by JF

In the early 1980s, Mark Lane, a lawyer who many years previously had worked on John F. Kennedy’s presidential election campaign in the New York area, was approached by the publisher of the Spotlight at the time, one Willis Carto, to defend the newspaper against a defamation suit launched by notorious CIA dirty tricks impresario, E. Howard Hunt. The Spotlight had published a scathing article, full of both damning historical facts linking E. Howard Hunt to the JFK assassination. (Note: As might be expected of the Spotlight, nowadays known as the American Free Press, for those familiar with that newspaper, the article was also filled with a number of totally unreliable, sensationalistic predictions about Hunt and the CIA which never came to pass.) The article claimed with certitude that E. Howard Hunt had been in Dallas on the date of the JFK assassination, something which Hunt had always denied. Hunt sued over this. Originally, Carto’s lawyer was either corrupt or incompetent, and the result was that Hunt was awarded $650,000, and the Spotlight was threatened with bankruptcy.

However, Carto was able to have the case tried again due to a legal technicality, and this time Carto secured the services of Mark Lane, the author of this book. Lane was known to Carto because Lane had been one of the first, and one of the most credible, authors to come forward and publish a book highly critical of the Warren Commission’s non-investigation.

Lane tells the story of this second trial by jury, how E. Howard Hunt and his CIA-manufactured alibi witnesses had originally been so confident of another courtroom victory, despite the fact that Hunt’s stories and witnesses had changed so many times over the preceding years. Lane provides some of the transcripts from the examinations and cross-examinations of Hunt and some of the important witnesses from both sides. It makes for a very compelling read, especially where Lane cross-examines Hunt and the CIA-manufactured witnesses, because, at least according to the transcript provided here, he devastated them, showing them to be fiendish liars and perjurors. After a certain point in the trial, Lane was feeling so confident in his defense of Carto, and both Lane and Carto understood the rare chance that was presented before them, so Carto gave Lane the go-ahead to launch an offensive against Hunt and the CIA, assigning culpability to these for the assassination. The jury was convinced. A jury of American citizens actually came back with the verdict that Carto’s publication was innocent of any malice in publishing the article, and the reason the jury gave was because it had been shown that Hunt and the CIA had lied (again), he was indeed in Dallas at the time the JFK assassination, and it was evident, said the jury foreman, that the CIA was complicit in it.

This was a jury decision in a court of law in America of epic proportion. And yet no major media outlet in the country would report on it. None ever did. Welcome to Joseph Goebbel’s America.

This book is a great read. If it has any flaw at all, it is that Lane has a tendency to break his arm patting himself on the back a little too much and a little too often. But for what he accomplished, this is a forgiveable offense. I suppose Lane is a little too naive about American history, and its judicial system, too, and he often reverentially throws around the ambiguous word “democracy”; but how many of today’s otherwise intelligent Americans don’t?

Rating: Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ