Chapter 15: The Tangled Web
An examination of the HSCA's trajectory analysis, and its dishonest depiction of President Kennedy's head wounds
The Tell-Tale Art
Once one gets past the shocking fact that the HSCA's medical experts couldn’t tell the back of Kennedy’s head from his forehead, one can begin to understand the incredibly confusing tangle of contradictory information that was the HSCA’s discussion and depiction of President Kennedy's head wounds.
But only begin... Sadly, much remains elusive. And jarring.
When one looks through the HSCA's exhibits, in fact, one gets the vague feeling one's lost at a carnival, and is walking through a house of mirrors.
No, I'm not kidding. This stuff messes with your mind.
Take F-66 on the slide above. This drawing, one should know, was created for the forensic pathology panel, and published in its report. It is supposed to depict the moment of the fatal bullet's impact. Now compare it to Zapruder frame Z-313, the actual moment of the fatal bullet's impact. Well, one might quickly observe that something is amiss--while Zapruder frame 313 shows the explosion of Kennedy’s skull occurring above his ear and the front half of his skull, F-66 shows it to begin behind his ear, at the rear of his skull.
But one might also note that something is correct--the drawing depicts Kennedy leaning sharply forward (approx. 27 degrees!) at the moment of the fatal bullet's impact.
Now, surprise, surprise, the HSCA's trajectory analyst ended up claiming Kennedy was leaning but 11 degrees forward at the moment of the fatal bullet's impact, and presented a "calibration photo" (that is, a photo of a doll simulating Kennedy's position in Zapruder frame 312--Exhibit F-141, above) to demonstrate as much.
Something strange was afoot at the HSCA...
To understand how things got so strange, moreover, one needs to understand why this "calibration photo" was created.
So let's get started. On the slide above are F-58 and F-66, two exhibits created for the HSCA's forensic pathology panel and presented in the testimony of Dr. Michael Baden on 9-7-78.
F-66, as we've seen, shows Kennedy's skull pitched forward 27 degrees or so. The bullet descends within the air at 20 degrees, and rises through the skull, when in the anatomic position, at 7 degrees. 27 degrees.
Now, when one projects a 20 degree line of ascent from Kennedy’s position at Z-312, one can guesstimate a trajectory that soars above the school book depository but also includes the upper floors of the school book depository.
This would have been close enough for some.
Now look at F-58. The head in this drawing is in the anatomic position, so no adjustment for its forward tilt is required to guesstimate the trajectory of the bullet through the skull. When one studies this drawing, moreover, one can observe a dark spot noting the supposed location of an entrance wound on the back of the head. Here, take a closer look...
Well, this would appear to be the so-called cowlick entrance wound. Now here's the surprise. It is 3 degrees above the exit wound on the drawing.
There is a 10 degree discrepancy between the bullet trajectory presented in F-66 and the supposedly identical trajectory depicted in F-58!
Even worse, a projection back through the wounds presented in F-58, when Kennedy was leaning forward to the degree he was leaning forward at the moment of the fatal bullet's impact (approximately 27 degrees), would ascend 30 degrees, and lead well above the roof of the school book depository, up into the clouds.
So which exhibit was correct, F-58 or F-66?
The Ten Degrees of Misinformation
Neither, of course.
On the slide above is our old friend F-58, from Dr. Baden's testimony. It is compared to a typical anatomy drawing found online, which is in line with most every anatomy drawing I've studied, including the lateral view of the skull presented in Grant's Atlas of Anatomy, below.
Note how the superior margin of the Lambda suture uniting the occipital bone and parietal bone resides at the level of the eyebrow on the anatomy drawings, but an inch or so higher--half-way up the forehead--on F-58. F-58 is clearly in error. Well, this raises a question. Was the entrance wound placed on F-58 placed there based upon its relationship with the lambda suture? Because, if so, the entrance wound is much too high.
There's also this. The coronal suture on F-58 is 10 degrees more vertical than one will find on other anatomy drawings, and the EOP at the back of the head is similarly out of alignment.
Well, think about it. It's unclear what source material was utilized during the creation of F-58. But whatever it was, it was not accurately represented on F-58.
So F-58 was wildly in error. This leaves F-66, which shows the bullet rising within the head, as the superior exhibit, and the more logical choice to serve as a starting point for the HSCA's trajectory analysis.
Just joking. The HSCA's trajectory analyst ultimately concluded the bullet descended within the skull, a la F-58.
How could this happen?
Retracing the Road to Bandini Mountain
(Note: Bandini Mountain is a mythical mountain made of cow manure. It was featured in a Bandini fertilizer ad in the 1980's. If you already knew this, well, congratulations are in order. You're still alive and kicking!)
A 2-27-78 HSCA executive session transcript reveals that chief counsel Robert Blakey was at that time pushing for the usage of the Rochester Institute of Technology at USC to not only test the photographs, but “to give us the measurements that we worried about—that is, where Kennedy was. They are very confident that they can reconstruct the President’s skull and project in whatever direction back from the head the projectory (sic—trajectory) analysis.”
This didn't pan out. Presumably, it was then and only then that Blakey turned to an already-on-the-government-payroll, and already-having-a-security-clearance NASA employee, Thomas Canning, and asked him to plot out the precise alignment of Kennedy's wounds at the moment they were acquired and project back through them to their point of origin.
And yet, even so, on 3-11-78, Canning was present during the medical panel's interview of Dr. John Ebersole. And was listed as a "photographer."
This suggests, then, that Canning's role was greatly expanded after his original hiring.
If this is so, moreover, it seems clear this expansion rubbed some the wrong way...
In his testimony before the committee, HSCA wound ballistics consultant Larry Sturdivan dismissed the idea of using Kennedy's head wounds to project back towards the sniper’s location. He told them “no bullet goes straight when it enters a solid mass.”
He would later write: “the odd-shaped piece of a bullet is inevitably unstable and will develop some degree of lift that will curve its trajectory in tissue…Of the thousands of examples of yawed, deformed, and broken rifle bullets fired into gelatin tissue stimulant at the Biophysics Division lab and other similar facilities, none had a perfectly straight trajectory. Few are even close…The wound locations have no value in reconstructing the exit trajectory of a yawed or deformed bullet or bullet fragments.”
And Sturdivan was not alone in his skepticism. In their final report, the forensic pathology panel expressed its own doubts about Canning's ability to do what he'd been hired to do: “The panel is concerned as to the degree of accuracy attainable in determining the missile trajectory based on backward extension of a bullet track from within the body, particularly if precision within the range of a few degrees is required. An intermediate or high velocity bullet creates a temporary bullet track relatively larger than that of the bullet itself. This precludes reconstruction within the required degree of accuracy.”
And it's not as if the HSCA's staff was unaware of the panel's disapproval of Canning.
Jim DiEugenio, in his chapter on the HSCA in The Assassinations (2003), noted that May 2 and May 23 1978 memos from HSCA staff members Jane Downey and Andy Purdy, respectively, described Canning's difficulty in working with Dr. Baden, and his opening up a back channel to Dr.s Loquvam and Weston. A 7-24-78 memo from Mark Flanagan (180-10071-10261) goes even further, and reports that Baden and Canning had split into "two schools of thought" on the location of the fatal bullet's exit from Kennedy's skull.
Now here 's Canning himself, in a 7-25-78 tape-recorded memo to committee staffer Jane Downey (RIF#180-10116-10289):
"The elevation, the slope up that trajectory from the President's head back to where the gun was is one point that I still have not worked out. We have all the data but I have not gone through it yet, and my thought is, just privately to you people, is that that is likely to appear, likely to come out quite high relative to the School Book Depository window, but since I haven't really gone through the arithmetic before mailing you this little set of notes and tape, don't take my concern too seriously. We'll have to live with whatever comes up, though, because I have just tremendous confidence in the location of those wounds. Probably they are known to within less than a centimeter in all directions, and if I were to tell what I really think it might be on the order of half-a-centimeter in any given direction. Oddly enough, I now feel that we have the position of the outshoot wound which has been wandering around from analysis to analysis nailed down more accurately than we have the inshoot wound."
Well, it seems clear from this that Canning's confidence in this project was rooted in his unwarranted confidence “we” had properly placed the wound locations.
But who was this “we”? As "we've" seen, HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel leader Michael Baden and HSCA forensic anthropology consultant Lawrence Angel had, from their first viewing of the autopsy materials, widely divergent impressions of the exit wound location, with Baden placing it at the right top side of the head along the coronal suture and Angel placing it on the frontal bone above the right eye.
It is fortunate, then, that we have an answer as to which “we” Canning was relying upon. From the first page of the transcript of Canning's 7-25-78 memo: “...the key photograph to be described will be the one showing the inside of Kennedy’s skull after removal of the brain, where the scalp has been folded forward to show the semi-circular margin of the outshoot wound in the frontal bone of the skull.”
The "mystery photo" strikes again!
So, on 7-25-78, seven weeks before his public testimony regarding the fatal-bullet’s trajectory through President Kennedy’s skull, HSCA trajectory analyst Thomas Canning, relying upon Dr. Lawrence Angel’s interpretation of the “mystery photo” showing Kennedy’s skull with the brain removed, felt confident the fatal bullet exited from President Kennedy’s forehead, where no one but no one observed an exit wound.
It should be noted, for that matter, that the exit location proposed by Angel was lower on the skull than the exit location proposed by Baden, and still lower than the supposed entrance on the back of Kennedy’s head. Well, gosh. A bullet projected back through these wound locations at the time of the fatal headshot, would be headed up into the clouds.
It's presumably no coincidence, then, that Canning warned Downey the use of these wound locations would lead to a location “quite high relative to the School Book Depository window”?
It appears this wasn't acceptable, however. An 8-3-78 report on a Canning phone call to Downey (180-10075-10158) reveals that she has left a message with Dr. Angel because Canning "wants to talk with him regarding two interpretations of placement of large bone chips of skull as it effects head wound location."
And talk they did. An 8-8-78 report on a Canning phone call to Downey (RIF# 180-10088-10039) reflects that Canning "just talked with Dr. Angel regarding bone fragment placement for outshoot wound location. Dr Angel had independently concluded some time ago that fragment is part of frontal bone." The memo then reveals "Medical Panel now agrees with Canning on head wound placement for trajectory analysis."
But this is confusing. This suggests the "two schools of thought" regarding the outshoot location had come to an agreement--and that the "Medical Panel" now agreed with Canning (and Angel).
But this was not true. Angel placed the large triangular fragment on the frontal bone--just forward of the coronal suture. The beveled exit on intact bone apparent in the "mystery photo" (taken before the recovery of this fragment) must thereby (in Angel's interpretation) be mid-frontal bone--inches forward of the coronal suture.
Well, the medical panel placed the exit wound on the coronal suture.
So where did Canning place this outshoot?
Here, see for yourself. The following drawings were created under Canning's guidance and sent to Downey on 8-9-78.
Now this is curious. Although Canning is purportedly under Angel's sway, he has placed the exit defect along the coronal suture.
How could this be?
An 8-18-78 Mark Flanagan report on a phone call with Dr. Angel, thank goodness, provides some clarity. This report (RIF# 180-10083-10111) reveals that in Angel's interpretation there was "not one exit wound." It reveals, furthermore, that Angel believes the entrance wound was 1.8 cm to the right of midline of the skull, and that one of the exits was on or near the coronal suture 4.4 cm to the right of the midline, and 1.2 cm above the entrance wound.
Now, this appears to have been a compromise. Presumably, the exit along the coronal suture Angel described to Flanagan was deduced from his interpretation of the large triangular fragment. As we've seen, he felt the beveled exit on this fragment did not correlate with the beveled exit on intact skull apparent in the "mystery photo." And yet it seems clear that, even so, he was willing to accept this exit as the one used by Canning for his trajectory analysis.
And so Canning revised his drawings to match Angel's interpretation of this wound location. He moved the in-shoot from 2.5 cm to the right of midline to 1.8 cm to the right of midline. He moved the outshoot from 5.5 cm to the right of midline to 4.4 cm to the right of midline. And he lifted this exit 1.2 cm above the inshoot. (RIF# 180-10083-10113).
Here, see for yourself.
It should be noted, for that matter, that in changing the distance of the in-shoot from the midline from 2.5 cm to 1.8 cm and the distance of the outshoot from the midline from 5.5 cm to 4.4 cm, Canning had changed the horizontal trajectory through the skull from 15.2 degrees (3 cm left to right over 11 cm) to 13.3 degrees (2.6 cm left to right over 11 cm).
Now here's where things get sticky. When Canning mailed these sketches to the committee from his office in Florida, he included a comment that must have scared them a bit. He reported that, even though it now appeared a compromise had been reached regarding the outshoot location, that his "discussion of outshoot wound interpretation will still cover the difficulties and variability of the results."
Well, this was not what the committee wanted. They wanted hard science providing hard facts.
In any event, an 8-20-78 report by HSCA staffer Andy Purdy reveals that he has called Dr. Baden regarding a "review and comparison of autopsy sketches with original photographs and x-rays." It reports further that Baden will be talking to Dr. Angel and then he'll call Canning. (RIF# 180-10082-10118)
It appears this paid off. A 9-1-78 outside contact report by HSCA staffer Mark Flanagan reveals that Dr. Angel has met with Dr. Baden and the HSCA staff "to review skull reconstruction drawings" (presumably F-66) and now agrees that the drawings are "fair and accurate representations" of his conclusions, as his "original report stating that the largest fragment depicted in original autopsy x-ray #6 was frontal bone was in error." (RIF# 180-10083-10106)
Dr. Angel's interpretation of the x-ray of the largest fragment and "mystery photo" had led him to suggest there was more than one exit on Kennedy's skull, and that one of these exits did not align with the sniper's nest. The HSCA forensic pathology panel ignored this. Thomas Canning then threatened to mention this in his testimony and report. Dr. Angel then changed his interpretation of the x-ray of the largest fragment.
Now, Dr. Angel may have had a sincere change in his interpretation of this fragment.
But I doubt it. It is suspicious, to say the least, that there is no paper trail citing the reasons for Dr. Angel's sudden change in interpretation. He was a consultant, after all. When first shown the x-rays at the archives, he'd told the pathology panel the lack of "meningeal markings" on the fragment suggested it was not parietal bone. His subsequent report went further, and said it was "clearly frontal bone." Are we really to believe that he later changed his mind? And failed to insert an addendum to his report? He was supposed to explain his interpretations, not just throw his hands up in the air and say "Oops, I was wrong!"
We can assume, then, that Angel wasn't sincere in his submission. The pathology panel's report indicates that shortly before this call Dr. Baden placed paper cut-outs of the skull fragments onto a skull model, and concluded Angel was not only wrong about the orientation of the "largest fragment" (which Baden proposed was parietal and not frontal), but the Harper fragment (which Baden proposed was from the side of the head and not the top of the head). This was Angel's area of expertise. And yet, even so, he was second-guessed and over-ruled by Baden, who was by no means an expert on this matter. It's hard to believe Angel was cool with this. And Flanagan's failure to 1) explain why Angel had changed his mind regarding the largest fragment, and 2) even mention the Harper fragment...suggests that Angel was not, in fact, cool with this.
And that he was not alone. When researcher John Hunt talked to Thomas Canning in 2001, he discovered that Canning still stood by Angel's initial analysis, and was not in fact cool with Baden's substituting his own interpretation of the wound locations for Angel's.
Even so, here is how Canning depicted JFK's skull wounds in his 9-12-78 testimony before the house committee.
He had moved the outshoot back to its former location! Baden's. And he had left the in-shoot in its most recent location! Angel's. Well, this changed the horizontal trajectory through the skull from 13.3 degrees (2.6 cm left to right over 11 cm) to 18.6 degrees (3.7 cm left to right over 11 cm). Yikes!
Here, then, is an over-head view of the horizontal trajectories proposed by Canning on 8-18-78 and 9-12-78.
Well, I'll be. This movement of the outshoot by 1.1 cm to the right is a significant change. If one should assume the red arrow is correct, moreover, and project back to the sixth floor sniper's nest, well, then, one should realize that but weeks before Canning testified to the correctness of this arrow, he'd been proposing the fatal bullet had followed a different trajectory, one that projected back to an area west of the sniper's nest, perhaps even the westernmost window of the sixth floor.
In any event, here is Canning's depiction of the wound locations in his final report, which was issued the next year.
Well, you guessed it, he'd moved the outshoot yet again! When one superimposes the second drawing done for Canning on 8-18-78 onto Figure II-6 from his March '79 report, for that matter, one can see the movements of the outshoot on one image. Here it is.
Well, that's fairly shocking, right? Canning and the various experts he relied upon had no idea where the bullet exited Kennedy's head. It could be 5.1 degrees above where it entered. It could be 5 degrees below. But it was on the coronal suture, right? Wherever that was... I mean, Canning's early drawings placed the coronal suture almost an inch forward of where it was later placed on his official exhibits.
Still, these changes only underline the subjective nature of Canning's conclusions. While they undermine the authority of his conclusions, they by no means undermine his integrity, and the integrity of the HSCA's staff in general.
I mean, they were all just doing their best under difficult conditions, trying to get it right. Right?
YOU WANNA BET???
Here are the lateral and frontal views of the skull presented in Canning's testimony matched up by the vertical position of the in-shoot and outshoot.
Criminy! When matched up by the skull wounds, the skull in F-137 is much too small.
So let's match these skulls up as best we can, and see where this places the wounds.
Criminy again! The inshoot and outshoot are much higher on the frontal view (F-147) than they are on the lateral view (F-137).
Now, the thought occurs that someone should have noticed this.
Well, rest assured. Someone did.
Sifting Through the Manure
An overlay of Exhibit F-137 atop the typical anatomy drawing previously presented is quite revealing, and is presented below.
The forehead and sutures fail to align. Incredibly, it appears that Exhibit F-137 is inflicted with the same 10 degree misalignment as Exhibit F-58, which had been prepared for Dr. Baden.
That there was a screw-up, and a colossal one at that, can be demonstrated, moreover, by presenting Canning's "calibration photo," Figure II-9 in his final report--purported to show Kennedy pitched forward 11 degrees--beside Figure II-6 in his final report, the drawing taken from Kennedy's x-rays purported to show a five degree descent of a bullet in Kennedy's skull. If Figure II-6 is pitched forward 10 degrees, as presumed, the two should have a similar appearance.
Now here's II-6 by II-9.
The lines at the upper margin of the occipital bone and EOP are at the expected positions on the back of the heads in II-6 and II-9, but too high on the front of the heads. This shows that II-6 is closely matched up with II-9, and that II-6 is not a skull in the anatomic position.
Now, look what happens if you assume the drawing in II-6 presents the skull in the anatomic position, and then lean the skull forward 11 degrees to match it up with the 11 degree forward pitch in the "calibration photo."
Well, that's plain as day. The lines at the levels of the occipital bone and EOP on II-6 are now far too high on both the back and front of the head on II-9. And the forehead on II-6 slopes forward. IF the skull in II-6 was in the anatomic position, an 11 degree rotation should have brought it roughly in line with the head in II-9. But it's not even close.
This proves it then. The drawings presented by Canning in his testimony and report to establish the relative locations of Kennedy's wounds failed to present his head in the anatomic position, and Canning's subsequent conclusions regarding the trajectory of the bullet within the skull are tainted as a result.
So what gives? It's hard to see the advantage in this mistake.
Consider. If Kennedy's head was leaning forward 27 degrees at frame 312, as presumed by myself, and as previously proposed by, yikes, Dale Myers, and the skull in F-137 is incorrectly rotated 10 degrees forward, and the bullet traveled on a flat trajectory through the skull, well, then, the source of the shots would be about 17 degrees above the skull in F-137, in the vicinity of the sniper's nest. No mumbo jumbo.
So, I ask again, what gives?
Perhaps the skulls on Exhibit F-137 (and later Figure II-6) were rotated to match up with the skull on F-58, without Canning's realizing F-58 was in error.
But that's probably too generous. Surprisingly, the evidence suggests the skull on Exhibit F-137 was rotated after it was created and matched up with F-147.
Here's Canning's testimony about F-137 and F-147 (which ended up in his report--with some slight differences--as Figures II-6 and II-7).
Mr. GOLDSMITH. At this time I would ask that the witness be given an opportunity to examine what has been marked as JFK No. 147 and JFK No. 137. I should correct myself. That is F-147 and F-137. Mr. Canning, examining these two exhibits, one of which is marked "Location of Head Wounds in President Kennedy," actually they are both marked the same way. They just show it from a different perspective. I would ask you whether the wounds are accurately represented in these exhibits in the manner that you used them in your trajectory analysis.
Mr. CANNING. Yes, the positions are accurately represented there as I used them.
Mr. GOLDSMITH. Are these diagrams drawn to scale?
Mr. CANNING. The diagram on the left is actually generated from a tracing of a premortem X-ray that had been taken of the President's head, so that one is a true scale representation of the President's skull.
Mr. GOLDSMITH. That is the one that shows the right lateral view?
Mr. CANNING. That is the right lateral view; correct.
Mr. GOLDSMITH. And what about the one on the right, sir?
Mr. CANNING. The diagram on the right is based on a tracing taken from a textbook; the actual measured positions of the wounds are indicated by the dimensions shown in the diagram.
Mr. GOLDSMITH. Which textbook was that drawing taken from?
Mr. CANNING. That was drawn from Gray's Anatomy.
Wait...wha? F-137 (which was revised to become Figure II-6), the right lateral view of the head wound locations, was traced from a pre-mortem x-ray of Kennedy, and F-147, the frontal view of these wounds, was taken from a standard textbook of a skull that may not in fact accurately represent Kennedy's skull.
Now, that's just...odd. One would think a lateral view and frontal view of a victim's wounds presented to an investigative body would come from a similar source, and be internally consistent.
But that is far from the case.
Still, the thought occurs that the inconsistent wound locations on Exhibits F-137 and F-147 have little to do with Canning's using different sources for his lateral and frontal views, and everything to do with the improper rotation of the lateral skull on Exhibit F-137 after its creation.
Let us now rotate the skull in F-137 back to its proper orientation, and match the size of the skull with that in F-147.
Now this is much better. The skull is longer than it is wide, and the EOP is in the anatomic position.
Uh, oh. It appears that the drawings as originally conceived suggested the bullet ascended 10 degrees within the skull, as opposed to traveling on a flat trajectory.
It seems logical, therefore, to assume this is what they showed...before someone convinced Canning (or Canning convinced himself) to rotate the lateral skull forward ten degrees, and place the in-shoot wound on the frontal view above the outshoot, instead of where it used to be on the lateral view...below the outshoot.
The skull in F-137 is pitched forward 10 degrees. It purports to show a flat trajectory within the skull. It follows then that, when corrected, this skull will show a 10 degree ascent within the skull. IF JFK's head was pitched forward 27 degrees at frame 312 (as seems reasonable), and the bullet ascended 10 degrees within the skull, well, then a rear projection through his head wounds would place the shooter 17 degrees above Kennedy, pretty damned close to the sniper's nest.
So this raises a question. Was Canning simply fooled by the improper orientation of the skull on his exhibits?
This actually might make sense. It turns out that the proper positioning of a skull on a lateral x-ray has no relation to the anatomically correct position used by illustrators in anatomy books. According to Medical Radiographic Technic, an x-ray machine guidebook put out by General Electric in 1943, the central ray of a lateral x-ray is centered on the mid-point between the frontal bone and occipital protuberance, and the interorbital line (an imaginary line connecting the eye sockets) is made vertical. In other words, the head is situated to get as pure a profile shot as possible. NOTHING is said about framing the x-ray so that the skull on the film appears in an anatomically correct position. It could very well be then that Canning and Dox assumed this was done and created their exhibits under an incorrect assumption. And we all know what happens when we assume things...
Na. Not going there.
I mean, just look at the timeline. Canning admits his initial conclusions are that the head wound trajectories don't point to the sniper's nest. He then starts working on a drawing that presents the entrance wound at the same level or slightly above the exit wound, which would seem to support that the trajectories don't point back to the sniper's nest. But then he testifies that the wounds point back to the sniper's nest.
And uses an incorrectly rotated tracing of the skull, and incorrectly matched up "calibration photo," to do so...
It's hard to believe this was just a coincidence.
It seems probable, then, that pitching the skull forward 10 degrees on his exhibits and claiming Kennedy was leaning forward but 11 degrees at frame 312 were deliberate deceptions designed to hide that Kennedy's bullet wounds didn't align in the manner desired.
But why would Canning have misrepresented so much, if the trajectory he'd been studying had in fact pointed back towards the sniper's nest?
Well, that's the dilemma one finds oneself in when one studies the HSCA trajectory analysis. There are just too many problems with Canning's exhibits for us to assume all these mistakes were innocent.
I mean, he even fudged the basics.
A Trace of Deception
Yep, when one compares a supposed tracing of Kennedy's pre-mortem x-ray (Exhibit F-137), with the actual pre-mortem x-ray (Exhibit F-297) it's clear Exhibit F-137 was either actually not a trace of F-297, or a trace unworthy of a 5 year-old.
I mean, look at the slide up above. The slope of the forehead is off. And the sutures fail to align.
And there's another curiosity. When one looks at Exhibit F-297, one can’t help but notice the crop. The face and jaw have been removed. Now, this was supposedly done for the Kennedy family’s privacy. Since Kennedy’s face is viewable on the A-P x-rays, and these were entered into evidence, however, this makes little sense. What’s more, since the x-rays of Kennedy’s jaw and teeth were used to confirm the authenticity of the x-rays, and were released as public exhibits during the testimony of Dr. Lowell Levine, the decision to crop the x-rays is indeed curious.
I mean, really. Why would you cut the jaw and teeth off a tracing--a tracing, moreover, that is purported to show the trajectory of a bullet at near 90 degrees to the "external facial axis," which Canning defined in his report as a line between "the forehead and upper lip?"
Why exclude the upper lip?
Well, one possibility--and my most recent working theory--is that the face and jaw were removed to conceal that F-137 (and subsequently Figure II-6) were improperly positioned on the page.
As demonstrated at left above, a non-rotated presentation of the skull on Exhibit F-137 would have depicted the bullet's ascent as it crossed the skull. This is counter-intuitive when one considers that the bullet was supposedly fired from 6 floors up, but could nevertheless make sense should Kennedy have been nodding forward when struck.
When one looks at the right side above, however, another problem becomes clear. And that is that a presentation of the entire skull--that is, the cranium, face and jaw--on F-137 would have made clear that F-137 was improperly positioned on the page, and the supposedly flat trajectory through the skull in F-137 (and 5 degree descent in Figure II-6) actually reflected a 10 degree ascent in F-137 (and 5 degree ascent in Figure II-6).
It's hard to believe, then, that the removal of the face and jaw from F-137 was a coincidence.
So, let's tie this all together. Why would the HSCA's staff and trajectory analyst misrepresent the rotation of Kennedy's skull in these exhibits?
And why did Dr. Baden's exhibit reflect a similar rotation?
Had someone decided that the in-shoot absolutely positively had to reside above the outshoot?
Or was there another agenda?
Was there something about the trajectory presented in F-137, when in its proper orientation, that was in conflict with the other evidence...and a challenge to the conclusions of Baden's medical panel?
A-ha! I think I've got it.
Spinning the Groove
The supplementary autopsy report on the inspection of Kennedy's brain described a "longitudinal laceration" (that is, running lengthwise) which was "para-sagittal" (that is, running parallel to the sagittal suture, which runs from front to back along the middle of the top of the skull.) It then reported that this laceration "extends from the tip of the occipital lobe posteriorly to the tip of the frontal lobe anteriorly. The base of the laceration is situated approximately 4.5 cm below the vertex in the white matter."
And this wasn't something later refuted by the Clark Panel. No, the Clark Panel's report confirmed this observation by Humes, Boswell and Finck. While discussing the brain photos, it claimed: “The right cerebral hemisphere is extensively lacerated. It is transected by a broad canal running generally in a posterior-anterior direction and to the right of the midline. Much of the roof of this canal is missing..."
And the HSCA Forensic Pathology concurred with their colleagues. While discussing the brain photos, their report noted: “On the right cerebral hemisphere is an anterior posterior cylindrical groove in which the brain substance is fragmented or absent. This groove extends from the back of the brain to the right frontal area of the brain...”
Well, heck. This was a horizontal groove through the brain. This is consistent with a bullet's entering high on the back of the skull and traveling at 90 degrees to the facial axis. But it is not consistent with a bullet's entering high on the back of the skull and traveling upwards within the skull. That would explode the top of the head off. That would not leave a cylindrical groove. And it would almost certainly fail to extend to "the tip of the frontal lobe anteriorly."
It could be then that the HSCA trajectory analysis worked backwards. They assumed the bullet descended at roughly 15 degrees from the school book depository. And they knew Kennedy was leaning roughly 27 degrees forward at the moment he was hit. But they also knew the bullet did not strike Kennedy in his cowlick, and travel 12 degrees upward within his brain.
So something had to give.
So they misrepresented the skull on their exhibits. And pretended the bullet had a flat trajectory through the brain. And to make this work, they needed to pretend Kennedy was leaning but 11 degrees forward at Z-312.
Well, wait a second. If the plan was to show a flat trajectory through the brain, why didn't Canning testify Kennedy was leaning 15 or 16 degrees forward in the "calibration photo," as opposed to 11? Why did he, instead, have to re-write his report and say the bullet dropped 5 degrees within the skull?
Could it be that Canning and crew forgot about this 5 degree descent when he testified? And didn't really have a master plan?
Let's explore this possibility. Perhaps the cropping of the x-rays was just a dumb idea, that inadvertently prevented those studying the x-rays, like Canning, from realizing that the skull on the x-rays had a forward tilt in comparison to a skull in the anatomic position... Perhaps this forward tilt then led those studying the trajectories to first claim the bullet traveled on a flat trajectory through the skull, and later claim it descended within the skull, when it had actually ascended within the skull. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, moreover, that this misrepresentation of an ascent as a descent helped sell that the fatal shot came from behind.
Na. Not going there. For, while a quick look at Canning's mistakes might lead one to believe I'm nit-picking, a closer look at his testimony and report suggests I'm picking at something much bigger, and messier.
Yep, it appears that what I've been picking at is...
No, No, No Nit
Let's go through Canning's conclusions, step by step.
Here is Canning's testimony...
Mr. GOLDSMITH. Now after taking these calibration photographs and studying frame 312, what did you determine the orientation of President Kennedy's head relative to Zapruder's line of sight to be?
Mr. CANNING. That is most easily portrayed by going through the motions of establishing the relationship as I describe the process. Let me put myself in the position of being the President, and you, Mr. Goldsmith, in the position of Mr. Zapruder. I start out looking straight forward at you, then turn my head to my left like this, by 115(deg), namely, about 25(deg) past a perfect profile view, then if I nod my head forward by about 11(deg) and then tilt my head away from you by about 15 degrees, that gives you the right perspective.
And here is his report.
He then proceeds to discuss his study of the Zapruder film and the creation of a "calibration photograph" "corresponding with Zapruder frame 312."
He then discusses the relative heights of Zapruder and Kennedy in the plaza, and concludes "the sight downward from Zapruder to Kennedy was computed to be at 10 degrees."
So, let's get this straight. Kennedy was tilted 15 degrees away from Zapruder, who was viewing Kennedy from 10 degrees above. Well, it follows then that Kennedy was tilted 25 degrees to his left.
Canning then discusses the creation of a mockup of the plaza. Here is the key paragraph:
He then discusses his creation of some drawings depicting his conclusions.
He says the slope of the bullet's trajectory was 16 degrees. He'd previously concluded the bullet descended 5 degrees within the skull. And his study of the "calibration photo" had led him to believe Kennedy was nodding forward 11 degrees. There's your 16 degrees.
Well, this provides us an opportunity to check Canning's credibility, right? If the slope was 16 degrees in Canning's final report, which depicted a five degree slope within the skull, then the slope in Canning's testimony should have been 11 degrees.
Now, come on, campers--gather 'round the fire...
and let me tell you the tale of...
Thomas and the Insufficient Change
Observe the exhibit below. It's Exhibit F-139 from the 9-12-78 testimony of Thomas Canning before the House Select Committee on Assassinations. It purports to show President Kennedy's position when struck by a bullet at frame 312 of the Zapruder film, along with the bullet's trajectory as determined by the alignment of his exit and entrance wounds.
Well, right off the bat you can tell that something is off. Canning claimed that his study of the Zapruder film had led him to conclude Kennedy was leaning but 11 degrees forward when struck. And he testified that the bullet had traveled on a flat trajectory through Kennedy's skull. Well, from this we can extrapolate that the line reading "To Gun" on this exhibit should be ascending at 11 degrees. But it isn't. It's ascending at 13. And that's 13 from the horizontal side of the limo, which was actually on a 3 degree descent. So the "To Gun" line is really ascending 16 degrees through the air. Now, this could, by golly, strike the face of the school book depository near the sniper's nest window. But why would it? How did 11 degrees become 16?
This should make us wonder, then, if this exhibit was created before Canning came to his conclusions, and reflected what he was supposed to conclude, as opposed to what he actually concluded.
Still, maybe Canning was just sloppy. When one studies this exhibit, it becomes clear that the longer view of the limo on the street depicts a 17 degree ascent to the window. As the FBI measured a 15 degree angle from the sniper’s nest to Kennedy for the Warren Commission, one can only wonder how Canning could project an 11 or even a 17 degree angle to the adjacent window.
That something is flat out wrong becomes obvious, however, when one looks at Figure II-12 in Canning’s final report.
Let's recall that Canning lowered the outshoot for his report, and that this created a 5 degree descent within the skull. He failed to add this 5 degrees onto the 17 degree angle depicted in F-139, however. Instead, he added just one degree, from 17 degrees in F-139 to 18 degrees in Figure II-12. Equally strange, the angle of the "To Gun" line stayed the same.
No, really, I superimposed Exhibit F-139 onto Figure II-12 so you could see this for yourself.
Gadzooks. The close similarity between Exhibit F-139 and Figure II-12 is a blow to the credibility of the HSCA analysis. This should be clear to everyone, even those bored to death by science and angles, etc. Canning testified that the location of Kennedy's wounds--and the position of Kennedy's head when struck--had led him to draw a line back from these wounds that hit the building right by the sniper's nest. He was then told the exit on Kennedy's skull was in the wrong location. He then (supposedly) re-worked his exhibits to take this new (5 degrees lower) location into account. And yet the line drawn back from this new wound location ended up just a few feet away from the old location.
Here again is the school book depository in the overlay of Exhibit F-139 and Figure II-12:
As the higher circle is purportedly centered 15 feet above the sixth floor windowsill and 11 feet west of the corner of the building, it's clear the lower circle--the one presented in Canning's testimony--was centered 8 feet or so above the windowsill and 14 feet or so west of the corner of the building. A 5 degree increase in the bullet's vertical trajectory through Kennedy's head had lifted Canning's line back to the building by but 7 feet or so!
Still, maybe I'm being too hard on the fella. Since neither the 17 degrees in F-139 nor the 18 degrees in II-12 are mentioned in Canning’s testimony or report, it seems possible these were just mistakes related to his using drawings not properly drawn to scale. That his drawings were not drawn to scale can be demonstrated by comparing the official measurements of the headshot from the sniper’s nest—265 feet through the air from a 60 foot elevation (for a ratio of 4.4 to 1), with the drawing in F-139, which has a distance to elevation ratio of only 3.7 to 1, even though the trajectory led back within a few yards of the sniper’s nest.
Nope. Not going for it. When asked during his testimony if F-139 was drawn to scale, Canning said “yes.”
Here he is in his testimony. Imagine him saying "yes." And then gulping down a pitcher of water.
So it's truly hard to believe Canning didn't know at least some of what he'd shown the committee was nonsense.
Which reminds me... When Canning testified, he described Exhibit F-139 as follows:
Mr. CANNING. Exhibit JFK F-139 indicates the slope of the trajectory based on the relative vertical positions of the inshoot and outshoot wounds and the position and attitude of the President's head. The line that is drawn through those two wounds terminates at a spot on the face of the Texas School Book Depository building as shown in the exhibit.
And that was it. In Canning's testimony, he never identified the location his trajectory intersected the building. He, instead, presented the committee with a dubious drawing. Which was then published in the HSCA's volumes in the manner presented above--badly faded and barely discernible. (The clearer images used in the overlay of F-139 onto Figure II-12 presented above come courtesy the great John Hunt, who scanned them in the archives.)
It seems possible, then, that Canning and the HSCA staff knew their trajectory analysis was weak sauce, and were trying to conceal just how weak.
While I hesitate to accuse the man of deliberate mischief, that he changed the backwards trajectory from Kennedy’s wounds from 11 degrees in his testimony to 16 degrees in his report and had the point at which this trajectory hit the face of the school book depository change by less than 10 feet in the materials he submitted to the committee, smells like a dead rat left inside a gym locker over summer vacation. An 11 degree ascent from Kennedy's head should not have reached the sixth floor window to begin with, and a 5 degree increase in this ascent should have lifted it much more than 7 feet along the face of the building.
The Forgotten Angle
There's another troubling aspect to Canning's testimony and report...that defies easy explanation.
While Canning’s interpretation of the "calibration photo" acknowledged Kennedy was leaning 15 degrees to his left at Z-312, a careful reading of Canning’s report reveals that this 15 degrees was 15 degrees from Zapruder, and that Zapruder was elevated 10 degrees from Kennedy, standing on a flat pedestal.
This suggests then that Kennedy was leaning 25 degrees to his left when he received his fatal blow.
And this is supported by the Moorman photo taken a split second later.
The problems associated with this lean become clear when one compares and contrasts Exhibit F-147, the frontal view of the skull presented in Canning's testimony, with Figure II-7, the frontal view of the skull presented in his final report. Since Canning initially testified that the bullet headed left to right and that the entrance and exit of the bullet were on the same level, a 25 degree rotation to the left will lift the exit to a point above the entrance. Considerably above the entrance. Yep, a quick measurement using Canning’s own diagram tells us that the exit in F-147, once adjusted for the leftward lean, was in fact 1.6 cm above the entrance. Based upon Canning’s own calculations that a 1 cm drop within the skull represented a descent of 5 degrees, this meant that the bullet causing the wounds in F-147 had actually ascended 8 degrees within the skull.
Now, F-147 was introduced in Canning's testimony, when he said Kennedy was leaning forward 11 degrees at frame 312, and the bullet traveled on a flat trajectory within the skull when the skull was upright.
So, wow. When one adds the forgotten angle back into Canning's testimony, it is clear that, in Canning's analysis, the bullet was descending but 3 degrees upon impact with Kennedy's skull.
Well, yikes! Elm Street was descending at three degrees.
This means that Canning's testimony--once corrected to include the forgotten angle--was that the fatal bullet was fired from street level behind Kennedy, and NOT from the sniper's nest window.
You can't make this stuff up, folks. Yep, truth is clearly stranger than fiction.
Still, Canning changed the exit location for his final report. And ultimately concluded the bullet descended 5 degrees within Kennedy's skull...when the skull was upright.
Well, as shown above (in Figure II-7), a bullet on such a trajectory, when the skull is tilted 25 degrees to the left, would nevertheless ascend 3 degrees or so within the skull.
If Kennedy's head was leaning forward 11 degrees when hit, as concluded by Canning, then, the presumed sniper location would drop down to 8 degrees above Kennedy...and match up with one of the lower floors of the school book depository. Or even the Dal-Tex Building.
Or perhaps even a tree.
Or maybe it's all bullcrap. One wonders if one can trust any of Canning's calculations.
But trust this. Canning ending up claiming Kennedy was leaning forward 11 degrees at the moment of the fatal bullet's impact, and that the bullet descended 5 degrees within his skull, and that the shooter was thereby 16 degrees above him, when, in fact, the leftward lean of Kennedy had lifted the outshoot above the inshoot.
Apparently, he forgot to consider the leftward lean when determining the vertical relationship between the inshoot and outshoot.
Still, we've neglected something, haven't we?
Beyond that Canning concluded Kennedy was leaning 25 degrees to his left, he'd also concluded Kennedy's head was turned 25 degrees to its left from Zapruder (which translates to 27 degrees to its left in the limo).
This turn to the left wouldn't have canceled out the lean to the left. Or would it?
Nope. I did a quick photo study to prove this point.
Here's a skull marked with the approximate locations of the HSCA's wound locations viewed from above. It is turned 27 degrees or so to the left. (If someone wants to recreate this photo study with exact measurements be my guest).
And here is this skull again after it has been leaned 25 degrees or so to its left.
The exit is now above the entrance.
While this is just an approximate it nevertheless proves the point. Canning failed to take the leftward lean into account.
At least when discerning the vertical trajectory...
To be clear, this leftward lean didn't confine its influence to the vertical relationship of Kennedy's wounds...
Below is an overlay of Exhibit F-147 onto Figure II-7.
Note that by dropping the outshoot 1 cm for Figure II-7 of his report, Canning not only changed the vertical relationship between the wound locations he'd presented in Exhibit F-147, but the horizontal relationship, as the lower location on II-7 was further to the right of the outshoot on F-147, once one considered the 25 degree tilt to the left.
Now, Canning makes no mention of this in his report, but it appears he may have reflected this change in his exhibits.
Here's Figure II-11 from his report, after being superimposed onto Exhibit F-138 from his testimony, and matched up by the drawing of the plaza.
Well, this is interesting. When one matches these exhibits up by matching up the overhead view of the plaza, the bullet trajectory points back to a different window of the school book depository, and the limo and Kennedy figure no longer line up.
Now, look what happens when we match these exhibits up by the trajectory arrow through the Kennedy figure in the limo.
Everything goes haywire, correct? Well, this proves that Canning did in fact change Exhibit F-138 to make Figure II-11. Presumably aware that lowering the exit on the coronal suture changed both the vertical and horizontal trajectory of the bullet through the skull, he'd increased the right to left trajectory through the skull, which in turn led his "To Gun" line to move a few feet to the east on the face of the school book depository.
This was reflected, let's recall, in the overlay of Exhibit F-139 and Figure II-12, above.
But this reveals another problem. When one compares an overlay of Exhibit F-138 and Figure II-11 with the overlay of Exhibit F-139 and Figure II-12, as below, it becomes clear that Canning pointed to a different location on the depository building in Exhibit F-138 than he did in Exhibit F-139.
When one looks closer at the dot on Exhibit F-139, moreover, it becomes clear that someone changed its location with a pen or pencil, presumably to bring it closer to the sniper's nest window.
Now, let's recall that, in Canning's testimony, he never identified the location his trajectory intersected the building. And that he, instead, referred to his exhibit. And that this exhibit was barely discernible when published in the HSCA's volumes.
It seems likely, then, that 1) Canning testified in a manner which would allow him to change his conclusions after his testimony, and/or 2) Canning's testimony was in fact changed afterwards, and the actual location to which his (pre-testimony) study of the head wounds had pointed was erased from history.
(I shall attempt to find a video-taped copy of Canning's testimony, and compare it to the transcript.)
In any event, we have now reached the voodoo portion of our discussion...
Shrunken Head Analysis
Let's refresh. When Thomas Canning testified before the HSCA on September 12, 1978, he presented them with HSCA Exhibit F-137, and told them “The diagram on the left is actually generated from a tracing of a pre-mortem x-ray that had been taken of the President’s head, so that one is a true scale representation of the President’s skull.” Six months later, when he submitted his final report, however, he presented them with Figure II-6, a nearly identical diagram. Nearly identical but not identical. He had thereby made a slight alteration to what he had claimed was a "true scale representation of the President's skull."
Canning lied. And it wasn't a white lie.
Let me explain. In F-137, Canning depicted a flat trajectory through the skull. Since Dr. Michael Baden had presented F-58, with a slight trajectory through the skull, to the committee only days before, it is embarrassing but not suspicious that Canning might present his exhibits as planned, and then make a few changes in his final report. A footnote on page 35 of the HSCA trajectory analysis addresses this issue: “The interpretation of the head wounds used in defining trajectory reported in testimony on September 12, 1978 differs from this report because the final illustration from the Forensic Pathology Panel showed the exit wound to be 1 centimeter lower than the entrance, rather than level with it as had been concluded earlier. Thus, the resulting trajectory is somewhat steeper.” Fair enough.
The problem is with the other footnote on that page: “The above conclusions differ to some extent from the testimony given by Thomas N. Canning…In each case, the differences reflect new information or analysis resulting from work concluded subsequent to the presentation of preliminary findings at the hearing.” Well, as Dr. Michael Baden submitted F-58, depicting a slight descent within Kennedy’s skull, 5 days before Canning testified, this footnote would appear to be a lie.
But it gets worse. Since the pathology panel determined that the bullet descended 1 cm in Kennedy’s skull, and since they decided it exited on the coronal suture connecting the frontal and parietal bones, which cuts across the skull at an angle, this meant the bullet would have to have been heading on a greater left to right trajectory through the skull. As the coronal suture, viewed from the front, runs at roughly a 55 degree angle in this stretch, an exit 1 cm lower and on the suture would also be an exit slightly more forward and approximately 8 mm further to the right on the skull. This meant that Canning would have to recalculate both his vertical and horizontal trajectories. The 5 degree greater decline in Kennedy should have made Canning lift his trajectory circle pointing back to the school book depository by 20 feet or more. And a 5-6 degree greater left to right angle should have led him to move the circle considerably to the east, perhaps as much as 24 feet. This mere 1 cm movement of the exit wound, then, should have forced Canning to move the center of his trajectory circle across the street to the top floor of the Dal-Tex Building, roughly three windows north of Elm and Houston.
Instead, well, he found a way to keep the bullet on its former trajectory.
He shrank Kennedy’s skull! On Figure II-6 of Canning's final report the length of the bullet’s passage through the skull is identical to its length in Exhibit F-137, even though it exits further forward on the skull. A comparison of F-137 and II-6 in which the 11 cm passage through the skull is made to match demonstrates that the skull in II-6 is indeed 6.67% smaller. What’s worse, since the distance from the EOP to the in-shoot supposedly remained 9 cm, this would indicate Kennedy’s skull was not only shrunk, it was shrunk in but one direction, as the reduction in size occurred laterally, but not vertically.
So much for preserving the “true scale representation of the President’s skull” …
But that's not the only problem, is it?
The Portable Suture
Let's recall that Canning testified that Exhibit F-147, showing the frontal view of the skull, was traced from a skull illustration in Gray's Anatomy.
Here, then, is a comparison between what is almost certainly the skull illustration from Gray's Anatomy used in the creation of Exhibit F-147, and F-147.
Well, heck, the coronal suture appears to be on the anatomy where it is on F-147.
Now look what happens when you overlay F-147 and II-7, which Canning published the next March.
The suture has dropped from its former location.
Now, just to be sure. Here's a close-up of the tops of the skulls in the three drawings.
But some of Canning's other claims about the photo are equally nonsensical...and suspicious. On the "calibration photo," most noticeably, the President’s right shoulder is lifted far off the back seat of the limo, resulting in a turn of his whole body sharply to its left. That this 27 degree turn within the limo (25 from Zapruder, who was 2 degrees forward of profile at frame 312) makes it possible for a bullet traveling 8 degrees right to left to enter near the mid-line of the President’s skull and exit from the right side of his head at the location picked by the pathology panel would have to be taken as more than a coincidence. That this turn is greatly exaggerated can be demonstrated, moreover, by simply projecting Mrs. Kennedy into the "calibration photo." When one creates a comparison where the heads are the same size one can see that while the President in Z-312 is looking just to the right of the first lady, the President in the "calibration photo" is looking just to her left. (This is demonstrated on the slide above.)
An interesting point about this photo. On one of the footnotes in his report, Canning defends the changes from his testimony by re-stating his demonstrably false claim that the doctors moved the wounds on him after his testimony. He goes on to write “The remaining revisions resulted from the availability of a superior enhanced reproduction of Zapruder frame 312 for comparison with the calibration photographs.” Well, this undoubtedly suggests he changed his interpretation of the "calibration photo" between his testimony and his report. The numbers given in each instance, however, were exactly the same. In both cases, Canning asserted that Kennedy was turned 25 degrees from Zapruder, was tilted 11 degrees forward, and was leaning 15 degrees to his left. This footnote makes me wonder then if someone has changed Canning’s testimony. If Canning originally said the "calibration photo" demonstrated Kennedy to be leaning forward 15 degrees, for instance, this might explain both the strange footnote cited above and the failure of F-139 to match the 11 degree descent implied in Canning’s testimony. In any event, Canning’s interpretation of Zapruder frame 312 is clearly, and incredibly, wrong...
Dale Myers is another writer/researcher who rejects the accuracy of this "calibration photo." While creating his computer simulation/cartoon he ignored Canning and developed his own interpretation of the President’s position at Z-312. When he projected backwards from the HSCA outshoot back through the in-shoot in the cowlick, however, Myers found that the trajectory led back to someone hanging in space, well above the Dal-Tex Building. He determined from this that there was no clear outshoot and acknowledges on his website that his depiction of the head-shot is not based upon a precise alignment of the wounds.
ABC, of course, failed to point this out in their Beyond Conspiracy special presenting Myers’ work.
And, incredibly, they weren't the first to play this game with Myers' animation... In 1998, Gus Russo, author of Live By the Sword, made similar use of Myers' animation, and, was even less honest re Myers' conclusions about the head wound trajectory. Despite the fact that Myers claimed the head wound trajectory could not be accurately identified, and pointed high up in the air, Russo not only cited the HSCA study--which Myers acknowledges is bogus--as evidence the head shot was fired from the sniper's nest, he told his readers that "Myers' work is conclusive that the wounds track back to the sixth floor window..."
But I digress.
A Nose is a Nose Analysis
The "calibration photo" was smoke, pure and simple. Here's Congressman Chris Dodd to Canning during Canning's 9-12-78 testimony.
Mr. DODD. Could I ask for exhibit, I think it is, No. 312? It is the enhanced enlarged photograph.
Could I ask that to be placed up, as well as the--what is the proper word you used to describe the recreation?
Mr. CANNING. The calibration photograph.
Mr. DODD. Yes, the calibration photograph, the calibration photograph as well. Mr. Canning, could I ask you to go over there near both of these exhibits? I looked down, while you were testifying, and took a closer look at them again. I realize I am looking at them from a layman's point of view. But when I look at the President's head in the enhanced photograph on the left and then at the calibrated photograph on the right, I get--and again I am prefacing my remarks by saying I am a layman--but I see a much more severe pitch to the President's head in the enhanced photograph than I see in the calibrated photograph and I wonder if you could explain. I detect what I see as an ear and an eye in the enhanced photograph, and maybe the images are playing games with me, and if they are, I would like you to straighten me out.
Now note Canning's response...
Mr. CANNING. I can assure you the images play games with you. There are many complicated details in the part of the photograph surrounding the President's head. For instance, the dark lapel of Mrs. Kennedy's blue blouse has a notch which is in close juxtaposition with the President's nose. The notch makes it look as if the President's nose extends much farther than it really does.
Mr. DODD. That is correct. That is how I saw it.
Mr. CANNING. On the other hand, when we account for where other pink and blue elements are and behind the President's face we conclude that his facial profile is well to the left of its apparent position when only a cursory examination is the basis. The interpretation of these features is certainly one of the major sources of potential error in the analysis.
Yikes. Canning's response was tres suspicious. Dodd pointed out that the "calibration photo" failed to match the forward pitch of Kennedy in Z-312. And Canning responded by claiming it was all a mirage because Kennedy's nose was pink. And Jackie's jacket was pink. And that Kennedy's head was really turned so far to the left that Zapruder couldn't see his nose...
Well, heck, this proves Canning knew that both the forward pitch and turn of the head in the "calibration photo" were suspect.
According to the book Mortal Error, Canning said much the same thing to ballistician Howard Donahue when he contacted Canning and questioned his analysis.
This was Canning's line and he was sticking to it.
When one looks at the whole Zapruder film, however, and keeps their eye on Kennedy’s nose, one can see that Kennedy’s nose is exactly where it is in Z-312 for many frames beforehand, and that it would be very hard to confuse his nose for Jackie’s ever-moving clothing. From this it would seem obvious that Canning spent too much time staring at Kennedy's nose in Z-312 and talked himself into believing he was looking at Jackie’s clothing. Perhaps he realized that if it was Kennedy’s nose he was looking at, then Kennedy wasn’t turned far enough to his left to allow a bullet to enter his cowlick and exit his right forehead on a straight trajectory from the sniper’s nest. Indeed, it seems Canning himself knew his interpretation of Z-312 would be controversial, for the last section of his report reads like a pre-planned alibi: “Serious impediments to accurate interpretation of the photograph (Z-312) were occasioned by the extremely complicated background to the President’s face resulting from Mrs. Kennedy’s pink suit and dark blue blouse and by the interior surface of the left side of the limousine. These problems were overcome in part by a computer-enhanced version of Zapruder frame 312.”
Well, there it is. In his final report, Canning said two pieces of information led him to revise his findings from his original testimony: revised measurements he received from the medical panel, and a computer enhanced version of Z-312. And here he admits that this computer-enhanced version of Z-312 led him to re-interpret what he thought was Kennedy's nose as being Jackie's clothing.
And this, even though his final "calibration photograph" presents Kennedy's nose in the same position as it is in Z-312!
While it’s tempting to say that if Canning really believed the nose in Z-312 was Jackie’s blouse, then he must have swallowed the Kool-Aid, I will refrain from taking such a cheap shot.
Due to his NASA background, one might logically assume instead that Canning swallowed the TANG.
Mary Moorman Photograph Analysis
When one looks at the Polaroid photograph taken by eyewitness Mary Moorman just after the headshot one finds yet another reason to disbelieve the HSCA’s trajectory analysis. While Moorman’s photo clearly reveals the back of Kennedy’s head, the HSCA’s analysis is clear that her photo should have shown the side of Kennedy’s head.
The HSCA exhibits show that they concluded the limousine was turned 8 degrees to the right of a straight line coming from the sniper’s nest at the time of the fatal headshot. The "calibration photo" reflects that Kennedy was turned roughly 27 degrees to his left. From this the HSCA could conclude that a bullet fired from the sniper’s nest and entering near the middle of the back of Kennedy’s head and exiting near his temple would be traveling roughly 19 degrees to his right. Canning’s trajectory analysis backed this up, stating that the left to right angle across Kennedy’s skull connecting his wounds was 18.6 degrees. All the ducks seemed to be in a row.
But what if it can be demonstrated that Kennedy was not turned 26.6 degrees (the 8 degrees of the right to left trajectory from the sniper's nest to Kennedy at Z-312 plus the 18.6 left to right trajectory connecting his skull wounds) to his left?
Since Mary Moorman’s photograph shows Kennedy in line with the back tire of the limo and the stairs on the grassy knoll, one can fairly accurately place both her position on the grass and the timing of her photograph. Consequently, most have her taking her photograph between Z-315 and Z-316. Ironically, she can be seen in the Zapruder film snapping her photograph in the far left area of the sprocket holes in frame Z-315. The limousine has scarcely passed her. Since the limousine was heading away from Moorman at 40 degrees left of her view, and since Kennedy was supposedly turned 27 degrees from the direction of the limousine, this means that In Canning’s analysis, Kennedy should have been only 23 degrees removed from profile to Moorman. As you can’t even see his face in the photograph, it would appear he wasn’t really turned that far.
But what if he’d changed his head position between 312 and 315?
More Moorman Photo Analysis
To be sure the angle of Kennedy’s head hadn’t changed between Z-312 and Z-315, one need only to look at the photos side by side and note the position of his ear. A turn to the left or the right would change the position of his ear relative to the rest of his head. As there appears to be little change, one can assume his head did not turn upon immediate impact of the bullet.
This pretty much demolishes the so-called “jet effect” theory, as proposed by Nobel prize-winning physicist Luis Alvarez. The “jet effect” holds that the force of brain matter exploding from Kennedy’s pressurized skull was significant enough to fling his whole body backwards, as seen in the frames following Z-313. Well, if the “jet effect” from matter exploding from the right temple of Kennedy’s head was strong enough to push his body it should also have been strong enough to turn his head. If you turn your head slightly to your left and apply the slightest pressure to your right temple area it will turn your head further to the left. And yet there is little change in Kennedy’s position between Z-312 and Z-315. Even worse, for Alvarez’ theory, the Moorman photos show Kennedy’s head is turned too far to its right, when compared to the HSCA’s trajectories. If there really was a “jet effect” it would mean then that Kennedy had started out looking nearly straight ahead, but if he’d been looking straight ahead, a bullet entering near the midline of his skull on an 8 degree right to left trajectory would have exited out near his left eye, and not his right temple. If anyone knows of any reason why the “jet effect” would fail to move the skull until after all the ejected brain matter was long gone, I’d appreciate the explanation.
When one turns a skull 23 degrees from profile, the perspective of Moorman on Kennedy should he really have had his head turned 27 degrees to the left within the limousine at Z-312, one can see that the skull is not far from profile, with the ear almost in the middle and the left side of the face visible. When one turns the skull the degree from profile I theorize Kennedy was actually turned, 36 degrees, the ear moves closer to the face and more of the right side of the head becomes visible. When one realizes none of Kennedy’s face is visible in the Moorman photo, due at least in part to Kennedy’s hair being draped to his left, it becomes clear that this new perspective makes a lot more visual sense than Canning’s trajectory analysis. A quick measurement of the relative positions of the ear within the two theories is convincing, assuming the anatomic models used are similar to Kennedy. While Zapruder frame 312, after the frame is rotated 27 degrees so that his skull is made upright, depicts the back of Kennedy’s ear at roughly 50% the horizontal distance between the tip of his nose and the far back of his head, and our new perspective is in close agreement, the Canning perspective depicts the ear at only 39% of the distance. The head is turned too far to the left.
If one should continue to doubt that a NASA scientist could screw up to such a degree, one should focus on the fact that by deciding Kennedy’s head was turned 27 degrees to his left at frame 312, Canning had decided that Kennedy was turned only 23 degrees from profile at the time of Moorman's photograph. Since, as part of this same analysis the HSCA determined Kennedy was turned from Abraham Zapruder by approximately 25 degrees at frame 312, this means the HSCA determined that Kennedy was turned further away from Zapruder at frame 312, where he’s almost in profile, than he was from Moorman at the time of her photograph, which doesn’t even show his face!
When one considers that the limousine was still heading towards profile with Zapruder at 312, and reached exact profile around 315, this means that Kennedy was turned an additional two degrees away from Zapruder at 315, or 27 degrees. And yet Kennedy’s horribly-damaged head in the Zapruder film at 315 is still obviously more in profile than in the Moorman photo, even though it should be turned 4 degrees further away!
So...yeah. Canning's claim Kennedy was turned 26.6 degrees to his left at frame 312 of the Zapruder film was yet another load of bullshit added to Bandini mountain.
So--to circle back to where we started--what about Canning's claim Kennedy was leaning forward but 11 degrees in Zapruder frame 312?
Was that an honest-to-goodness mistake?
Or was that the steaming pile of animal dung most assume it to be?
Houston, we have a problem. The suture has most definitely dropped.
So let's get this straight. After being told the bullet exiting Kennedy's skull exited at a lower point along the coronal suture, and coming face to face with the fact that this suture runs at an angle, and that lowering the exit even one cm would simultaneously increase the left to right trajectory through the skull, (and have the wounds point back towards the Dal-Tex Building), Thomas Canning altered Exhibit F-137 to show the bullet traveling the same distance on the same left to right angle through the skull even though it now descended one cm (i.e. he shrank the skull). He then re-named this Figure II-6, AND altered Exhibit F-147 to show this now-descending bullet still exiting from the coronal suture, even though it was a cm below the location of the suture on F-147 (i.e. he lowered the location of the suture on his new exhibit, which was re-named Figure II-7).
I mean, this couldn't have been a coincidence...could it?
We should suspect then that the movement of the suture between F-147 and II-7 was no mistake at all, but a deliberate deception designed to support Blakey and Canning's elaborate hoax of a trajectory analysis.
Still, should that seem too harsh, we should recall that Canning's use of inconsistent drawings was not remotely his most suspicious "mistake."
No, his most suspicious "mistake," or deception, let's be real, was his Orwellian use of a "calibration photo" to determine Kennedy's position in the Z-film.
Calibration Photo/Z312 Comparison
When one studies the "calibration photo" prepared for Thomas Canning to demonstrate the President’s actual position at Zapruder frame 312, the desperation of the HSCA trajectory analysis becomes apparent.
As previously discussed, Canning claimed the 11 degree forward pitch of the doll head on his "calibration photo" matched the forward pitch of Kennedy's head at frame 312. Now, this was clearly nonsense.
Forward Lean Comparison
When one closely compares the HSCA's exhibits one is in for a shock. Exhibit F-46, an exhibit created for the forensic pathology panel, which depicts the presumed position of Kennedy when he was struck in the back, depicted the president leaning twice as far forward as he was in the Croft photo, which HSCA trajectory analyst Thomas Canning said depicted Kennedy's actual position at this time.
And that's just for starters. More confusing still is that the forward lean in Exhibit F-46 is also much greater than the forward lean in Canning's Exhibit F-141, the "calibration photo" purportedly matching Kennedy's position at Z-312, that in fact bares little resemblance to Kennedy's position at Z-312.
And that's not the worst of it. The worst part of it is that the exhibit created by the HSCA to depict the trajectory of the back wound created before Kennedy leaned forward in the Zapruder film (Exhibit F-46), was more accurate as to Kennedy's position in Z-312, after he leaned forward in the film, than the exhibit created by a NASA rocket scientist to show Kennedy's position in Z-312, after he leaned forward in the film (Exhibit F-141).
I warned you. It's a house of mirrors...
Canning's Believe It or Not!
Yep, when one compares the various exhibits prepared by the HSCA, and Canning’s final conclusions, the HSCA HouSe of CArds meets a hurricane. While Canning found that Kennedy was leaning forward anywhere between 11 and 18 degrees (from the road surface, which was descending at 3 degrees across the plaza) at frame 190 of the Zapruder film, he was quite insistent Kennedy’s head was leaning forward at precisely 11 degrees (from Zapruder, who was standing on a flat pedestal, and thus 8 degrees from the road surface) at frame 313. Since he decided to go with a forward lean of 14 degrees for frame 190, based upon the previously mentioned 11 to 18 degrees he interpreted as Kennedy’s forward lean in the Croft photo taken at Z-161, moreover, this meant then that he believed Kennedy was leaning slightly forward at frame 190, was hit in the back, and then sat up a bit before being hit in the skull at 313.
Huh? This is the opposite of what is shown in the Zapruder film. ANYONE who has seen the film can tell you that Kennedy reaches towards his neck, slumps forward, and then gets shot in the head. Since the eyewitness testimony is filled with references to Kennedy slumping after first being hit, moreover, it would appear Canning believed Kennedy somehow slumped upwards in his seat.
The Croft photo and Z-312--which Canning used to determine Kennedy's forward lean at the time he received his back wound and head wound, respectively--are presented on the slide above. First, there is the Croft photo--the western edge of the school book depository can be seen in the background, and Kennedy's back is in line with it, and not leaning forward from it. And second, there's Z-312, in which Kennedy is clearly both bent forward from the waist, and bent over at the neck. Is it possible that single-assassin theorists, including historian John McAdams, who promote Canning’s conclusions, honestly believe Kennedy was leaning further forward in the Croft photo than in frame 312? The mind boggles.
While one might rightly point out that my comparison of 14 degrees to 8 degrees (from the road surface) or 17 degrees and 11 degrees (in 3-D space) reflects a comparison of the forward lean of Kennedy’s torso versus the forward lean of his head, it is obvious that Kennedy’s head is bent far more forward of his body at Z-312 than in the Croft photo. Since this is so, well, then, in order for Kennedy’s head to be leaning forward but 8 degrees from the street at Z-312, after having had his torso leaning forward 14 degrees at Z-161, it would mean he'd either had his head tilted back in the Croft photo, or had thrown his head back between frames 161 and 312.
Neither of these things happened.
When one reads Canning's report with an eye on this issue--the forward lean of Kennedy at the moment he was first hit versus the forward lean of Kennedy when struck in the skull--moreover, it's hard not to come away with the feeling he was using doublespeak...that he was being deliberately vague and confusing...that he was trying to hide the uncomfortable fact his findings indicated Kennedy was leaning forward before being hit, then sat up slightly, only to be struck in the head (IOW, the exact opposite of what is shown in the Zapruder film).
Two excerpts from Canning's conclusions are presented on the slide above. Note that he uses terms such as "true vertical", which would seem to be in line with "as viewed by Zapruder", but which is not, as "true vertical" does not include the slope of the street, while "as viewed by Zapruder" does include the slope of the street. Note that he never comes out and says the panel concluded Kennedy is leaning forward 14 degrees against the street in the Croft photo, and instead offers that when one adds in the 4 degrees of the downward slope of the trajectory within the body, and the 3 degrees of the downward slope of the street, that he was leaning forward 18 to 25 degrees and that the panel decided to use 21 degrees.
Yes, my friends, 1984 arrived early...in 1978.
And no, I'm not kidding. While I've been on the fence for decades, I currently believe the HSCA trajectory analysis was a deliberate hoax.
Whenever Canning's trajectories ran into a problem, some sleight-of-hand bullshit made it go away. The back wound and throat wound fail to align with a shot from the sniper's nest? Easy. Say he was leaning forward. The inshoot and outshoot on the skull fail to align as well? Easy. Say he was not leaning very far forward. But that he was turned sharply to his left.
Well, heck. If you have to cram a square peg into a round hole over and over again, it's probably because you're using the wrong set of pegs!
Still, this is all a bit curious. If the HSCA had hired Canning in order to move things around and make a case for Oswald as a lone assassin, why did the Committee turn around and find a conspiracy was likely?"
There's no easy answer, but let me take a shot. Canning’s frustration with the medical panel has been previously addressed and is confirmed by his January 1979 letter to chief counsel Robert Blakey. In this letter, Canning complained of the adversarial staff lawyers and the difficulty of getting “quantitative data—and even consistent descriptions—from the forensic pathologists.” That Canning was not diabolical, but simply sloppy, and eager to please, seems to be confirmed by this letter, as Canning recorded the date as 1978 when it was in fact 1979.
Further understanding of Canning and his errors comes from studying his testimony. First of all, Blakey introduced Canning by telling the audience that “the trajectory analysis itself was a joint effort between the committee and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. An engineer with NASA Space Project Division, Tom Canning, constructed the final product from information provided by the committee from its various panels.” Hmm, so the man has no experience with wound ballistics but has nevertheless been tasked by a government agency dependent on congress for survival with creating “product,” based on information given to him by the committee. Doesn’t exactly sound like an independent search for truth, now does it?
Canning’s own words tell the rest of the story: when asked by Congressman (later Senator) Dodd, about the small size of his trajectory circles (the area from which a shot was most likely fired--derived through rear-projection of a path between two known wound locations), Canning admitted his circles were much smaller than would normally be created by a forensic pathologist, whom he described as overly “conservative.” This indicates that Canning felt he had a new bold approach whereby he could accurately pinpoint the location of a shooter to a far greater degree than any of his more-experienced colleagues. One wonders then if this “boldness” was a factor in Canning’s employment, if not a prerequisite, since it clearly was not his experience. Just as troubling as Canning’s over-playing his hand is that Dodd’s request for more “conservative” exhibits, which included the areas of the Dal-Tex Building which fell within the trajectory circles, went unheeded. The final report was printed and distributed using Canning’s admittedly bold exhibits, without any conservative or thorough exhibits for balance.
An overall view of the HSCA may also be enlightening. While the HSCA eventually found for a conspiracy, this was largely based on last-minute testimony that a recording of the assassination revealed more shots than Oswald could have fired alone, and a subsequent confirmation of this testimony from a separate group of experts. This means that until the last minute, as late as December, 1978, three months after the public hearings, the HSCA was heading towards the conclusion Oswald acted alone.
Is it any wonder then that the medical exhibits and trajectory exhibits, most prepared for testimony many months before the final report, were so bold in their attempts to show there was only one shooter? The men and women who prepared these exhibits had reason to believe that this was what the HSCA was looking for: convincing proof that Oswald acted alone.
No one wanted another investigation. Most certainly not HSCA Chief Counsel G. Robert Blakey.
When one looks at the HSCA Final Assassinations Report published by Bantam Books, one finds additional cause for concern. In this report, which, prior to the internet, was the only work by the HSCA widely available to the public, exhibits F-122 and 139 were re-printed, even though Canning had since modified the trajectories on display. (F-122 was a photo of school book depository with overlapping trajectory circles.) Presumably, no one noticed that Canning had updated his trajectories. Or maybe someone, like the parade of fans stalking Woody Allen in his film Stardust Memories, just liked the early ones better.
Perhaps it should be noted here that I spoke to HSCA Chief Counsel G. Robert Blakey at the 2014 COPA conference in Bethesda, Maryland, and that he agreed to look over my material regarding the work of Thomas Canning. He even provided me his private email address. When I sent him material proving Canning's placement of Kennedy at the time of the shooting had him sitting up after first being shot, instead of slouching down, however, I received no response. That Blakey had either failed to read or understand what I had sent him, or was a liar, was demonstrated during a 10-29-18 discussion of the case at The Sixth Floor Museum, moreover. Of the much-maligned single-bullet theory, he said: "In fact, it's true." Then, he cited Canning's trajectory rings--based upon his demonstrably false interpretations of Kennedy's body's position at the time of the shots--as evidence the fatal shots were fired from the sniper's nest! And while he did this--EEGADS--he showed his audience F-122, the photo with the overlapping circles entered into evidence in Canning's 1978 testimony, that was based on information disowned by Canning in his report.
It seems likely, then, that the person responsible for putting the outdated F-122 into the HSCA's report (and the Canning fan preferring his early work, so to speak) was none other than HSCA Chief Counsel G. Robert Blakey!
I mean, let's be clear. The final report of Canning's panel (contained within Volume 6 of the HSCA appendices), and presumably accepted by Blakey, held that the largest circle, a trajectory circle based around a line connecting the exit and entrance wounds on Kennedy's skull, intersects "the Texas School Book Depository at a point approximately 11 feet west of the southeast corner of the building and 15 feet above the sixth floor windowsills." Well, that's not what's shown above. Such a circle would be centered on the seventh floor and include the depository roof as well as the upper floors and roof of the Dal-Tex Building, across the street.
So, it comes down to this... Blakey is to blame for the Canning fiasco. Blakey's other consultants were skeptical about the scientific value of a trajectory analysis using the wound locations they knew to be less than clear. And yet he persisted. Canning had no background performing such an analysis. And yet he persisted.
Canning was then given an inaccurate location for the head wound on the back of Kennedy's head (based upon a fundamentally mistaken interpretation of the autopsy photos), and an inaccurate location for the exit on the front of Kennedy's head (based upon a fundamentally mistaken interpretation of the autopsy photos). And yet he persisted, and tried to make the evidence support the committee's presumed conclusion all shots were fired from the sniper's nest.
The HSCA trajectory analysis was a bad idea...made worse by poor execution, and a truckload of manure.
Heck, Canning's analysis was doomed from the beginning.
Windshield Fragment Trajectory
Yet another reason to doubt the HSCA's trajectory analysis comes from a close inspection of the Warren Commission and HSCA exhibits... Significantly, those depicting Kennedy at the moment of the fatal headshot all place Kennedy near the middle of the limousine. Well, this is at odds with the Zapruder film, which shows Kennedy, sitting on the far right side of the limousine, slumped slightly to his left.
It is Mrs. Kennedy that moves towards the President, and not the President who moves closer to Mrs. Kennedy.
Now, this confused me until I realized this movement placed the exit wound more in line with the crack found on the windshield of the limo. Since the bullet fragment found in the seat directly below the crack was the nose of the bullet believed to have hit Kennedy in the skull, this actually made sense.
This led me then to wonder what would happen if one projected back from the windshield fragment itself, at the 8 degrees which would presumably lead back to the school book depository. Well, this trajectory led back to the President’s position several inches closer to the door than depicted by the HSCA, or as re-enacted by the FBI for the Warren Commission.
So why had they moved him further to his left than necessary?
I then realized that this movement of Kennedy’s body to its left by a foot or so along with Canning’s excessive turn of Kennedy’s head to its left allowed for the nose of the bullet to traverse the right side of the President’s skull and continue on to hit the windshield, in a straight line.
That this was a key factor is supported by an unexpected source. In 1991, while working on his book Mortal Error, writer Bonar Menninger asked Thomas Canning and Michael Baden about the incorrect placement of Kennedy within the limousine in the commission's exhibits. Canning, for his part, acknowledged the mistake, and said "That kind of discrepancy can seep in because of subjective failure in examination of photographs." But Baden stuck to his script. As recounted in Mortal Error, Baden said "The bullet went in a straight line. Well, it might not be clear to you. But it matched up. The bullet hit the President, continued in a straight line, and struck the windshield."
So it appears that Baden was responsible for this mortal "error." He believed or wanted us to believe the bullet traveled in a straight line. And had convinced himself (or was determined to convince others) that Kennedy had therefore been sitting near the middle of the seat at the moment of the fatal bullet's impact.
And he did this knowing full well his support for the single-bullet theory had necessitated Kennedy's having been draped over the right side of the limo just moments before...
The image below presents the Presidential limo in HSCA Figure II-12 (Thomas Canning's depiction of Kennedy in the limo as he was struck in the head at Zapruder frame 312) superimposed atop the Presidential limo in HSCA Figure II-24 (Thomas Canning's depiction of Kennedy in the limo as he was struck in the back around Zapruder frame 190). Note that Kennedy has moved a foot or more to his left between Z-190 and Z-312 (a timespan of less than seven seconds).
Now, get this... NO such movement is depicted in the Zapruder film. Or any of the films...
Well, it follows then that Kennedy did not slide a foot to his left after first being struck.
A proper placement of Kennedy in his seat at Z-312, depicting a slight slump to his left, however, reveals that the trajectory from the position of Kennedy’s wound to the crack on the windshield was greater than the 8 degrees of the bullet coming from the TSBD. This means the bullet, if it had come from the TSBD, was slightly deflected to its left upon exit, which makes little sense if it had indeed traveled through the President’s skull in a straight line, as Baden maintained.
Even worse, an undeflected bullet on the trajectory proposed by Canning (and later propped up by Baden) would leave Kennedy’s skull while on a steep descent. As the nose of this bullet ended up hitting the windshield at the same level or slightly higher than its supposed exit from Kennedy’s skull, this makes little sense.
Not that this bothered Canning all that much. He told the HSCA: “I noted qualitatively that damage to the windshield of the car appeared to be in reasonable directional alignment but did not appear to be particularly in good slope alignment. But I did no quantitative work in that line.”
Now we mustn't forget that there was a second bullet fragment, a portion of the copper jacket including the copper base, which landed in the front seat after striking a metal strip above the windshield. The discovery of this fragment is a problem for Canning and Baden for several reasons. The book Medicolegal Investigation of Death, by the Clark Panel’s Dr. Russell Fisher and the HSCA’s Dr. Werner Spitz, discussed the separation of a copper jacket from its lead core as follows: “Sometimes the jacket of a bullet separates from the core upon impact…In such cases the jacket and the core each assume separate paths. Whereas the core may leave the body, the jacket very seldom does.”
So, if a copper jacket fragment “very seldom” traverses a body, why should we believe one not only traversed Kennedy's skull heading downwards, but that it changed direction upon exit?
We shouldn't. And Dr. Baden apparently knew we shouldn't. He has long proposed the fatal bullet traversed the skull intact, and that all the metal fragments found within the head had leaked out the back of the bullet.
But Dr. Baden's proposal is sloppy sloppy sloppy. A full-metal jacket bullet explodes a skull, and leaks fragments from its bottom as it streaks across a brain, but fails to break into pieces prior to its changing direction and hitting the windshield frame of a car, whereby it bursts into pieces?
Isn't there a stronger possibility? One where the bullet didn't actually traverse Kennedy's skull...but that it instead struck the top of his skull and exploded?
And that two of its fragments then hit the windshield and windshield frame?
Such a scenario does not require Kennedy's sliding over to the middle of the limo. There is no evidence such a thing occurred, after all.
And such a scenario does not require a sudden change in the bullet's direction upon exiting Kennedy's skull. This never made any sense.
Still, this scenario has a significant problem.
It appears to be at odds with the testimony of the Warren Commission's wound ballistics consultant, Dr. Alfred Olivier, and the HSCA's wound ballistics consultant, Larry Sturdivan.
Appears to be...but is it?