesses who testified were often composites of real-life witnesses in the interest of time.
According to testimony, Oswald’s prints were found on boxes near where the government said the shots were fired from the Texas School Book Depository’s sixth-floor window. But Shook countered that Oswald’s job was to move boxes, so it would be natural for his prints to be there.
Katya Long, an SMU law student and an intern in Hoffman’s court, portrayed Marina Oswald, basing her testimony on what Marina Oswald told the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination. Like Marina Oswald, Long is from Russia.
She testified that she learned about the assassination on television and immediately suspected her husband was involved. She checked to see if her husband’s rifle was still at home.
When she realized it was missing, she said, “It was clear to me that it was him” who killed Kennedy.
Oswald believed for a few moments he had been found not guilty because Hoffman incorrectly pronounced the verdict from the bench. He then corrected himself as Oswald patted Shook on the back and high-fived Shook’s wife, attorney Shelley Shook.
Because it would have been unlikely that Shelley Shook would have been an attorney in the 1960s, she played a legal assistant. She wore gloves that belonged to her grandmother and a black hat she bought this week.
After the trial, Oswald was nowhere to be found. In reality, the civil attorney playing him, Cameron Cox, had to leave for another event at the convention.
But Shook claimed Oswald, who was booed by the audience at the start of the trial, had made bail. [END]
Source: The Dallas Morning News
[Editor’s note: Evidence of Oswald’s same-day murder of Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit was not allowed to be heard by the mock jury.]