When, in March of 2013, I nominated James Carothers "Jim" Garrison for that year's Profile in Courage Award, I hadn't the faintest expectation that "the only law enforcement official to secure an indictment of and bring to trial a suspect in the murder of President John F. Kennedy" would be so honored.
Chief among my many reasons for engaging in what initially presents as a witting exercise in futility was to fulfill my obligation to do as Judge Garrison and President Kennedy did so often, and at such terrible costs: speak truth to power.
Said obligation remains unfulfilled. I shall not cease and desist.
My original press release, sent to major international, national, regional, and local media on March 6, 2013, follows:
PROVIDENCE, RI – Jim Garrison, who, in his capacity as publicly elected District Attorney for Orleans Parish, Louisiana, in 1967 became to date remains the only law enforcement official to secure an indictment of and bring to trial a suspect in the murder of President John F. Kennedy, has been nominated for the 2013 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award by Charles R. Drago, a Rhode Island-based writer.
On March 1, 1967, Garrison charged New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw with conspiring to assassinate President Kennedy. Two years later, after an investigation by Garrison that was fatally undermined by federal and state interference, Shaw was acquitted. Jurors stated that while they had been convinced by Garrison that there was a conspiracy to assassinate JFK, they were not convinced that Shaw had been part of it.
In what today we know was an act of retribution for his investigation, Garrison was tried in 1973 for accepting bribes to protect illegal pinball machine operations. Pershing Gervais, Garrison's former chief investigator, testified that Garrison had received approximately $3,000 every two months for nine years from the dealers.
In addition, according to Clay Shaw's defense team, government witnesses, including Perry Russo, claimed to have been bribed and threatened with perjury and contempt of court charges by Garrison in order to make his case.
Garrison, acting as his own defense attorney, called the allegations baseless, alleging they were concocted as part of a U.S. government effort to destroy him, because of his efforts to implicate the CIA in the Kennedy assassination. Before and throughout the trial, Garrison was pilloried in the press.
The jury found Garrison not guilty. Later, in an interview conducted by New Orleans reporter Rosemary James, Gervais admitted to concocting the charges. And in an interview with public radio, Russo accounted for his charges against Garrison: "Well the truth of the matter was that Garrison was very sincere. [NBC News reporter] Walter Sheridan tells me and threatens me that he's gonna take Garrison out and take me with him ... ”
Mr. Drago, who has written and lectured extensively on the political assassinations of the 1960s and is the author of the introduction to A Certain Arrogance: The Sacrificing of Lee Harvey Oswald and the Cold War Manipulations of Religious Groups by U.S. Intelligence (by George Michael Evica; TrineDay, 2010), said that the late Jim Garrison “meets perfectly every established criteria for the Profile in Courage Award.”
As Mr. Drago explained, “When I reviewed the award criteria on the JFK Library website, I realized that I might have been reading a concise description of Jim Garrison’s ‘acts of political courage’ and the consequences he experienced for taking them.”
Mr. Drago points to the following passages from the website: “Today, elected officials are too often captives to opinion polls, reluctant to act in the broader public interest when it means taking unpopular courses of action or offending powerful groups. The Profile in Courage Award honors modern-day elected officials who govern for the greater good, even when it is not in their own interest to do so.
“The award is presented annually to a public official or officials at the federal, state or local level ... who stand up for particular ideals or principles, even when constituents or powerful interest groups pressured them to bend ... [and] whose actions demonstrate the qualities of politically courageous leadership in the spirit of Profiles in Courage.”
Mr. Drago noted that, given recent public statements by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. that his father thought the Warren Commission, which concluded Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the president, was a "shoddy piece of craftsmanship," the Garrison nomination could not be more timely.
Mr. Kennedy, in a nationally broadcast interview with Charlie Rose, said, “The evidence at this point I think is very, very convincing that it was not a lone gunman. [My father] publicly supported the Warren Commission Report, but privately he was dismissive of it.”
Mr. Drago added for emphasis that, after Mr. Kennedy said that his father was convinced that “there had been involvement [in the assassination] by somebody,” he was interrupted by the interviewer, who asked, “Organized crime, Cubans ... ?”
“Or rogue CIA,” said Mr. Kennedy.
Mr. Drago added, “Mr. Kennedy’s response may be read as a validation of Jim Garrison’s work.”
The winner(s) of the 2013 Profile in Courage Award will be announced in May.