Mark Lane joined the legal profession after the Second World War. A member of the Democratic Party, he helped establish the Reform Democratic Movement in 1959. A supporter of John F. Kennedy, he managed his presidential campaign in New York.
In 1960 Lane was elected to the New York Legislature. Over the next couple of years he campaigned to abolish capital punishment and worked closely with Mary Wagner in her attempt to deal with the city's housing problem. Lane was also the only public official arrested as a Freedom Rider.
Mark Lane took a close interest in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He read a statement in the New York Times by Jean Hill who claimed that she and her friend, Mary Moorman, who was taking Polaroid pictures of the motorcade, were only a few feet away from Kennedy when he was shot. Hill thought the shots had come from behind the wooden fence at the top of the knoll. Lane contacted Hill who told him that as soon as the firing stopped she ran towards the wooden fence in an attempt to find the gunman. However, Hill and Moorman were detained by two secret service men. After searching the two women they confiscated the picture of the assassination.
Lane later recalled: "In the weeks following the assassination I analyzed the case, setting my analysis alongside what was then known about the case as I had done a hundred times before for clients I had represented. The difference was that there was no client… When I completed my analysis of the evidence and the charges, I had written a ten-thousand-word evaluation." A copy of the article was sent to Earl Warren. In a letter sent with the article, Lane wrote: "It would be appropriate that Mr. Oswald, from whom every legal right was stripped, be accorded counsel who may participate with the single purpose of representing the rights of the accused."
For the first three weeks the mainstream media consistently reported that Lee Harvey Oswald had been the lone gunman responsible for the death of Kennedy. However, James Aronson, the editor of the left-wing, National Guardian, had considerable doubts about this story. In the first edition of the newspaper after the assassination, he used the headline: "The Assassination Mystery: Kennedy and Oswald Killings Puzzle the Nation".
Meanwhile, Mark Lane also tried to find a magazine to publish the article of the assassination. He approached Carey McWilliams: "The obvious choice, I thought, was the Nation. Its editor, Carey McWilliams, was an acquaintance. He had often asked me to write a piece for him… McWilliams seemed pleased to hear from me and delighted when I told him I had written something I wished to give to the Nation . When he learned of the subject matter, however, his manner approached panic." McWilliams told Lane: "We cannot take it. We don't want it. I am sorry but we have decided not to touch that subject." Lane got the same response from the editors of Fact who said the subject matter was too controversial. It was also rejected by The Reporter, Look, Life and the Saturday Evening Post.
James Aronson said he "heard that a maverick New York lawyer named Mark Lane had done some careful leg and brain work to produce a thesis casting doubt on the lone-assassin theory – and even whether Oswald had actually been involved in the crime." Aronson contacted Lane who told him that the article had been rejected by thirteen publications. Aronson offered to publish the article. Lane told him that "I would send it to him but I would not authorize him to publish it. He asked why. I said that I was seeking a broader, non-political publisher and that if the piece originated on the left, the subject would likely never receive the debate that it required."
Lane now took the article James Wechsler, an editor of the New York Post. He also rejected it and said that Lane would never find a publisher and "urged him to forget about it". Lane now told him about Aronson's offer. Wechsler, according to Lane was "furious" when he heard this news. "Don't let them publish it… They'll turn it into a political issue."
By this time the article had been turned down by seventeen publications and so Lane decided to let Aronson to publish the article in the National Guardian. The 10,000 word article, published on 19th December, 1963, was the longest story in its fifteen-year history. It was presented as a lawyer's report to the Warren Commission and titled A Brief for Lee Harvey Oswald . Aronson argued in the introduction: "The Guardian's publication of Lane's brief presumes only one thing: a man's innocence, under US. Law, unless or until proved guilty. It is the right of any accused. A presumption of innocence is the rock upon which American jurisprudence rests… We ask all our readers to study this document… Any information or analysis based on fact that can assist the Warren Commission is in the public interest – an interest which demands that everything possible be done to establish the facts in this case."
Aronson later admitted: "Few issues of the Guardian created such a stir. Anticipating greater interest we had increased the press run by 5,000, but an article in the New York Times about our story brought a heavy demand at the newsstands and dealers were calling for additional copies. Before the month was out we had orders for 50,000 reprints."
In January, 1964, Walter Winchell made a vicious attack on Mark Lane and the National Guardian in his regular newspaper column. He described the newspaper as "a virtual propaganda arm of the Soviet Union " and called Lane an "agitator" seeking to abolish the Un-American Activities Committee.
Aronson offered the article to both the United Press International and the Associated Press but both agencies rejected it. However, the article was published in several European countries and was discussed in most leading newspapers throughout the world. Some newspapers attempted to rubbish the article by describing it as "left-wing propaganda". Bertrand Russell wrote to The Times complaining about this treatment: "Mr. Lane is no more a left-winger than was President Kennedy. He attempted to publish his evidence… in virtually every established American publication but was unsuccessful. Only the National Guardian was prepared to print his scrupulously documented material… I think it important that no unnecessary prejudice against this valuable work of Mr. Lane should be aroused, so that his data concerning a vital event may be viewed with an open mind by people of all political persuasions."
Mark Lane continued to carry out his research into the assassination. He later recalled: "Had I known at the outset, when I wrote that article for the National Guardian, that I was going to be so involved that I would close my law practice, abandon my work, abandon my political career, be attacked by the very newspapers in New York City which used to hail my election to the state legislature; had I known that - had I known that I was going to be placed in the lookout books, so that when I come back into the country, I'm stopped by the immigration authorities – only in America, but no other country in the world – that my phones would be tapped, that not only would the FBI follow me around at lecture engagements, but present to the Warren Commission extracts of what I said at various lectures - I am not sure, if I knew all that, that I ever would have written that article in the first place."
However, Lane did continue and by February 1965 he had completed the first draft of Rush to Judgment. He sent it to several publishers and finally it was accepted by Holt, Rinehart and Winston and published on 13th August. This concerned the CIA who wrote in a secret report: " Rush to Judgment had sold 85,000 copies by early November… The 1st January 1967, New York Times Book Review reported the book as at the top of the General category of the best seller list, having been in top position for seven weeks and on the list for 17 weeks."
Lane also wrote A Citizen's Dissent (1968). He also joined Dalton Trumbo and Donald Freed to write a screenplay on the case, Executive Action. Lane also helped Jim Garrison in his attempts to prove that Kennedy had been assassinated by a right-wing group that involved Guy Banister, Clay Shaw and David Ferrie.
In August, 1978, Victor Marchetti published an article about the assassination of John F. Kennedy in the liberty Lobby newspaper, Spotlight. In the article Marchetti argued that the House Special Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) had obtained a 1966 CIA memo that revealed E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis and Gerry Patrick Hemming had been involved in the plot to kill Kennedy. Marchetti's article also included a story that Marita Lorenz had provided information on this plot. Later that month Joseph Trento and Jacquie Powers wrote a similar story for the Sunday News Journal.
The HSCA did not publish this CIA memo linking its agents to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Hunt now decided to take legal action against the Liberty Lobby and in December, 1981, he was awarded $650,000 in damages. Liberty Lobby appealed to the United States Court of Appeals. It was claimed that Hunt's attorney, Ellis Rubin, had offered a clearly erroneous instruction as to the law of defamation. The three-judge panel agreed and the case was retried. This time Lane defended the Liberty Lobby against Hunt's action.
Lane eventually discovered Marchettis sources. The main source was William Corson. It also emerged that Marchetti had also consulted James Angleton and Alan J. Weberman before publishing the article. As a result of obtaining of getting depositions from David Atlee Phillips, Richard Helms, G. Gordon Liddy, Stansfield Turner and Marita Lorenz, plus a skillful cross-examination by Lane of E. Howard Hunt, the jury decided in January, 1995, that Marchetti had not been guilty of libel when he suggested that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated by people working for the CIA.
After interviewing Marita Lorenz Lane became convinced that Frank Sturgis and E.Howard Hunt had both been involved in the conspiracy to kill Kennedy. Lane outlined his theory about the CIA's role in Kennedy's murder in a 1991 book, Plausible Denial. Lane also took a keen interest in the murder of Martin Luther King and wrote the book, Murder in Memphis (1993).