Page 5


The curious testimony of Mr. Givens By Sylvia Meagher New York City One witness who helped to incriminate Lee Harvey Oswald in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a Book Depository porter named Charles Givens. The Warren Commission gave prominence to his testimony that he had forgotten his cigarettes on the sixth floor and that when he went to retrieve them just before noon he had encountered Oswald near the southeast corner window. In a book published in 1967 \(Accessories After The Fact, Bobbs-Merrill between the Givens story as set forth in the Warren Report and the corresponding testimony and exhibits, and the grounds for concluding that the story suggested perjury and collusion. It was logically inconsistent with a genuine encounter at about 11:45 between Oswald and a group of employees who were racing two elevators from the sixth to the first floor, when Oswald had called to them to send one elevator back so that he could go down too. Ten minutes later, if one accepted Givens’ testimony, Oswald declined to go down for the lunch break. Moreover, while Givens supposedly exchanged a few words with Oswald on the sixth floor, other witnesses observed him on the first floor. Most of all, Givens’ testimony was suspect because in his affidavit to the Dallas police later that afternoon he said nothing about forgetting his cigarettes, returning to the sixth floor, or meeting Oswald there an omission that was incomprehensible, if the encounter was authentic. THAT IS HOW the situation appeared back in 1967. Some months ago, I obtained from the National Archives a collection of unpublished Warren concerning Charles Givens. Reading them was a shock not soon to be forgotten. I had half-expected that the CD’s would reconcile and dispose of the contradictions that earlier had forced me to question the legitimacy of the Givens testimony. Instead, these new documents raise even stronger questions about Givens’ testimony and the role of two or more Warren Commission lawyers in extracting that testimony. Here is a chronological reconstruction of the Givens affair from which anyone easily can judge for himself whether or not there Ms. Meagher is one of the more serious students of the assassination of President Kennedy and the Warren Report. She has published articles and reviews in Commonweal, Esquire, the now-defunct Minority of One and other publications. are sufficient grounds for an accusation of perjury, collusion, and falsification of evidence with the clear purpose of incriminating Oswald as the assassin of President Kennedy. \(The citations in each case refer to both published transcripts and exhibits and to unpublished commission November 22, 1963 At 1:46 p.m. Inspector Sawyer of the Dallas police issued an alert on the police radio for Charles Givens, a porter at the Book Depository, because he had “a police was known at that hour that Oswald, too, had left the scene but no alert for him was issued Captain Will Fritz and two detectives intended to proceed to Irving personally, in search of Oswald. Within an hour or two, Givens was escorted to the police headquarters, where he was questioned and where he executed an affidavit stating that he had left the sixth floor at about 11:30 a.m., had gone to the washroom, at noon had taken his lunch period, had gone to a parking lot to visit with a friend employed there \(CE nothing about a return to the sixth. floor for cigarettes or an encounter there with Oswald. Later that day Givens was interviewed by FBI agents Griffen and Odum. He gave them the same story as in the affidavit but added one additional piece of information that at 11:50 a.m. he had seen Oswald reading a paper in the “domino room” on the first floor November 23, 1963 Bonnie Ray Williams, another Book Depository employee, in an interview by FBI agents Griffen and Odum described a race between two elevators on November 22nd at about 11:30 a.m. in which he, Givens, and others participated. On the way down, they had seen Oswald on the fifth floor. Williams had returned to the sixth floor at about noon and had seen no December 2, 1963 Givens, interviewed by the Secret Service, said that he had seen Oswald with a clipboard on the sixth floor at about 11:45 a.m., shortly after which he and some fellow-workers had boarded the two elevators. While racing to the first floor, Oswald had called to them to send one elevator back up \(Ball/Belin Report No. 1, nothing about a return to the sixth floor for his cigarettes at any time after the elevator race. December 9, 1963 The FBI Summary Report \(withheld from the public until mid-1966, when certain excerpts were published in the book Inquest, raising a furor of doubt Johnson stated that Oswald had been observed on the fifth floor between 11:30 a.m. and noon and that during that period of time he had asked Givens, who was in an elevator, to close the gates when he got off so that the elevator could be summoned omits Givens’ statement to two FBI agents on the day of the assassination that he had seen Oswald reading a paper in the domino room at 11:50. February 13,1964 Lt. Jack Revill of the Dallas police was interviewed by FBI agent Robert Gemberling about press rumors of a Negro being held in protective custody. Revill “stated that Givens had been previously handled by the Special Services Bureau on a marijuana charge and he believes that Givens would change his story for money.” repeats the story of the elevator race during which Oswald yelled to Givens to close the gates when he got off \(CD 735 the “fact,” there is still no hint from Givens, Revill, or the FBI of cigarettes forgotten by Givens or his return to the sixth floor and encounter there with Oswald. But in another context, Revill volunteers the opinion that Givens would give false information “for money.” February 25,1964 Warren Commission lawyers Joseph Ball and David Belin complete a first joint report, summarizing the evidence known by that date, and note discrepancies as to the time of Givens’ departure \(and elevator against 11:40 or 11:45 a.m. Ball and Belin also note that Givens saw Oswald at 11:50 a.m. in the domino room and that three other witnesses also place Oswald on the first floor William Shelley, at about 11:50 a.m.; Eddie Piper, at noon; and Mrs. Carolyn Arnold, who believed she had seen Oswald near the front door of the Book Depository at about 12:15 p.m. \(Ball/Belin memorandum of Feb. 25,1964, pages 101, March 18,1964 Givens, in an affidavit furnished by him to FBI agents Trettis and Robertson, states that when President Kennedy was shot, he was standing at the corner of Record and Elm Streets. “I returned to the Depository Building, and was told by a Dallas policeman that I could not enter the building. About an hour later I went to the Dallas Police Department and was questioned by the police for about 45 August 13, 1971 1111110111100