A Farewell To
I have finally received my copy of Joan Mellen's A Farewell to Justice. I am having difficulty working my way through the text. This in part because the author uses her own unconventional system of notes instead of footnotes. Here is one example:
And in some instances, the notes don't make sense with the page/line referenced. Here is an example:
I understand Ms. Mellen has indicated the publisher may be responsible. When the book went to press, the way the publisher laid out the pages and the typeface used caused some of the text to appear on different pages than shown in the notes and/or index. She should have realized that this could have been avoided had she used conventional footnoting techniques. For examples of pro-conspiracy books that have avoided this dilemma see Groden and Livingstone's High Treason, Mark North's Act of Treason, L. Fletcher Prouty's JFK, Ray and Mary LaFontaine's Oswald Talked, and Henry Hurt's Reasonable Doubt. I could name others but I think the point is clearly made.
A book I did find that uses a similar type of notation is Jim Garrison's On the Trail of the Assassins but even here the notes are easily reconciled with the text.
Amazon claims "Building upon Garrison's effort, Mellen uncovers decisive new evidence and clearly establishes the intelligence agencies' roles in both a president's assassination and its cover-up, set in motion well before the actual events of November 22, 1963."
For those of us interested in serious research, verifying Amazon's pronouncements becomes complex. Mellen is, after all, "a professor of English and creative writing (emphasis mine) at Temple University in Philadelphia." What better way to obfuscate than to create notes, just as the Warren Commission did, that make it difficult if not impossible to fact check her work and claims.
Here is an example of what is, in my view, creative writting:
On page 48 we find "Lee Harvey Oswald's other demonstrable link to Custom's was his close relationship with a Cuban customs house broker, as he defined himself, named Juan Valdes."
One reason Valdes becomes important is because he eventually moves into the Patios Apartments on St. Charles Street in New Orleans and:
"Among the tenants at the Patios was a well-respected orthopedic surgeon and oncologist named Mary Sherman." (Pg. 49)
"In 1964, relations between Mary Sherman and Juan Valdes deteriorated. They fought over the garbage. In anger, Valdes threw a bunch of flowers onto Sherman's private patio area." (Pg. 50)
As you read this you should be aware that Mary Sherman was murdered on the morning of July 21, 1964. The following day's New Orleans States Item noted "Orleans Woman Surgeon Slain By Intruder; Body Set Afire." Her death was the result of a brutal attack involving a stab wound of the chest penetrating the heart, multiple stab wounds of the abdomen, multiple stab wounds of the left upper extremity and the right leg, a laceration of Labia Minora and extreme burns of right side of body with complete destruction of right upper extremity and right side of thorax and abdomen.
"'If I had to say now who did it, it would be Juan [Valdes],' homicide detective Frank Hayward said. No record remains of a search warrant of Valdes' apartment or of his being interviewed at the scene . . ." (Pg. 51)
Mellen concludes "The police wondered if Mary Sherman might have found out something about Valdes, implicating him in her death. One secret that was kept until now is, of course, Valdes' acquaintance with Lee Harvey Oswald the previous summer." (Pg. 51)
Let's test the "of course" documentation using Mellen's notes from the appropiate pages - 400 to 401 and the index on page 544 which shows:
"Valdes, Juan" 48-55, 94, 155, 299, 379
Is there corroboration that Oswald knew Valdes "the previous summer." which would be 1963.
Mellen's only notated source for this claim is Victoria Hawes. Hawes, either on January 15, 2000 or December 8, 2001, asserted she lived in the apartment next to Valdes. She claims to have answered her door in the summer of 1963 and found a " very polite, nondescript young man." who she recognized at once as Lee Harvey Oswald. This because she attended Beauregard Junior High School with him years earlier. Oswald was looking for Valdes' apartment and stumbled onto the Hawes apartment in error. "At home with small children, Victoria now saw Lee Oswald frequently visiting Juan Valdes." (pg. 49-50)
On page 55 Jim Garrison has determined that a piano player, Jean Vales, has a name similar to that of Juan Valdes. He needs more information to make the connection. It never materializes.
On page 94 Garrison is trying to determine from Emilio Santana if he knew Jean Vales. "When he said he didn't know 'Jean Vales,' the [polygraph] machine signaled its alarm. Was this similarity between the names "Jean Vales" and "Juan Valdes" the reason? Garrison wondered." There is no commentary in Mellen's notes about Garrison's thought process nor is the name Jean Vales or Juan Valdes mentioned in On the Trail of the Assassins.
On page 155 "Then Garrison assigned to interview [Richard Case] Nagell the same William Martin who would go on to sabotage his investigation of Juan Valdes."
Page 299 Valdes becomes one of "a plethorea of witnesses who would not come forward:" "Juan Valdes had melted into the night." Mellen contends.
On pages 377 to 379 we are introduced to sixty-six year old Angelo Kennedy a.k.a. Angelo Murgado who claims "I was an assassin." targeting Castro.
"Told of Oswald's being sighted with 'Juan Valdes,' Angelo laughs. He is amused by the obviously fake name." (Emphasis mine)
If Juan Valdes is a fake name why couldn't Garrison, the police or as will be seen later Don Lee Keith ferret out the truth?
Proof of the "deteriorating" relations between Mary Sherman and Juan Valdes - There is none. However, in 1979 someone named Larry Jennings told Don Lee Keith that Juan was a "pest." p.50, line 28
Mellen fails to provide any information on Jennings - his relationship to Valdes, where he lived, where he worked, or why Jennings considered him a pest. Jennings name does not appear in the main text nor the index. He is only mentioned in Mellen's note on page 400. In the text on page 50 Mellen quotes Sherman's maid - "She [Sherman] told her maid that Juan was obnoxious, 'a pest . . .'" If Jennings is not the maid we have another correlation issue.
Evidence that "They fought over the garbage." - None noted
Proof of Valdes throwing "a bunch of flowers onto Sherman's private patio area." as described on page 50.
"p.50, line 27: Juan Valdes throws flowers over onto Mary Sherman's patio area: Interview with Don Lee Keith, December 13, 2002."
Evidence there was a search warrant issued for Valdes' apartment - None
Documentation that "The police wondered if Mary Sherman might have found out something about Valdes, implicating him in her death.
As shown above, Frank Hayward indicated "If I had to say now who did it, it would be Juan." Additionally, Mellen supplies no evidence that the police wondered about Valdes' involvement in 1964. It appears Mellen never interviewed Hayward and instead quoted from Don Lee Keith's June, 1979 interview of the detective. This interview took place at least 14 years after Sherman's murder. p.51, line 20
Within a few pages, Mellen has accomplished the task of elevating Valdes from a flower throwing, fighting over the garbage"pest" into a brutal murderer and arsonist!
I decided to do a breakdown of the 18 notes on page 400. I did so because the publisher claimed Mellen had conducted over 1000 interviews for the book. If true I concluded any page would be chock full of her interviews. Six (33%) were not applicable as they were references to written reports or documents. Five interviews (28%) were conducted by Mellen between January 15, 2001 and December 29, 2002. I did notice Mellen conducted an interview of Don Lee Keith on December 13, 2002 and she attributes seven notes (39%) to him. Who is Don Lee Keith I wondered?
"In 1993, journalist Don Lee Keith presented the [Mary Sherman] case to four medical examiners. In his article 'A Matter of Motives,' all four say it was 'obviously a case of overkill,' and three suggest the fire was an attempt to draw attention to the crime scene. The killing remains unsolved to this day." (Emphasis mine)
Blog # 15
The fact is, without supporting documentation, using a "witness" recounting explicit details of events over 40 years old, and in some cases using second hand unverified source material, Mellen links Oswald to Valdes, Valdes to Sherman, and then Sherman to Oswald. This is classic false analogy.
Then she allows the whole thread to be discredited by Angelo Kennedy, another unknown, who claims the name Juan Valdes is an "obviously fake name."
More Evidence of Creative Writing:
On page 197 of the book, Mellen discusses one of the purported lynchpins in Garrison's case against Clay Shaw. It was an assertion by New Orleans Attorney Dean Andrews that Shaw had used the alias of "Clay Bertrand."
If you read carefully, you find the source of the Clay Shaw - Clay Bertrand connection does not come from Dean Andrews or Jim Garrison but allegedly from Harold Weisberg! And to be clear, the sentence on page 197 does not quote either Andrews or Weisberg. We need to check the note which appears on page 464.
There are many, including myself, who had a long-standing friendly relationship with Harold Weisberg. I have a folder full of correspondence between the two of us. Harold constantly encouraged me to push forward with my investigations into claims put forward by what he called "the nuts down there [in Dallas]." He was particularly interested in my work on the Ricky White story. He felt it was a preposterous fraud. He was responsible for providing me with a copy of the script of Oliver Stone's JFK.
Excerpted from Harold Weisberg's letter to Dave Perry dated July 2, 1991
I know what Harold thought of Garrison, Stone, his movie JFK, and the "witnesses" and "researchers" Stone used in developing the plot of the movie. And from reading the above excerpt from Never Again now you know. In my opinion, I do not believe Harold ever told Mellen that Andrews told him Shaw was Bertrand. There is one means by which she can prove me wrong - supply the tape or the transcript of the taped interview of Mr. Weisberg.
Over the years, we have heard of the involvement of John Elrod, James Files, Chauncey Holt, Robert Plumlee, Roscoe White, and in particular Oswald's self-professed lover, Judyth Baker. What I find curious is that after Mellen's intensive investigation "Working with thousands of previously unreleased documents and drawing on more than one thousand interviews, with many witnesses speaking out for the first time." not one of the names mentioned above ever surfaced in her book! So what does this mean?
Obviously, someone's investigation has to be fatally flawed. I don't know if it is Mellen , Wim Dankbaar, Antoinette Giancana, J. Gary Shaw, Ray and Mary LaFontaine, Jim Marrs or the late Joe West - I could list others but I will leave it at that. It makes little difference for there are those out there who are foolish enough believe anything even if, as shown above, the sources are questionable and the stories contradict each other.
Copyright © 2005 by David B. Perry All rights reserved
On December 3, 2005 I sent the following to Mr. Wim Dankbaar:
I've had the opportunity to go through Joan Mellen's A Farewell to Justice where, in her defense of Garrison, she presents "thousands of previously unreleased documents and [draws] upon more than one thousand interviews, with many witnesses speaking out for the first time." I was surprised that, with all those interviews conducted in the New Orleans area, Judyth Baker's name never came up. Particularly because Baker claims she was involved with likes of Oswald, Ferrie, Sherman, et. al. The only Bakers mentioned in the book are Garrison's former girlfriend - Peggy Baker and her daughter Mindy. Is this because Mellen couldn't find records showing Judyth Baker's involvement and therefore never contacted her or did Mellen contact Baker but Mellen was not allowed to interview her?
He responded the following day with:
In response to my article, an individual who read it sent me the following e-mail on December 4, 2005:
If this individual is correct he might have failed to notice the less that subtle difference between the 1998 Reitzes' interview and Mellen's of July 2000. In Mr. Reitzes' interview we find "'You understand,' Weisberg cautions, 'Andrews was the biggest liar that ever lived." (Emphasis mine) Therefore Weisberg is clearly pointing out he did not believe Andrews. You will not find such caveats in Mellen's book leaving one with the impression Weisberg did indeed believe Andrews.
This person's email only reinforces my belief we are not getting the whole story from Ms. Mellen.