Because Optics: Dallas Has Now Lost 82 Cases Against Robert Groden

Robert Groden lectures and sells printed and digital material about the Kennedy assassination in Dealey Plaza on weekends.
Robert Gro­den lec­tures and sells print­ed and dig­i­tal mate­r­i­al about the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion in Dealey Plaza on week­ends.
Mark Gra­ham

The city of Dal­las got poured out of court again yes­ter­day in its decades long extra-legal per­se­cu­tion of Kennedy assas­si­na­tion expert Robert Gro­den, mak­ing the 82nd time the city has lost against Gro­den in its own munic­i­pal courts, not count­ing a major slap-down suf­fered by the city in the 5th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Appeals ear­li­er in the sum­mer.

That’s some­thing. In 82 at-bats, 82 strike-outs. In pro­fes­sion­al base­ball you’d have to be the owner’s son to rack up a record like that.

This is about a sign that says “Grassy Knoll.” To under­stand this sto­ry, you have to know that the words “grassy knoll” are for­bid­den in Dal­las. No one is allowed to say them out loud, let alone put them on a sign.

Don’t believe me? Give me a minute. You will.

The unremit­ting deter­mi­na­tion of Dal­las to throw the bat at Gro­den time after time, year after year, with the same result each time (“Yur­rr OUT!”) is a remark­able tes­ta­ment to sheer insti­tu­tion­al stub­born­ness and/or sheer insti­tu­tion­al stu­pid­i­ty, take your pick.

Gro­den sells books, mag­a­zines and videos on week­ends from a fold­ing table on the grassy knoll (Oh, I said it!) in Dealey Plaza down­town, where Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy was mur­dered on Nov. 22, 1963. The city has engaged in a decades long war to make Gro­den go away, repeat­ed­ly tick­et­ing and even jail­ing him.

Yes­ter­day the city was kicked out of court for the same old rea­son: A munic­i­pal judge couldn’t find a munic­i­pal law that Gro­den had bro­ken.

Here’s the thing. If you have strong feel­ings about the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion, Dealey Plaza or ban­ners, please put them aside for one moment and con­sid­er this ques­tion: How much respect can the city of Dal­las com­mand for itself when it know­ing­ly engages in a decades long per­se­cu­tion not based on law?

At some point do we not have to con­clude that Dal­las does not respect the law? And then are we sup­posed to respect Dal­las?

Even though Dealey Plaza is some­times rat­ed as the sec­ond most vis­it­ed tourist attrac­tion in the state,
Dal­las, which is still ashamed of it, doesn’t put up signs to tell visors where stuff is there. So Gro­den does. When he’s there sell­ing his wares, he erects a ban­ner by his table that says “Grassy Knoll.” Oth­er­wise, a new­com­er would have no idea where it was.

Last April 22, a Fri­day, when a city code inspec­tor and a cop showed up at Groden’s table, Gro­den was there with his assis­tant Mar­shal Evans. The code inspec­tor and the cop tick­et­ed Evans for erect­ing an ille­gal sign.

But — sur­prise, sur­prise! — the sign wasn’t ille­gal. Groden’s attor­ney Bradley Kizzia explained to me that the ordi­nance under which the code inspec­tor tick­et­ed Evans didn’t cov­er tem­po­rary ban­ners. Hence, when the tick­et final­ly arrived on the bench of a munic­i­pal judge this week, the judge kicked it out of court, say­ing he had no juris­dic­tion.

This is the Gro­den sto­ry over and over again. They have tick­et­ed him for sell­ing books and mag­a­zines with­out a license, even though the city ordi­nance says you don’t have to have a license to sell books and mag­a­zines.

They tick­et­ed him once for sell­ing in a park, even though Dealey Plaza isn’t a park. They tick­et­ed him for not hav­ing a per­mit to do what he was doing, even though they don’t issue per­mits for what he was doing.

Every time — 82 times — the city gets to court and a judge tells them that he or she can­not try Gro­den for doing some­thing that is not against the law. So they do it again.

Dealey Plaza is rated by some as the second most visited tourist site in Texas.
Dealey Plaza is rat­ed by some as the sec­ond most vis­it­ed tourist site in Texas.
Mark Gra­ham

It’s sort of remark­able, is it not, almost as if they have a small research team some­where in the city attorney’s office. Twice a year some­one tells them, “Scour the books for some­thing Gro­den isn’t doing wrong so we can charge him with it and get our­selves kicked out of court again.”

Kizzia is a major piece of the puz­zle here, hav­ing stuck by Gro­den over many years. It was Kizzia’s cross-exam­i­na­tion in the fed­er­al civ­il rights case that elicit­ed damn­ing tes­ti­mo­ny from a Dal­las police offi­cer. He con­fessed that he and his supe­ri­ors knew Gro­den had bro­ken no law when they jailed him six years ago.

When the arrest­ing offi­cer report­ed to his supe­ri­or that Gro­den had been forced to go with­out pre­scribed med­ica­tions in jail all night, the supe­ri­or offi­cer praised him for a job well done.

The bat­tle between Dal­las City Hall and Gro­den prob­a­bly is not well known with­in our munic­i­pal bor­ders, because the city’s only dai­ly news­pa­per and oth­er major media here have giv­en it scant atten­tion. But beyond our bor­ders, the sto­ry grows. Last year Dutch doc­u­men­tar­i­an Kasper Verkaik debuted his film about Gro­den and Dal­las City Hall, Plaza Man, which has since been well received in inter­na­tion­al fes­ti­vals. (Dal­las City Hall is not the hero.) And in the online uni­verse, the saga of Gro­den and Dal­las City Hall has become Kennedy assas­si­na­tion equiv­a­lent of a Mex­i­can cor­ri­do bal­lad.

Dal­las did beat Kizzia in one round. In fed­er­al dis­trict court here, for­mer fed­er­al Dis­trict Judge Roy­al Fer­gu­son ruled that Gro­den could not sue the city because he was unable to iden­ti­fy the top-most city offi­cial orig­i­nal­ly respon­si­ble for the cam­paign of per­se­cu­tion against him. But the appeals court tossed Ferguson’s rul­ing and sent the case back to Dal­las for a fresh tri­al with the city as a defen­dant.

That fresh tri­al keeps get­ting delayed. Just as the city hoped a night in jail with­out his meds would break Groden’s will and Kizzia’s deter­mi­na­tion, they must be hop­ing now at age 69 that Gro­den will give up or die. I don’t know about dying, but based on my con­ver­sa­tion with him yes­ter­day I would say the city should give up on his ever giv­ing up.

Gro­den says while the city stalls the fed­er­al civ­il rights retri­al, it is back to its old tricks, try­ing to wear him down. Because the city promised a fed­er­al judge they wouldn’t harass him until the fed­er­al case gets resolved, Gro­den says, the city has now set out to harass his assis­tant, tick­et­ing the assis­tant for the grassy knoll ban­ner even though Gro­den was stand­ing right there at the time and says he told the code guy it was his sign and he put it up.

The city doesn’t want to open­ly harass me until we get to court and see how it gets resolved in front of a judge,” he said. “But going after Mar­shall is their way of get­ting around the fact that they promised to leave me alone. This is their way of doing some­thing to try to harass us. That’s the way it looked to me any­way.”

I do take sat­is­fac­tion from the Verkaik doc­u­men­tary — beau­ti­ful­ly done, if you ever get a chance — for one rea­son above all oth­ers. If the city should get its wish and Gro­den not sur­vive, if he should shuf­fle off to his ever­last­ing reward before the fed­er­al civ­il rights case is resolved, God for­bid, then at least I know that through the film his ghost will haunt Dal­las City Hall for­ev­er.

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ER1C ☠

ER1C ☠

Dedicated Second Amendment Advocate, At-Home Gunsmith, Designer, Blogger, Video Guy, Author, Business Owner & ReloadOne Member.

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