Chapter 20: Conclusions and Confusions:
Chapter 20: Conclusions and Confusions:
Summing it all up and acknowledging some unanswered questions
A New Perspective on the Shots That Killed The President
Shot #1. Approximate firing time: Zapruder frame 188. Hit Kennedy in back around 190, fell out in limousine. (Possibly a hand-loaded bullet.) From: the sixth floor window of the TSBD. Heard by: pretty much everyone in Dealey Plaza between the time of the shot and 10 frames afterward. Other evidence for: the wound in Kennedy’s back, probed at autopsy and found to have been a shallow wound with no passage into Kennedy's chest cavity. CE 399, the nearly pristine bullet found on a gurney in Parkland hospital, the appearance of which would be consistent with the bullet's having been hand-loaded and under-charged (which would, in turn, be consistent with this bullet's having created the shallow back wound observed at autopsy). CE 543, one of the rifle cartridge cases found in the depository, which ballistics investigator Joseph Nichol believed may have been used prior to the assassination, which, it follows, may have been the hand-loaded cartridge firing CE 399. Hugh Betzner's photograph taken just before the first shot, determined to have been taken at Z-186. Jackie Kennedy’s turning to her husband beginning at Zapruder frame 190. Phil Willis' testimony that Mrs. Kennedy snapped her head in that direction at the sound of the first shot. Secret Service Agent George Hickey's turning to his right starting around frame 193. Kennedy’s jerky head and hand movements beginning around Zapruder frame 194. Rosemary Willis’s turning to her right around frame 198. Phil Willis’ photograph taken as a reaction to the first shot, determined to have been taken at frame 202. Secret Service Agent John Ready’s turning to his right around Zapruder frame 203. President Kennedy’s lowering his right arm and lifting his left before frame 224. Connally’s testimony that he believed the first and second shot were fired very close together and indicative of automatic rifle fire. The testimony and statements of numerous witnesses indicating that the first shot rang out when Kennedy was waving (when he stopped waving just after Z-190) and as he approached the Thornton Freeway sign (which Kennedy passed at Z-207).
Jiggle analysis: Zapruder’s camera jiggles at 194.
Shot or shots #2. Approximate firing time: Zapruder frame 222.
Hit Kennedy in hairline at frame 224, exited his throat. Connally wounded in his chest, wrist, and thigh. Wounds seem instantaneous, but it seems likely they were created by separate bullets rapid-fired from a semi-automatic weapon.
From: most likely the upper floors or roof of the Dal-Tex Building.
Heard by: a few near Houston and Elm, perhaps a few on the railroad bridge. Bullet and/or bullets were either fired from a rifle equipped with a silencer, or fired from deep within a building so its sound was muffled in comparison to the other shots. Subsonic ammunition may also have been involved. It’s noted that Nellie Connally, both in her book and in her testimony, says “and then--a second shot” or “and then there was a second shot;” and that she rarely mentions hearing this second shot. In fact, she didn't mention hearing this second shot until 1966, when she said as much to Life Magazine. Since she also swore she saw her husband get hit by this shot and that it came after he yelled “No, no, no,” and since her husband’s testimony and the Zapruder film demonstrate she didn’t even look at him till frame 230 and he didn’t yell anything until after he’d already been hit, it’s safe to say she might have been confused. Neither her husband, for that matter, nor Mrs. Kennedy, recalled hearing a shot between the first shot which hit the President, and the last, which killed him. As a result it seems possible that, due to her proximity, Mrs. Connally simply heard this shot strike the President and/or her husband, and registered it as a shot, without noting that it was not as loud as the first shot.
Other evidence for: the small entrance wound in Kennedy's hairline, and the small wound in Kennedy's throat. CE 903, the re-enactment photo created by Arlen Specter for the Warren Commission, supposedly demonstrating the viability of the single-bullet theory, but really showing how a bullet just missing Kennedy's right shoulder might proceed to hit Connally in the back. Connally's back wound, which, according to Connally's doctors, suggested that the bullet striking Connally had not previously struck Kennedy. Connally's wrist wound, which, according to Connally's doctor, Dr. Charles Gregory, was inconsistent with a wound created by the nearly pristine bullet supposedly creating this wound, Exhibit CE 399, unless this bullet was traveling backwards. The traces of copper found on the front of Connally's clothing, which suggests that the jacket of the bullet striking Connally had been disrupted even prior to striking his wrist. The movement of Connally’s jacket forwards which briefly obscures his shirt from view in the Zapruder film. The rapid lifting of Kennedy’s hands towards his throat as seen in frames 226 and 227. (His hands were actually dropping towards his chest between 224 and 225, but they shot sharply upward at 226.) Connally’s hair jumping up and his being straightened out in his seat, only to collapse back to his right around 234. Bullet fragments removed from Connally’s wrist that do not match the bullet found on the gurney nor the fragments found in the President’s skull. (Actual bullet or bullets may have bounced out of the car off Connally’s leg, or been picked up by a Secret Service Agent. There were rumors that a hole in the floor of the limousine was discovered in early 1964, which might account for the bullet leaving Kennedy’s neck should it have been a separate bullet.)
Jiggle analysis: Zapruder’s camera jiggles around 227 and again at 231.
Shot #3. Approximate firing time: Zapruder frame 310-311.
Hit Kennedy near the temple at frame 313. Bullet fragmented. One piece of its core seems to have continued on to chip the concrete near Tague around 319.
From: the sixth floor window of the TSBD
Heard by: everyone in Dealey Plaza from the time of the shot up to 10 frames afterward. Tague would have heard this shot around 319 or 320.
Other evidence for: extensive damage to the head of the President. Explosion of skull as visible in the Zapruder film. Bullet fragments found in the President’s brain. Additional fragments believed to be linked to these fragments found underneath Nellie Connally’s seat as well as on the front seat of the limousine. Front seat fragments linked to rifle found on the sixth floor of the TSBD.
Jiggle analysis: Zapruder’s camera jiggles around 318 and 324 and again at 331.
Sound or Shot #4. Approximate firing time: Zapruder frame 320-327.
Missed or possibly not even a shot. Quite possibly a loud firecracker used as a diversionary device. The August 27, 1942 issue of Tactical and Technical Trends, a publication of the U.S. War Department, in an article on Japanese Tactics in the Philippines, described the use of firecrackers to "confuse U.S. troops as to the actual Japanese position." More to the point, Combat Lessons #4, a 1942 publication of the U.S. Army, noted that German snipers used firecrackers with slow-burning fuses that would go off after the sniper had left the area. Similarly, Combat Lessons #6, from 1944, noted that, in both the Pacific and European theaters of World War II, "enemy troops have used firecrackers for diversionary purposes, especially when trying to deceive our troops as to the positions of snipers."
And it wasn't that the U.S. failed to follow suit. Spycraft (2008), by former CIA Technical Service Director Robert Wallace, reports that by 1962 the CIA's Technical Services Division (the division, one might add, tasked with developing assassination weapons) had developed a Nightingale device, a firefight simulator comprising a variety of firecrackers with differently-timed fuses, which could be used to fool enemy forces into attacking the wrong position, or even attacking their own troops.
And it's not as if these firefight simulators were never used. The official Air Force history of the Son Tay raid--a 1970 raid by U.S. Forces on a North Vietnamese prison, which resulted in the rescue of 50 American prisoners of war--reflects that firecrackers with timed fuses were an integral part of the raid, and that they were used to confuse the Vietnamese troops.
The use of an explosion to draw attention from the actual area of activity, a tactic widely used today by both the military, and by SWAT teams, (just google "distraction device" and see what I mean) was therefore not only known to operation planners in 1963, but was one likely to be used, should there have been multiple shooters in buildings requiring minutes to escape.
From: somewhere west of the Texas School Book Depository, possibly the railroad yards, but more probably the back of the arcade north of the grassy knoll, or the parking lot across the street. William Newman, and Abraham Zapruder, both facing the President, with the picket fence on their right and school book depository on their left, nevertheless felt the last shot came from behind them. Since a loud sound coming from behind them at this time would arrive but a split second after the sound of a third shot fired from the depository building, a sound's coming from this area would be likely to confuse Newman and Zapruder, and other witnesses nearby, and lead them to recall hearing but two shots. Sure enough, Newman, Zapruder, Mrs. Kennedy, Bobby Hargis, Clint Hill, and Paul Landis, could clearly recall but two shots, and those nearby Kennedy claiming they heard three shots mostly did so while claiming the last two shots were nearly simultaneous. A diversionary device set off in this location would, of course, draw attention from the buildings behind the President when he was shot. If this was the plan, of course...it worked. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the bulk of the Police and eyewitnesses looking for the shooter ran towards the grassy knoll and railroad yards, and ignored the buildings behind the motorcade.
Heard by: everyone in Dealey Plaza from the time of the explosion to 10 frames afterward. Due to their proximity, many interpreted this shot or sound as being the same shot as shot #3. Tague would have heard this explosion around 331-334, which might explain why he was initially convinced he was hit before the third shot.
Other evidence for: reports of smoke near the stockade fence. There were gusts of wind up to twenty miles an hour which may have blown the smoke in that direction. The statements of Dallas officer Joe Marshall Smith, who thought he smelled gunpowder in the parking lot west of the School Book Depository.
Jiggle analysis: camera jiggles at 324 and again at 331.
The testimony of virtually every witness in Dealey Plaza can be accommodated through this simple four shot (or sound) scenario. It doesn’t rely on the hard-to-believe single bullet theory of an undamaged bullet nor on the widespread but scarcely supported by the evidence theory of a shooter-at-the-stockade fence. Its main drawback, as far as testimony goes, is that it calls for 4 shots (or sounds) when most witnesses heard only three. This can be effectively overcome through the argument that the second shot was silenced and heard by only a few. This scenario also fails to account for three shots in the TSBD, where three shells were found. While this could be explained by the sniper’s dropping an extra shell or by the Dallas Police Department planting a shell, the thought occurs that there was seemingly an extra shell at the Tippit killing as well, where the 4 recovered casings didn’t match the 4 bullets removed from Tippit. This uncomfortable development led the Warren Commission to conclude that in fact 5 bullets were fired at Tippit, even though most witnesses heard only three shots.
Should this come as a surprise, here is a breakdown of these witnesses... Mrs. Barbara Davis (3H343) and Mrs. Charlie Virginia Davis (6H456) heard two shots. Helen Markham (3H308), Domingo Benavides (6H447), and Sam Guinyard (7H396) heard three shots. William Scoggins (3H325) and L.J. Lewis (20H534) heard "three or four." Warren Reynolds (11H435) heard "four or five or six." And Ted Callaway (3H352) heard five.
The statements of these witnesses prove most intriguing. As there were at least four shots fired at Tippit, and most witnesses thought there could have been three or less, they suggest that, should there have been a fourth shot fired at Kennedy, as I've proposed, the witnesses to that shooting might not have remembered hearing it, even if it wasn't silenced or suppressed in some manner. At the same time, moreover, the statements of these witnesses support the possibility that one of the shells found at the Tippit shooting location had not been fired that day. And this, by extension, also supports the possibility that one of the shells found in the depository had not been fired that day. While one can only speculate as to why this would be (perhaps, just perhaps, Oswald had kept an empty shell in the chambers of his weapons, perhaps as protection for his children or perhaps as protection for himself should his wife Marina get a hold of his weapons during one of their frequent domestic squabbles) it is worth noting here that the shell of the bullet fired at General Walker was never located. If Oswald and/or those setting up Oswald had left it in the chamber of his rifle, this could very well explain the third shell found in the sniper’s nest.
Supporting that only two shots were fired from the sniper's nest, moreover, is the earliest statements and testimony of the three men on the floor directly beneath the sniper's nest. The testimony of all three supports that there was no first shot miss, and that the last two shots came right after another, too fast to have been fired by the rifle found upstairs. Harold Norman’s statements, so often used to prove that Oswald was the lone assassin, not only reflected that Kennedy was hit by the first shot, but that only two shells dropped to the floor in the firing sequence.
The Low Down on the Short Shot
A problem has been raised with this scenario that deserves some discussion. It has been pointed out that an undercharged bullet would take longer to reach its target than a normal round, and that a bullet so undercharged it would barely penetrate Kennedy's back would have to have been aimed well above and beyond Kennedy to hit him in that location.
Now, this is indeed difficult to work out. But not impossible, IMO.
If the assassin used the scope on the first shot, the misalignment of the scope would lead him to fire 14 inches high or more at only 53 yards, the distance of the limo from the sniper's nest around frame 190 of the Zapruder film. As the bullet struck Kennedy on his back, and not his head, moreover, it follows that the bullet struck Kennedy a good 10 inches below where it was originally aimed (assuming, of course, that the bullet was aimed at his head.) This suggests, then, that the bullet struck Kennedy about 24 inches below where it was originally headed.
So now let's consider that the presumed target, Kennedy, was moving at the time. Robert Frazier's testimony before the Warren Commission reflects that someone firing the rifle found in the building would need to lead Kennedy by 6 inches or so to strike him at 90 yards. We can extrapolate from this, then, that one might need to lead Kennedy by 4 inches or so at 53 yards. Well, if the bullet was traveling but one sixth its normal velocity, as is suggested by the shallow wound on Kennedy's back, the sniper firing this bullet would have to have led Kennedy by 24 inches or so.
Let's check the math.
1. The rifle, when using the scope and standard ammo, fires 14 inches high.
2. The target moves 24 inches higher in the time it takes the bullet to reach the target.
3. The bullet lands about 10 inches below the center of the target.
Well, this suggests the bullet landed pretty much where we would expect it to land. So what's the problem?
Bullet drop. Ballistics calculators suggest that a bullet traveling but 350 fps (the fastest one can presume it was traveling and still have the bullet barely make a hole on Kennedy's back) would drop about 36 inches over the distance to Kennedy. Well, this suggests that the shot landed about 36 inches higher than it should have, and that the sniper was therefore aiming about 36 inches above Kennedy at the time of the first shot. Hmmm...
While I'm not so sure we can trust these numbers, there is reason to believe that, even if accurate, this three feet of bullet drop is not lethal to the proposition Kennedy was hit with a short shot.
So, how's that?
Since the short shot occurred, we can only presume, due to the sniper's improperly hand-loading the bullet, and since we have separately come to conclude subsonic ammunition was used in the assassination, we can assume the sniper knew full well that this bullet was not gonna travel at its usual velocity, and to have compensated for this by firing 11 inches or so higher than normal. This puts the original target about 25 inches higher than one would expect.
Or less. A Marine Corps sniper book in my possession recommends that right-handed shooters tracking a target from left to right double their lead, as there is a "natural hesitation in follow through when swinging against the shooting shoulder." So, yikes, this suggests the original target may have been as little as 14 inches higher than one would expect
And that's not the only bit of subtraction in order. The bullet, if fired from the sniper's nest, was fired from about 21 degrees above Kennedy at frame 190 of the Zapruder film. Well, this cuts the presumed bullet drop down from 3 feet to as little as 27 inches or so. And this puts the original target around 5 inches higher than one would otherwise expect.
Now, this is all guesswork, of course, but I think we can agree that there are just too many variables to dismiss that an undercharged bullet hit Kennedy--and to say this proves the bullet striking Kennedy in the back actually went into his chest, etc. I mean, that goes too far.
In fact, for all we know, the bullet fired through the tree barely hit the tree, and began spinning end over end, whereby it hit Kennedy lower on his back than intended. This would, after all, explain both the damage to the back of the bullet, which seems unlikely if the bullet never traveled over 350 fps, and the shallow entry on the back.
Hmmm... I'll have to think some more on this...
The View From Afar
To be clear, the scenario listed above is not "my theory." It is a possibility more in line with the evidence as I see it than any of the scenarios offered by the government, and any of the scenarios as yet offered by the research community, that is all. I will change it as I learn more, and better understand the evidence, or as elements of my research are proven incorrect.There are, in fact, aspects of the scenario with which I am uncomfortable. I'm not sure if a small-caliber subsonic bullet could do the damage to Kennedy or Connally I've proposed. For a long time, I was also unsure if Kennedy and Connally would be properly aligned for a burst of shots from the roof of the Dal-Tex Building circa frame 224 of the Zapruder film. In 2009, I finally realized I could use the Warren Commission's re-enactment photos to answer this last question. Since a bullet fired from the roof of the Dal-Tex would be descending at 24-25 degrees, I looked at the relationship between Kennedy and Connally at frame 207 of the Zapruder film, when a bullet fired from the sniper's nest window would be descending 24-25 degrees. Sure enough, Warren Commission Exhibit 892 recreating frame 207 shows that the entrance wound on the back of Kennedy's head would have been at around the same level as the wound in Connally's armpit. (Although the Kennedy stand-in in this exhibit was sitting almost a foot further from the ground than Kennedy was sitting on 11-22-63, and although there were differences in the height of the Connally stand-in and Connally, and the relative positions of the seats in the Presidential limousine and the limousine used in the re-enactment, SS Agent Thomas Kelley testified before the Warren Commission that "There was an adjustment made so that...the stand-in for Governor Connally would be in relatively the same position" as Connally was to Kennedy. One hopes they got it right.) But what about the right-left relationship of Kennedy and Connally? Well, since the proposed sniper on the Dal-Tex roof was firing from almost directly behind the limo, I decided to look at Warren Commission Exhibit 901, a re-enactment photo taken from almost directly behind the limo. Well, in opposition to most current re-enactments, this showed Connally to have been sitting slightly to the right of Kennedy in the limo... When one mentally moves Connally back over a few inches, and turns him further to his right, however, one finds that his armpit is now just right of Kennedy's head. This proves that, from the perspective of the roof of the Dal-Tex Building circa frame 224 of the Zapruder film, the entrance wound low on Kennedy's head and the entrance wound in Connally's armpit were but inches apart, well within the spread of bullets rapid-fired from a semi-automatic weapon.
So maybe I'm onto something... Either that or I've stumbled on yet another coincidence.
Now, to that ticklish question of WHODUNNIT...I offer but a morsel to the feast supplied by Anthony Summers in his book Not in Your Lifetime, and Larry Hancock in his book Someone Would Have Talked.
The Seduction of Intrigue
As detailed in the previous chapters, my study of the eyewitness evidence and Zapruder film led me to suspect the snipers firing on Kennedy were trained in military tactics, and had used a weapon similar to those described in the CIA's Manual on Assassination.
So does that mean I think the CIA was involved? Not necessarily. Let’s just say that the killers were probably aware of CIA assassination techniques, and may very well have been CIA-trained. If the CIA suspected as much, moreover, it might very well explain why the CIA has been less than forthcoming on so many aspects of the assassination. Yes, after all this time, literally years spent on this investigation, I still think it's possible that the numerous government lies I've uncovered are unrelated to the assassination itself, and are more indicative of a vast cover-up of information embarrassing to the U.S. Government and City of Dallas than a vast conspiracy to kill Kennedy, and an ongoing conspiracy to cover-up this event.
But sometimes I have to wonder... In early 2009, while preparing to mail out something I'd sold over the internet, using an assumed name, I noticed that the buyer's name was quite familiar. It was John McAdams, the Marquette University Professor whose single-assassin theorist website was at that time top-ranked by google. Now, by early 2009, I'd sold thousands of items over the internet, none to anyone with whom I'd ever had any contact. And here was the one person with whom I'd had regular contact--through the alt.assassination.JFK newsgroup--who was also widely rumored to be a CIA operative...and he was buying something from me. Did he know the name under which I'd been selling my possessions? Was he sending me a message? Was it even him?
I decided to google his name along with the city provided on the address, to see if it was indeed THE John McAdams, and not just A John McAdams. And I came across an internet radio station programmed by THE John McAdams with the same home town. Hmmm...I thought. So it is him... Now ain't that a coinkydink... But then I noticed that the three rotating banner ads across the top of McAdams' radio station web page were all sponsored by the CIA. All of 'em. There were other ads off to the side. But the ads above McAdams' face were all CIA ads. Now what are the odds of that? I have contact with one person rumored to be a CIA operative. I find a photo of him online. Above this photo--by pure coincidence?--there are ads placed by the CIA.
I just couldn't buy this was a coincidence. I decided that there must be some sort of connection. It then hit me that most internet ads are placed by computer programs, and that McAdams' having people google his name together with "CIA" may have led some program to associate his name with the CIA, and place ads for the CIA above his name and photo. I mentioned this possibility to a few JFK assassination website owners and they told me they agreed that this was indeed the most logical explanation. Some months later, however, McAdams himself insisted this wasn't so. McAdams had stupidly called one of the website owners I'd consulted a "fascist." This, in turn, led me to point out that this man had defended McAdams when I had asked him if the CIA ads had been more than a coincidence. McAdams then grew quite defensive, and claimed that the appearance of these ads above his face was obviously a coincidence, and that only a kook or loony would think otherwise. When I mentioned that it seemed perfectly reasonable to me to assume that someone at the CIA considered his JFK website a friendly website, and wanted to reward him by supporting his music web page, John fought this as well, insisting that, since CIA ads could be found on the home page of the website hosting his radio station, it was all obviously just a coincidence. In the end, he was unwilling to accept any possibility that the ads on his web page were more than a coincidence, even if this possibility reflected no wrong-doing on his part.
So here we were again...at a cognitive divide. Perhaps then, conspiracy theorists are those who see something unlikely--like the one person you know who might have connections to the CIA having CIA ads on the website of their internet radio station--as suspicious, while those denying the possibility of conspiracy see this same event as just another, yawn, coincidence. One side sees what could be a coincidence as a possible clue, while the other side sees what could be a clue as an obvious coincidence.
The Truth About Lying
Unfortunately, the most clear-cut conclusion I've come to regarding the assassination is that many of those tasked with conducting the investigation of Kennedy's murder LIED. But that's not where it ends. I've also come to conclude that many of the most prominent critics have told similar lies, and that maybe, just maybe, the truth about lying is not only that it is ever-present, but indistinguishable to us at times from telling the truth. Yep, it now seems clear to me that, in the heat of argument, it's quite normal, expected even, that those preparing to attack or respond to an attack gather bits and pieces of what they remember and reconstruct them in the manner most supportive of their position. It seems clear, moreover, that they do this subconsciously.
Let's use Senator Arlen Specter as an example. In 1992, as a response to the criticisms of the Warren Report at the center of the movie JFK, he wrote a letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer. This, in effect, was a man accused of being a liar writing a letter arguing that he is not a liar. And yet the letter was filled with half-truths, deceptions and lies. Here is the letter in question (with my comments in bold):
'Jfk' The Film Mangles The Facts. The Single-bullet Theory Has Withstood The Test Of Time.
January 05, 1992|By ARLEN SPECTER
When I was first asked about the new movie JFK by the news media in early December, I tossed it off with a laugh, saying that I would try to see it during the holiday season because I enjoyed fiction. When I saw it a few weeks later, I thought that it was anything but funny, because it portrayed to about half of America (those under 12 when President John F. Kennedy was murdered 28 years ago) a false story as a matter of first impression in a docudrama format that intermixes authentic black and white newsreels with black and white fictional clips so that the viewer cannot tell which is which in an otherwise color film.
The strength of our democratic institutions resides in the unabridged freedom of citizens to criticize their government. That right to criticize was eloquently articulated by Thomas Jefferson: "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
Our government at all levels has lots of problems, and no one ever said it better than Winston Churchill: "Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Government has an absolute duty not to lie to its people. There is at least some duty on the part of the critics, especially those using the technique of a movie docudrama, not to fraudulently and intentionally deceive a whole generation of Americans about an important historical event.
(Yes, you read that right...Specter, who'd sneaked a peek at Kennedy's autopsy photos and knew Kennedy was shot in the back, and who not only never told the commission the exhibits he'd already had created showing the wound to be two inches higher at the base of the neck were inaccurate, but actively sought to hide this from the commission, is holding Oliver Stone, a Hollywood filmmaker, to a higher standard than himself. He is also off-base in asserting that Stone had intentionally deceived people--an assertion for which he offers no proof.)
Look at a few of the falsehoods.
The movie: Kennedy had a large exit wound in the back of his head indicating that the bullet came from the front.
Facts: Kennedy had a small entry hole in the back of his head and a large exit wound at the top front showing that the bullet came from the rear and above.
(Specter is deceiving his readers. He knows full well Stone built his representation of the wound location on the testimony of the Parkland doctors. And he knows this because he himself took the testimony of these doctors. Now, he could make the argument these doctors were largely incorrect, but he doesn't do that; instead, he lets his readers believe this is something Stone made up from whole cloth.)
The movie: Lt. Col. Pierre Finck, an autopsy surgeon at Bethesda, says the government agents at the autopsy ordered a coverup on the medical findings.
Facts: Finck testified under oath before the Warren Commission that an initial bullet hit Kennedy in the back of the neck, hit nothing solid, and exited from his throat - supporting the single bullet theory.
(This is a lie. The movie does not have Finck say a government agent ordered a coverup. It accurately quotes Finck's testimony in the trial of Clay Shaw--the subject of the movie--and has him claim the doctors were ordered by an unnamed Army General not to inspect Kennedy's neck. Specter also misrepresents Finck's Warren Commission testimony. Finck did not say the bullet hit Kennedy in the "back of the neck." He did, however, respond to a question in which Specter described the wound as a "back wound." Specter wrote this article, moreover, in 1992, 13 years after the HSCA published tracings of an autopsy photo proving the wound was a back wound, inches below the "back of the neck." So why does Specter claim Finck said the wound was in the "back of the neck"? Hmmm... Because he's lying?)
The movie: Jack Ruby tells Chief Justice Earl Warren to get him out of Dallas so that he (Ruby) can tell about his part in the conspiracy.
Facts: Ruby testified before the Warren Commission that he had no part in any conspiracy.
(This is another lie. Ruby's statements to Warren in the movie are taken from the transcript of Ruby's testimony. He never says he wants to go to Washington to talk about his role in a conspiracy, only that he cannot tell the truth while in Dallas. It follows then that, since Ruby told Warren he could only tell the truth if Warren brought him back to Washington, that his claims of non-involvement while in Dallas were not intended to be his last words on the matter. Specter fails to reveal, moreover, that Ruby asked him--Specter, personally--to contact President Johnson's top adviser Abe Fortas and ask him to arrange his transfer to Washington, and that Specter failed to do so.)
The movie says there was a gigantic conspiracy involving President Lyndon Johnson, Warren, the FBI, the CIA and many others. For that to be true, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (in charge of the FBI), the President's brother, would have to have been a part of - or at least indifferent to - the conspiracy. How ridiculous can you be?
(This is yet another deception. First of all, the movie is told from the perspective of New Orleans DA Jim Garrison, and accurately depicts his conclusion--not necessarily Oliver Stone's, or those of his viewers--that those people and organizations were involved in a conspiracy. Second of all, the bit about Robert Kennedy is just cruel. Specter knew full well that, with the death of his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy stepped aside to take care of his extended family. He knew full well, furthermore, that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover stopped reporting to Kennedy at this time. Now, he also knew that Robert Kennedy soon after sought the Presidency--whereby he would finally be in a position to investigate his brother's death without the interference of Lyndon Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover--and that he was murdered before he could reach this objective. So where does Specter get off judging Robert Kennedy and his failure to act? Is there a statute of limitations on revenge, whereby any brother of a President who tracks down his brother's killers--at great risk to himself and his family--within 3 years of his brother's murder is a loyal brother, but one who waits 4 years or more is "indifferent" to his brothers' murder? Of course not. Specter's pretending Robert Kennedy was in control of the FBI, and that his failure to seek revenge in a timely manner means he supported the Warren Commission's conclusions, is both dishonest and disgusting.)
If that far-flung conspiracy involving so many agencies and people could be kept secret for more than two decades, it would have been the most successful undertaking of the U.S. government in its 200-year history.
The Warren Commission concluded that there was no conspiracy. The House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations found the "probability" of a conspiracy based on a sound tape, believed to be a recording of the assassination, with two shots 1.6 seconds apart, which would be too fast for both to have come from Oswald's rifle. Further study by the National Academy of Sciences proved that the tape did not record the shots in the assassination.
(This is misleading. HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey and Chairman Louis Stokes both claimed the testimony regarding the "sound tape" only confirmed what they'd already come to believe--based largely on the eyewitness evidence and the committee's investigation of Jack Ruby's ties to organized crime--that Kennedy had been killed as the result of a conspiracy. Specter also overstates the National Academy's conclusions.)
It is impossible to prove conclusively a negative - that something did not happen. Had there been a conspiracy, I believe it would have come to light in the intervening 28 years, given the impossibility of keeping secrets in our free society.
The movie mangles the facts on the single-bullet theory. The House assassinations committee, very critical of the Warren Commission on other matters, confirmed the single-bullet theory.
(This is also misleading. The House committee did not "confirm" the single-bullet theory, at least as pushed by Specter on the Warren Commission. The House Committee, in fact, came up with its own theory, with the bullet hitting at a substantially different wound location, and at a substantially different time, than Specter's theory.)
When the autopsy surgeons disclosed that the bullet, which passed through the President's neck, hit nothing solid and exited with tremendous velocity, it was apparent that a bullet with that trajectory would have to have hit the interior of the vehicle or someone else. We noted that the entry wound on Gov. John Connally's back (slightly to the left of his right armpit) was slightly irregular, which was consistent to some other object's having been hit first without significantly slowing the bullet's velocity.
(Specter fails to tell his readers that Connally's doctor--the only person to inspect his back wound--consistently claimed that the bullet striking Connally had not struck anything before hitting him.)
The commission then conducted elaborate tests such as firing Oswald's rifle at the same distance at substances, recreating the President's neck, to measure entrance and exit velocities; grazing the rib of an anesthetized goat (simulating Connally's rib wound); firing Oswald's rifle at cadaver skulls and wrists; etc.
From the evidence, the single-bullet theory emerged. Using the neutron activation analysis (not known during the time of the Warren Commission investigation), the House committee more than a decade later concluded that the metallic fragments in Connally's wrist came from the single bullet.
(This is another lie, although perhaps an accidental one. The Warren Commission knew about neutron activation analysis. The FBI performed NAA on the bullet fragments, but concluded they were inconclusive. They also performed NAA on the paraffin casts of Oswald's hands and cheek, only to dismiss the results of the tests on Oswald's cheek cast--which suggested he hadn't fired a rifle--due to their being too much barium on the outside of the cast. The FBI expert conducting these last tests, moreover, testified before the commission, with his testimony being published in the commission's volumes.)
Over the years I have debated critics on live television such as Mark Lane on British television for four hours and 45 minutes and Josiah Thompson on Philadelphia public television for two hours at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. I think it is fair to say that the single-bullet theory has withstood the test of time for those willing to listen to the evidence and follow the facts.
Historians, columnists and media critics have thoroughly discredited and ridiculed the movie JFK. But that is not sufficient for all the men and women who are being defamed by the movie's dredging up stale conspiracy theories that have been discredited over the past two decades. Most of those defamed are not alive to defend themselves. Their families inherit their anguish, as illustrated by television journalist Cokie Roberts, who commented recently on ABC's This Week With David Brinkley that the movie was unfair to her father, Louisiana Rep. Hale Boggs, who was a member of the commission.
(Specter leaves out that few are as defamed by the movie as himself, and that that is why he has written this article.)
Considering the facts that debate continues on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and just last year the body of Zachary Taylor was exhumed on the suspicion that he was poisoned, it is not surprising that doubt remains about the Warren Report. But then who has read the Warren Report - let alone the 25 volumes containing 17,000 pages of supporting evidence?
(Specter conceals that many of the early critics of the Warren Commission only became critics after reading the Warren Report and its 26--not 25--volumes of supporting evidence--and realizing Specter had both failed to call a number of key witnesses, and pressured others to testify in opposition to their original statements.)
In a curious way, this absurd movie, which no one is taking seriously once acquainted with the facts, may lead people to read and accept the extensive factual analysis and sound conclusions of the Warren Commission's report.
(By claiming "no one" is taking the film seriously once acquainted with the facts, Specter insults the many conspiracy theorists he knows full well take the film very seriously, and misleads those readers not knowledgeable enough to judge one way or the other. The problem, he has to know, is not that those taking Stone's movie seriously just aren't acquainted with "the facts," but that they just don't believe Specter's "facts.")
So there you have it. Specter tried to claim Oliver Stone was a liar, and repeatedly misled his readers while making his argument. Now, does it make more sense for us to believe Specter is both a brazen liar--deliberately deceiving everyone who'll listen--and a STUPID liar--making claims that are easy to disprove--OR that, in the heat of battle, his grasp of the truth became a bit tenuous?
I now lean to the latter. My dealings with McAdams and Fetzer and Mantik et al have led me to believe that really smart but imperfect men are perfectly capable of making really dumb claims, and will quite often defend these claims till the end, pushing more and more nonsense in the process.
Now, this wasn't exactly a ground-breaking discovery, but it was nevertheless a difficult one for me to absorb. Historians and psychologists have long-noted man's propensity to lie. Historian Peter Charles Hoffer, in his 2004 book Past Imperfect, offered: "It is human to lie. We lie because the truth is harsh or hurtful; because we see an advantage to the lie; because lying is easier than explanation. We lie to save ourselves from extra work or the consequences of the truth. We lie to make ourselves look smarter, bolder, richer, or more worthy of another's admiration or friendship. We lie to save souls teetering on the edge of damnation. We lie to bring low those whose guilt is clear to us but may not be as clear to others. We lie because we are paid to lie. Some of us have a compulsion to lie."
Now, hmm--that some lie to bring low those whose guilt is clear to them, or even get paid to lie--why does this sound so familiar?
Why We Fight
Those assuming that they need to play along with the "conservative" view of the assassination in order to get ahead in the medical profession miss that the medical professionals who have chosen to associate themselves with the single-assassin theory have been among the least credible individuals associated with the case. We have already discussed the failings of Dr. Michael Baden, and the many foolish and easily disproved statements he's made about the assassination. We have also discussed Dr. John Lattimer, a Urologist, with his strange belief Kennedy was a hunchback, and his odd diagrams presenting Kennedy's lung above his throat, and his long-time obsession with Nazis, and his odd habit of collecting celebrity genitalia. We have also discussed Dr. Chad Zimmerman, a Chiropractor, and the many flaws in his "experiments". But what we haven't fully discussed is that there has been virtually NO ONE from the world of medicine to publicly associate themselves with the single-assassin conclusion over the past 20 years, with whom other doctors would want to be associated.
If one gets the opportunity to view a video of the 1993 symposium on the medical evidence held in Chicago one will see precisely what I'm talking about.
First up was Dr. George Lundberg, then editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. (Thanks to researcher Dave Reitzes for posting Lundberg's statements online.)
Lundberg opened by admitting he knew next to nothing about the case, and then concluded:
"What then and whom then do I trust? I have known Dr. James Humes, the principal autopsy pathologist, personally since 1957. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, who was paraphrasing Lloyd Bentsen: I know Jim Humes. He's a friend of mine. I would trust him with my life.
Dr. Humes is an outstanding general pathologist, before and after 1963, acclaimed by his peers for thirty years -- forty years, perhaps -- but never was before, during, or after a fully trained forensic pathologist and never claimed to be. He didn't volunteer to do that job; he was assigned.
Moving from 1963 to 1968, the United States Attorney General appointed a four-person, blue-ribbon panel to study and reevaluate the JFK autopsy. The reason that was appointed was a request by the second autopsy pathologist, Dr. Jay Boswell, that there be such an independent investigation. This four-member panel had developed unanimous support for the autopsy report, results and interpretation.
A key member of that panel was the late Dr. Russell Fisher, Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Maryland, probably the world's top forensic pathologist of his time. I knew Russell Fisher. He was a friend of mine. I would trust him with my life. He concurred: two bullets from the rear. A simple story.
In 1979 the forensic pathology subcommittee of the House Select Committee on Assassinations included nine members. It voted eight to one in support of the autopsy findings and basic interpretation. One of the members was Dr. Earl Rose, a forensic pathologist in Dallas in November 1963 whose legal responsibility it was to autopsy President Kennedy and who tried to stop the illegal movement of the body from Dallas.
I have known Dr. Earl Rose since 1973. He is a friend of mine. I would trust him with my life. He concurs: two bullets from the rear.
Another member of that 1979 subcommittee was Dr. Charles Petty. Dr. Petty is Professor of Pathology at the University of Texas-Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Texas. He heads up the Forensic Science Institute there, which was built in large part because of the Dallas embarrassment over the assassination and their recognition of the need for outstanding forensic science.
Dr. Petty has been quiet on the JFK issue for many, many years. This year he volunteered to write for JAMA on this subject. Last week's JAMA has his editorial, which confirms and explains the Single Bullet Theory.
I have known Chuck Petty since 1968. He is a friend of mine. I would trust him with my life.
These are the keys to trust: Jim Humes in 1963, Russell Fisher in 1968, Earl Rose in 1979 and again in JAMA in 1992, Chuck Petty in 1979 and again in JAMA in`1993, and then there is me.
To imagine or state that somehow these people say we have been duped, misled, or are somehow part of the conspiracy to deny the truth on this issue for all ages, strains the vocabulary to find strong enough words to describe such absurdity. Such charges are somewhere among the descriptors: wild and crazy, off the wall, out in left field in Cubs Park, incredible, insulting, or worse."
Well, this was not exactly scientific, was it? In 1999, for reasons apparently unrelated to his controversial stance on the Kennedy assassination, Lundberg was fired from JAMA.
Next up was Dr. Lattimer, reciting material from his book, claiming he knew Kennedy and Kennedy had a big hump on his back, etc. Then came Dr. Michael West, presenting a program defending the single-bullet theory that he'd previously presented to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the FBI Academy. (The former presentation was organized by Dr. Michael Baden, no less.) West recited stuff from Lattimer's book, and showed a film in which it was argued that Governor Connally's delayed reaction to the shot when compared to Kennedy was exactly as one would expect, and that his flipping of his hat circa frame 227 of the Zapruder film was "positive proof" of a neurological response to trauma prior to the point most conspiracy theorists believe he'd been hit. (West was quoted along these lines in Gerald Posner's book Case Closed.)
Erasing the Wild, Wild, West from History
Well, what happened to Dr. West, you might ask?
The 1998 book Tainting Evidence notes that Dr. West was a forensic dentist from Mississippi who appeared as a scientific expert in more than 60 trials in 10 states before it became clear he had a knack for seeing marks on bodies that others failed to see. As at least 20 of his appearances were in murder cases in which a suspect's life lay in the balance, moreover, the possibility West was sculpting his testimony to fit the needs of the prosecution slowly dawned on his fellow scientists. As a result, medical examiners (including Dr. Robert Kirschner, one of the ARRB's special consultants) began testifying against West, and he was denounced in a 1996 article in the American Bar Association Journal, in which he was called "a sore on the body of forensic science."
The 2008 book Forensics Under Fire fleshes out the story, and uses West as a case study of an expert gone awry. Despite West's claims that a special blue light he'd personally developed had allowed him to see the bite marks on victims no one else could see, the "science" of this light was never quite established. As a result other experts began to question West's conclusions, and he gradually fell out of favor. Within a year of his presentation at the 1993 Symposium, in fact, Dr. West was pressured into leaving the international Association of Identification and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He was also suspended by the American Board of Forensic Odontology. As a result, the convictions of two men against whom he'd testified were overturned, and the charges against still another were dropped. Word rapidly got out that his word was suspect, and his court appearances dropped off considerably.
He was so desperate for an appearance, in fact, that he agreed to give his opinion on a case for which he'd not done his homework. In 2001, in an effort to discredit the bite-mark analysis used against a client, lawyer Christopher Plourd hired private detective James Rix to contact West and ask if the teeth in a dental mold provided West matched the bite mark on the breast of the woman purportedly killed by Plourd's client. Two months later, after cashing a check for $750, West sent Rix a 20 Minute video explaining that, based on West's expert analysis, the odds that "these weren’t the teeth that created this bite would be almost astronomical."
Oops. This was a big mistake. The dental mold sent West had not been that of Plourd's client, but of Rix, the private investigator.
And from there things spiraled downward. In 2008, after the arrest of a man who'd admitted killing two toddlers in the early nineties, the lawyers for the two men previously convicted of these crimes called for West's arrest. This led Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal organization that examines questionable convictions and has won the exoneration of more than 200 inmates, to declare in an ABC News report that West was "a criminal" and that he'd "deliberately fabricated evidence and conclusions which were not supported by the evidence, the data or the rules of science." Neufeld further claimed "If you fabricate evidence in a capital murder case, where you know that if the person's convicted they are going to be executed — as far as I'm concerned that's the crime of attempted murder.'' He then concluded "These are not cases of sloppy forensic science. This is intentional misconduct. It's fabricated evidence to send people to death row.''
Pretty harsh words. Provocative words. Still, even though Neufeld's charges would seem a clear case of libel (should he not have been telling the truth), West refused to respond to his charges. West did, however, tell CBS' Steve Kroft that he stood by his prior testimony, and that if the DNA evidence implicated someone other than the defendants in the rapes and murders of the children they'd been convicted of killing, it meant only that someone else had raped and killed the children after the defendants had bitten them. Not willing to give an inch, West even stood by his absurd testimony that one of the defendants had bitten his victim 19 times--using only his upper teeth!
And from there things only got worse for wild, wild, West. In February 2009, Reasononline posted links to a 1993 video of West (http://reason.com/news/show/131527.html) rubbing a suspect's dental impressions on the cheek of a dead child. Finding bite marks on the cheek, curiously, allowed prosecutors to charge the man responsible for her apparently accidental death with deliberation, and this, in turn, allowed them to seek the death penalty. After seeing this video, Dr. Michael Bowers, a dentist and medical examiner for Ventura County, California, broke ranks with his colleague and told Reasononline that marks appeared on the young girl's cheek after West rubbed the suspect's dental impressions on her cheek because "Dr. West created them. It was intentional. He's creating artificial abrasions in that video, and he's tampering with the evidence. It's criminal, regardless of what excuse he may come up with about his methods...You never jam a plaster cast into a possible bite mark like that. It distorts the evidence. You take a photograph, or if there are indentations, you take an impression. But you don't jam plaster teeth into them."
Dr. David Averill, a former President of The American Board of Forensic Odontology, concurred with this appraisal. He told Reasononline "The video is troubling. I don't know how you can explain where those marks come from. And there's just no justification for him to push the cast into the skin like that...That isn't an acceptable way to perform a bite mark analysis."
But that wasn't the end of it. The writer of the article, Radley Balko, reported that Forensic Odontologist Richard Souviron, who'd served as an expert for the defendant, Jimmie Duncan, was never shown the video prior to Duncan's trial and conviction, and had signed a new affidavit claiming the video showed "'Dr. West, violently and repeatedly, forcing a mold of Jimmie Duncan's teeth into Ms. Oliveaux's right cheek. In doing so, Dr. West creates a mark that was not previously present. Dr. West's behavior and methods are absolutely not supported by any scientific standards or protocol.' Souviron added in the affidavit that hospital photographs show that 'none of the marks were present when Ms. Oliveaux was at the hospital,' and that the abrasions that Reisner testified about for the prosecution 'were created by the flagrant misconduct of Dr. Michael West.'"
Now, that was the end of Wild Wild West's adventures in bite-mark analysis... An 8-6-12 article by Jerry Mitchell in the Clarion-Ledger revealed that in a 2011 deposition West had admitted that "I no longer believe in bite-mark analysis...I don’t think it should be used in court. I think you should use DNA. Throw bite marks out” and that West had further told Mitchell that "The science is not as exact as I had hoped...DNA has made it fairly obsolete.”
But that wasn't the end of the story...
A 4-17-20 article on Oxygen.com, written by Gina Tron in response to a recently released episode of the Innocence Files, fills in the blanks...
'They Want To Erase Me From History:' Bite Mark Analyst Dr. Michael West Bristles At Criticism Of Him And His Work
“The Innocence Files” doesn’t just focus on the lives of eight people who were wrongly convicted. It also hones in on the flawed evidence that put them behind bars in the first place.
One forensic expert’s work helped lead to the convictions of several individuals whose cases the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal organization devoted to exonerating wrongly convicted people, has worked on. Two of those cases — the murder convictions of Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer for the deaths of 3-year-olds Courtney Smith and Christine Jackson, respectively — were featured prominently in Netflix’s new docuseries “The Innocence Files.” Also featured prominently was that expert himself: Dr. Michael West, whose bite mark analysis contributed to both men’s convictions.
Smith was found dead in a pond after being taken from her Noxubee County, Mississippi home in the middle of the night in 1990. She'd been brutally sexually assaulted and murdered. Eighteen months later, in 1992, Jackson was found dead in eerily similar circumstances. She too was taken from her home, also in Noxubee, as she slept before being sexually assaulted and dumped in a creek. Each girl had what authorities believed were bite marks on their bodies.
After rounding up a number of suspects in Smith's murder, authorities obtained molds of their teeth to conduct tests. West concluded that the suspected bit mark on Smith's body came from Brooks. In Jackson's death, he also used bite mark analysis to assert that Brewer was responsible for 19 bite marks on the girl's body. West even went so far as to say the bite marks found on Jackson were “indeed and without a doubt inflected [sic] by Kennedy Brewer.”
Both men were convicted, but neither turned out to be responsible. Brooks and Brewer were exonerated in 2008 after the girls’ real killer, Justin Albert Johnson, confessed to the murders. He also denied biting the victims at all, further calling into question the efficacy of West's bite mark analysis; during the course of their own investigation, the Innocence Project's expert attributed the so-called human bite marks to crayfish who were feeding on the corpses before they were discovered.
West’s work was harshly criticized in that case as well as in the case of others.
West attended the Louisiana State University School of Dentistry before going on to study forensic dentistry at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington D.C.. Later, he attended the American Academy of Forensic Science. He said in the docuseries that he has 29 years of experience doing death investigation work, spent 15 years working in a coroner’s office and five years as a chief medical examiner. According to his own accounting, he has investigated more than 5,200 deaths, attended more than 5,800 autopsies and analyzed more than 300 bite marks. It’s the bite marks that brought him the most attention. By the 1980s, he'd become a world-renowned forensic odontologist who testified at numerous criminal trials.
"Mike West was a pioneer in the field of forensic odontology at that time,” forensic odontologist Dr. Adam Freeman told the producers of “The Innocence Files.”
As the docuseries shows, West utilized "direct comparison" when analyzing bite marks, placing teeth molds from suspects straight onto victims’ cadavers. West told Oxygen.com that “direct comparison” provides the most accurate results. However, this practice has been criticized as inaccurate and subjective. For example, a video of him seemingly forcing a mold onto a corpse in 1993 was criticized as evidence fabrication, The Huffington Post reported in 2011.
However, he was condemned long before that.
“I felt like he was a quack, which is why I wanted him absolutely discredited,” Thomas Kesler, a public defender who represented Brewer at his initial trial told “The Innocence Files” filmmakers.
He was even criticized by his own colleagues, including forensic odontologist Dr. Richard Souviron, who brought bite mark analysis into the limelight after his testimony in the Ted Bundy trial. While West told Oxygen.com that he once looked up to Souviron, he said they’ve since had a falling out.
Souviron said that West’s analysis of Jackson’s body was simply wrong. He testified for the defense that it was animal predation, not human bites, that left those marks.
“Dr. West was 110% wrong,” Souviron said in the docuseries about Jackson's murder. “None of those marks were bite marks”
In particular, he said that all 19 of the so-called bite marks on Jackson would have had to have been the product of upper teeth only.
"There's no such thing as a bite mark with only the upper teeth,” Souviron said.
To this day, however, West maintains that all the marks were bite marks and that Brewer was the culprit. He told Oxygen.com that he feels like he conducted his research flawlessly. However, he admitted that an ethical committee — of which Souviron was a member — criticized him in 1994 for using the term “indeed and without a doubt” when talking about suspects in bite mark analysis cases. He had even been discredited before Brewer’s trial, the first member ever to be suspended from the American Board of Forensic Odontology.
Dr. Niki Osborne, a forensic research scientist based in New Zealand who studies decision-making and reliability in forensic sciences, previously told Oxygen.com that making such declarative statements is inappropriate. She said it can be declared that a bite mark “cannot exclude” a suspect as its source, actually criticizing Souviron's work in the Bundy trial. She said that skin is not a precise impression material, thus it cannot create perfect matches. Chris Fabricant, Director of Strategic Litigation for the Innocence Project, previously told Oxygen.com that the Innocence Project searches for cases where a conviction is based on bite mark evidence because those cases are usually so flimsy.
Even though Johnson confessed to killing both girls alone in 2008, West said he still believes that the bite marks belong to Brooks and Brewer. While he accepts Johnson's confession to the murders, he told Oxygen.com he doesn’t think Johnson acted alone. He also added that he thinks the juries in each cases didn’t convict solely on his bite mark analysis; he said other factors came into play for the guilty verdicts.
Brewer and Brooks weren’t the only cases West worked on whose convictions were later overturned. The 2001 convictions of two women, Leigh Stubbs and Tammy Vance, which were based in part on bite mark analysis conducted by West, were overturned in 2012, according to the Innocence Project.
West is now retired and still living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
“I’m 67, overweight, diabetic and I think I’m going to die of boredom because of coronavirus,” he said. “In the background I can hear my father yelling ‘Suck it up, buttercup, ain’t nobody shooting at you.'”
West said his father, who was a war veteran, also would have criticized him if he pondered whether he had PTSD from handling so many dead bodies. He said over the years, the work he has done has weighed on him.
“When you are doing the work you have to do it as a biological specimen,” he said. “The person laying on that table is a frog in a jar but over the years that frog becomes a little girl who was raped and killed and it wears on you.”
He said, while getting emotional, that one girl in particular reminded him of his daughter.
West said he never wants to be near another autopsy again, unless it was John F. Kennedy or another historical figure of personal interest to him.
He said he still thinks bite mark analysis is valid, but claims that a lot of amateurs don't execute the science properly. He said in 2011 that it should no longer be used in court, according to the Innocence Project, but clarified to Oxygen.com that he feels that way because of what he calls amateur practitioners.
But he remains defensive about his own work.
“If you don't like the way I do it, get off your dead ass, go to the morgue every weekend, spend it with 15 or 20 dead babies, come out of there without being a fruitcake," he said in the docuseries, adding that he's just the messenger relaying what the evidence shows.
He told Oxygen.com that he is not perfect, though he strives to be.
“What have I done wrong?" he said. "I go to the morgue, take pictures of a dead body at 3 o'clock in the morning, then later the pictures are analyzed, opinions are made. Now all of a sudden I'm the bad guy? I’m not the guy who raped and killed or had something to do with the raping and killing of that 3-year-old.”
“You would think I'm evil incarnate,” he said in the docuseries, referring to Google searches he's recently done of himself.
He also defended himself, in the docuseries and in his interview with Oxygen.com, against charges that he's racist. He told Oxygen.com that during his career he appointed the first African-American deputy coroner.
“I've testified against just as many whites as I have blacks,” he said. "I testify for the evidence.”
But he also offered his thoughts on the debate surrounding the removal of confederate statues in public places throughout the south, even drawing a comparison to the way he feels he's been treated.
“Taking it away does not better anything,” he said. “Erasing history is ignorant. It benefits no one.”
“They want to erase me from history.”
To which I respond, "Yep!"
Above: Dr. Michael West in 2020, maintaining his innocence on the Innocence Files, while looking guilty as hell. Not unlike the man he so vilifies, Lee Harvey Oswald...
Now, knowing all this, is it any wonder that single-assassin theorists have stopped citing West as an authority? In 2011, West told Mitchell he'd worked 16,000 cases, and had testified as an expert in 81 trials, and that he now recognizes there are problems with bite-mark analysis. And yet, as of 2020, he still refuses to acknowledge that HIS testimony was incorrect at any of these trials, or that his testimony had led to the wrongful conviction of a single defendant.
The guy is really something...
As West was cited as an authority by Gerald Posner in his 1994 book Case Closed, and as Posner himself was subsequently exposed as a dishonest actor (when he misled people into thinking a forensic re-enactment of the single-bullet theory by Failure Analysis Associates had been performed for him--when it had been performed for the ABA--and had been conclusive--when he'd only shown the prosecution's side of a case that ended in a mistrial), and worse (when he told the ARRB that Dr.s Humes and Boswell had told him they'd changed their minds about the location of the entrance wound on the back of Kennedy's head, and now believed it had been in the cowlick--when they denied having done so, or even talking to him) and even worse (when he was fired from his position at The Daily Beast for routinely plagiarizing other people's articles), is it any wonder that those taking the case for conspiracy seriously fail to take the arguments of men such as West and Posner seriously?
But Dr. West was neither the last to speak at the 1993 symposium nor the one to make the strangest claims. Shortly after West's presentation, Dr. Robert Artwohl, an emergency room doctor, took the stage and discussed his recent trip to the National Archives. He then flipped through the Kennedy autopsy photos available to the public and discussed his impressions of these photos after inspecting the originals. His impressions were eye-opening. Significantly, and amazingly, Dr. Artwohl insisted that the scalp in the mystery photo had been reflected over the left forehead. This was a unique interpretation.
This is almost laughable. There was not on that night, nor on any other night since Kennedy's death, a consensus among America's doctors on the locations of the President's wounds...even among those arguing that one sniper, firing from behind, killed Kennedy. There simply is no "established truth" or "established wisdom" to which one can defer. The doctors blindly "trusted" by Lundberg couldn't agree about the location of the head wound. The doctors on the stage with Lundberg disagreed with those he'd "trusted" on the location of the back wound.
This is not as it should be. While the case may never be solved, it's not nearly as solved as it could be, and ought to be. Certainly, with enough discussion, America's doctors can reach some sort of consensus on what can be observed in the President's autopsy photos and x-rays.
So how do we break free of all this nonsense? How do we break free of all these lies?
The Time for Historical Review
Well, first, there's no getting around the nightmarish ramifications of something I learned from Larry Sturdivan--that the HSCA's questions and answers of sworn witnesses were scripted beforehand and re-written afterwards, with certain substantive statements excised from the record. This means the supposed "historical record" of the hearings most commonly used by historians--the transcripts--are not reliable records of what actually transpired.
Now, to be clear, this problem is partially offset by the fact there are video and audio tapes of much of the testimony provided the HSCA which may one day be widely available. But what about the Warren Commission? Their hearings were not only conducted in secret, they were not recorded in any way, outside the transcripts. Could their transcripts have been changed as well?
Unfortunately, yes. We know, beyond any doubt, that at least some of the transcripts have been doctored. An apparently unedited transcript of Jacqueline Kennedy's testimony, we should recall, revealed that she originally reported that Governor Connally screamed "like a stuck pig" when shot. This reference was deleted from the published transcript. An 8-28-64 memorandum from Commission Counsel Wesley Liebeler, in which he cites an early version of the commission's report, moreover, quotes the testimony of the FBI's fiber expert Paul Stombaugh as follows: "In my mind I feel that these fibers came from this shirt, but I know of no scientific method to prove this, so therefore I am unable to say this." Well, this differs greatly from the same paragraph in the commission's published volumes, where Stombaugh's words were changed to "There is no doubt in my mind that these fibers could have come from the shirt. There is no way, however, to eliminate the possibility of the fibers having come from another identical shirt." As the former line appears nowhere in the published transcript, and reads much more like human speech, it seems apparent that this line was re-written and that the new line was added into both the transcript and the report in the final days of the Commission's existence, when their sole focus was on the issuance of the report.
When one delves even deeper into the commission's files, moreover, this mystery grows even more mysterious. In the commission's Key Persons file on Stombaugh, now available on the National Archives website, there is an 8-4-64 memo from J. Edgar Hoover outlining a number of changes that should be made to Stombaugh's testimony. Hoover notes that these changes are to be made "In accordance with the oral request of Mr. Howard Willens." Now, this is troubling enough. The Warren Commission's staff, while preparing their final report, sent the testimony of the FBI's experts back to the FBI and requested that confusing or otherwise undesirable sections be corrected by the FBI, as opposed to the men who'd actually testified. But there's something even more troubling. The change in Stombaugh's testimony proved by Liebeler's 8-28-64 memo was not among these changes. This, then, suggests that Stombaugh's testimony was sent back yet again, after 8-28-64, and changed yet again, but that no memo was created to reflect these subsequent changes.
This should force us to question what else was changed, when, why, and by whom. It should also make us wonder what guarantees were used to make sure that changes like this one, presumably undertaken to remove the implication of Stombaugh's words--that if there was a scientific method to prove the fibers on the gun came from Oswald's shirt he would have gladly said it had been proven--were the exception, and not the rule, and that greater, more substantive changes were not made as well.
This is a real concern. In 1992, a presumably unaltered transcript of the 4-30-64 testimony of FBI paper expert James Cadigan was released by the National Archives. As reported by Jim Marrs, this transcript revealed that, when asked if he knew why an identification card of Oswald's was damaged by silver nitrate, a chemical used to unveil hidden fingerprints, Cadigan responded "I could only speculate...It may be that there was a very large volume of evidence being examined at the time. Time was of the essence, and this material, I believe, was returned to the Dallas Police within two or three days, and it was merely in my opinion a question of time. We have a very large volume of evidence. There was insufficient time to desilver it. And I think in many instances where latent prints are developed they do not desilver it." Well, one can see how the FBI might find this embarrassing. But this was sworn testimony, supposedly taken to create a permanent record of the murder of a president and its aftermath. How can changing Cadigan's rambling answer to "No, this is a latent fingerprint issue," as was done, possibly be justified?
Particularly when, as Marrs reports, the cover sheet to the transcript reveals "Stenotype Tape, Master Sheets, Carbon and Waste turned over to Commission for destruction?" I mean, how is this even legal? If anonymous FBI officials and political appointees have the right to change the words of people representing the Bureau in sworn testimony, and limit the number of people to know of this change by destroying the carbons to the original transcripts, who is responsible if the changes amount to perjury? Someone in the Bureau who never appeared in court? Or the man with the lies shoved in his mouth? I mean, don't the accused have the right to face their accuser, and not have their accuser hide in an office and sneak words into the transcripts of others?
That the cornerstone of the judicial process--the taking of sworn testimony under penalty of perjury--was undermined by the very body tasked with protecting the integrity of the judicial process--the FBI--and done so as a matter of routine--should not be readily dismissed.
But wait, it's actually worse than that. In 2017, while sifting through a few of the hundreds of FBI memos I've downloaded and collected over the years, I came across a 7-6-64 memo from FBI ballistics chief Roy Jevons to his boss, FBI crime lab chief Ivan Conrad. Jevons at first reports that the commission has been sending the transcripts of FBI's agents' testimony to the FBI for review. He then reports that FBI agent Cortlandt Cunningham has returned four reviewed and corrected transcripts (two transcripts of the testimony of Robert Frazier, one of the testimony of Paul Stombaugh, and one of the testimony of James Cadigan) to the commission's liaison with the FBI, Howard Willens. Jevons then tells Conrad that "Mr. Willens stated that it would not be necessary to go over these transcripts as he was going to send them to Mr. Melvin Eisenberg and if there were any questions, the commission would contact us."
So, yikes! Not only were the muckety-mucks within the FBI allowed to change the sworn testimony of their underlings, who'd actually done the work, they'd been allowed to make these changes without having to explain to the commission why these changes were necessary, or desirable.
Perhaps, then, with time, a scholar will undertake the journey of reading through all the available transcripts, and all the versions of the report, and note the changes, and note all the quotes that were changed in the process. Such an undertaking would be of enormous interest to historians, and possibly win the undertaker a prize or two.
The Time for Tests
No? Well, then, how about conducting some tests? Yes, that's right. While I doubt we'll ever know exactly who killed Kennedy, I believe whole-heartedly that a series of tests can be conducted which will determine beyond a reasonable doubt whether or not Oswald fired all the shots. Here are four that come to mind, in order of priority: In Test 1 a movie camera like Zapruder's would film simulated shootings of skulls, from a distance comparable to the distance of Zapruder from Kennedy. The shots would be fired at both the entrance described at autopsy and the entrance determined by the HSCA. From this test it could be determined if the Zapruder film should have shown blood spray from the back of Kennedy's head, should he actually have been shot in the back of the head at Z-313. Should it seem likely no bullet impacted on the back of Kennedy's head at 313, needless to say, it could lead to a whole new understanding of the case. In Test 2 Dr. Olivier's 1964 tests of the effects of M/C ammunition on human skulls would be duplicated, but with a focus on the entrance wound. Should it appear that all the bullets striking the back of the head fragment upon impact, as Olivier concluded, and should it be clear that these fragmenting bullets create entrance wounds much larger than the small entrance wound observed by the doctors at autopsy, as I propose, it could lead to a whole new understanding of the case. In Test 3, simulated heads placed on simulated necks would be shot at both the proposed entrance locations and exit locations, from a variety of angles, while the head is tilted to the left, to see if the "first forward, and then back-and-to-the-left" movement of Kennedy after frame 312 can be replicated. Should the movement be replicated via an impact at the supposed exit, from either in front, as most conspiracy theorists believe, or from behind, as I propose, it could lead to a whole new understanding of the case.
And finally, in Test 4, Kennedy and Connally dummies would be placed in their relative positions at Z-220--Z-224. Shots would then be fired at these dummies from both the relative location of the sniper's nest using a bolt-action rifle, and the relative location of the upper floors or roof of the Dal-Tex Building using a semi-automatic weapon firing sub-sonic ammunition. From this test it could be determined if the single-bullet theory is more feasible than a semi-automatic weapon's striking both Kennedy and Connally. Should it seem more likely the shots were fired from the Dal-Tex, it could lead to a whole new understanding of the case.
Of course, there are other tests that can be performed to help illuminate the true strength or weakness of the case presented against Oswald.
In Test 5 the proportions of the bag in the Archives would be used to create a paper bag, and this bag would then be photographed in the possession of a man the size of L.D. Montgomery by a variety of photographers, using a variety of lenses. If the press photos of Montgomery holding the bag outside the depository could be replicated, well, I'll eat the cowboy hat I used in my own attempt to replicate the photos. If not, well, then, at least a partial FRAME-UP of Oswald would be proved, and John McAdams and Craig Lamson would owe me an apology.
Test 6 would be another test whose results I suspect we already know. A person would handle and fire a rifle like Oswald's while wearing a shirt like Oswald was wearing when arrested. The rifle would then be dusted aggressively for fingerprints. If a tuft of fibers from the shirt was then found stuck in a crevice of the butt plate, on top of the dusting powder, we could then sleep well that night. If not, well then we would have more evidence for what we should already suspect: that the case against Oswald was in large part a FRAME-UP.
Tests 7 and 8 would be a little trickier and would test the finger and palm prints used in the case against Oswald. In Test 7, a palm print would be added to a rifle barrel through a number of means, including the handling of the rifle, and the planting of an inked print on the rifle. These prints would then be removed from the rifle and compared to the print purportedly pulled off Oswald's rifle. The rifle would then be dusted. This could very well yield interesting results, and shed light on the likelihood the palm print purportedly removed from the rifle had ever been on the rifle, and whether or not the FBI should have found remnants of this print. In Test 8, the trigger guard prints would be freshly analyzed by an impartial team of experts not knowing the identity of the prints on which they were working, to see if any or all of the prints are in fact Oswald's prints, as purported.
Which brings us to Test 9, which might prove price prohibitive...
In Test 9, Vincent Guinn's 1964 NAA tests on the paraffin casts would be replicated, only with the shooters mimicking Oswald's actions as accurately as possible, and with the casts being made 8 hours after the test shooting. These numbers would then be compared to the results Gallagher received for the tests on Oswald's casts. Should the counts and antimony/barium ratios in these results be consistent, and consistently unlike the results for Oswald's casts, it could, once again, lead to a whole new understanding of the case.
The Time for Panels
Should one not have the time, finances, or ability to perform such tests, however, one can continue pushing the case in a positive direction by shoring up or debunking my claims the HSCA's investigation was inadequate. Here are but a few of the areas that need to be reviewed by scholars and scientists.
1. The HSCA's pathology panel claimed a bullet entered the cowlick area at the top of the back of Kennedy's head, and left a small red oval entrance in the cowlick area of the scalp. No such entrance was noted by anyone viewing the President's body. Those noting the entrance swore it was down by the hairline. My study of cognitive psychology and forensic pathology suggests this would be unlikely should the wound have been 4 inches higher on the back of the head, as purported by the HSCA panel. A panel of cognitive psychologists and forensic pathologists needs to be convened to determine the likelihood of such a mistake.
2. The HSCA's pathology panel also claimed this bullet broke up upon entry, and left a large fragment from the middle of the bullet at the margins of the entrance wound. My study of wound ballistics suggests this to have been most unlikely. A panel of ballistics experts needs to be convened to establish the likelihood that a bullet breaking up in such a fashion would leave so small an entrance wound.
3. The panel's radiology consultants also noted the presence of metal fragments at the top of Kennedy's head, inches away from the purported entry. My study of the radiology of gunshot wounds suggests this would be unlikely, should but one bullet have entered on the back of the head, as proposed by the HSCA panel. A panel of radiology experts needs to be convened to determine 1) if these fragments were indeed outside the skull, and 2) the likelihood they would end up in this location should the bullet have broken up upon entry in the cowlick, as proposed by the HSCA panel.
4. The emergency room doctors viewing the President's body at Parkland Hospital and the autopsy surgeons viewing his body at Bethesda Hospital all noted a significant portion of missing scalp corresponding to the large defect on Kennedy's skull. Forensic texts have subsequently made the claim such missing scalp can be taken as an indication this defect was an entrance, not exit. This led the HSCA pathology panel to presume all these doctors were mistaken. A panel of cognitive psychologists and wound ballistics experts needs to be convened to determine 1) the likelihood these men were all mistaken, and, 2) if the reported lack of scalp is indeed indicative of entrance.
5. In order to explain the "back-and-to-the-left" movement of Kennedy's head apparent in the Zapruder film, the HSCA's experts claimed both that he'd suffered a neuro-anatomic response to being shot in the head, and that the rush of blood from his head had created a "jet effect." My study of these issues has led me to doubt both these explanations. A panel of wound ballistics experts needs to be convened to determine the likelihood of these explanations, and to determine further if the "back-and-to-the-left" movement can be better explained by Kennedy's being hit on the top right side of his head from behind.
6. The HSCA pathology panel also noted air in Kennedy's neck, which was apparent on the x-rays. They claimed this could have come as a result of Kennedy's tie blocking off the hole in his throat, whereby air from the hole in his trachea backed up into his neck. This reeks of desperation. A panel of wound ballistics experts needs to be convened to determine the likelihood of such a claim, and if this air might be better explained by a bullet or bullet fragment's having traveled down Kennedy's neck. This panel would, of course, have to study this issue independent of all other factors.
7. The HSCA pathology panel also claimed a bullet entered Kennedy's back at the T-1 level and traversed his neck, exiting from middle of his throat at a point slightly above the level of entry. This entrance was purportedly two inches to the right of his spine. My study of the anatomy of this region suggests such a trajectory would intersect the transverse process of the spine, and pass through a thicket of major blood vessels. A panel of wound ballistics and anatomy experts needs to be consulted to determine the likelihood a bullet on such a trajectory would nick or smash through the spine, and nick or smash through the major vessels of the neck.
8. The experts of both the Warren Commission and HSCA concluded that a Mannlicher-Carcano bullet traversing Kennedy's back without hitting bone would be slowed by the time it hit Governor Connally's back, and that this slowing would explain the lack of damage to the bullet after striking Connally's rib. The numbers presented in support of this, however, have been inconsistent and suspect. A panel of wound ballistics experts needs to be convened to determine the truth of the matter.
Should one not be a scholar or scientist, of course, one can build upon my research and search the available literature for studies and reports not discovered by myself, and then use these materials to further discredit the many dubious conclusions of the HSCA's experts and panels.
It is my fervent belief that such an effort will eventually lead to a tipping point, where even the mainstream media comes to recognize that the conclusions of the HSCA's experts are suspect, and that a re-appraisal of the assassination is both desirable and necessary.
Breaking Through the Wall of Silence
And, yes, I know what an uphill climb lies ahead for anyone trying to challenge the published opinions of supposed experts. Problem #1 is the mainstream media, and the general public, which place an inordinate weight on the opinions of experts. Problem #2 is the experts themselves, who are incredibly reluctant to change their opinions.
Let's discuss these problems.
The readiness to believe "experts" is nothing new. Dr. Pitirim A. Sorokin discussed this quirk in the March, 1932 American Journal of Sociology, when he described an experiment in which people were told that musical experts were in agreement that one of two recordings of a classical piece was far superior to the other, and were then played the two recordings. He found that 1) people were incredibly open to suggestion, as less than 5% of his subjects noticed that he in fact replayed the same recording; and 2) people's perceptions were skewed by their awe of expertise, as almost 60% agreed that whichever version they were told was superior, was indeed superior, and barely 40% thought the two recordings (which were in fact the same recording) of equal merit.
Although Sorokin's test subjects were blindly (or should I say deaf-ly) deferring to musical experts, I suspect the average reader feels at least as lost in the world of forensic pathology as he does in the world of classical music, and that the percentage of people who would automatically defer to the opinions of an "expert" in forensic pathology, no matter how poorly thought-out, would be even greater than 60%. As a consequence, I've attempted to demonstrate, over and over, that the experts on this case are in disagreement, and that much of this case can only be resolved through a re-examination of the evidence. Certainly, with enough study, the "experts" should be able to come to an informed opinion on whether a photograph is of the back of someone's head, or his forehead. It's just that, to do that, they'd have to look at the photograph, and openly discuss their impressions.
Which they're incredibly reluctant to do... As demonstrated on the slide above, taken from a book compiled by Clark Panel member Alan Moritz, books on legal medicine preach conservative behavior and conservative opinions, even if it means withholding the truth. In his 2006 book, Postmortem, Stefan Timmermans dissects the culture of medical examiners and comments repeatedly on the conservatism prescribed in these books. He notes: "Consistent with their cautious approach to forensic evidence, medical examiners are more likely to negate police suspicions of homicide with natural explanations than they are to discover a homicide...In routine homicide investigations, medical examiners thus document the pathological and toxicological signs of murder in an ongoing dialogue with law enforcement agencies. In the same way that medical examiners depend on medical histories written by their clinical colleagues to make the case for natural death and suicide, they depend on law enforcement to initiate what will become a forensic homicide investigation. As distinct yet interlinked professionals, police and forensic pathologists continuously and closely coordinate findings and evidence during the evolving investigation, further reflecting the privileged role of law enforcement in the organizational ecology of death investigation. Although forensic pathologists do occasionally discover a homicide, they are more likely to remove the suspicion of it in ambiguous cases. This caution is in line with their conservative approach to drawing inferences from forensic evidence."
In other words, they tend to avoid pushing that something unnatural or unexpected occurred unless they feel reasonably sure something unnatural or unexpected occurred, and rely on those tasked with investigating crimes to give them guidance. This helps explain why both the doctors performing Kennedy's autopsy, and the doctors re-examining the case for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, followed the lead of the investigators. The Dallas Police and FBI agreed it was Oswald firing from the sniper's nest; the autopsy doctors then said the shots came from above and behind (even though there was nothing on the body to suggest the head shot had been fired from above). Similarly, the HSCA received word from Dr. Vincent Guinn that the bullet fragment removed from Connally's wrist matched the bullet found on a stretcher, and that the single-bullet theory was therefore consistent with the evidence, and the doctors, save Cyril Wecht, then jumped in a conga line and said the single bullet theory was consistent with the evidence (even though the damage in the neck was inconsistent with the passage of a military rifle bullet, and the bullet trajectory required Kennedy be leaning forward when hit).
At another point in Postmortem, Timmermans discusses the reasons for this conservatism: "Medical examiners strike a cautious balance in order to maintain authority: they generally opt for conservative interpretations to lower the chance of criticism, and when threatened by knowledgeable parties, they tend to retreat rather than confront." This, in turn, helps explain why no medical examiners or pathologists have commented, one way or the other, on my online videos critical of Dr. Baden, and his testifying with his exhibit upside down.
Let's go back to something previously discussed in Chapter 13, our chapter on the head wounds...
Above: the relentlessly boat-rockin' Dr. Wecht.
An April 19, 1975 memo in the files of the Rockefeller Commission reveals that when Dr. Cyril Wecht spoke to the Commission's Robert Olsen, he voiced his displeasure with the make-up of the commission's medical panel. Olsen related "Dr. Wecht was very unsettled by the identity of the members of the panel. Indeed, he was very angry to the point of shouting and indulging in frequent profanity. He said that almost the whole panel is made up of people from the Washington-Baltimore community; that all of them are under the control and influence of the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland, Dr. Russell Fisher; that we should have looked elsewhere for impartial experts; that Dr. Fisher is a very strong-willed and influential man who has succeeded in getting more Federal grants in the field of forensic pathology than all other doctors in the United States combined...Dr. Wecht readily acknowledged the professional qualifications of all members of our panel. He said that among their fellow professionals each enjoyed a high standing. He stated, however, that it was wholly unrealistic to expect that anybody on this panel would express views different from those expressed by the Ramsey Clark Panel in 1968, which included Dr. Fisher and a radiologist from Johns Hopkins, Dr. Russell Morgan."
Dr. Wecht was thereby suggesting that doctors were no better than other people--in that their decisions and conclusions can be corrupted by what is in their own professional and financial best interest.
He wasn't wrong.
That the economic interests of doctors can influence their conclusions has been confirmed numerous times. By way of example, a survey by Mildred Cho and Lisa Bero published in the March 1996 Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that 98% of the studies of drug effectiveness funded by the drug's manufacturer came to a favorable conclusion, while only 76% of the studies funded by independent sources shared this conclusion. This suggests that a drug company is 12 TIMES more likely to avoid an unfavorable conclusion about its product if it funds the doctors making the conclusion. A survey published in the October 1999 Journal of the American Medical Association was almost as discouraging. It found that a study sponsored by a drug company was about 8 TIMES more likely to avoid an unfavorable conclusion on its new drug than a study sponsored by a non-profit organization. Perhaps, as suggested by writers Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber in their book Trust Us, We're Experts!, the physician's motto of "First, do no harm" should be changed to "First, do no harmful publicity."
Of course, money is not the only motivating factor that can consciously or subconsciously color a doctors' perceptions, conclusions, and testimony. None less than Dr. Baden, in his book Dead Reckoning, has noted: "Physicians may be the worst witnesses. They are often swayed by whoever asked them to be an expert. If that lawyer is smart enough to ask their advice, they conclude, he must know what he is doing. That being the case, physicians therefore adopt whatever the lawyer tells them as the facts of the case and become, if only subconsciously, an advocate for the lawyer rather than an independent adviser." The ease with which scientists and doctors can be seduced into supporting otherwise unsupportable conclusions by lawyers is such common knowledge, in fact, that it was the subject of a well-received book, Gallileo's Revenge, by Peter Huber. Huber, a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, was so disturbed by what he found that he was led to conclude "Malpractice by scientific and medical professionals is not only tolerated but encouraged, so long as it is solicited by lawyers themselves." Damning words indeed.
And quite possibly true. It should be noted here that the doctors testifying in the American Bar Association's 1992 mock trial all made substantive mistakes. Dr. Martin Fackler, testifying for the prosecution, incorrectly asserted that Dr. Robert Shaw only claimed that Connally's back wound was 1 1/2 centimeters long at a point "later on," after he'd already determined it to be 3 cm. This was not true. While Dr. Shaw wrote "3 cm" on a report describing Connally's wounds, he testified from the first time he was asked about it that this measurement was made after he cut away some skin around the edges of an approximately 1 1/2 centimeter wound. Thus, there is no evidence that he ever "changed his recollection," as claimed by Fackler. Similarly, Dr. Piziali testified that Kennedy's head "wound location and head motion shows that the shot was fired from the sixth floor of the TSBD," a statement without any real support. The location and movement may have been consistent with a shot from the TSBD, but came nowhere near "showing" that a bullet was fired from the sniper's nest, as purported. Piziali then said this shot was fired from "88 yards...290 feet", thereby confirming both his lack of basic math skills and lack of familiarity with the case. He then stated that the FBI's tests on Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition showed that it broke up on human skulls. The skull tests, of course, were not conducted by the FBI but by Edgewood Arsenal, a government contractor working with the Army. On the other side, showing that experts on both sides of the case were equally capable of error, Dr. Roger McCarthy testified that the 2 bullet fragments removed from Kennedy's brain were "in fact found in his scalp." He then embarrassed himself further by asserting that "the record is very clear on this."
Still, one doesn't have to question the motivation of doctors to question their ability to see evidence with absolute clarity. The susceptibility of doctors to innocent suggestion, and their innocent resistance to data challenging this suggestion, has also been studied. In 1972 Dr. David Rosenhan of Stanford University, along with seven recruits, checked themselves into psychiatric hospitals. These eight subjects told the hospitals they'd heard voices in their heads repeating words with no apparent meaning. After admission, however, the subjects claimed the voices stopped, and began acting perfectly normal. The psychiatrists "treating" these subjects, however, routinely interpreted the "normal" behavior of these subjects as additional signs of their psychopathology. As a result, the patients were hospitalized for an average of 19 days, and fed an average of over 250 pills. Seven of them were diagnosed as being schizophrenic, and one as being bi-polar. Rosenhan himself was confined for almost two months. After his release, Dr. Rosenhan began the second half of his study. He told the hospitals of their mistakes, and that he'd be sending them more fake patients over the next three months. During this period 193 patients were admitted to one of the hospitals. 20% of these patients were identified by at least one staff member as being one of Dr. Rosenhan's "fake" patients. In fact, none of them were. Dr. Rosenhan had simply planted the suggestion that there could be fake patients in the minds of the hospital's employees, and they had begun to see them everywhere. Whereas not one of the original 8 patients pretending to hear voices had been spotted as a fake, over 40 actual patients were subsequently, and inaccurately, accused of being fakes.
The resistance to new perceptions, once one's frame of reference has been set, had been tested even before Rosenhan. In 1949, in a landmark study performed by Jerome Bruner and Leo Postman, subjects were flashed playing cards, some of which had a wrong color, i.e. red spades, black diamonds. They found that people would always recognize a normal card within 350 milliseconds, but would fail to recognize what they called a "trick card" 10% of the time, even when given a full second. They found, furthermore, that as one was exposed to more "trick cards," the speed in which one could identify the trick cards drastically improved.
Historians have also studied this resistance. In 1962, Thomas Kuhn published a landmark work of his own, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". As part of his study, Kuhn looked at the time lapse between the development of new scientific theories and their general acceptance by the scientist's peers. He found, amazingly, that very few scientists, once committed to a theory, ever change their minds and embrace the findings of another scientist, even if this other scientist's new theory better answers the questions answered by their old theory. Kuhn relates:
"Copernicanism made few converts for almost a century after Copernicus' death. Newton's work was not generally accepted, particularly on the Continent, for more than half a century after the Principia appeared. Priestley never accepted the oxygen theory, nor Lord Kelvin the electromagnetic theory, and so on. The difficulties of conversion have often been noted by the scientists themselves. Darwin, in a particularly perceptive passage at the end of the Origin of the Species, wrote: 'Although I am fully convinced of the truth of the views given in this volume...,I by no means expect to convince experienced naturalists whose minds are stocked with a multitude of facts all viewed, during a long course of years, from a point of view directly opposite to mine...But I look with confidence to the future,--to young and rising naturalists, who will be able to view both sides of the question with impartiality.' And Max Planck, surveying his own career in his Scientific Autobiography, sadly remarked that 'a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.'"
So...if you've made it this far and have failed to be convinced by any of my arguments, I can only say that I hope you die soon... Just kidding. No, really, if you think I'm wrong about everything, but have nevertheless made it this far, I'm delighted to have entertained you on whatever level I've entertained you. Particularly in that there remains a chance I can convince you of something.
Let's go back to Dr. Wecht. In 2003, in an article co-written with Dr. David Mantik, Wecht publicly reversed his position on the 6.5 mm fragment he'd once portrayed on the back of Kennedy's head. This article, published in a compendium entitled The Assassinations, presented an image of Kennedy's computer-enhanced A-P x-ray with the caption "The 6.5 mm (white) object seen within the right orbit is almost certainly a deliberate artifact that was added to the original x-ray; the latter was then lost or destroyed." Above this image is an image of Kennedy's computer-enhanced lateral x-ray. It has an arrow pointing to the back of Kennedy's skull, where Wecht depicted the 6.5 mm fragment in his 1974 article. Only this new image is captioned: "The arrow at the rear identifies the corresponding site for the 6.5 mm fragment." It seems clear from these captions then that Wecht now readily acknowledges that he fails to see the 6.5 mm fragment at this site. While I would like to show Wecht my own work and convince him that the large fragment on the A-P x-ray is actually not an artifact, but the fragment behind Kennedy's right eye described and removed at autopsy, it is nevertheless comforting that some "experts", sometimes, can be convinced to change their opinions.
I suppose, in this light, I should also take comfort that Larry Sturdivan has changed so many of his opinions, and that Dr. Lattimer, while sure of Oswald's guilt to the end, nevertheless changed his opinion on the entrance wound on the skull.
I'll work on that. Taking comfort when people change their minds about stuff. It happens on occasion...
And yet, it seems clear...
To convene a new medical panel to discuss an incident that's already been discussed by a number of medical panels will almost certainly be a waste of time UNLESS, that's right UNLESS, this new panel is made up of fresh thinkers from outside the beltway with no connection to the government, nor to anyone who's previously written on the subject.
I mean, it's transparent, when you think of it. The autopsy was performed by military doctors who could be controlled. Their work was later reviewed in secret by a close cadre of men trusted by the Justice Dept. Their work was then reviewed by a panel made up of men either closely connected to this second panel, or the military. Their work was then reviewed by yet another panel comprised of men closely connected to the second panel.
None of these panels were truly independent.
Well, then, what about the consultants to the ARRB?
The Good Old Doctor Network
In 1996, the ARRB consulted with three outside experts. These experts, Forensic Anthropologist Douglas Ubelaker, Forensic Radiologist John Fitzpatrick, and Forensic Pathologist Robert Kirschner, were shown the autopsy materials and asked to informally share their impressions with members of the ARRB staff. In other words, they were asked to provide background. Now, one might think that the ARRB would seek out experts with no dog in the hunt for this background--respected professionals with no close ties to earlier consultants on the case. But one would be wrong. When one reads Dr. Ubelaker's memoirs, Bones, one finds that he was a protege of Dr. Lawrence Angel, a consultant to the HSCA Panel. When one reads articles on Dr. Kirschner, for that matter, one finds that he had a close association with Dr. Clyde Snow, another consultant to the HSCA. And when one reads Dr. William Maples' book Dead Men Tell No Tales, one finds even more to wonder about.
In his book, Dr. Maples tells the story of a box of cremains found on the side of a highway. There was a name on the box holding these cremains, and therein lies the problem. Just the day before the discovery of these cremains, Forest Lawn Mortuary had provided an urn full of ashes to the family of the woman whose name was on the box. The discovery of these cremains, then, came as quite a shock. The woman's family, naturally, assumed the ashes in the urn were not hers, and that the mortuary had lost her ashes and had tried to deceive the family. They sued for millions. Well, this caused Forest Lawn and its insurer to panic. How to prove the ashes in the urn were indeed the woman's ashes? Well, in comes Dr. Maples. They hire him to find some way to prove the ashes in the urn are the woman's ashes, and the ashes in the box not her ashes. So he hires five men to help him. At top dollar... The five? Dr. Clyde Snow, HSCA Forensic Anthropology consultant, Dr. Lowell Levine, HSCA Forensic Dentistry consultant, Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Douglas Ubelaker, a prominent Forensic Radiologist named Fitzpatrick (almost certainly John. J. Fitzpatrick), and Forensic Pathologist Dr. Robert Kirschner. This was 1991, five years before they would get pegged as consultants to the ARRB, and yet, here they were, the ARRB's supposedly independent consultants--Dr.s Ubelaker, Fitzpatrick, and Kirschner--working side by side with two of the HSCA's consultants on a case guaranteed to fill their bank accounts. (They ultimately claimed there was stuff in the urn that could only have come from the woman, and that none of this tell-tale stuff was in the box found by the highway.)
And that wasn't the last of the ARRB's fling with the experts. In January 1998, after enhancing the autopsy photos and x-rays, the ARRB decided to show the new and improved images to two experts, and ask them if these images led them to believe a new investigation should be conducted. The two experts? Dr. Vincent DiMaio, who was not only a former associate of Dr. Fisher of the Clark Panel, but was someone who'd already made his belief there was no conspiracy known, and legendary crime scene analyst Dr. Henry Lee, whose friendship and working relationship with the HSCA's Dr. Baden had preceded even their dramatic testimony on behalf O.J. Simpson, in one of the most notorious trials in American history. Neither DiMaio nor Lee should have been asked about a new investigation, as they were too close to those involved in the old investigation. And yet...they were the only two questioned on this point.
So, yeah, the independence of those questioned by the ARRB is also suspect.
So how do we move beyond this?
Here's a thought. Let the next panel convened to study the medical evidence be a a panel of female doctors, with no connection to the Federal Government...
And let the bulk of them be foreign-born, from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America...
And let all of them be recent retirees, who are financially set for life...
In conclusion, let this be clear. I don’t know who killed Kennedy. The decision within the Johnson Administration to shut down independent inquiry and staunchly defend the flawed conclusions of the Warren Commission does not in itself prove that anyone within the administration was involved in the murder itself, or was deliberately covering up a conspiracy. By way of example, when one studies Lyndon Johnson's expansion of the Vietnam War, one finds that Johnson would frequently worry out loud to his advisers and make them uncomfortable, so uncomfortable in fact that they would tell him what they thought he wanted to hear just so they could leave the room. While this may have been a deliberate tactic of Johnson’s designed to get others to back him on controversial decisions (he would often misrepresent what amounted to a capitulation on the part of one of his advisers as a ringing endorsement, saying “I’m just a poor old country schoolteacher, but Walt Rostow’s from Harvard, and he says we oughta bomb that country into the stone age, etc.”), it's possible this was merely an unfortunate aspect of his character, and one which prevented his receiving the best advice from his best advisers. As a result, it seems plausible that men such as Assistant Attorney General Katzenbach, FBI Director Hoover, and even Chief Justice Earl Warren took from their meetings with Johnson that he’d be much more comfortable if the investigation didn’t really dig too deep, and that he (the President) felt this would be the best course of action for the country, for national security purposes, etc. and that they then took it upon themselves to alleviate his concerns. This may not have been his overtly expressed desire. The Watergate burglary and the Iran/Contra scandals are perfect examples of crimes committed and covered up in the President’s name, without the President’s full knowledge beforehand.
That said, it hardly seems likely that, should Johnson have wanted the Warren Commission to say Oswald acted alone, he would have been shy about letting his feelings be known. It is indisputable that, once he became President, the Senate's investigation into the crimes of his close associate Bobby Baker slowed to a halt. It is also indisputable that a January 10, 1964 phone conversation between Johnson and Senator George Smathers captured the two men discussing the investigation and figuring out how to get the Republican Senators pushing the investigation to "behave". Irregardless of whether Johnson passively or actively pushed a cover-up, however, it is clear that an inadequate investigation occurred on his watch. It took the United States 90 years to correct its official view on slavery; one can only hope the government’s forthcoming admission it erred on the Kennedy assassination will not take as long.
But in the meantime, I’m hopeful I’ve been able to show those who habitually claim there’s just not one “scintilla” of evidence for a conspiracy that there is, in fact, a whole boatload of scintillas. No, scratch that, a flotilla of scintillas. If nothing else, I pray my efforts have lessened the chances of anyone taking the “not one scintilla” argument seriously. In Latin, scintilla means spark. If the evidence in this presentation has sparked your curiosity, then you should conclude there is a scintilla of evidence.
For those of you still in denial, in this presentation, it has been demonstrated that:
1. There was a verifiable lack of interest by the FBI in uncovering the facts of Kennedy’s autopsy.
2. The drawings of Kennedy's wounds prepared by the autopsy doctors and presented to the Warren Commission were made without the use of the doctors' measurements of the President’s wound locations. They presented a grossly distorted picture of Kennedy's wounds. This distorted picture, moreover, helped sell the single-assassin conclusion. During his testimony, Dr. Humes misled the Commission about the use of measurements in creating these drawings. This seems more than a coincidence.
3. There was a verifiable lack of interest on the part of the Warren Commission in determining the facts regarding the President’s wounds, and how these related to the possibility of conspiracy.
4. The assassination re-enactment on May 24, 1964 was deliberately not as accurate as it could have been, in ways that indicate it was designed not to uncover the likelihood of the single-bullet theory, but merely whether it was remotely possible.
5. Warren Commission counsel Arlen Specter elicited knowingly false testimony about this re-enactment from Secret Service Agent Thomas Kelley. This false testimony obscured the fact that Specter and Kelley had used the autopsy photos to determine the location of the President's back wound in order to best test the possibility a bullet entering this location from a rifle in the sniper's nest could exit the President's neck wound and go on to hit Governor Connally in his right armpit. That no photos of the location used were entered into evidence, and that Kelley falsely claimed they'd used the drawings created by the doctors in order to establish this location, suggests that both men were in fact engaged in a massive deception. Perjury and subornation of perjury.
6. A report was created in 1967 that misrepresented the autopsy photos of the President at the very time CBS News was pressuring the administration to create a report confirming that these photographs supported the conclusions of the Warren Commission.
7. When interviewed for the subsequent CBS TV special by Dan Rather, Dr. Humes lied and claimed the autopsy photos he'd recently viewed confirmed the wound locations on the inaccurate drawings he'd provided the Warren Commission. He later provided the ARRB with documents proving that this lie was included on a list of "talking points" provided him by the Justice Dept. in anticipation of his interview.
8. Another report on the medical evidence was created in 1968, and released in the final days of the Johnson Administration. This report is clearly inaccurate in its assertion that Kennedy's back wound was well-above his throat wound. Its re-appraisal of the President’s head wounds is also in conflict with the published autopsy photos and X-rays.
9. This incorrect appraisal of the head wound was seconded by the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel in 1979. To support their conclusions a number of contradictory exhibits were presented.
10. Dr. Michael Baden presented an important exhibit to the HSCA upside down, and inaccurately depicted the President's head wounds to the committee. He made statements in his testimony that, when compared to the pathology report created by his panel, reflected his total confusion about Kennedy’s head wounds. He also misled the committee about Dr. Humes' Warren Commission testimony about the head wounds.
11. The enhanced X-rays as presented by the HSCA were cropped in a suspicious manner, with areas of supreme interest in the un-enhanced x-ray, the occipital region of the skull and the upper cervical region of the neck, deliberately excluded.
12. The interpretations of the autopsy photos and x-rays by the HSCA’s various panels and consultants were frequently in disagreement with each other. The committee for the most part ignored these conflicts, and presented the reports of the consultants as if they had all been accepted by the committee. While this may have spared the doctors some embarrassment, it left an extremely confusing public record.
13. The X-rays as presented included fractures and fragments that were in conflict with the HSCA’s conclusions on the head wounds. While some of these items of interest were acknowledged by the HSCA’s radiology consultants, they were left unexplained by the pathology panel.
14. The HSCA’s trajectory analysis was conducted against the advice of both its forensic pathology panel and wound ballistics expert and presented false depictions of both Governor Connally’s position in the car at Zapruder frame 190, and President Kennedy’s posture at frame 313. These false representations supported the committee’s conclusions on the single-bullet theory and its assertion that Oswald fired all the bullets striking Kennedy. The "expert" leading this analysis, furthermore, testified that he'd used the precise measurements of Kennedy's skull while creating exhibits depicting the bullet trajectory through Kennedy's skull, but then changed these measurements after he was told the bullet entrance was in a different location. This is clear-cut evidence, proof even, that his "analysis" was a fraud created to tell the public the bullets were all fired from the sniper's nest.
15. The conclusions of the bullet lead analysis performed on behalf of the HSCA were almost certainly incorrect and were undoubtedly in conflict with the earlier and subsequent writings of its author. These conclusions were also in conflict with the guidelines of the FBI in place at that time.
16. The exhibit titles and testimony of the HSCA’s wound ballistics expert were changed in such a manner as to disguise that he'd been studying the wound ballistics of subsonic ammunition. This was apparently done on purpose and without his knowledge.
17. The single-bullet theory simulations and recreations shown on TV in recent years have all been deceptive in one way or another. None of them present the proportions of Kennedy and the locations of his wounds accurately. They are quite often deceptive about Connally’s position in the limousine as well. Even worse, neither the Warren Commission, nor any of the subsequent medical panels, nor any of the television programs defending the single-bullet theory, have demonstrated the internal passage of the magic bullet through Kennedy and, specifically, how this bullet evaded bone.
18. The autopsy photos and x-rays available on the internet, whose authenticity has been acknowledged by several of those who’ve inspected the originals, reveal an entrance on the skull right where the autopsy doctors said it was. I am at a loss to explain why so many men who’ve viewed the originals of these photos and x-rays, lone-nut theorist and conspiracy theorist alike, including the autopsy doctors themselves, have failed to notice this entrance. If this failure is due purely to human error, then perhaps many of the suspicious “mistakes” listed above are not so suspicious at all. Perhaps the level of competence we expect from our “experts” is simply unrealistic.
Or perhaps I am simply wrong in my appraisal of these photos and x-rays. That's certainly possible. So let's take one last look...
Is this a bullet hole on the back of Kennedy's head, or not?
And, if not, what is it? Is it "congealed blood," as claimed by the only Dr. to view the photos and comment?
Because, if this is so, well, then, perhaps I'm wrong about some of my other discoveries.
But am I wrong about all of this?
Has my Gump-like quest been in vain?