Jump to content
The Education Forum

Was the Conduct of the Police Lineups PROOF of Oswald's innocence ?

Gil Jesus

Recommended Posts

Was the Conduct of the Police Lineups PROOF of Oswald's innocence ?

by Gil Jesus ( 2009 )


A police lineup is a process by which a crime victim or witness's putative identification of a suspect is confirmed to a level that can count as evidence at trial.

The suspect, along with several other individuals ( which I will be referring to as "fillers" ) of similar height, complexion and build stand both facing and in profile. This is sometimes done in a special room which includes details like a height measurement grade on the wall to aid identifying the person's height. The person making the identification views from behind a one-way mirror or similar protection to guarantee the suspect identified by the witness cannot know the identity of the witness. If the victim or witness successfully identifies the suspect from among the fillers, the identification is considered valid.

For evidence from a lineup to be admissible in court, the lineup itself must be conducted fairly. The police may not say or do anything that persuades the witness to identify the suspect that they prefer. This includes loading the lineup with people who look very dissimilar to the suspect.


There are two common types of lineups: simultaneous and sequential.

In a simultaneous lineup, the eyewitness views all the people or photos at the same time.

In a sequential lineup, people or photographs are presented to the witness one at a time.

The Dallas Police used a simultaneous type for the live lineups in this case.

Typically, the law enforcement official or lineup administrator knows who the suspect is. Experts suggest that lineup administrators might—whether purposefully or inadvertently—give the witness verbal or nonverbal cues as to the identity of the suspect. For instance, if an eyewitness utters the number of a filler, the lineup administrator may say to the witness, “Take your time . . . . Make sure you look at all of them.”

Such a statement may effectively lead the witness away from the filler.

According to the National Institute of Justice, which is the research and development agency of the US Department of Justice, several variables might effect the validity of police lineups.

1. Whether the person administering the lineup knows which person in the lineup is the suspect.

2. Instructions given to the witness, including saying or implying that the suspect will be present.

3. Use of lineup "fillers" who do not resemble the suspect, thus making the suspect stand out. For example, the suspect has dark hair, but only one of five people in the lineup has dark hair.


And finally, multiple witnesses viewing the same lineup must do so separately----not together.

Were the Dallas Police Department's lineups valid ?


The three other participants in the first two lineups were Dallas Police employees. William Perry and Richard Clark were detectives in the Vice Division and Don Ables was a clerk in the jail.

Detective L. C. Graves told the Warren Commission that the way "fillers" were selected for lineups was that the homicide division would call down to the jail office, tell them which prisoner they wanted to show and ask them to provide two, three or four other prisoners who were the approximate age and size as the prisoner they were showing.

( 7 H 253 )

But this is not the way that the "fillers" were selected for the first two lineups in this case.

William Perry testified that Capt. Fritz called the vice unit, not the jail, and requested two officers

( 7 H 233 )

Perry's partner Clark confirmed it was Fritz who made the request ( 7 H 236 )

Detective Jim Leavelle testified that the Dallas Police "didn't normally" use police officers in lineups ( 7 H 262 )

Fritz testified that he "borrowed those officers" because he feared other prisoners would harm Oswald and that "we didn't have an officer in my office the right size to show with him so I asked two of the special service officers if they would help me". ( 4 H 212 )

Less than 4 hours later, however, at the 7:55 pm lineup, Oswald was handcuffed to two other prisoners. In Saturday's lineup, ALL of the fillers were prisoners.

So much for Fritz's fear for Oswald's safety.


" I know in all cases we usually try to have them dressed as alike as possible, the same as each other."

--- Sgt. James Leavelle ( 7 H 265 )

Capt. Fritz testified that the three police "fillers" "took off their coats and neckties and fixed themselves where they would look like prisoners" and were not dressed any better than Oswald.

( 4 H 212 )

But when questioned by the WC, "filler" William Perry testified that he put on a brown sports coat for both lineups.

( 7 H 233 )

"Filler" RL Clark testified that he was wearing a white short sleeved shirt and a red vest for both lineups. He also testified that he got the red vest and Perry got the brown sports coat FROM THE HOMICIDE OFFICE. ( 7 H 236 )

Don Ables testified that he had on a white shirt and a grey knit sweater for both lineups. ( 7 H 240 )

But Oswald was wearing Commission Exhibit 150 for both lineups, the shirt that has a frayed hole in the elbow.

( 4 H 73 )

Detective Elmer Boyd admitted under oath that the three police employees WERE dressed better than Oswald.

( 7 H 127 )

Fritz lied to the Commission when he testified that the police officers "fixed themselves where they would look like prisoners" . Prisoners don't wear red vests or brown sport coats. And it's not a mistake that Fritz could have made unintentionally because Fritz testified that he was present at the first lineup for Helen Markham ( 4 H 212 ) and Det. Clark testified that those items of clothing were taken from the homicide office.


Jim Leavelle conducted lineup #'s 1,3 and 4 and spoke to the witnesses prior to lineup 2. Leavelle indicated in testimony that he knew that two officers from the Vice Unit and a jail clerk had been used for the first lineup.

( 7 H 263-264 )

Leavelle also testified that he had seen Oswald, " the first day he was arrested and when they brought him in and out of the office taking him to and from the jail, and of course, I had saw him at the lineups, what-have-you ". ( 7 H 268 )

So Leavelle, by his own admission, was more than aware that Oswald was the suspect.

He knew it.

Detective Sims conducted lineup # 2 at 6:30 pm on Friday. According to Capt. Fritz, Sims was present at the first interrogation session between 2:15 and 4:05 ( 4 H 209 ) and thus knew that Oswald was the suspect prior to his conducting the 6:30 lineup.

In addition, Sims testified that he KNEW ALL THREE OF THE POLICE FILLERS that were used in the lineup he conducted. ( 7 H 179 )


In his testimony, Callaway quoted what Detective Jim Leavelle told himself, Guinyard and McWatters before they viewed lineup # 2 :

Mr. CALLAWAY. We first went into the room. There was Jim Leavelle, the detective, Sam Guinyard, and then this busdriver and myself......and Jim told us, "When I show you these guys, be sure, take your time, see if you can make a positive identification.........We want to be sure, we want to try to wrap him up real tight on killing this officer. We think he is the same one that shot the President. But if we can wrap him up tight on killing this officer, we have got him."

( 3 H 355 )

Leavelle was telling them that the suspect in Tippit's killing was in the lineup they were about to see.


"Let me say this, that it would be very unusual if we had a showup and .........if they put anything other than men that fit their approximate size and age in there with them......because we just don't operate that way." --- Dallas Detective L. C. Graves ( 7 H 253 )

Mrs. Markham's description of the Tippit killer as given to Officer J.M. Poe was a white male, about 25, about 5 feet 8, brown hair, medium build . ( 7 H 68 ) She also testified that the man who she saw shoot Tippit "wasn't too heavy."

( 3 H 317-318 )

And she gave a completely different description of the killer to FBI Agent Bardwell D. Odum.

She told him that the killer was a white male, about 18, black hair, red complexion ( 3 H 318 )

Ted Callaway, who viewed the exact same lineup as Mrs. Markham about two hours later, described the killer as a man with dark hair and a fair complexion ( 3 H 356 )

Howard Brennan described the Kennedy killer as early 30's , fair complexion, slender.

So how did the physical attributes of the "fillers" in the first two lineups compare to the descriptions given by the witnesses who viewed them ?

Perry was 34 yo 5-11 150 brown hair dark complexion ( 7 H 235, 7 H 168 )

Clark was 31 yo 5-11 177 blond hair ruddy complexion ( 7 H 239, 7 H 168 )

Ables was 26 yo 5-9 165 dark hair ruddy complexion ( 7 H 242-243, 7 H 168 )

Elmer Boyd told the Commission that they "always tell them to get the same color". ( 7 H 131 )

But Sam Guinyard testified that the men in the second lineup ( who were the same men as was in the first ) were NOT the same color ( 7 H 399 )

Markham, Guinyard, Callaway and even Brennan all viewed the exact same lineup, with the exact same "fillers" in the exact same positions, dressed exactly the same. The fillers were all too dark, too blond and too heavy with the completely wrong complexion to match the descriptions of the witnesses.

As if having one blond in the first two lineups was not enough, the Dallas Police put TWO blonds in the lineup with Oswald and Ables for lineup # 3.

( 7 H 179 )

In this lineup, the witnesses, Barbara and Virginia Davis described the man they saw running across their lawn as a white male, slender, light complexion, with either light brown or black hair

( 3 H 349 ) ( 6 H 457 ).

But both fillers Richard Walter Borchgardt and Ellis Carl Brazel had blond hair, and a ruddy complexion. ( 7 H 179 ) And Ables also had a ruddy complexion ( 7 H 242-243, 7 H 168 )

In his testimony, taxicab driver William Scoggins described the murderer of Tippit as a white male, light complexion, 25-26, medium height and weight, with either medium brown or dark hair

( 3 H 333 )

But Lineup # 4 "filler" John Thurman Horne was 17 and "filler" David Edmond Knapp was 18.

( 7 H 200 )

The final "filler" for the fourth lineup was Daniel Lujan, a 26 year old Mexican who was on the heavy side at 5-8 and 170. ( 7 H 245 )

This is what the NIJ says about providing fillers for police lineups :

"Fillers who do not resemble the witness’s description of the perpetrator may cause a suspect to stand out."



In the second, third and fourth lineups, the witnesses were allowed to view the lineups as a group, rather than separately.

Sam Guinyard testified that during the second lineup he and Ted Callaway sat only 3-4 feet apart from one another.

( 7 H 400 )

Virginia Davis testified that during the third lineup, Barbara was sitting right next to her. ( 6 H 462 )

Whaley and Scoggins viewed the fourth lineup together. ( 3 H 337 )


Scoggins testified that he saw Oswald's picture in the morning paper. ( 3 H 334-335 )

Brennan testified that he saw Oswald on TV. ( 3 H 155 )


Detective Clark testified that Don Ables was NOT handcuffed to him for the first lineup. ( 7 H 237 )

As soon as he says that, they immediately go off the record for a "discussion".

Joseph Ball asked Ables if he were ever handcuffed to Oswald. ( 7 H 242 )

But he already knew that Ables wasn't handcuffed to Oswald because three days previously both detectives Boyd and Sims had told him in testimony that Oswald was # 2 and Ables was # 4.

And detective Clark had just appeared before Ball prior to Ables and confirmed that fact.

So Ball asked Ables a question he already knew the answer to, but he never asked Ables if he was handcuffed to Clark.

Instead, he asked Capt. Fritz, and detectives Boyd and Sims,

Fritz, who was present for the first lineup, said he "didn't remember for sure". ( 4 H 212 )

Then Boyd was asked if it was usual to have all the participants handcuffed with the suspect. His response was that it was. When he was asked if he knew why it wasn't done in this case his response was that he did not know.

( 7 H 125 )

But two pages later, Boyd is again asked if they were all handcuffed together. He takes the cue from Ball and says they were. His partner, Richard Sims said that all the participants were handcuffed together. ( 7 H 167 )

By not having Ables handcuffed to Clark, the authorities created the image of BEATEN AND BATTERED prisoner Oswald being handcuffed to a police officer on either side, rather than the image of four prisoners handcuffed together.


Dr. Gary Wells, an Iowa State University psychologist who has researched identifications by witnesses since the mid-1970s describes what a witness sees in a lineup. He says, "The tendency is to pick the one who looks most like the person you saw. It becomes more about reasoning than memory."

"...... the reason I say that he looked like the man, because the rest of them were larger men ........The only one I could identify at all would be the smaller man on account he was the only one who could come near fitting the description." ---- Cecil McWatters ( 2 H 281 )

When Howard Brennan viewed the second lineup on November 22nd, he chose Oswald as the one who "most resembled" the man he saw.

( 3 H 154-155 )

This phenomena of choosing the one who "looks like" rather than one who "is" is supported by research published in 1998 by a Wells-led team. In that research, subjects were shown a grainy film of a staged crime, then handed six photos. They weren't told whether the "criminal" they had seen was in the group of pictures.

He wasn't, but nearly all of the subjects chose a picture anyway.



Helen Markham testified to the pressure she was receiving at the first lineup:

"When I saw this man I wasn't sure....and they kept asking me, 'which one, which one ? '...."

( 3 H 311 )


They did it at least 19 other times that we know of.

The proof of that has been the 19 convictions, 17 of those having occurred under former DA Henry Wade's regime, which have been overturned by DNA evidence since the 1980's .

Wade's justice system in Dallas County was more interested in closing cases than it was in bringing the true perpetrators of crimes to justice.

"Now in hindsight, we're finding lots of places where detectives in those cases, they kind of trimmed the corners to just get the case done," said Michelle Moore, a Dallas County public defender and president of the Innocence Project of Texas. "Whether that's the fault of the detectives or the DA's, I don't know."

Typical Wade cases "were riddled with shoddy investigations, evidence was ignored and defense lawyers were kept in the dark".

John Stickels, a University of Texas at Arlington criminology professor and a director of the Innocence Project of Texas, blames a culture of "win at all costs."

"When someone was arrested, it was assumed they were guilty," he said. "I think prosecutors and investigators basically ignored all evidence to the contrary and decided they were going to convict these guys."


It didn't matter that there were killers out there still at large. As far as the authorities were concerned, once they made an arrest for a crime, they had the right man.


Most law enforcement officers and prosecutors are honest and trustworthy. But criminal justice is a human endeavor and the possibility for corruption always exists.

The testimony from the hearings indicate that the Dallas Police had a procedure for the selection of "fillers" in their lineups. The testimony also shows that the police deviated from that procedure for the first two lineups because there was no one "the right size" to show with Oswald. The police then solved this dilemma by putting "fillers" in the lineups who, not only weren't even close to the descriptions given by the witnesses, they didn't even come close to resembling Oswald.

They put guys in there who were darker skinned, heavier, had the wrong hair color, the wrong complexion, younger and older than either the witness descriptions of the killer, or the suspect Oswald.

They put teenagers in the lineups. They put blonds in the lineups. They even put a minority in the last lineup.

The purpose for such "selections" of "Fillers" was to insure that Oswald was the only one who even came close to matching the description of the killer and thus making him the only choice POSSIBLE.

In the first lineup, the men were not all handcuffed together, only numbers 1-3 were handcuffed and since Oswald was # 2, this presented the mental image of prisoner Oswald between two better dressed detectives.

Before the second lineup, Leavelle tipped off Callaway, Guinyard and McWatters that the Tippit killer was in the lineup.

In the second, third and fourth lineups, the witnesses were allowed to view the lineup together, rather than separately.

Both Davis women each claimed to have identified Oswald first, ( 3 H 350 ) ( 6 H 462 ) and since they were seated next to each other, it is a strong indication that they identified Oswald together.

The Dallas Police did everything they possibly could do to influence the selection of Oswald, short of hanging a sign on him that said, "pick me" or showing him with three officers in uniform.

That's how ridiculously biased these lineups were.

Nowhere are the authorities efforts to lead the witnesses more blatant and obvious than on pages 310-311 of Volume 3 of the Hearings. Joseph Ball is trying to get Helen Markham to say that the # 2 man in the lineup was the one she saw kill Tippit. But Markham is not cooperating, insisting that she didn't recognize any of the men in the lineup "by their face".

Frustrated, Ball asks the following leading question:

"Was there a # 2 man in there ? "

This seemingly ridiculous question ( of course there'd be a number 2 man in a four man lineup ) was used to lead witness Markham right to Oswald, and proves my point that not only did the authorities influence, but they even LED the witnesses in their identifications.

If Oswald WAS guilty, the Dallas Police didn't NEED to put into the lineups men and boys who matched neither the description of the killer, nor Oswald.

They didn't NEED to lie about how the lineup participants were similar or similarly dressed when in fact they were not.

They didn't NEED to tip the witnesses that the suspect was in the lineup before they viewed it.

They didn't NEED to have the witnesses view the lineups as a group.

They didn't NEED to influence witness identifications or to lead witnesses in testimony.

If Oswald WAS guilty, then none of these extremes were necessary and because they WERE taken, they can only lead us to one conclusion:

Oswald was innocent of both murders.

When the lineups are not valid, the identifications made from those lineups are likewise not valid. Therefore, the identifications made by Markham, Callaway, Guinyard, the Davises and Scoggins cannot be accepted as "positive identifications". I believe that all of these extreme steps, collectively, were not a series of coincidences nor were they the result of "good police work", but rather are the proof that Lee Harvey Oswald killed no one and that he was being framed for the murders of Jefferson Davis Tippit and John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

What did the Commission say in its Report about the police lineups ?

"The Commission is satisfied that the lineups were conducted fairly." ( Chap. 4 pg. 169 )

The evidence and testimony, however, does NOT support that conclusion.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If Oswald WAS guilty, then none of these extremes were necessary and because they WERE taken, they can only lead us to one conclusion:

Oswald was innocent of both murders.

I believe the premise of your "if: then" statement is faulty.

Just because the DPD took extreme measures to make sure the witnesses identified Oswald in the lineups, it does NOT necessarily mean that Oswald was innocent. It simply means that they wanted a certain result, and pulled out all the stops to get it.

It does NOT determine whether Oswald was guilty or innocent.

NOW...let me say that I believe Oswald's statement to the press, when he said the equivalent of, "No sir; I didn't kill anybody." I'm not faulting your conclusion; I'm merely pointing out that your "if: then" statement is a terriffic leap not supported by evidence in your argument.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just because the DPD took extreme measures to make sure the witnesses identified Oswald in the lineups, it does NOT necessarily mean that Oswald was innocent. It simply means that they wanted a certain result, and pulled out all the stops to get it.

It does NOT determine whether Oswald was guilty or innocent.

NOW...let me say that I believe Oswald's statement to the press, when he said the equivalent of, "No sir; I didn't kill anybody." I'm not faulting your conclusion; I'm merely pointing out that your "if: then" statement is a terriffic leap not supported by evidence in your argument.

If the witnesses truly saw Oswald kill Tippit, then no "extreme measures" were necessary, including lying to the WC about the physical appearances of the fillers.

We shall agree to disagree then.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now
  • Create New...