Mark Lane, the leading JFK assassination conspiracy theorist, died May 10 at age 89 — here is his obituary in The New York Times. Lane’s most notable JFK conspiracy book, Rush to Judgment, was a runaway bestseller in the 1960s.
The Times incorrectly reports that Lane coined the phrase “grassy knoll” to describe the place from where conspiracy theorists believe shots were fired at President Kennedy. [The grassy knoll appears in the picture at the top of the Bulletins from Dallas Facebook page.] In fact, UPI’s copy used the phrase “grassy knoll” 26 minutes after the assassination [16 minutes after the assassination, UPI called it a “grassy hill”]. Some people credit Merriman Smith with the first use of the phrase; his rewriter, Jack Fallon, may also deserve credit.
Bulletins from Dallas goes into detail about Smith’s reporting and views on the conspiracy theories. In a nutshell — Smith couldn’t bear them. He told people he was there, he heard three shots, and he believed the Warren Commission theory that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
Lane, a lawyer, had an interesting career outside his advocacy of the idea that Kennedy’s death resulted from a conspiracy. In 1961 and 1962, he was a member of the New York State Assembly, elected from Brooklyn. Lane was prominent in the anti-Vietnam War movement. He also represented religious cultist Jim Jones. Lane was in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978 when Jones and 900 of his followers committed mass suicide. He escaped by fleeing into the jungle.
Gerald Posner, who debunked the JFK conspiracy theories in his book Case Closed, hired Lane in 2010 to represent him in a defamation case against a Miami newspaper that accused him of plagiarism. Posner opposed Lane’s conspiracy ideas, but he thought Lane was an excellent lawyer. “Although I’m convinced Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy, I’ve always believed that had Mark Lane represented Oswald, he would have won an acquittal. That’s why Mark Lane was the obvious choice as my own attorney,” Posner said.
Update, May 13: The Times corrected its story to reflect the idea that someone other than Lane coined the phrase “grassy knoll.”