The Law and Lee Oswald

Picture - "The Law and Oswald"

Picture from CBS's "The Law and Lee Oswald," in Broadcasting, January 06, 1964.

In December 29, 1963, Rather moderated a program on the legal aspects involved in the case of Lee Harvey Oswald. As Variety reported, “The Law and Lee Oswald” was a one-hour special discussion addressing the following questions: Would Lee Harvey Oswald have received a fair trial? Did he receive all his constitutional rights under due process of the law, especially during the two days he was held in Dallas city jail? Discussing these questions were Percy Foreman, criminal lawyer in Houston and president of the National Association of Defense Attorney, who, together with Professor Paul Freud of Harvard Law School, argued that Oswald would never have had a fair trial because of the widespread media coverage. Leon Douglas, state’s prosecuting attorney before the Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas, was of the opinion that “a jury of 12 unbiased citizens could have been rounded up in Dallas.” Former FCC (Federal Communications Commission) chairman Newton N. Minow defended the mass media, which, as he put it, “had a deep responsibility to the public, as the law had a responsibility to the accused.” All participants agreed that “new ground rules in legal and press handlings” should come out of this tragedy.

The program was advertised in major newspapers and was well received. Variety said Dan Rather “was a firm hand in the proceedings and looked to be the man on the rise in the network news organization.” The trade paper Broadcasting devoted a two-page article to the show, summarizing the participants' arguments.