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REOPENKENNEDYCASE   

Lee Harvey Oswald's Alibi

greg parker | Published sun 25 Feb 2018, 5:22 pm

Did Oswald have an alibi?

DA Henry Was interviewed on Saturday night, November 23, 1963 by KLRD. During the interview, there was this exchange with an un-named reporter:

Q: He has no, he has no alibi that will--?
Wade: I don't think he has any, but I'm not sure of that --                                                 

The word "alibi" is not mentioned in any of the interrogation reports produced by the participants from various agencies. Nor is the word mentioned by them or any of their questioners before the Warren Commission during sworn testimony.

The opportunities for denial of any wrong-doing and provision of an alibi are to be avoided according to the interrogation protocols of the Reid Technique used by law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. This is because they are antithetical to producing a confession. A confession is the aim of each and every interrogation of a suspect. This is because it saves the need to find and produce other types of evidence, cuts down on court costs and time, and helps clear-up rates. 

Despite such protocols, and despite the word "alibi" being absent in any official document or transcript, Oswald was twice given the opportunity to provide an alibi. The first instance was during the initial interrogation, and followed up on further the following day, and was necessary due to information received by the chief interrogator, Captain Will Fritz, that Oswald had been stopped inside the building very quickly after the assassination of President Kennedy, by a police officer and the building superintendent, Roy Truly, but immediately released. The second opportunity came during the last interrogation on Sunday, November 24 due to Postal Inspector Harry Holmes being asked to join the interrogation team because of his knowledge of Oswald's postal boxes. Out of all of the interrogators, Holmes was unique in that he had not been trained in the Reid Technique - nor had he been present during any of the earlier sessions. For reasons unknown, Holmes strayed from his area of expertise and questioned Oswald regarding his whereabouts at the time of the shots. 

What was reported in the first day news stories?

Detective Hicks was the officer most often quoted in those early reports. Those reports spoke of Oswald being stopped at the front entrance by an officer and released after the superintendent vouched for him as an employee. Most of those stories place this episode in the context of happening as the building was being surrounded and sealed off by police. Over time, the official version of events was that this occurred on the 2nd floor within about 90 seconds of the last shot, well before the building was sealed. 

What details do we have on Oswald's alibi?

What details we have, come from the interrogation reports and Warren Commission testimonies of those interrogators.

Police Captain Will Fritz                                                                                                     

The report for November 22

"I asked him what part of the building he was in at the time the President was shot, and he said that he was having his lunch about that time on the first floor. Mr. Truly had told me that one of the police officers had stopped this man immediately after the shooting somewhere near the back stairway, so I asked Oswald where he was when the police officer stopped him. He said he was on the second floor drinking a coca cola when the officer came in. I asked him why he left the building, and he said there was so much excitement he didn't think there would be any more work done that day, and that as this company wasn't particular about their hours, that they did not punch a clock, and that he thought it would be just as well that he left for the rest of the afternoon.

From November 23 interrogation:

"In talking with him further about his location at the time the President was killed, he said he ate lunch with some of the colored boys who worked with him. One of them was called "Junior" and the other one was a little short man whose name he did not know. He said he had a cheese sandwich and some fruit and that was the only package he had brought with him to work."

From Will Fritz's Warren Commission testimony:

Mr. BALL. Did you ask him what happened that day; where he had been?

Mr. FRITZ. Yes, sir.

Mr. BALL. What did he say?

Mr. FRITZ. Well he told me that he was eating lunch with some of the employees when this happened, and that he saw all the excitement and he didn't think--I also asked him why he left the building. He said there was so much excitement there then that "I didn't think there would be any work done that afternoon and we don't punch a clock and they don't keep very close time on our work and I just left."

Mr. BALL. At that time didn't you know that one of your officers, Baker, had seen Oswald on the second floor?

Mr. FRITZ. They told me about that down at the bookstore; I believe Mr. Truly or someone told me about it, told me they had met him--I think he told me, person who told me about, I believe told me that they met him on the stairway, but our investigation shows that he actually saw him in a lunchroom, a little lunchroom where they were eating, and he held his gun on this man and Mr. Truly told him that he worked there, and the officer let him go.

Mr. BALL. Did you question Oswald about that?

Mr. FRITZ. Yes, sir; I asked him about that and he knew that the officer stopped him all right.

Mr. BALL. Did you ask him what he was doing in the lunchroom?

Mr. FRITZ. He said he was having his lunch. He had a cheese sandwich and a Coca-Cola. Mr. BALL. Did he tell you he was up there to get a Coca-Cola?

Mr. FRITZ. He said he had a Coca-Cola. 

FBI Special Agents Hosty and Bookhout                                                                           

From November 22 interrogation:

Oswald stated that he went to lunch at approximately noon and he claimed he ate his lunch on the first floor in the lunchroom; however he went to the second floor where the Coca-Cola machine was located and obtained a bottle of Coca-Cola for his lunch. Oswald claimed to be on the first floor when President John F. Kennedy passed this building.  After hearing what had happened, he said that because of all the confusion there would be no work performed that afternoon so he decided to go home.  

FBI Special Agent Bookhout

From November 22 interrogation:

Oswald stated that on November 22, 1963, at the time of the search of the Texas School Book Depository building by Dallas police officers, he was on the second floor of said building, having just purchased a Coca-cola form the soft-drink machine, at which time a police officer came into the room with pistol drawn and asked him if he worked there. Mr. Truly was present and verified that he was an employee and the police officer thereafter left the room and continued through the building. Oswald stated that he took this Coke down to the first floor and stood around and had lunch in the employees lunch room. He thereafter went outside and stood around for five or ten minutes with foreman Bill Shelly, and thereafter went home. He stated that he left work because, in his opinion, based upon remarks of Bill Shelly, he did not believe that there was going to be anymore work that day due to the confusion in the building.

From November 23 interrogation:

Oswald stated that on November 22, 1963, he had eaten lunch in the lunch room at the Texas School Book Depository, alone, but recalled possibly two Negro employees walking through the room during this period. He stated possibly one of these employees was called "Junior" and the other was short individual whose name he could not recall but whom he would be able to recognize. He stated that his lunch had consisted of a cheese sandwich and an apple which he had obtained at Mrs. Ruth Paine's residence in Irving, Texas, upon his leaving for work that morning.

From Agent Hosty's Warren Commission testimony:

"Oswald told Captain Fritz that he went to lunch at approximately noon on the 22nd of November, ate his lunch in the lunchroom, and had gone and gotten a Coca Cola from the Coca Cola machine to have with his lunch. He claimed that he was in the lunchroom at the time President Kennedy passed the building. He was asked why he left the School Book Depository that day, and he stated that in all the confusion he was certain that there would be no more work for the rest of the day, that everybody was too upset, there was too much confusion, so he just decided that there would be no work for the rest of the day and so he went home."

Secret Service Inspector Kelley:                                                                                   

From November 23 interrogation:

He said he ate his lunch with the colored boys who worked with him. He described one of them as "Junior," a colored boy, and the other was little short negro boy. He said his lunch consisted of cheese, fruit, and apples, and was the only package he had with him when he went to work.   

Postal Inspector, Harry Holmes:

From November 24 interrogation:

When asked as to his whereabouts at the time of the shooting, he stated that when lunch time came, and he didn't say which floor he was on, he said one of the Negro employees invited him to eat lunch with him and he stated "You go on down and send the elevator back up and I will join you in a few minutes." Before he could finish whatever he was doing, he stated, the commotion surrounding the assassination took place and when he went down stairs, a policeman questioned him as to his identification and his boss stated that "he is one of our employees" whereupon the policeman had him step aside momentarily. Following this, he simply walked out the front door of the building.

From Harry Holmes' Warren Commission testimony:

Mr. HOLMES. He said, as I remember, actually, in answer to questions there, he mentioned that when lunchtime came, one of the Negro employees asked him if. he would like to sit and each lunch with him, and he said, "Yes, but I can't go right now." He said, "You go and take the elevator on down." No, he said, "You go ahead, but send the elevator back up." He didn't say up where, and he didn't mention what floor he was on. Nobody seemed to ask him. You see, I assumed that obvious questions like that had been asked in previous interrogation. So I didn't interrupt too much, but he said, "Send the elevator back up to me." Then he said when all this commotion started, "I just went on downstairs." And he didn't say whether he took the elevator or not. He said, "I went down, and as I started to go out and see what it was all about, a police officer stopped me just before I got to the front door, and started to ask me some questions, and my superintendent of the place stepped up and told the officers that I am one of the employees of the building, so he told me to step aside for a little bit and we will get to you later. Then I just went on out in the crowd to see what it was all about." And he wouldn't tell what happened then.

Mr. BELIN. Did he say where he was at the time of the shooting?

Mr. HOLMES. He just said he was still up in the building when the commotion-- he kind of----

The problems with the reports and testimony

The interrogations were not recorded electronically or by stenography and the head interrogator, Will Fritz, possibly among others, never made notes in real time. Moreover, those who did (Bookhout), or may have (Hosty, Holmes, Kelley) did not keep said notes once reports were typed.

It has never been explained why Bookhout wrote a solo report concerning the initial interrogation when there exists a joint report in his and Hosty's names. The closest to an explanation was during his testimony when Bookhout stated that the joint report was authored by Hosty, suggestive of disagreement with the content, despite having signed off on it. There is a significant difference between the two reports.

The sequence of Oswald's movements laid out in the joint report

The sequence of Oswald's movements laid out in Bookhout's solo report

It can be noted here that the joint report was authored prior to the death of Oswald. Bookhout's solo report was written subsequent to Oswald's death. 

Another discrepancy exists between the reports of Fritz and Kelley and that of Bookhout. According to Fritz and Kelley, Oswald claimed to eat lunch with two fellow employees on the first floor, Junior and a short fellow whose name escaped him. According to Bookhout however, Oswald had claimed that Junior and his short friend had walked through the lunch room while Oswald was eating. Since this appeared to be exculpatory evidence, the two employees were eventually identified and asked if they had eaten with Oswald that day. The two said they had not. One look at the lunch room would be enough to know that walking through it was not possible unless they were already inside and simply walked back out through the only doorway.  Since is is known that the two had been outside and reentered the building at about 12:25 (5 minutes prior to the assassination), and made their way to the 5th floor to view the motorcade from a window, it is possible that what Oswald said was that he had seen them walk past the lunch room - or had seen them walk through the building.

The issue with the testimonies of all of these officials is they were given months after the interrogations. Given that contemporaneous notes no longer existed, memory had to be relied upon.

There was one other issue. The one time Will Fritz stumbled and stuttered in his testimony was when he was asked about where Oswald claimed to be.

Mr. BALL. At that time didn't you know that one of your officers, Baker, had seen Oswald on the second floor?

Mr. FRITZ. They told me about that down at the bookstore; I believe Mr. Truly or someone told me about it, told me they had met him--I think he told me, person who told me about, I believe told me that they met him on the stairway, but our investigation shows that he actually saw him in a lunchroom, a little lunchroom where they were eating, and he held his gun on this man and Mr. Truly told him that he worked there, and the officer let him go.

Mr. BALL. Did you question Oswald about that?

Mr. FRITZ. Yes, sir; I asked him about that and he knew that the officer stopped him all right. 

Police Reid Technique training regards this type of one-off stammering episode as an indicator of lying. On the other hand Oswald was consistently clear in his communications and was described as emphatic or frantic only when given the opportunity to deny all charges or when faced with evidence that he denied knowing anything about. The same training would suggest that this is indicative of innocence.

References 

Appendix XI - Reports Relating to the Interrogation of Lee Harvey Oswald at the Dallas Police Department

Testimony of Will Fritz

Testimony of James Hosty

Testimony Of James W. Bookhout

Testimony of Harry Holmes

Do police interrogation techniques produce false confessions?

Further reading

Oswald’s Alibi and the Reid Interrogation Technique

Anatomy of Oswald's Interrogations



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