THANKS TO Oliver Stone's Oscar-nominated film "JFK," people wonder once again whether lonely, disaffected Lee Harvey Oswald really did assassinate President John F. Kennedy in 1963. But did you know a court verdict has already been rendered in the matter?
It is a mock verdict in a mock trial staged for television some years ago, and the case comes up again all this week on cable's Arts & Entertainment Network, beginning tonight.
"The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald" can be seen on the basic service at 10 o'clock nightly through Friday, with prominent lawyers arguing the evidence before a real judge and jury.
ZTC And Friday's installment, in which the jury renders a verdict, will be preceded at 9 p.m. by a new documentary, "Who Killed JFK? On the Trail of the Conspiracies." That show includes interviews with former President Ford, the last surviving member of the Warren Commission, as well as with filmmaker Stone and Robert Blakey, a former chief counsel of the House Assassination Committee.
The cable service also plans a repeat of the whole package from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
"It has become abundantly clear that the question of who killed President Kennedy, and how, is not going away," says Brooke Baily Johnson, A&E's vice president for programming and production. And she notes last year's "The Men Who Killed Kennedy," a British-produced series seen on A&E, drew a strong response which "indicates a real hunger on the part of the American public for more information."
Viewers in England originally saw "The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald" in 1986, as a 21-hour series on London Weekend Television. Subsequently, the Showtime premium cable network trimmed it down to six hours and screened it in the United States in November of that year. (Viewers should not confuse this production with a 1977 ABC miniseries of the same title, with Lorne Greene and Ben Gazzara as rival attorneys.)
A&E notes that its edited five-hour version includes new introductory and interpretive material from host Bill Kurtis, a former CBS newsman now with A&E's "Investigative Reports" series. Kurtis also hosts the special "Who Killed JFK?" edition of "Investigative Reports" Friday.
It would not be appropriate to reveal the verdict in the mock trial here. But all the evidence used in the production came from authentic files, and the witnesses are real figures in the Kennedy investigations.
Attorney Vincent Bugliosi, most prominent for having prosecuted Charles Manson, presents the state's case against Oswald. Gerry Spence, who waged the Karen Silkwood wrongful death suit against the U.S. government and recently defended Imelda Marcos, is Oswald's defense attorney.
Judge Lucious D. Bunton 3d hears the case in a studio reproduction of the Federal Court in Dallas, and jurors were actually drawn from the jury lists in Dallas.
Opening arguments from both sides and the beginning of the prosecution case come tonight, and the famous, minutely analyzed film shot by amateur photographer Abraham Zapruder makes up much of Part 2, tomorrow.
The theory about another gunman on the so-called "grassy knoll" appears Wednesday, ballistics information challenging the Warren Commission findings is explored Thursday and final arguments and the verdict come Friday.
ALSO NOTABLE TONIGHT:
* The PBS series "Live From Lincoln Center" reaches a milestone, and effusive tenor Luciano Pavarotti is there to celebrate (at 8 o'clock, Maryland Public Television).
It's the 100th telecast of the live performance show from New York's cultural Mecca, and "Pavarotti Plus!" features a gaggle of fellow opera stars, including June Anderson, Kallen Esperian, Raina Kavaivanska, Francesca Pedaci, Florence Quivar, Cesar Henandez, Sherril Milnes and Ferruccio Furlanetto.
* Period costumes and on-location filming in London, made up to look like the London of 1821, highlight a new film premiering on the TNT cable service. "Duel of Hearts," at 8 p.m., is a film adaptation of a Barbara Cartland romance, with Michael York, Benedict Taylor, Alison Doody and Geraldine Chaplin.