LEE HARVEY OSWALD was charged with the assassination of JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY in Dealey Plaza at 12:30 pm on November 22, 1963 and the murder of Police Patrolman JD TIPPIT in Oak Cliff a little over a half an hour later. Oswald was employed in the Texas School Book Depository; the building from which the shots that killed the president were said to have originated. Oswald himself was murdered two days later, before having his day in court. He maintained his innocence during the entire weekend in custody, though a presidential commission later found he was guilty in both cases. It also found no signs of involvement by any other individual, group, agency or foreign state.
Did Oswald have an alibi?
DA HENRY WADE was interviewed on Saturday night, November 23, 1963 by KLRD. During the interview, there was this exchange with an unnamed 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 as it saves the need to find and produce other types of evidence, cuts down on court costs and time, and helps clear-up rates.
SAUL KASSIN, a psychologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City has found what can and sometimes does happen after a confession is that
alibis are recanted, witnesses change stories, police ignore exculpatory evidence, and forensic scientists reinterpret material.
All of this happens so that as much of the evidence as possible lines up with the confession. Such changes however, would only be required if the confession is false.
Limiting the opportunity to provide an alibi is achieved by asking open questions. Page 61 of the book, "Essentials of the Reid Technique: Criminal Interrogation and Confessions" By Joseph P. Buckley and Fred Edward Inbau, explains
The interrogations of LEE HARVEY OSWALD were not recorded in any formal sense, as happens now, and at least some of those present did not take notes.
What we have to work with are the surviving notes of chief investigator WILL FRITZ, FBI Special Agent JAMES HOSTY and the interrogation reports written by the majority of the interrogators. What can be adduced from the available material is that the interrogations proceeded along normal Reid Technique lines with basic biographical inquiries being followed by open questions on OSWALD'S normal duties and on how his particular day had unfolded.
These materials do show that OSWALD gave a separate alibi for each murder during the course of answering open questions. But the materials also show that some effort was made to make those alibis moot.
As we can see from the findings of SAUL KASSIN and the table on the benefits of asking open questions, it is expected that after a confession, (among other things that may happen, depending on whether the person is in fact guilty or not) a suspect will recant any alibis already given.
What we see in the case of LEE HARVEY OSWALD is a person who did not crack under pressure and who maintained his innocence. This left the police two choices
- fully investigate the alibis and release him from custody if they checked out
- use what is known in police parlance as "verballing". This entails making reports and statements whereby the suspect has words attributed to him that were never in fact said. This could be to nullify exculpatory evidence or alibis and/or to add incriminating statements (1)
History reflects that the first option did not occur. It also shows that the second may well have.
For example, from Will Fritz's interrogation report:
...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.
From Special Agent Jim Bookhout's interrogation report:
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.
From Inspector Thomas Kelley's interrogation report
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.
Here, the odd one out is BOOKHOUT, who describes a scene that is impossible since the room in question had but one way in and out.
The testimony of JUNIOR JARMAN shows that he and NORMAN re-entered the building sometime between 12:20 and 12:25 through the north entrance. JARMAN was also asked by JOSEPH BALL
After his arrest, he stated to a police officer that he had had lunch with you. Did you have lunch with him?
To which JARMAN responded
No, sir; I didn't.
Thereby JARMAN sank this alibi since, at the time the two workers were re-entering, any sniper determined to shoot from the 6th floor, would already be in place, especially since the rifle needed assembling and the motorcade was running late - something it would have been difficult for OSWALD to have known.
But this should not have been the end of the matter. No investigation was done on how OSWALD could correctly identify two workers who re-entered the building if he was on the 6th floor, on the opposite side of the building to the north entrance used by the two men.
OSWALD could however, have seen them coming in through the window of the first floor break room. It seems under the circumstances that BOOKHOUT's impossible "walk through the room" should have read..."walk through the (back) door". In that event, the alibi is rehabilitated.
In the case of the TIPPIT murder, the alibi revolved around his mode of transport to Oak Cliff and where that transport took him.
From WILL FRITZ's interrogation report with reference to questions and answers from the morning of Nov 23
...he told me he left by bus and rode to a stop near home and walked on to his house. At the time of Oswald's arrest he had a bus transfer in his pocket. He admitted this was given to him by the bus driver when he rode the bus after leaving the building.
However, after being informed that a taxi driver reported picking OSWALD up and taking him to Oak Cliff, FRITZ claims that OSWALD changed his story and now said that
Yes, I did ride in the cab. The bus I got on near where I work got into heavy traffic and was traveling too slow, and I got off and caught a cab.
Having OSWALD change his story in this manner not only takes away his alibi (the bus alone would not get him to Oak Cliff in time to be the TIPPIT killer once you factor in the retrieving of the weapon and the walk to the murder site) it does allow enough time for this itinerary.
From the joint HOSTY/BOOKHOUT interrogation report which indicates that the same discussion on transport occurred on the afternoon of November 23
Oswald stated he [then] went home by bus and changed his clothes and went to a movie.
FBI Special Agent BOOKHOUT's solo interrogation report does not mention any mode of transport, but it is referring to the same discussion covered in his joint report with HOSTY.
He stated after arriving at his residence, then he went to a movie where he was subsequently apprehended by the Dallas Police Department.
The interrogation report of Secret Service inspector THOMAS KELLEY also refers to that Saturday bus discussion.
Oswald said that immediately after having left the building where he worked, he went by bus to the theater where he was arrested; that when he got on the bus he secured a transfer and thereafter transferred to other buses to get to his destination.
There it is, OSWALD's TIPPIT alibi. He went straight from his place of work to the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff via at least two buses, thus the transfer in his pocket.
However, KELLEY also soon has OSWALD changing his story to admit the bus/taxi ride.
...Oswald then changed his story and said that when he got on the bus he found it was going too slow and after two blocks he got off the bus and took a cab to his home...
What other details do we have on Oswald's alibi?
One of the most important pieces of evidence in the case has only come to light in recent years. It was found by BART KAMP in the personal archives of legendary documents expert MALCOLM BLUNT.
What KAMP found are the original interrogation notes of FBI Special Agent JAMES HOSTY who testified to the Warren Commission that his notes had been destroyed per FBI practice. However when HOSTY was writing his book on the case, he found the notes among his files and was convinced to hand them over to the Assassinations Record Review Board and from there, they went to the National Archives.
The notes very clearly and succinctly spell out what OSWALD's alibi was. He had told Fritz that he had lunch on the first floor and went out to watch the Presidential Parade. This therefore is an explicit alibi for the exact time of the shooting and not just for a period of 5 or 10 minutes beforehand.
The above fits well with the frames from the DARNELL and WEIGMAN films which both captured the front steps of the building. One of the very few on the steps left to be identified is a figure in the top left corner who has the appearance of a young white male laborer. The apparent girth of the figure is illusory; caused by the reflection from the window behind him. Though blurry, everything about the figure that can reasonably be discerned, is consistent with it being OSWALD. Importantly, all other white male employees of the building can be accounted for elsewhere.
One more piece of evidence that supports this is a newspaper report published on November 22, 1963 by the now defunct New York Herald Times. This included an interview with book depository Vice President, OCHUS CAMPBELL.
According to this report, CAMPBELL had rushed back inside the building immediately following the shooting and had seen OSWALD in a first floor storage room used for stock.
Mr CAMPBELL was not called up by the Warren Commission to give evidence. But another interview with CAMPBELL was soon published - this time by the Dallas Morning News on November 23. Now the story was that straight after the shooting, CAMPBELL had raced to the Grassy Knoll.