In an analysis of the civil liberties aspects of the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald, the American Civil Liberties Union said the “public interest” would be served if the commission named by President Johnson were to make “a thorough examination of the treatment accorded Oswald, including his right to counsel, the nature of the interrogation, his physical security while under arrest, and the effect of pretrial publicity on Oswald’s right to a fair trial.”
In the public interest the GUARDIAN has devoted one-half of its issue this week to a lawyer’s brief in the Oswald case which has been sent by the author to Justice Earl Warren as head of the fact-finding commission inquiring into the circumstances of the assassination of President Kennedy. The author is Mark Lane, a well known New York defense attorney, who has represented almost all the civil rights demonstrators arrested in New York. He has also served as defense counsel in a number of murder cases involving young persons.
In 1959, he helped organize the Reform Democrats in New York, an insurgent movement within the Democratic Party, was the first candidate of the movement to be nominated to the New York State Legislature and was elected in 1960.
In his letter to Justice Warren accompanying the brief, Lane urged that defense counsel be named for Oswald so that all aspects of the case might be vigorously pursued, particularly since Oswald was denied a trial during his lifetime. It is an ironic note, as the ACLU statement said, that “if Oswald had lived to stand trial and were convicted, the courts would very likely have reversed the conviction because of the prejudicial pretrial publicity.”
The GUARDIAN’S publication of Lane’s brief presumes only one thing: a man’s innocence, under U.S. law, unless or until proved guilty. It is the right of any accused, whether his name is Oswald, Ruby, or Byron de la Beckwith, the man charged with the murder of Medgar Evers in Mississippi. A presumption of innocence is the rock upon which American jurisprudence rests. Surely it ought to apply in the “crime of the century” as in the meanest back-alley felony.
We ask all our readers to study this document, show it to as many persons as you can (extra copies are available on request) and send us your comment. Any information or analysis based on fact that can assist the Warren Commission is in the public interest—an interest which demands that everything possible be done to establish the facts in this case.