by Jim Schutze, The Dallas Observer
Wanted to go ahead and let you know, since apparently nobody else is going to do the story, that Robert Groden, the Kennedy assassination author, has won yet another legal victory in his fight against the city's years-long efforts to muzzle him.
And, sorry, certain commenters here, but that's what it is. This isn't about tidying up a park. It's a campaign to shut down free speech on the still sensitive issue of whether John F. Kennedy's murder in Dallas 50 years ago was the work of multiple conspirators.
Don't believe me? Still think it's Groden who's the out-of-line whack-job? Groden's virtually unbroken record of judicial exoneration in 81 separate arrests or tickets by the city is now crowned by a recent decision of County Criminal Court of Appeals Judge Kristin Wade. Wade said the same thing a parade of judges have said before: It's the city that's outside the law in this.
PHOTO BY MARK GRAHAM
Robert Groden at work, between rousts by Dallas cops.
Wade was ruling on the most recent arrest, which took place June 13, 2010, in which the city charged Groden with ... he was charged with the offense of ... but that's part of the problem, isn't it? The city arrested him in Dealey Plaza where he lectures and sells self-published magazines. They threw him in jail. But then they couldn't quite say what he had done wrong.
Wade takes note of the city's vacillation. In her opinion upholding a trial judge's decision to quash the case against Groden, Wade points out that the city changed its mind twice about what Groden had done wrong after they arrested him and put him in jail. And they still couldn't come up with a crime.
Know why? There was no crime. There was no city law banning Groden from giving lectures in Dealey Plaza and selling magazines, books and videos that explain his theories. Since then, in a classic case of tardy barn-door closing, the city has enacted an ordinance it thinks would cover Groden's case. Groden's lawyers think the new ordinance, yet to be tested, reeks of violation of free speech. More on this in my column in the newspaper next week.
The point is this: Before the 2010 arrest the city of Dallas had 80 instances in which it had been warned by judges that it was harassing Groden in violation of his rights and the law. And yet they did it again. This last time they added some rough treatment during the arrest and a nice long visit to the jailhouse, a clear expression of that hoary adage of official oppression, "You can beat the rap, but you can't beat the ride."
Groden has a federal civil rights lawsuit in the works against the city. That suit has been in legal limbo for two years waiting for this appeals court shoe to fall. I'm not sure how that works. I will explain it in the paper next week. But he tells me this new verdict will open the door for the civil rights case finally to proceed.
Groden is a New York Times list best-selling author and in 1978 was the forensic photographic consultant to the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives. The select committee was formed after Groden obtained a copy of the Zapruder film, which had been owned and suppressed by LIFE magazine.
When Groden got the film aired on television, a shocked national audience saw President Kennedy's head clearly slammed in the opposite direction it would have been pushed by a bullet from the sniper's perch on the sixth floor of the School Book Depository. The final report of the committee stated it had found evidence establishing "a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy."
It is this version of things that Groden preaches in Dealey Plaza, often to large crowds of tourists who come from far and wide specifically to explore the facts around the assassination.
The efforts by the city to silence him often have been aided and abetted by the Sixth Floor Museum, which has become the official enforcement arm of the no-conspiracy theory in Dallas. Nothing like a "museum" that gets people arrested for disagreeing with it, eh?
I do a weekly radio show on KNON at 10 a.m. on Saturdays (yes, I'm plugging along here), and for the past couple of Saturdays we have been talking about Groden, two weeks ago with him as my on-air guest. Last Saturday I confessed my own personal sin here: I have just never been sufficiently motivated to form a personal theory about the JFK killing in Dallas 50 years ago. I think I have always been daunted by the amount of reading I would have to do.
But as we roll up on the 50th anniversary observations next November, with the city already planning hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of special security to shut people like Groden out of Dealey Plaza on the big day, I do have to wonder.
Is there still somebody around who's got something big to hide on this? Because I can't come up with another explanation. Otherwise, Groden and all the other Warren Commission skeptics would be the best tourist attraction Dallas ever had.
Dealey Plaza continues to be our most popular tourist attraction. And Dallas keeps living up to everyone's stereotype by standing down there like some big old 1950s copper slapping his billy club against his leg saying, "Let's move it along now, folks, nothin' to see here, time you been gettin' on home now."
Why? Does the city actually want to look guilty? Does it not get that doing stuff like tossing Groden in the slammer over free speech makes the city look guilty? Amazing, really. So very strange.
More on this at 10 a.m. on KNON 89.3 next Saturday (plug-plug-plug) and in the paper next week. If nothing else, it's just kind of a weird town, is it not?