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My 1995 Interview of Michael Paine


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Posted (edited)

In 1995, I was briefly in the Boston area —specifically, in Boxborough, Mass.  At that time, arranged to interview Michael Paine, who I had learned lived nearby.  The interview lasted for about two hours and was audiotaped. I’m writing here from recollection; but here is the main thing that I remember.

I am sure that I made clear to Michael Paine that I did not believe that Lee Oswald was JFK's assassin; further, that I believed he was posing as a Marxist.

As our interview proceeded, Michael —who passed in March 2018 —became more and more upset,and finally ended up bursting into tears, and crying.  Really sobbing.  It seemed obvious to me that Michael Paine’s view of Oswald had changed (over the years, and from whatever it originally was) and now (perhaps) felt a considerable amount of guilt.

One detail that stands out: Michael told me that DPD Captain Will Fritz was very intimidating, and struck him- —yes, hit him, or slapped him, real hard, right across the face —because Fritz was not happy with whatever it was that Paine was telling him, about Oswald.

At some point, it is my intention to locate the tapes (and/or the transcripts  or notes I may have made) and donate this  material to the Sixth Floor Museum.

DSL (5/8/22 8:30 AM PDT)

Edited by David Lifton
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If the tapes/transcript of the Paine interview shows any sign of exculpatory evidence about Oswald, I would fully expect the 6th Floor Museum to bury it/them.

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Posted (edited)

David Lifton, thank you for bringing forth your firsthand account of your interaction with Michael Paine in 1995. Since Michael Paine is forever gone now, your account or information is of much interest.

On Michael becoming upset and sobbing... in Michael Paine's probably last-ever recorded interview, a short clip in the Max Good film, "The Assassination & Mrs. Paine", a late-80s Michael Paine--filmed at the same retirement center where Ruth lives, and according to Max Good already showing signs at the time he filmed him of a decline in mental faculties due to age--said Oswald did it. In the film Michael speaks with emphasis.

Michael Paine: I think if Oswald did it I don’t have to know anything else. Here he has shot the President of the United States! The biggest so-called democracy in the world! That’s going to go down in history. And he was the one who did it.

Narrator: I was only able to talk to Michael Paine [late 80s] for half an hour. It was clear that he was already beginning to lose his memory. From what I was told, he became increasingly incoherent over the next few years.

David, do you remember what the subject or issue was over which Fritz was upset with Michael, or upon which there was disagreement, when Michael told you this?

Again thanks for this.

Edited by Greg Doudna
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David, I would hope that (1) you don't give your precious tapes

to the opposing side, the Sixth Floor Museum; and (2)

you have access to them in writing FINAL CHARADE,

which we are all looking forward to with great interest.

BEST EVIDENCE was a paradigm changer for me and many others.

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8 hours ago, Greg Doudna said:

David Lifton, thank you for bringing forth your firsthand account of your interaction with Michael Paine in 1995. Since Michael Paine is forever gone now, your account or information is of much interest.

On Michael becoming upset and sobbing... in Michael Paine's probably last-ever recorded interview, a short clip in the Max Good film, "The Assassination & Mrs. Paine", a late-80s Michael Paine--filmed at the same retirement center where Ruth lives, and according to Max Good already showing signs at the time he filmed him of a decline in mental faculties due to age--seemed convinced beyond question that Oswald did it. In the film Michael speaks with emphasis.

Michael Paine: I think if Oswald did it I don’t have to know anything else. Here he has shot the President of the United States! The biggest so-called democracy in the world! That’s going to go down in history. And he was the one who did it.

Narrator: I was only able to talk to Michael Paine [late 80s] for half an hour. It was clear that he was already beginning to lose his memory. From what I was told, he became increasingly incoherent over the next few years.

On the claim that Fritz physically struck him--I assume that meeting between Fritz and Michael was Saturday Nov 23, 1963? (which Michael in later years seems to have misdated to Fri eve?)--it is hard to know what to make of that. On the one hand the story has the ring of similarity to what Buell Wesley Frazier has for so long insisted happened with him--that Fritz browbeat 19-yr old Frazier attempting to get Frazier to sign a self-incriminating statement prepared for him, Frazier said he would not, and Frazier says Fritz was so angered at Frazier's refusal that he reared back and looked like he was going to slug Frazier, though it did not happen.

On the other hand it is a little difficult to believe that strictly on professional grounds anyone in Fritz's position would actually physically strike a witness, though the Frazier (credible witness in my view) account makes this a bit more ambiguous in Fritz's case.  

Still, if I were to just take a guess at this, I would guess that Fritz was angry and intimidating and threatening in demeanor but did not physically strike Michael, and Michael's memory or the process of telling the story to others enough times over thirty years had embellished the story to where now in the story Fritz had actually struck him.

David, do you remember what the subject or issue was over which Fritz was upset with Michael, or upon which there was disagreement, when Michael told you this?

Again thanks for this.

So here you go again…you hear some direct evidence indicating something opposite of what you believe, and so you say it’s wrong, and then you try to turn that decision into fact, when you have no evidence. We know that Fritz was a bully clearly And we know what Michael Payne said, so we need to accept it as truth, even if it doesn’t follow your narrative.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Allen Lowe said:

So here you go again…you hear some direct evidence indicating something opposite of what you believe, and so you say it’s wrong, and then you try to turn that decision into fact, when you have no evidence. We know that Fritz was a bully clearly And we know what Michael Payne said, so we need to accept it as truth, even if it doesn’t follow your narrative.

I have no problem with Fritz physically assaulting Michael Paine in terms of narrative. I found it difficult to believe that Fritz could assault witnesses and not get fired over it or have other cases of assault complaints on his record, or that Michael Paine would not file a complaint or speak of it before thirty years later.

Edited by Greg Doudna
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12 hours ago, David Lifton said:

In 1995, I was briefly in the Boston area —specifically, in Boxborough, Mass.  At that time, arranged to interview Michael Paine, who I had learned lived nearby.  The interview lasted for about two hours and was audiotaped. I’m writing here from recollection; but here is the main thing that I remember.

I am sure that I made clear to Michael Paine that I did not believe that Lee Oswald was JFK's assassin; further, that I believed he was posing as a Marxist.

As our interview proceeded, Michael —who passed in March 2018 —became more and more upset,and finally ended up bursting into tears, and crying.  Really sobbing.  It seemed obvious to me that Michael Paine’s view of Oswald had changed (over the years)  from whatever it originally was, and now (perhaps) felt a considerable amount of guilt.

One detail that stands out: Michael told me that DPD Captain Will Fritz was very intimidating, and struck him- —yes, hit him, or slapped him, real hard, right across the face —because Fritz was not happy with whatever it was that Paine was telling him, about Oswald.

At some point, it is my intention to locate the tapes (and/or the transcripts  or notes I may have made) and donate this  material to the Sixth Floor Museum.

DSL (5/8/22 8:30 AM PDT)

Mr. Lifton, first thank you for Best Evidence, as Joseph mentions a paradigm changer for many of us.  I'd only read Seth Kantor's The Ruby Cover Up before it.  

Please do not give this precious historical information to the 6th floor Oswald did it alone museum, formed with the direction of a "retired", "former" CIA agent.  Fact.  Other respected, prestigious researchers have deposited files at Baylor University among other more objective sites.

I'd like to add, please make time to find these files soon, they appear important.  I'm not getting any younger, and you sir are older than I.  Maybe you could release transcripts of this now as a prequel to Final Charade?   

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As we know, even Robert Oswald thought the

Paines were somehow involved in the assassination.

Maybe Will Fritz did too. To suggest that it is difficult

to believe Fritz and the DPD giving someone the

third degree is laughable.

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12 minutes ago, Joseph McBride said:

As we know, even Robert Oswald thought the

Paines were somehow involved in the assassination.

Maybe Will Fritz did too. To suggest that it is difficult

to believe Fritz and the DPD giving someone the

third degree is laughable.

I agree. Unless David Lifton clarifies otherwise, that was the first thing that came to mind to me as what could bring about Fritz acting that way, on analogy with Frazier.

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Posted (edited)

Yes, we know he threatened Frazier. And as you see

in the film THE THIN BLUE LINE, Randall Adams was

threatened with a gun while being interrogated

by Dallas Detective Gus Rose, who was also involved with

the Kennedy case. On the other hand, Fritz was known

to be quite adept at interrogration. Part of his legend

was that he once persuaded a suspect to confess

to murder on the telephone to Nebraska. But the failure

to take more than cursory notes in the interrogation

of Oswald was unforgivable.

Edited by Joseph McBride
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1 hour ago, Joseph McBride said:

Yes, we know he threatened Frazier. And as you see

in the film THE THIN BLUE LINE, Randall Adams was

threatened with a gun while being interrogated

by Dallas Detective Gus Rose, who was also involved with

the Kennedy case. On the other hand, Fritz was known

to be quite adept at interrogration. Part of his legend

was that he once persuaded a suspect to confess

to murder on the telephone to Nebraska. But the failure

to take more than cursory notes in the interrogation

of Oswald was unforgivable.

Joseph, you seem better-equipped to track something down that I've had floating around in my brain for quite some time. I'm almost certain that I read that a character we both know well--Hank Quinlan, the character played by Orson Welles in Touch of Evil--was based on Fritz. Like Fritz, Quinlan was a bachelor who had no life outside of police work. Like Fritz, Quinlan was known for following his instincts and co-ercing confessions out of men he felt were guilty. 

Now, Quinlan was, of course, not above planting or faking evidence once he (thought) he had his man. When I looked into this before I found that the authors of Badge of Evil (1956) were from the San Diego area, so I couldn't convince myself they would know about Fritz. But goshdarnit, I'm almost certain I read an interview with one of Fritz's detectives or someone else in the know claiming Hank Quinlan was based upon Fritz. 

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Posted (edited)

A curiosity is that supposedly Michael Paine, even though he went with Ruth and Marina to the police station Fri eve, supposedly was never questioned there. Isn't that what has always been supposed and the accepted narrative all these years? Isn't a lack of record of any DPD questioning or statement of Michael Paine that eve when he was there (?--I cannot think of any?) slightly odd?

And yet just as in the immediate response to the assassination in which Fritz and police seriously scrutinized the Randle/Frazier family suspecting them of involvement and late that night Fritz personally browbeat and tried to pressure a confession of involvement out of Wesley Frazier . . . it would almost be only logical, and surprising if it had not been otherwise, that the Paines would not at that early stage also be comparably suspected by Fritz and co. Then all that needs to be supposed is that there was some heretofore unknown Fritz/Michael Paine interrogation Fri eve, not a benign asking for help in investigation of Oswald, but Fritz focusing in as harshly on Michael Paine himself as a suspect as Fritz did with Wesley Frazier that same evening, pressuring to obtain a rapid confession. This before the law enforcement narrative had yet narrowed to Oswald-alone which may have come about via LBJ/FBI intervention with DPD later that night or overnight. (Recall until stopped, asst. district attorney Alexander was drawing up papers to charge Oswald as part of a communist conspiracy in the killing of JFK, meaning larger than Oswald-alone.) And now I am wondering if it could be that Fritz not only threatened and browbeat Michael Paine just as he did with Frazier, but that slap could have happened that Michael in sobs told Lifton, and Michael all those years had not told, had not spoken of it, out of shame? (On analogy with women who have been victims of sexual assault who will not speak of it out of shame.) And the world never learns of this until Michael tells Lifton thirty years later, Michael still shaken by that memory breaking down into sobs?  

In that light I rechecked Michael Paine's Warren Commission testimony concerning what happened Fri eve at the police station. Note the questioning skips right over asking Michael what happened at the police station. Also, the original police taking of more than Oswald's belongings out of Ruth Paine's house on Fri including her file boxes, etc., may not have been simply a mistake, because at that point the police had no narrow focus on a theory of the case of Oswald only. And police taking property belonging to Ruth and Michael on Fri did not derive from a search warrant but from having received permission from Ruth to "come right in", interpreted somewhat elastically by police as consent to "take out of the house whatever we feel like taking".  

Mr. PAINE - My impression was that they asked me if I knew what was in this blanket, or he asked me, and then he asked me if it could be a rifle, and I probably responded, yes. It didn't take long once the rifle was suggested as the object to fit this puzzle together, this puzzle of the pieces that I had been trying to assemble in the package. 
Mr. LIEBELER - What else happened? 
Mr. PAINE - We went out of the garage, I don't think he took the blanket then even. 
Mr. LIEBELER - This is the Dallas police officer? 
Mr. PAINE - Yes, plainclothesman, wearing black hats; one of them had one of those Texas hats. He collected all the useless stuff in our house, he went around and collected all the files of Ruth, and a drawer of cameras, mostly belonging to me. I tried to tell him one of the files contained our music or something like that, and the more I suggested it, that he not bother taking those, the more insistent he was in taking those objects.
So with the various boxes and piles of stuff, mostly of our stuff, we got in the car and went off, and he was quite irked that we had wasted quite enough time around there, he said, and Ruth was irked, and everybody was irked by it. He wouldn't let us be helpful, and thought we were--he became angry when we tried to be helpful or something that we would suggest that he should do. 
Mr. LIEBELER - Did they tell you how they happened to come to your house? 
Mr. PAINE - No. I don't remember. I think I may have asked it, "You found us pretty quickly," or somebody said this, but I don't remember. 
Mr. LIEBELER - Do you remember any other conversations about this blanket? 
Mr. PAINE - No. 
Mr. LIEBELER - Did anyone notice any scraps of paper or tape similar to the ones of which these sacks were constructed that we previously identified, particularly Commission 142? 
Mr. PAINE - Not that I remember. 
Mr. LIEBELER - Is there anything else that happened during this period prior to the time the police left that you think would be significant or that we ought to know about? 
Mr. PAINE - No; very little happened. We just bundled up and went. Marina was--whimpered a little bit, but mostly it was dry. 
Mr. LIEBELER - You went with the police? 
Mr. PAINE - We went with the police in several cars and didn't come back until quite a lot later that night, didn't go into the garage again; didn't want the Life reporters to take photographs, so I don't think they went in the garage to take photographs. Several--their possessions were searched by various waves of succeeding policemen, Dallas, and Irving and FBI, and what not. 
Mr. LIEBELER - Now, there has been a report that on November 23, 1963, there was a telephone call between a man and a woman, between the numbers of your residence and the number of your office, in which the man was reported to have said in words or substance, "We both know who is responsible for the assassination." Have you been asked about this before? 

And then later there is this in the testimony:

Mr. DULLES - Did either you or your wife, to your knowledge, know Robert Oswald? 
Mr. PAINE - We only met him for the first time on the night of the assassination. We both liked him at that time. 
Mr. LIEBELER - Mr. Paine, is there any other subject that we haven't covered in the testimony that you think the Commission ought to know about in connection with this assassination? 
Mr. PAINE - I don't believe there is anything else that I know. 
Mr. LIEBELER - I have no more questions. 
The CHAIRMAN - Do you have any questions, Mr. Dulles? 
Mr. DULLES - The only question I have in mind is as to what took place as far as Mr. Paine is concerned on the night of the assassination. Were you in the police station? 
Mr. PAINE - We went down to the police and stayed there until about 8 or 9 o'clock. Then Marguerite came home with us and spent the night. 
Mr. DULLES - You didn't see Lee Harvey at that time, did you? 
Mr. PAINE - They asked me and I declined to see him at that time. I changed my mind. When they immediately asked me, I declined. I did not know what he would ask me, so I did not see him. 
Mr. DULLES - You did not see him? 
Mr. PAINE - No. 
Mr. DULLES - Did your wife see him? 
Mr. PAINE - I think no one saw him. Marina went in the next morning hoping to see him. 
Mr. DULLES - There were no conversations that took place that evening that are pertinent to our investigation so far as you know? 
Mr. PAINE - Quite soon I called the ACLU. There were reports, yes, I think at that time, that Friday night, Marguerite was saying he wasn't receiving counsel, and so I called the ACLU to see if there was anybody there checking to see if this was true, and apparently a delegation, this was Saturday morning, and apparently a delegation had been sent.  

This Fri night would be when the Michael Paine/Fritz of the Michael Paine account to Lifton would have happened. And Michael Paine is not volunteering it in his testimony and except for one question from Dulles (who is not staff counsel) at the end, the Warren Commission staff counsel is not asking questions that would necessarily bring it out. In the only instance of a direct question concerning what happened with Michael Paine at the police station Friday night, Michael answers (a question re Fri night) with allusion to a complaint of Marguerite to Ruth (on Fri night) re the legal counsel issue for Oswald, and then Michael's phone call to the ACLU the next morning to follow up on that.

I can now see it as plausible and in character that Fritz could have slapped Michael, going that one only slight step beyond what happened with Frazier later that night, and Michael keeping it inside out of shame, then breaking down in sobs at the memory when telling Lifton thirty years later. I retract earlier disbelief thinking the slap could not be and Michael must have exaggerated. It is believable that it happened and I think it did happen.

Edited by Greg Doudna
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Posted (edited)

Yes, Pat, I often think of Hank Quinlan in TOUCH OF EVIL when I think of Will Fritz.

The similarities are striking. But I don't know of any direct

connection or knowledge of Fritz by Welles or the

authors of the source novel, BADGE OF EVIL. Fritz, as I gather, was more

of a local character than a national figure until the

assassination. But in the film a license plate prominently

seen on a vehicle is a Texas plate. Welles had recently

played a Mississipian in THE LONG, HOT SUMMER

and a tyrannical Texan in MAN IN THE SHADOW.

Edited by Joseph McBride
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Posted (edited)
On 5/8/2022 at 1:04 PM, Mark Knight said:

If the tapes/transcript of the Paine interview shows any sign of exculpatory evidence about Oswald, I would fully expect the 6th Floor Museum to bury it/them.

Seconded.  Don't go Sixth Floor, David.  Find a non-Texas university that will take all your materials when you're ready to part with them.  Contractually obligate the repository to make available online the materials you feel are most important .  Hopefully that includes the Paine interview.

Edited by David Andrews
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23 hours ago, Joseph McBride said:

As we know, even Robert Oswald thought the

Paines were somehow involved in the assassination.

Maybe Will Fritz did too. To suggest that it is difficult

to believe Fritz and the DPD giving someone the

third degree is laughable.

Thank you.  

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