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The County Jail witnesses


Pat Speer
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I've been adding a few witnesses to my witness database. But have hit a wall with John Powell.

1. Did anyone--ever--talk to this guy besides Earl Golz in 1978? It seems everyone just feeds off Golz's article. It was not uncommon for the FBI to follow-up on latter-day newspaper articles. Has anyone--ever--seen an FBI report on Powell?

2. Gerald Posner dismisses Powell by citing a 12-15-64 FBI report which discusses the view of the TSBD from the fifth floor cells. But Powell says he was on the sixth floor. I've seen some references that suggest the fifth floor cells were for black men.  So...was the sixth floor for white men? And was there a holding cell in the northwest corner of the sixth floor as claimed by Powell?

I've read a dozen articles or so on the criminal courts building and the county jail, but have not found a blueprint of the building. Presumably, this was guarded information once upon a time, due to the possibility of escape. But now that the jail is no longer in use, and the building has been gutted, is the former layout of the building still a secret?

Any help appreciated

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I'm no help on Powell but curious.  I've thought the comment's of the Dallas County Jail inmates were under researched or years.  Were there not comment's from a couple of others looking out the window's toward the TSBD before and at the time of the assassination?

Powell or one of them commenting about more than one person, one of them heavy set in a tan or brown suit, dark complected…?

Powell's not the guy tracked down in Missouri or Mississippi 20-30 years later that didn't want to talk about it is he? 

Thanks for posting this Pat.  If you or anyone else might refresh my memory and/or expand my limited knowledge it's always appreciated.  Besides, there are new generation's interested who want to know the details of what happened.  Often a hundred or so unregistered lurkers observing.  Between them information spreads. 

From the sixth floor of Sherriff Decker's County jail they would have had an excellent view of the sixth floor of the TSBD as it would have a slightly lower elevation.  

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58 minutes ago, Ron Bulman said:

I'm no help on Powell but curious.  I've thought the comment's of the Dallas County Jail inmates were under researched or years.  Were there not comment's from a couple of others looking out the window's toward the TSBD before and at the time of the assassination?

Powell or one of them commenting about more than one person, one of them heavy set in a tan or brown suit, dark complected…?

From the sixth floor of Sherriff Decker's County jail they would have had an excellent view of the sixth floor of the TSBD as it would have a slightly lower elevation.  

"Powell or one of them commenting about more than one person, one of them heavy set in a tan or brown suit, dark complected…?"

Curious when this specific "other person" description was supposed to have been made by Powell or another jail inmate.

It fits another sniper's window viewing Houston street standing eye witness Carolyn Walther's "other person" description exactly.

" This man was standing in about the middle of the window. In this same window, to the left of this man, she could see a portion of another man standing by the side of the man with a rifle. This other man was standing erect, and his head was above the opened portion of the window. As the window was very dirty, she could not see the head of this second man. She is positive this window was not as high as the sixth floor. This second man was apparently wearing a brown suit coat, and the only thing she could see was the right side of the man, from about the waist to the shoulders."

If the jail inmate who said this about a heavy set brown suit wearing man in the same window as the shooter, never saw or heard about Walther's similar description, you have to consider both these testimonies with at least a little more weight because they match.

And consider these physical facts regards the eye witnesses to the TXSBD windows right during the assassination time.

The sun was fully illuminating the Texas School Book Depository building facing Elm and Houston "straight on" between 12:00 PM and 12: 30 PM.

You couldn't have had a brighter and more thorough illumination than that. 

This enhanced the view of anyone in the TXSBD sun facing windows to a detail noticing and seeing degree. Including the color of the clothing worn by those appearing in those windows at that time and even their skin tone and hair color. 

And the viewers of the TXSBD windows had the sun behind them which would add even more ability to see the windows and people in them clearly versus some sun light facing them and effecting their own vision.

You never saw in the Warren Commission questions to these TXSBD Elm street facing windows eye witnesses that tried to imply their viewership ability was in any way compromised because of the position of the sun. The Southern exposure TXSBD windows facing Elm and Houston were lit up like a bright movie screen.

I've always given the TXSBD window observing witnesses more credibility because of this scientific fact.

Edited by Joe Bauer
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Here's what I have so far.

 

Willie Mitchell (6-27-64 Warren Commission testimony of Stanley Kaufman 15H513-538) "Yes, sir; when I received the notice from the Committee. I had a case styled Lowe versus Mitchell that was in the 44th Judicial District Court and I was representing this, as I say, on behalf of an insurance company, and this boy, Willie Mitchell, a colored boy who we incidentally had a great deal of trouble getting into a defendant's case. He felt that he had already served his term in jail and that he didn't owe any debt to society moneywise or otherwise, and there was a serious question of whether we were going to continue to defend him or whether or not he had any coverage, but notwithstanding that, we did settle his case, and I did get him to come by the office one day for an interview, and in the course of my conversation he let me know that he was in the jail serving a DWI offense at the time the President was killed, and I sat back and forgot about the automobile accident and just let him talk, and he related how all of these prisoners up in jail had been advised by the jailers and that they had read in the newspapers that the President was coming to town, and they looked in the papers and they saw the route, how the President was coming to town, and the jailers told them where and that they were coming and they congregated at this window--I mean--this side of the jail. Apparently they had a good view what took place, and he described to me exactly, and when I say "exactly," he didn't see anyone in that window, but I did tell Mrs. Stroud that I thought it might be helpful to the Commission to know that there were people in jail who saw the actual killing. He described the President as having been hit from the rear and he said there was no question in his mind that the bullet came from the window. He said when the President's head was hit, it was just like throwing a bucket of water at him--that's the way it burst. He said it made him sick and everybody else sick up there. I felt that Mrs. Stroud should know this and would want the Commission to know it for the reason that there seems to have been some question as to what I've read in the newspaper as to whether or not there was more than one bullet and whether or not the bullet came from the back or came from the front. I was a small-arms instructor myself over in China, having been trained in the infantry school in Fort Benning, and I certainly feel I would love to, if I could, volunteer anything that would be helpful to the Commission, and if that information were helpful, I will be glad to get Willie Mitchell's address and furnish it to you. Actually, I don't know who else was in jail. I do know that Willie Mitchell was, and I had even suggested that he get in touch with the Warren Commission, but he just has as many people have this "I don't want to get involved" attitude. I mean, he felt that he had already been too much involved with that DWI and didn't want to get involved with anything else. Analysis: Too vague.

John Powell  (11-19-78 article in the Dallas Morning News) "John L. Powell, an inmate in the county jail at the time of the assassination of President Kennedy, recently told the Dallas Morning News he and others watched two men with a rifle in the 6th floor window of the Texas School Book Depository across the street. When he looked the men were 'fooling' with a scope on the rifle, Powell said...Powell was in a 6th floor cell cater-corner to the 6th floor corner window of the depository...'Quite a few of us saw them...We were looking across the street because it was directly straight across. The first thing I thought is, it was security guards.' Powell, then 17 and in jail on charges of vagrancy and disturbing the peace, said 'maybe more than half ' of an estimated 40 inmates in his cell were trying to look from the windows. The two men in the window across the street 'looked darker' than whites and were wearing 'kind of brownish looking or duller clothes...like work clothes' Powell said. When the shooting started Powell was 'looking down. And then we kind of looked around. And it (depository window) was empty then.'...Powell was located by the news after a tip that resulted from news accounts of (eyewitness Charles) Bronson's film." Analysis: I resisted adding Powell's statements for a long time because I didn't believe his story. But, on closer inspection, I feel he may have been telling the truth as he knew it. After all, he makes no claims of hearing six shots, two each from three different locations, with the last two shots fired from the grassy knoll, or anything equally out of line with what others recalled. There's also the surprising fact he didn't come forward but was instead tracked down. So...maybe? 

Further discussion of Mitchell's and Powell's value as witnesses. While Gerald Posner, among others, cites as evidence Powell lied a 12-15-64 FBI report written in response to an investigation spurred by a former FBI informant's claim 17 eyewitnesses in the hospital ward of the jail were never interviewed about the assassination, I believe he goes too far. First of all, the FBI report addresses the possibility of a witness viewing the motorcade from a hospital ward on the fifth floor, for colored men, and not a holding cell on the sixth, for white men. Well, the jail went up to the seventh floor and beyond. So...were there cells on the sixth floor? I've found some sources that say yes. I've been unable to find, moreover, the location of the holding cells for white men. So it remains possible there was a holding cell on the sixth floor, and that Powell was in this cell on November 22,1963. Second of all, the FBI report cited by Posner admits one could see the location of the head shot from the fifth floor holding cell (which supports what Mitchell told Kaufman back in '64), but not the school book depository. It then admits there was an adjacent holding cell in the northwest corner of the building that looked right out on the school book depository, but that it was only used Friday nights as a cell for those previously convicted of driving while intoxicated. The report states: "Texas law states any part of a day constitutes a full day's credit on drunk sentences" and notes that those serving sentences for drunk driving could show up late on a Friday night and be released on Monday. Well, is it so unlikely this cell was opened a little early on November 22, 1963? Powell admitted he was arrested for vagrancy and disturbing the peace. If so, he may very well have been serving a three day sentence, and have willingly admitted himself to the cell ahead of those yet to come in, perhaps to get a free meal or two. But no, the report continues: "Holman further advised that (there were) no DWI prisoners in this particular cell at time of assassination." But I don't buy this. This was more than a year before. Methinks he be bluffing. This brings us then to my main problem with this 12-15-64 report used by Posner to debunk Powell. And that is that it smells bad. It states: "On December 14, 1964, Sheriff Bill Decker, Dallas County Sheriff's office, Dallas, Texas, advised that thorough investigation was conducted at the Dallas County Jail immediately subsequent to the assassination and no witnesses to same were located among inmates." But this was bullxxxx. It defies belief that the Sheriffs talked to the prisoners overlooking the plaza to find out what they saw. As we've seen, there were a number of witnesses to the assassination viewing from the lower floors of this building who were not contacted by the Sheriff's Dept. "immediately subsequent to the assassination" and who were only brought forward after the FBI followed up on a newspaper article quoting one of these witnesses. So this idea pushed by Decker that his department did a thorough investigation of all the witnesses in the building is nonsense. That Decker and Chief Jailer Ernest Holman were trying to conceal the possibility someone did see something from the jail becomes clear, moreover, by other parts of the FBI report. After reporting Holman's claim the fifth floor corner cell overlooking the depository would not have been occupied on a Friday afternoon, the FBI report says Holman noted that the window is "very dirty" and that a view from this window would be "distorted." The report then states: "Both Sheriff Decker and Holman pointed out that anyone who would have been confined in hospital section of fifth floor of the jail at time of assassination would have been a mental case and reliability of such person would be highly questionable. Holman noted that it would be a most difficult and time consuming task to at this late date attempt to determine just who was confined in hospital ward at time of assassination." Well, this is a non-sequitur, right? If, as suggested by Decker, the Sheriff's Dept. had spoken to all the prisoners in cells overlooking the plaza, there ought to be a list of these witnesses somewhere in their files. But no. No such list exists. So....circling back to Powell. It seems that someone could have seen something from the upper floors of the jail...and that the Sheriff's Dept. sought to cover this up. 

 

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11 hours ago, Pat Speer said:

Here's what I have so far.

 

Willie Mitchell (6-27-64 Warren Commission testimony of Stanley Kaufman 15H513-538) "Yes, sir; when I received the notice from the Committee. I had a case styled Lowe versus Mitchell that was in the 44th Judicial District Court and I was representing this, as I say, on behalf of an insurance company, and this boy, Willie Mitchell, a colored boy who we incidentally had a great deal of trouble getting into a defendant's case. He felt that he had already served his term in jail and that he didn't owe any debt to society moneywise or otherwise, and there was a serious question of whether we were going to continue to defend him or whether or not he had any coverage, but notwithstanding that, we did settle his case, and I did get him to come by the office one day for an interview, and in the course of my conversation he let me know that he was in the jail serving a DWI offense at the time the President was killed, and I sat back and forgot about the automobile accident and just let him talk, and he related how all of these prisoners up in jail had been advised by the jailers and that they had read in the newspapers that the President was coming to town, and they looked in the papers and they saw the route, how the President was coming to town, and the jailers told them where and that they were coming and they congregated at this window--I mean--this side of the jail. Apparently they had a good view what took place, and he described to me exactly, and when I say "exactly," he didn't see anyone in that window, but I did tell Mrs. Stroud that I thought it might be helpful to the Commission to know that there were people in jail who saw the actual killing. He described the President as having been hit from the rear and he said there was no question in his mind that the bullet came from the window. He said when the President's head was hit, it was just like throwing a bucket of water at him--that's the way it burst. He said it made him sick and everybody else sick up there. I felt that Mrs. Stroud should know this and would want the Commission to know it for the reason that there seems to have been some question as to what I've read in the newspaper as to whether or not there was more than one bullet and whether or not the bullet came from the back or came from the front. I was a small-arms instructor myself over in China, having been trained in the infantry school in Fort Benning, and I certainly feel I would love to, if I could, volunteer anything that would be helpful to the Commission, and if that information were helpful, I will be glad to get Willie Mitchell's address and furnish it to you. Actually, I don't know who else was in jail. I do know that Willie Mitchell was, and I had even suggested that he get in touch with the Warren Commission, but he just has as many people have this "I don't want to get involved" attitude. I mean, he felt that he had already been too much involved with that DWI and didn't want to get involved with anything else. Analysis: Too vague.

John Powell  (11-19-78 article in the Dallas Morning News) "John L. Powell, an inmate in the county jail at the time of the assassination of President Kennedy, recently told the Dallas Morning News he and others watched two men with a rifle in the 6th floor window of the Texas School Book Depository across the street. When he looked the men were 'fooling' with a scope on the rifle, Powell said...Powell was in a 6th floor cell cater-corner to the 6th floor corner window of the depository...'Quite a few of us saw them...We were looking across the street because it was directly straight across. The first thing I thought is, it was security guards.' Powell, then 17 and in jail on charges of vagrancy and disturbing the peace, said 'maybe more than half ' of an estimated 40 inmates in his cell were trying to look from the windows. The two men in the window across the street 'looked darker' than whites and were wearing 'kind of brownish looking or duller clothes...like work clothes' Powell said. When the shooting started Powell was 'looking down. And then we kind of looked around. And it (depository window) was empty then.'...Powell was located by the news after a tip that resulted from news accounts of (eyewitness Charles) Bronson's film." Analysis: I resisted adding Powell's statements for a long time because I didn't believe his story. But, on closer inspection, I feel he may have been telling the truth as he knew it. After all, he makes no claims of hearing six shots, two each from three different locations, with the last two shots fired from the grassy knoll, or anything equally out of line with what others recalled. There's also the surprising fact he didn't come forward but was instead tracked down. So...maybe? 

Further discussion of Mitchell's and Powell's value as witnesses. While Gerald Posner, among others, cites as evidence Powell lied a 12-15-64 FBI report written in response to an investigation spurred by a former FBI informant's claim 17 eyewitnesses in the hospital ward of the jail were never interviewed about the assassination, I believe he goes too far. First of all, the FBI report addresses the possibility of a witness viewing the motorcade from a hospital ward on the fifth floor, for colored men, and not a holding cell on the sixth, for white men. Well, the jail went up to the seventh floor and beyond. So...were there cells on the sixth floor? I've found some sources that say yes. I've been unable to find, moreover, the location of the holding cells for white men. So it remains possible there was a holding cell on the sixth floor, and that Powell was in this cell on November 22,1963. Second of all, the FBI report cited by Posner admits one could see the location of the head shot from the fifth floor holding cell (which supports what Mitchell told Kaufman back in '64), but not the school book depository. It then admits there was an adjacent holding cell in the northwest corner of the building that looked right out on the school book depository, but that it was only used Friday nights as a cell for those previously convicted of driving while intoxicated. The report states: "Texas law states any part of a day constitutes a full day's credit on drunk sentences" and notes that those serving sentences for drunk driving could show up late on a Friday night and be released on Monday. Well, is it so unlikely this cell was opened a little early on November 22, 1963? Powell admitted he was arrested for vagrancy and disturbing the peace. If so, he may very well have been serving a three day sentence, and have willingly admitted himself to the cell ahead of those yet to come in, perhaps to get a free meal or two. But no, the report continues: "Holman further advised that (there were) no DWI prisoners in this particular cell at time of assassination." But I don't buy this. This was more than a year before. Methinks he be bluffing. This brings us then to my main problem with this 12-15-64 report used by Posner to debunk Powell. And that is that it smells bad. It states: "On December 14, 1964, Sheriff Bill Decker, Dallas County Sheriff's office, Dallas, Texas, advised that thorough investigation was conducted at the Dallas County Jail immediately subsequent to the assassination and no witnesses to same were located among inmates." But this was bullxxxx. It defies belief that the Sheriffs talked to the prisoners overlooking the plaza to find out what they saw. As we've seen, there were a number of witnesses to the assassination viewing from the lower floors of this building who were not contacted by the Sheriff's Dept. "immediately subsequent to the assassination" and who were only brought forward after the FBI followed up on a newspaper article quoting one of these witnesses. So this idea pushed by Decker that his department did a thorough investigation of all the witnesses in the building is nonsense. That Decker and Chief Jailer Ernest Holman were trying to conceal the possibility someone did see something from the jail becomes clear, moreover, by other parts of the FBI report. After reporting Holman's claim the fifth floor corner cell overlooking the depository would not have been occupied on a Friday afternoon, the FBI report says Holman noted that the window is "very dirty" and that a view from this window would be "distorted." The report then states: "Both Sheriff Decker and Holman pointed out that anyone who would have been confined in hospital section of fifth floor of the jail at time of assassination would have been a mental case and reliability of such person would be highly questionable. Holman noted that it would be a most difficult and time consuming task to at this late date attempt to determine just who was confined in hospital ward at time of assassination." Well, this is a non-sequitur, right? If, as suggested by Decker, the Sheriff's Dept. had spoken to all the prisoners in cells overlooking the plaza, there ought to be a list of these witnesses somewhere in their files. But no. No such list exists. So....circling back to Powell. It seems that someone could have seen something from the upper floors of the jail...and that the Sheriff's Dept. sought to cover this up. 

 

Decker or his Sherriff's department didn't investigate squat.  Certainly not what any prisoners in the county jail might have saw.  Decker wanted nothing to do with the parade, assassination or Oswald.  He ordered his deputies to go out front and watch the parade, which some complained about, but specifically Not to assume any role in security.  Roger Craig disobeyed orders and didn't shut up about it.  Decker fired him.  No planned role for the President's security during his visit for the county Sherriff's department makes me wonder.  Not even a be alert for suspicious persons in the morning meeting? 

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  • 2 weeks later...

In the Stone film it is asserted that a view from the Dallas jail was possible and that several prisoners managed to see a shooter on the 6th floor.

I always thought it being odd without the jailer(s) being alerted by the noise. This should have come out one way or another. This documentation, thanks to Malcolm Blunt, clears things up a little.
 
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So Decker's people reputedly investigated the mental patients on the 5th floor of the jail.  But not the, possibly more competent prisoners on the 6th floor.  What BS why did they bother, other than for cover?  If they actually did so, more likely a story for cover to squelch pursuit of the Truth.

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24 minutes ago, Ron Bulman said:

So Decker's people reputedly investigated the mental patients on the 5th floor of the jail.  But not the, possibly more competent prisoners on the 6th floor.  What BS why did they bother, other than for cover?  If they actually did so, more likely a story for cover to squelch pursuit of the Truth.

They did as little as possible. Blunt was a black informant for the FBI who'd fallen out of favor. He came back to them with his claim about the medical ward witnesses. So they double-checked with the jailer and the Sheriff and they said "Nah, there's no way anyone could have seen anything," and "It would be awfully difficult for us to figure out who was in those cells in any case so we're not even gonna try." And that was it. 

When you study this case in detail, you see this over and over. No one wanted to be thorough or even adequate, because that might send the signal you doubted the "official" conclusion it was Oswald all by his lonesome. And that could be bad for your career. 

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20 minutes ago, James DiEugenio said:

Does this mean the best info we have on this is from Golz?

As admitted above, I resisted including Powell's statements in my witness list until looking into this the other day, and realizing the 1964 memos posted by Bart were in reference to the fifth floor, and weren't all that credible anyway. 

So, yeah, from my perspective, Golz's article has not been countered in any meaningful way. Powell could be a fibber or a con-man. We don't know. But Posner's attempt to discredit him with those 1964 memos was smoke. 

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On 3/30/2019 at 1:05 AM, Pat Speer said:

As admitted above, I resisted including Powell's statements in my witness list until looking into this the other day, and realizing the 1964 memos posted by Bart were in reference to the fifth floor, and weren't all that credible anyway. 

So, yeah, from my perspective, Golz's article has not been countered in any meaningful way. Powell could be a fibber or a con-man. We don't know. But Posner's attempt to discredit him with those 1964 memos was smoke.  

Posner's smoke for Operation Mockingbird on behalf of the CIA could use a little musical levity.  And attraction to the subject/ topic.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=smoke+on+the+water&view=detail&mid=2239BB2AEC6B575CA29B2239BB2AEC6B575CA29B&FORM=VIRE

A classic, less than 10 years after the assassination, a comment on how much music changed from 1963 to then, as well as dress.  A result in part of it?

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