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Warren Commission Report: Page xiv« Previous | Next »

(Foreword)

prejudice innocent parties if made public out of context. In addition to the witnesses who appeared before the Commission, numerous others provided sworn depositions, affidavits, and statements upon which the Commission has relied. Since this testimony, as well as that taken before the Commission, could not always be taken in logical sequence, the Commission concluded that partial publication of testimony as the investigation progressed was impractical and could be misleading.

The Commission's Function

The Commission's most difficult assignments have been to uncover all the facts concerning the assassination of President Kennedy and to determine if it was in any way directed or encouraged by unknown persons at home or abroad. In this process, its objective has been to identify the person or persons responsible for both the assassination of President Kennedy and the killing of Oswald through an examination of the evidence. The task has demanded unceasing appraisal of the evidence by the individual members of the Commission in their effort to discover the whole truth.


The procedures followed by the Commission in developing and assessing evidence necessarily differed from those of a court conducting a criminal trial of a defendant present before it, since under our system there is no provision for a posthumous trial. If Oswald had lived he could have had a trial by American standards of justice where he would have been able to exercise his full rights under the law. A judge and jury would have presumed him innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He might have furnished information which could have affected the course of his trial. He could have participated in and guided his defense. There could have been an examination to determine whether he was sane under prevailing legal standards. All witnesses, including possibly the defendant, could have been subjected to searching examination under the adversary system of American trials.


The Commission has functioned neither as a court presiding over an adversary proceeding nor as a prosecutor determined to prove a case, but as a fact-finding agency committed to the ascertainment of the truth. In the course of the investigation of the facts and rumors surrounding these matters, it was necessary to explore hearsay and other sources of information not admissible in a court proceeding obtained from persons who saw or heard and others in a position to observe what occurred. In fairness to the alleged assassin and his family, the Commission on February 25, 1964, requested Walter E. Craig, president of the American Bar Association, to participate in the investigation and to advise the Commission whether in his opinion the proceedings conformed to the basic principles of American justice. Mr. Craig accepted this assignment and participated fully and without limitation. He attended Commission hearings in person or through his appointed assistants. All working papers, reports, and

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