I can honestly say that Beyond Reasonable Doubt fully lived up to my expectations. I expected that authors Mel Ayton and David Von Pein would add nothing to our understanding of the assassination of President Kennedy, and that is precisely what they did. I expected they would regurgitate the same tired old arguments and trot out the usual roster of long-discredited witnesses, and they did just that. And I expected that they would pontificate on the evils of "conspiracy theorists" at every available opportunity and, lo and behold!, they did.
Beyond Reasonable Doubt is a standard format lone nut book, cut from the same cloth as Reclaiming History, Case Closed, and Conspiracy of One. It spends half its time trying desperately to convince readers that the Warren Commission was right all along and the other half-blaming conspiracy theorists for the confusion. Von Pein suggests in the book's preface that for the last fifty years JFK's murder has been "falsely shrouded in mystery" and those pesky conspiracy theorists are to blame. Which is ridiculous. Conspiracy theorists are not to blame for the Dallas Police Department's mishandling of both its suspect and the physical evidence against him. Nor are they responsible for J. Edgar Hoover's rush to judgement and his decision to limit the FBI's investigation to Lee Harvey Oswald. It was not the conspiracy theorists who illegally removed Kennedy's body from Dallas so that it could be flown to a military hospital where under-qualified and inexperienced pathologists bungled the autopsy. And no mere conspiracy theorist is accountable for crucial autopsy photos, X-rays and even the President's brain being surreptitiously removed from the archive never to be seen again. The sad truth is that every confusion at the core of this case was created by those in officialdom who failed or refused to conduct a proper investigation and chose instead to cover their own butts whilst papering over the holes in the case against Oswald.
To be fair to the authors, it is true that a good number of conspiracy theorists have, as Von Pein puts it, "twisted and misrepresented the evidence" in the Kennedy case. But the exact same thing is true of Warren Commission apologists. For example, in 1993, Case Closed author Gerald Posner appeared before a congressional subcommittee claiming that he had interviewed Kennedy's autopsy doctors, Dr. James J. Humes and Dr. J. Thornton Boswell, who told him they had changed their minds about the location of the entrance wound in the back of JFK's skull. They now agreed, Posner claimed, that the bullet wound was 10 centimeters higher than stated in their autopsy report and he promised to provide congress with a tape recording of these interviews. But the tape never materialized. Consequently, researcher Dr. Gary Aguilar telephoned Humes and Boswell and was surprised to discover that not only did both doctors deny telling Posner any such thing, but Boswell was adamant that he had never been interviewed by Posner at all. And he was not the only individual to make this complaint. In his book, Posner cited personal interviews with others; including James Tague and Marina Oswald; who said that they too had never even spoken to him. Of course, none of this stops Ayton and Von Pein frequently citing Posner's book, calling it a "well-written account of the assassination."
Beginning with the Warren Commission who, as historian Gerald McKnight put it, "went through the motions of an investigation that was little more than an improvised exercise in public relations," (Breach of Trust, p. 361) the twisting and misrepresenting of evidence in the Kennedy assassination has been carried out by those with an agenda. And Ayton and Von Pein have such a massive agenda that they manage to one-up the Commission by making not even a pretense of objectivity. The authors shamelessly omit important facts contradicting their position whilst promoting any scrap of information that appears to support it without giving consideration to the reliability of its source. As such, they happily rely not only upon disgraced authors like the aforementioned perjurer Gerald Posner, but also on the likes of Priscilla Johnson McMillan, whom the CIA describes as a "witting collaborator," and Max Holland; recipient of the Agency's "Studies in Intelligence" award. In light of the fact that internal documents have shown that as far back as 1967 the CIA has committed itself to employing "propaganda assets to answer and refute" critics of the Warren Report, no objective scholar would overlook these relationships.
Of course, Ayton and Von Pein have little choice but to rely on dubious sources because if they were to employ a more rigorous standard they would not be able to write a book like Beyond Reasonable Doubt. For as we shall see, the lone gunman theory is simply not in accord with the evidence and, no matter how "damning" they may want you to believe it is, the case against Oswald cannot survive scrutiny.
As is obvious from the title of their book, Ayton and Von Pein want you to believe that there is no "reasonable doubt" about Lee Harvey Oswald's sole guilt in the assassination. The authors even treat us to their (very unusual) definition of the term, writing that "If the preponderance of evidence points to the guilt of the accused, it is not reasonable to say a particular anomalous piece of evidence shows innocence. Even when more than one anomaly arises, as it certainly does with respect to the JFK assassination, it is still not 'reasonable' to assume innocence if the preponderance of evidence shows guilt." (p. 118)
Why is this so unusual? Because the above is not the legal definition of the term as used in American criminal courts. The legal definition of beyond reasonable doubt in that venue is that 12 reasonable jurors have no doubt as to the defendant's guilt; they are convinced to a moral certainty that the accused committed the crime. If they do have doubt, they are not reasonable doubts. Which means that, during the deliberations, the one or two people who were reserving judgment had their doubts washed away by the other 10 or 11 jurors' arguments. Another way of explaining it is this: the prosecutor has judiciously, methodically and conclusively closed off all other avenues of possible explication to the defense. The crime could have happened no other way. It is the most stringent standard in American jurisprudence. That is because a man's life or liberty is at stake. The second most stringent standard is, "by clear and convincing evidence." That standard is used in many administrative hearings, such as those by the ABA to disbar an attorney. The standard the authors quote above is actually the lowest standard and is used in most civil courts. It is very hard to believe the writers do not understand the difference. Ayton is from the UK, but Von Pein is an American. Yet, at least the book editor should have pointed out this serious discrepancy which, in and of itself, mitigates the portentousness of the title. This reversal reduces the book to a utilitarian, not a fact finding or judicial inquiry. In other words, because of the Ayton/Von Pein switcheroo, the many serious evidentiary issues repeatedly highlighted by critics over the last fifty years do not amount to reasonable doubt. Needless to say, actual legal experts; lawyers who understand the different standards and why they are used; would feel differently.
For example, General Counsel for the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), Jeremy Gunn, said recently, "If we actually ask the question was Oswald guilty beyond a reasonable doubt...I am convinced that Oswald would have been found not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To me there is just no question he is not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." Former prosecutor, and Deputy Chief Counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), Robert Tanenbaum, agrees. As he stated during a lecture in 2013, "I can tell you from my experiences having tried several hundred cases to verdict, and being responsible for thousands of cases as head of the criminal courts, and running the homicide bureau, that I don't believe there's any courtroom in America where Oswald would have been convicted on the evidence that was presented before the Warren Commission." Numerous lawyers and professional investigators have come to the same conclusion as Gunn and Tanenbaum after studying the case against Oswald, simply because it falls so far short of the genuine standard of proof.
Let us begin with the Warren Commission's claim, repeated by Ayton and Von Pein, that on the morning of November 22, 1963, Oswald smuggled his cheap, mail-ordered rifle into the Texas School Book Depository building inside a paper bag. As first generation critics of the Warren Report like Harold Weisberg, Mark Lane and Silvia Meagher quickly discovered, reasonable doubt is cast on this allegation by the very testimony on which it is based.
Broken down, the sixth floor rifle was 34.8 inches long. (WR, p. 133) But witnesses Buell Wesley Frazier and Linnie Mae Randle repeatedly swore that the package they saw Oswald carry that morning was, at most, 27-28 inches long. For Ayton and Von Pein this poses no problem at all and they blithely state that Frazier and Randle both "made mistakes in describing the parcel's length..." (ibid, p. 69) As to how they deduced that Frazier and Randle were mistaken when there is literally no evidence overturning their consistent and corroborative estimates is difficult to fathom. Nobody else saw the package Oswald carried that morning, and the fact is that the two different ways in which Frazier and Randle saw Oswald holding the bag corroborate their estimates and prove that it had to be considerably shorter than the rifle it was alleged to contain.
Frazier saw Oswald carrying the bag with one end cupped in his hand and the other tucked under his arm. However, as he discovered during his Commission testimony, it was impossible to carry the rifle in that manner. Commission lawyer, Joseph Ball, handed Frazier the disassembled rifle inside a paper bag and asked him to demonstrate how Oswald had held the package. But when Frazier cupped the bottom end in his hand, the top end extended several inches above his shoulder, almost up to the level of his eye. As Frazier made clear, none of the bag he saw Oswald carrying had been sticking up above his shoulder and he was certain the bottom end was cupped in Oswald's hand. "From what I seen, walking behind," Frazier testified, "he had it under his arm and you couldn't tell he had a package from the back." (WC Vol. 2, p. 243, hereafter expressed as 2H243)
Ayton and Von Pein try to get around this by writing that "...in 1986, Frazier confirmed via Vincent Bugliosi's questions...that the package could have extended beyond Oswald's body and he might not have noticed it." (Ayton and Von Pein, p. 69) This is a gross distortion of what Frazier agreed to, which is that the package could have been "protruding out in front of [Oswald's] body" without him seeing it. He never said that it could have been sticking up above the shoulder or below the hand. To this day Frazier is adamant that the package he saw was around two feet long and that Oswald carried it with one end cupped in his hand and the other tucked under his arm. In other words, it was smaller than the rifle.
Often overlooked is the manner in which Oswald was carrying the package when Randle saw him. She was looking out of her kitchen window as she watched Oswald cross the street toward her house holding a "heavy brown bag." At this time, he held the package by the top and the bottom did not quite reach the ground. (2H248) The only way the 5 foot 9 inch Oswald could have carried a 34.8-inch long rifle down by his side without it dragging along the ground behind him is if he had arms like a T-Rex. Given that Oswald was a normally proportioned human male we can safely conclude from Randle's testimony that the package she saw him carry was considerably shorter than the rifle. It is readily apparent, then, that despite Ayton and Von Pein's assurance that Frazier and Randle "made mistakes in describing the parcel's length," their estimates actually make little difference. Because the two different ways in which Oswald carried it are entirely corroborative and clearly establish that it could not have contained the rifle.
Ayton and Von Pein would no doubt argue that the testimony of Frazier and Randle on this point is negated by the long paper bag; apparently made from wrapping paper and tape from the book depository's shipping department; allegedly found by Dallas police in the so-called "sniper's nest," on the sixth floor of the depository building. But that bag is, to say the least, of dubious origin. As retired British police detective Ian Griggs pointed out in his seminal essay, "The Paper Bag That Never Was," it does not appear in any of the official crime scene photographs, and the first officers on the scene did not see it there. For example, Police Sergeant Gerald Hill told the Commission that the only paper bag he had seen was a "small lunch sack" and remarked of the larger bag, "...if it was found up there on the sixth floor, if it was there, I didn't see it." (7H65) As Griggs points out in his essay, Deputy Sheriffs Luke Mooney and Roger Craig and Police Detective Elmer Boyd all said much the same thing. (See, Griggs, No Case to Answer, pgs. 173-214)
One fact overlooked by Griggs was that on the evening of November 22, 1963, Buell Frazier was given a polygraph examination by Dallas Police Detective R.D. Lewis and, while it was in progress, Lewis showed Frazier the long paper bag supposedly found in the "sniper's nest." Frazier told him that "he did not think that it resembled...the crinkly brown paper sack that Oswald had when he rode to work with him that morning..." (FBI 105-82555 Oswald HQ File, Section 17, p. 100) If Frazier, who got the best look at the package Oswald carried that morning, could not identify the bag produced by Dallas Police, it is difficult to imagine that it could ever have been introduced as evidence in court.
Nevertheless, the bag is seemingly linked to Oswald by a partial right palmprint and a partial left index fingerprint. Yet the obvious question this raises is how these could be the only two prints Oswald left on the bag when he supposedly made it himself using paper and tape from the depository, carried it with him to the Paine home in Irving, used it to wrap his rifle, carried it at least two different ways on his journey back into the depository, and unwrapped his rifle again on the sixth floor. In light of everything outlined above; Frazier and Randle's testimony, the fact that the bag does not appear in crime scene photographs, was not seen by the first officers on the scene, and was not identified by Frazier during his polygraph; the prints cannot be said to in any way prove that Oswald used the bag to carry the rifle. Realistically, all the prints tell us is that he handled the bag briefly at some point. This reviewer would not be the least bit surprised if that occurred whilst Oswald was in police custody.
Though they are careful to omit it all from their book, Ayton and Von Pein are no doubt aware of the serious issues outlined above, so they try to give themselves an out by writing that, "The question of whether or not Oswald took his rifle into work that morning, however, is a moot point. Oswald had plenty of opportunities to hide his rifle in the Book Depository on other occasions." (p. 69) Informed readers will recognize this for the smokescreen that it is. According to the official story, for the two months leading up the assassination, Oswald's alleged rifle was wrapped in a blanket in Ruth Paine's garage. If he did not retrieve it on the morning of the assassination then he never did so because at no other time was he seen taking a package from the Paine home, at no time was any rifle seen at his rooming house, and at no other time did he take a package into the Book Depository. November 22 was his one and only opportunity. Which means that if the package he carried that morning did not contain the rifle--and the preponderance of evidence tells us it did not--then someone else placed it on the sixth floor of the depository building, and Oswald was exactly what he said he was: A patsy.
Just from this instance, one can see why the authors lowered the legal standard. But even at that, an informed reader can see that they do not meet even that lower standard.
Before moving on, let us take note of another example of Ayton and Von Pein misrepresenting Frazier's words to suit their needs. The authors allege that when Frazier and Oswald "arrived at the Book Depository parking lot, Oswald hurried to the building 50 feet ahead of his co-worker...Oswald had never previously walked ahead of Frazier to the building. But Friday, November 22nd was different." (Ibid) The implication here is that Oswald immediately got out of the car and rushed ahead of his workmate because he was in a hurry to get his rifle into the building. The reality is quite different. As Frazier testified, upon arriving at the depository, he sat in his car, "letting my engine run and getting to charge up my battery." (2H227) Oswald had gotten out of the vehicle but, upon realizing Frazier was not with him, stopped and stood "at the end of the cyclone fence waiting for me to get out of the car." (Ibid, 228) Once Frazier shut off the engine and exited the car, Oswald carried on walking but Frazier said he "didn't try to catch up to him because I knew I had plenty of time so I just took my time walking up there." As Frazier told the Commission, he was less interested in catching up with Oswald and more interested in taking a minute to watch the nearby railroad tracks because "I just like to watch them switch the cars..." (Ibid) So quite contrary to the impression Ayton and Von Pein attempt to convey, Oswald did not end up 50 feet ahead of his co-worker because he "hurried," he did so because Frazier purposely lagged behind. Clearly the truth is less supportive of Ayton and Von Pein's agenda than their own version of events.
[NOTE: Over recent years, a number of very knowledgeable researchers have begun to question whether or not Oswald carried any kind of package with him that morning at all. They suggest that Frazier was pressured into telling this story after he was arrested by police on the evening of the assassination. Whilst, on balance, the reviewer believes that Frazier and his sister were telling the truth, the inconsistencies these critics have highlighted should not be summarily dismissed. Readers are referred to chapter 8 of Jim DiEugenio's excellent book, Reclaiming Parkland, for details.]
Ownership and possession of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository has, of course, always been a key issue. It goes without saying that Ayton and Von Pein regard it as an "incontrovertible fact that Oswald owned the assassination weapon." (p. 66) But this bold declaration overlooks many inconsistencies, not the least of which being that the rifle was ordered under the name "A. Hidell," yet when Oswald opened PO Box 2915 in October, 1963, he listed "Lee H. Oswald" as the only person authorized to receive mail. (17H679) U.S. Postal regulation no. 355.111 clearly states that "Mail addressed to a person at a PO Box who is not authorized to receive mail shall be endorsed 'addressee unknown' and returned to sender." How then could Oswald have received a rifle ordered in the name of A. Hidell? Incidentally, it will come as no surprise to many to learn that, although the Post Office should have retained the signature of the person picking up the rifle for four years, it was "missingî by the time the FBI began it's work.
For the sake of argument, this reviewer will overlook numerous issues and accept the notion that, for some unknown reason, Oswald chose to break the law by ordering a rifle through the mail using a false name; despite the fact that he was living in Texas where it was easy to obtain a firearm over the counter without leaving an extensive paper trail. It is nonetheless indicative of Ayton and Von Pein's intellectually dishonest methods to state without qualification, as they do, that "Lee Harvey Oswald's wife, Marina, identified the rifle in testimony to the Warren Commission during its 1964 hearings." (p. 80) Anyone who is familiar with Marina's ever-changing stories will no doubt be rolling their eyes at that particular pronouncement. During her Commission testimony, Marina rather melodramatically described the sixth floor weapon as "the fateful rifle of Lee Oswald." When asked, "Is that the scope that it had on it, as far as you know?" she said "Yes." (1H119) However, when she was interviewed months earlier by the Secret Service, Marina swore that the only rifle her husband ever owned did not have a telescopic sight. In fact, she said that before she saw the sixth floor rifle on television, "she did not know that rifles with scopes existed"! (CD344, p. 24) How does one reconcile these two statements? And what does it say about the integrity of an author who informs readers of one but not the other?
Regardless, the central question is not "did Oswald order the rifle?" but "did he have it in his hands at the time of the assassination?" We have already seen that he did not have it in his possession for at least the two months leading up to the assassination and he most likely did not carry it into the depository building that morning. So it will come as no great shock to learn that there is no compelling evidence he handled the rifle at all that day, and Ayton and Von Pein have to resort to misrepresenting testimony and omitting relevant facts in order to make it seem as if there is.
The authors state that the FBI found a "tuft of cotton fibers...clinging to the butt of the rifle" that under microscopic examination "matched those in the shirt worn by Oswald the day of the assassination." (p. 67) What they do not tell readers is that the shirt to which the fibers were "matched" is the one Oswald was wearing when he was arrested, but this was apparently not the one he was wearing at the time of the assassination. During his interrogations, Oswald told police; without any reason to lie as he knew nothing of any fibers being found on the rifle; that between the time of the assassination and the time of his arrest, he had returned to his rooming house and changed his shirt and trousers. (R622) Oswald's word was corroborated by Dallas Policeman Marion Baker who saw him on the second floor of the Book Depository less than two minutes after the shots were fired, and then again at the police station later in the day. As Baker told the Commission, when he saw Oswald the second time, "He looked as though he did not have the same thing on." (3H262)
Additionally, FBI hair and fiber expert, Paul Stombaugh, testified that although the fibers he found on the rifle butt "appeared fresh," there was no way of knowing for sure how long they had been on the weapon. As he explained it, "They could conceivably have been put on 10 years ago and then the gun put aside and remain the same. Dust would have settled on them, would have changed their color a bit, but as far as when they got on the gun. I wouldn't be able to say. This would be speculation on my part." (4H84) And that's not all Stombaugh had to say. Despite Ayton and Von Pein's unqualified assertion that the fibers "matched" the shirt, Stombaugh explained that "there is just no way at this time to be able to positively state that a particular group of small fibers came from a particular source, because there just aren't enough microscopic characteristics present in these fibers. We cannot say, 'Yes, these fibers came from this shirt to the exclusion of all other shirts.'" (Ibid, 88) So, to summarize, fibers that had been on the rifle for an indeterminate amount of time were inconclusively matched to a shirt Oswald may not have been wearing at the time of the assassination. Yet all Ayton and Von Pein saw fit to tell readers was that the fibers "matched."
The authors go on to claim that "Dallas Police Lieutenant J.C. Day...found and lifted a palm print from under the rifle barrel which he sent to the FBI laboratories in Washington. It was later identified as 'the palm print of Lee Harvey Oswald.'" (p. 72) There is so much relevant information left out of the above passage that it is difficult to know where to begin to critique it. Day claimed to have found the print on the disassembled Carcano when he inspected it on the evening of November 22. But when the FBI's fingerprint expert, Sebastian Latona, carefully inspected the entire rifle just a few hours later, he found "no latent prints of value" anywhere on it. (4H23) It was not until after Jack Ruby had gunned Oswald down in the basement of Dallas Police headquarters that it was suddenly announced his print had been found on the rifle. Lt. Day claimed that he had "lifted" the print before sending the rifle to the FBI lab but could never adequately explain why he had failed to inform the Bureau; or anyone else; when he handed the rifle over. Nor could he explain why he failed to follow proper procedure by photographing the print before it was "lifted."
Day said that the lifting had been accomplished by applying a strip of cellophane tape to the print, which had been dusted with powder. But Latona found no evidence whatsoever of a print, the tape, or the dusting powder. And let us not minimize the difference between Latona and Day. According to professional prosecutor Tanenbaum; a man who never lost a murder case; Latona's word was gold on the stand. He had written a pamphlet on the subject of fingerprinting which was used by almost all police departments at the time. He was so much in demand as a witness that it was not easy to secure him on your witness list. If you could, you felt lucky.
An FBI memo that was suppressed until 1978 reveals that even the Warren commission was troubled by all of this. The memo dated August 28, 1964 states: [Warren commission general counsel J. Lee] Rankin advised because of the circumstances that now exist there was a serious concern in the minds of the commission as to whether or not the palm impression that has been obtained from the Dallas Police Department is a legitimate latent palm impression removed from the rifle barrel or whether it was obtained from some other source, and that for this reason this matter needs to be resolved." Recall, this is August, eight months after the Commission's first meeting. The Bureau reported to the commission that they had investigated the matter and said that the "[FBI] laboratory examiners were able to positively identify the lift as having come from the assassination rifle in the area of the wooden fore grip." (26H829) However, the same report notes that Day "preferred" not to make a signed written statement about his finding of the print. This is probably because not only would he have been impeached by Latona, but also by FBI agent Vincent Drain. Drain was the agent who was tasked by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover with picking up the evidence the night of the assassination and spiriting it to Washington. What he told author Henry Hurt about that transfer is devastating. Drain told Hurt that when Day gave him the rifle he never pointed out a print, or evidence of a print. (Hurt, Reasonable Doubt, p. 109)
As if failing to make any mention of the above was not bad enough, Ayton and Von Pein are also careful to omit what is perhaps the most crucial detail: Even Lt. Day did not claim that the print; which was only visible in its entirety when the rifle was disassembled; placed the Carcano in Oswald's hands at the crucial time. In fact, he described it as an "old dry print" that "had been on the gun several weeks or months." (26H831; Anthony Summers, Conspiracy, p. 54) So even if we accept the palmprint as genuine, it only places the disassembled rifle in Oswald's hands "weeks or months" before the assassination. That the authors of Beyond Reasonable Doubt were comfortable hiding this fact from their readers is truly mind-boggling. And, if you can believe it, it gets worse.
Without a trace of caution, Ayton and Von Pein trumpet the claim made in 1993 by Vincent J. Scalice that he had positively identified fragmentary fingerprints found on the trigger guard of the rifle as being those of Lee Harvey Oswald. Once again, the authors leave out that which they find inconvenient. The prints in question were first observed by Lt. Day who told the Commission "...from what I had I could not make a positive identification..." (4H262) They were next examined by Sebastian Latona, who judged them to be "of no value," (4H21) and a second FBI expert, Ronald Wittmus, who agreed. (7H590) That makes three witnesses within 24 hours.
A decade and a half later; and this is crucial-- Scalice examined the prints on behalf of the HSCA and, at that time, he too agreed that they were "of no value for identification purposes." (8HSCA248) In 1993, both Scalice and the head of the FBI's latent print section, George Bonebrake, reviewed the prints for the PBS documentary, Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?, and Bonebrake reached the same conclusion as every expert who came before him; including Scalice. He stated that the prints were "simply not clear enough to make an identification." Finally, in 2003, researcher James K. Olmstead reported that a new analysis had been conducted using the FBI laboratory computer software and the computer had failed to find a match. (Donald Thomas, Hear No Evil, p. 85) So how was it that Scalice was able see what no other expert; or, indeed, computer; was able to see?
Scalice claimed to have found no less than 18 "points of identity" by using a composite of four enhanced Dallas Police photographs. But back in 1963, the FBI did not just have a few 30-year-old photographs to work with, they had the rifle itself with the actual latent prints on it. And as Latona explained to the Commission, the Bureau experts spent considerable time "setting up the camera, looking at prints, highlighting, sidelighting, every type of lighting that we could conceivably think of, checking back and forth in the darkroom; we could not improve the condition of these prints. So, accordingly, the final conclusion was simply that the latent print on this gun was of no value, the fragments that were there." (4H21) Simply put, whatever enhancements Scalice carried out on the photographs he used could not bring out detail that did not exist in the actual latent prints. Even as a minority opinion, Scalice's claim is just not worthy of serious consideration. And this is especially so given that neither he nor anyone else has ever made a chart of his alleged 18+ points of identity available for verification by an independent expert.
By promoting Scalice's assertion, Ayton and Von Pein demonstrate an extreme confirmation bias and a willingness to repeat anything that supports their theory, no matter how questionable it may be. This, and their handling of the palm print and fibers on the rifle, are perfect examples of what makes Beyond Reasonable Doubt such an Orwellian read. The authors spend much time up on a high horse denouncing conspiracy theorists for their "wrongful use of the physical evidence," and for misrepresenting the facts "through selective use of witnesses," yet these are the very methods they repeatedly and unashamedly employ throughout their book. Unfortunately, this type of hypocrisy is par for the course when dealing with many of those who defend the official lone nut legend.
Only one witness was ever claimed to have been able to identify Oswald as the man who fired a rifle from the sixth floor window: Howard L. Brennan. He is described by Ayton and Von Pein as "The most important witness to the shooting." (p. 59-60) A better and more accurate description was provided by Warren Commission critic Howard Roffman who wrote that "The best that can be said of Howard Brennan is that he provided a dishonest account that warrants not the slightest credence." (Presumed Guilty, p. 197) The numerous problems with Brennan's supposed identification of Oswald were noted in detail by first generation critics and his claims were completely discredited during the 1960s. Using Brennan as a witness in 2015 is a true sign of desperation.
Brennan told the Commission that shortly before the assassination, from his position sitting atop a wall opposite the Book Depository, he saw a man in the sixth floor window who he watched leave and return "a couple of times." (3H143) Once the shooting started, Brennan said, he glanced back up to the man in the window and saw that he was "standing up and resting against the left window sill, with gun shouldered to his right shoulder, holding the gun with his left hand and taking positive aim and fired his last shot." (Ibid, 144) Brennan's description of the gunman's position at the time he fired his final shot is the first of many problems with his account. The gunman could not have been "standing" as Brennan claimed because the window was only half-open and the ledge was just one foot high. As Roffman pointed out, "Had the gunman been standing, he would have been aiming through a double thickness of glass, only his legs visible to witness Brennan." (Presumed Guilty, p. 193) Yet Brennan claimed that he could see the assassin "from his belt up." (3H144)
In his Commission testimony, Brennan also contradicted his own claim to have seen the gunman fire his last shot. As many rifles do, the Carcano emits a small amount of smoke (26H811), and manifests a recoil (3H451), but Brennan testified to seeing neither of these things. (Ibid, 154) Years later, he wrote in his memoir, Eyewitness to History, "Simultaneous with the third shot, I swung my eyes back to the Presidential car which had moved on down to my left on Elm, and I saw a sight that made my whole being sink in despair. A spray of red came from around the President's head." (Eyewitness to History, p. 13) If Brennan saw the President's head explode, then unless he could move faster than a speeding bullet, it is without question that he could not have seen the sixth floor sniper fire the shot.
On the evening of November 22, Brennan was taken to view a Dallas police line-up where he failed to identify Oswald as the man he saw in the sixth floor window. Four months later when he appeared before the Commission, however, he was willing to positively identify Oswald as the gunman. (3H148) His justification for failing to pick Oswald out of the line-up was that he believed at that time, and still believed at the time of his testimony, that the assassination had been the work of a communist conspiracy and that if word got out that he was the only eyewitness he and his family "might not be safe." (Ibid) But this excuse is invalidated by the fact that he had to know of at least one other eyewitness, Amos Euins, because Brennan himself had pointed him out to Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels. (7H349) Additionally, as Mark Lane noted, "Brennan's anxiety about himself and his family did not prevent him from speaking to reporters on November 22, when he gave not only his impressions as an eyewitness but also his name." (Lane, Rush to Judgment, p. 92)
As he admitted to the FBI on January 10, 1964, Brennan's real reason for failing to identify Oswald on the evening of the assassination had nothing to do with fear of a communist conspiracy. He explained to agents of the Bureau that "after his first interview at the Sheriff's Office...he left and went home at about 2 P.M. While he was at home, and before he returned to view a lineup, which included the possible assassin of President Kennedy, he observed Lee Harvey Oswald's picture on television. Mr. Brennan stated that this, of course, did not help him retain the original impression of the man in the window with the rifle..." (24H406) Based on this admission alone, any subsequent identification Brennan gave was completely and utterly worthless.
It has been suggested that Brennan's own eyesight would have prevented him from witnessing what he said he did anyway. As Commission lawyer Joseph Ball told author Edward Epstein, during a "reconstruction" on March 29, 1964, Brennan had such difficulty even seeing a figure in the window that "it seemed doubtful that Brennan could have positively identified a man in the partially opened sixth-floor window 120 feet away." (Epstein, Inquest, p. 110) Ayton and Von Pein counter this by saying that "It was only AFTER the assassination, in January 1964, that Brennan suffered an accident that impaired his vision." (p. 60) But their only source for this claim is Brennan's own self-serving testimony which the Commission did not take any steps to verify.
It has also been suggested that Brennan, like a number of other witnesses, was pressured into changing his story. His job foreman, Sandy Speaker, told author Jim Marrs, "They took [Brennan] off for about three weeks. I don't know if they were Secret Service or FBI, but they were federal people. He came back a nervous wreck and within a year his hair had turned snow white. He wouldn't talk about [the assassination] after that. He was scared to death. They made him say what they wanted him to say." (Marrs, Crossfire, p. 26) Whether Speaker's story is true or not, it is interesting to note that years later Brennan refused to cooperate with the HSCA.
When House Select Committee staff first contacted him, it was with the idea of talking quietly with him at his home in Texas. But, according to an outside contact report dated March 13, 1978, Brennan "stated that the only way he will talk to anyone from this Committee, is if he is subpoenaed." A month later the Committee asked him to reconsider and, when he refused, informed him that he would be subpoenaed to testify before the committee on May 2. Brennan wasted no time in informing the Committee staff that he "would not come to Washington and that he would fight any subpoena. And, in fact, Brennan was belligerent about not testifying. He stated that he would avoid any subpoena by getting his doctor to state that it would be bad for his health to testify about the assassination. He further told me that even if he was forced to come to Washington he would simply not testify if he didn't want to." (HSCA contact report, 4/20/78, Record No. 180-10068-10381) Between May 15 and May 19, 1978, 11 attempts were made to present Brennan with previous statements he had made which were finally left with him on May 19. But when Committee staff returned a few days later to collect the form asserting that his previous statements were correct, a very odd lacuna appeared in the record. It was discovered that Brennan had refused to sign the form. The HSCA went as far as granting Brennan immunity from prosecution, but he would not budge.
The above would suggest to most reasonable-minded people that Brennan had something to hide. And understanding that the HSCA might actually subject him to a real cross examination, he did not want anything like that to surface. Whether this was the fact that he was pressured into identifying Oswald, or that he pretended to have knowledge he never really possessed to begin with in order to gain attention, we will likely never know. In the end, what matters is that he failed to identify Oswald on November 22, 1963, and he admitted that seeing Oswald's picture on television shortly after the assassination had clouded and influenced his own recollections. Needless to say, none of this appears in Beyond Reasonable Doubt because it does not matter a lick to Ayton and Von Pein. When he appeared before the Commission, Brennan was willing to state that Oswald was the gunman. On that day he said what Ayton and Von Pein want to hear and, truthful or not, that is all that matters to them. That is the kind of book this is.
In Beyond Reasonable Doubt we are told that, for conspiracy believers, it is an "inconvenient truth" that several months before the assassination, Oswald demonstrated his "potential for violence" by executing "a bold plan to eliminate former Army General Edwin A. Walker, a leader of ultra-conservative groups." (p. 149) For Ayton and Von Pein, the Walker attempt "is the most compelling pre-assassination evidence for Oswald's propensity to meticulously plan and carry out an act of political assassination, alone and unaided." (Ibid) Furthermore, they claim that the evidence Oswald took a shot at Walker is "overwhelming." Which, as overloaded with hyperbole and empty rhetoric their book is, still manages to stand out as a particularly egregious exaggeration. In truth, the evidence is virtually non-existent.
In the several months the Dallas Police investigated the attempt on Walker's life, Oswald was never considered a suspect. But the day after the assassination, Michael Paine; a man whom Robert Oswald immediately suspected was involved in the assassination (1H346); unexpectedly told the Houston Post that "Oswald may have been involved in the Walker affair." (DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, p. 83) Then on December 5, 1963, Marina Oswald, who up until that point had insisted that she knew of no acts of violence perpetrated by her deceased husband, suddenly claimed to the FBI that Lee had told her he took a shot at the right-wing General. This, of course, was during the two month period that she was held at the Inn of Six Flags in Arlington, Texas, being repeatedly interrogated by the Secret Service and FBI and threatened with deportation. (see 1H79 & 410) Just as she did when she "identified" the rifle for the Commission, Marina was telling her interrogators what they wanted to hear. Which is something she became very adept at doing.
Over time, Marina's description of Lee changed from that of a good husband who loved to help with the kids to a selfish, vicious wife-beater. Mark Lane noted in his classic book, Rush to Judgment, that "In the course of her variegated testimony, she became richer. She admitted at an early date she had received public donations amounting to $57,000." She even acquired a business manager, James H. Martin, who "testified that advances for her stories alone totalled $132,500." (Lane, p. 307) As the money rolled in, she painted herself more and more as a victim which was something even members of the Warren Commission and its staff found difficult to swallow. Commission lawyer, Norman Redlich, once noted in a secret memo to J. Lee Rankin that although Marina and her business manager had "attempted to paint a public image of Marina Oswald as a simple, devoted housewife who suffered at the hands of her husband...there is a strong probability that Marina Oswald is in fact a very different person; cold, calculating, avaricious, scornful of generosity, and capable of an extreme lack of sympathy in personal relationships." (11HSCA126) Although Marina was clearly under pressure, when she saw what she had to gain by selling her dead husband down the river, she took to her role with relish. Unfortunately she could never quite keep her stories straight and ended up being such a terrible witness that investigators for the HSCA were compelled to prepare a 30-page report titled Marina Oswald Porter's Statements of a Contradictory Nature. Clearly, to any objective observer, anything Marina said is to be taken with a rather large grain of salt. Perhaps a tablespoon would be more adequate.
Once we dispose of Marina's worthless testimony, any case against Oswald in the Walker shooting flies out the window. In its quest to tie Oswald to the Walker attempt, the Warren Commission produced a mangled bullet, dubbed CE 573, that had all the appearances of being a 6.5 mm copper-jacketed round like the ones fired from "Oswald's" rifle. The trouble is that, despite the Commission's claim, this bullet does not appear to be the one recovered from Walker's home on April 10, 1963. The actual Walker bullet was described by police at the time as being a 30.06 that was steel-jacketed. (Dallas Morning News, April 11, 1963 & 24H40) General Walker himself, who had held the real bullet in his hand on the night of the shooting, vehemently protested when he saw CE 573 that there had been a "substitution" and demanded that it be withdrawn from all files pertaining to the Kennedy assassination. (see McKnight, p. 51) "The bullet before your select committee called the Walker bullet is not the Walker bullet" he told the HSCA. "It is not the bullet that was fired at me and taken out of my house by the Dallas City Police on April 10, 1963. The bullet you have was not gotten from me or taken out of my house by anyone at anytime." Not surprisingly, there is no reference to Walker's protests anywhere in Beyond Reasonable Doubt.
Ayton and Von Pein make much of a note that Oswald apparently wrote for Marina, telling her what to do should he get arrested. The authors state that anyone who rejects the "proof that Oswald tried to shoot General Walker" will have to accept the "preposterous" idea that "Somebody faked the note that Oswald left for his wife." (p. 164) In reality, we need accept no such thing because the note is undated and makes absolutely no reference to General Walker or any other attempted shooting. Additionally, as researcher, Gil Jesus pointed out, the note instructs Marina that the "money from work" will be "sent to our post office box. Go to the bank and cash the check." But the last job Oswald had before April 10, 1963, was at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall and they did not mail his paychecks. Which strongly suggests the note was not written around the time of the Walker attempt.
The only remaining "evidence" consists of photographs of Walker's home that were found amongst Oswald's possessions in the garage of Ruth and Michael Paine (yes, that's the same Michael Paine who was the very first person to suggest Oswald had taken a shot at Walker). But the very existence of these photographs in November, 1963, is baffling. According to Marina's story, these photos were in a notebook that Oswald had kept, detailing his Walker plans. Yet she also claimed that she watched him burn the notebook a few days after he failed to kill the General. She did not say she saw him pull out a few pictures to keep. And why on Earth would he do such a thing anyway? What was he planning to do, put the photos in the family album so that one day they could all look back and chuckle about the time Papa lost it and tried to murder a fascist? There is just no logical, believable reason for Oswald to have kept those photographs around and that fact leads to the possibility that they were planted among his possessions. Perhaps by someone who had access to the Paine garage and seemed to want to implicate Oswald in the Walker episode long before the thought of his involvement had occurred to anyone else. Now, who might that have been?
One thing you will not find in Beyond Reasonable Doubt is an in-depth, meaningful discussion of the medical evidence in the assassination. There is, in fact, virtually no discussion of the subject at all. The obvious reason being that Ayton and Von Pein understand full well that, if they tell readers too much about that subject, the cut-and-dried case for a lone gunman they are trying to sell would look decidedly less cut-and-dried. So the authors leave out troubling details like the fact that the autopsy doctors failed to notice one wound, and failed to dissect one that they did, leaving us with an ambiguous record; that they incorrectly described the location of bullet fragments in the brain; that they failed to locate wounds according to fixed anatomical landmarks; and that the pathologists burned the first draft of their autopsy report. Clearly, this sort of information is inconvenient when you want people to believe there is no room for doubting a lone gunman was involved. In any case, even the few details Ayton and Von Pein do bother to include they manage to get wrong.
It goes without saying that the authors believe the only bullet to strike JFK's skull came from the rear. In support of this contention they write that the Zapruder film "clearly shows the President's head bursting open in the front and the right...a large flap of scalp hangs down from the large exit wound...And, as HSCA pathologists testified, the particulate matter (brain tissue) from the President's head, after the head shot, is spraying forwards, as can be seen from a high-contrast photo of frame 313 of the Zapruder film." (pgs. 98-99) From this it appears that Ayton and Von Pein are under the impression that the massive wound on the right side of JFK's head was an exit wound and the cloud of matter seen in Z-313 is exit spray. Neither of these things is true.
As ballistics expert, and Warren Commission apologist, Larry Sturdivan, stated in his 2005 book, The JFK Myths; a book Ayton and Von Pein cite but either did not read or failed to comprehend; "the explosive rupture of the side of the president's head over his ear was not caused by an exiting bullet fragment." (Sturdivan, p. 186) In actual fact, the explosion, which occurred after the bullet had already exited the skull, was a typical "Kronlein Schuss," named for the German ballistics expert who first demonstrated the effect with clay-filled skulls. The energy deposited as the bullet passed through the brain imparted a momentum so great that a temporary cavity was formed. Consequently, a violent wave of hydraulic pressure was applied to the cranium at which point fractures radiating from the point of entrance gave way to the brain fluid and tissue which burst upwards through the cracks. As Sturdivan explained, "the center of the blown-out area of the president's skull was at the midpoint of the trajectory; not at the exit point." (Ibid, p. 171) Sturdivan noted that the blood and matter seen in Z-313 "appears to be directed upward and only slightly forward...Since the tears [in the scalp] were so extensive, the spray went in all directions, just like the skull fragments did." (Ibid, p. 175) A "similar explosion would have taken place" whichever direction the bullet was travelling. (Ibid, p. 171) As Dr. Donald Thomas put it in his book on the Kennedy assassination forensic evidence, Hear No Evil, "While the Kronlein Schuss effect explains why the brain matter and bony fragments flew upward, it does not reveal the direction of the bullet." (Thomas, p. 351) As medical expert Milicent Cranor, based upon her reading of authority Dr. Vincent DiMaio, has written, another term for this is cavitation.
The cloud of matter in Z-313 was not exit spray, and the hole which encompassed most of the right side of Kennedy's head was not an exit wound. In actual fact, JFK's lead pathologist, Dr. James J. Humes, testified to the Commission that after a "careful examination of the margins of the large bone defect" the doctors were unable to find a point of exit on the skull. He attributed this failure to the fact that there was a large amount of missing bone. (2H353)
The two most obvious features of JFK's post mortem skull X-rays are the aforementioned large absence of bone on the right side, and the trail of bullet fragments that runs along the top of the skull. Ayton and Von Pein make one quick reference to this second feature, stating without elaboration that "The dispersal of bullet fragments comes from the back to the front." (p. 99) They provide no citation for this claim which is not at all surprising since it is completely wrong. To begin with, let us take stock of what the very presence of these numerous metallic particles in the brain tells us. The bullets fired from "Oswald's" rifle were full metal jacket, military ammunition. As wound ballistics expert Vincent Di Maio wrote in his classic textbook, Gunshot Wounds, "Military bullets, by virtue of their full metal jackets, tend to pass through the body intact...[they] usually do not fragment in the body or shed fragments of lead in their paths." (Di Maio, p. 192) He goes on to say that "the presence of small fragments of metal along the wound track virtually rules out full metal-jacketed ammunition." (Ibid, p. 334) However, he does allow that "in rare instances" a few small fragments may be seen on X-ray "if the bullet perforates bone." (Ibid) In Kennedy's case we are, of course, talking about the skull so obviously the bullet did indeed pass through bone.
Tests performed for the Warren Commission at Edgewood Arsenal demonstrated clearly that Di Maio is correct. At Edgewood, "Oswald's" rifle and ammunition was used to fire at rehydrated skulls filled with ballistic gelatin. These bullets did indeed deposit a few small fragments in the skull. However, this did not occur until after the jacket ruptured which, as Sturdivan explained, occurred when the bullet was "well inside the skull...the scattering of small lead fragments began about midway through the skull." (Sturdivan, p. 204) Howard Roffman included two X-rays from these tests in his book and they showed around 5 or 6 small fragments deposited near the exit. (Roffman, photo section) Being a Warren Commission supporter, Sturdivan apparently picked the best of the bunch for his book, but even his carefully chosen X-ray showed only around 10 fragments; all located in the front half of the skull. (Sturdivan, p. 173) This is absolutely nothing like the lead snowstorm seen in President Kennedy's autopsy X-rays where we see dozens of metallic particles running from one end of the skull to the other.
It seems quite clear that the bullet which left the trail of fragments in the brain was not a full metal jacket round of the type Oswald is alleged to have used. And not only do the fragments tell us that a different type of ammunition was used, the pattern of their distribution gives us an idea as to the direction of travel. When a bullet disintegrates into fragments upon striking bone, the smaller, dust-like fragments are found closer to the entry point and the larger particles are found closer to the exit. This is because, as Sturdivan noted in his HSCA testimony, "A very small fragment has very high drag in tissue" (1HSCA401) whereas fragments with greater mass have greater momentum which enables them to travel further. What we see in JFK's autopsy X-ray is that the smaller particles are located near the right temple and the larger ones are found near the upper, right rear of the skull. Therefore, the bullet appears to have been heading front to back.
It should be noted at this point that Dr. Humes and his colleagues at the autopsy did find an entry wound in the back of the skull, "2.5 centimeters to the right, and slightly above the external occiptal protuberance [EOP]." However, this hole; which is readily visible on the X-rays; is around 4 inches below the rear end of the fragment trail. As neuropathologist, Dr. Joseph N. Riley, has stated, "The fragments distributed in and the damage to the cerebral cortex cannot be due to the shot described by Humes et al." because "the wounds are discontinuous." Dr. Riley, who holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and specializes in neuroanatomy and experimental neuropathology, describes two seperate areas of damage to the cortical and subcortical areas of the brain that he says are "anatomically distinct and could not have been produced by a single bullet." (See The Third Decade, Vol. 9, Issue 3, p. 1) The best possible explantion for JFK's head wounds according Dr. Riley and others; including radilogist, Dr. Randy Robertson, and former President of the American Academy of Forensic Science, Dr. Cyril Wecht; is two seperate bullet strikes; one from the rear and one from the right front.
When the Zapruder film was first shown on American television in 1975, it created a public outcry so great that Congress had little choice but to reopen the Kenendy case. The sight of President Kennedy's head snapping violently backwards by several inches in just a few 18ths of a second appeared to most as obvious evidence of a frontal shot. As Congressman Thomas N. Downing noted after a private viewing of the film on April 15, 1975, "It convinced me that there was more than one assassin." (David Wrone, The Zapruder Film, p. 69) Over the years, Warren Commission defenders have offered a variety of theories intended to explain why a shot from the rear would cause Kennedy's head to snap backwards. Predictably, Ayton and Von Pein invoke the two most popular of these hypotheses: the "neuromuscular reaction" and the "jet effect". (p. 96-97)
As Larry Sturdivan explains it, the neuromuscular reaction theory suggests that, "The tissue inside [Kennedy's] skull was being moved around. It caused a massive amount of nerve stimulation to go down his spine. Every nerve in his body was stimulated...since the back muscles are stronger than the abdominal muscles, that meant that Kennedy arched dramatically backwards." (NOVA Cold Case: JFK, 2013) However, as Donald Thomas explains, "Sturdivan's postulate suffers from a patently anomalous notion of the anatomy. In any normal person the antagonistic muscles of the limbs are balanced, and regardless of the relative size of the muscles, the musculature is arranged to move the limbs upward, outward, and forward. Backward extension of the limbs is unnatural and awkward; certainly not reflexive. Likewise, the largest muscle in the back, the 'erector spinae,' functions exactly as its name implies, keeping the spinal column straight and upright. Neither the erector spinae, or any other muscles in the back are capable of causing a backward lunge of the body by their contraction." (Thomas, p. 341) Not only is the reaction that Sturdivan describes highly implausible, it is also in conflict with the Zapruder film. It is quite clear from watching the film that Kennedy's movement did not begin with an arching of the back. As the ITEK corporation noted following extensive slow motion study, his head snapped backwards first, "then his whole body followed the backward movement." (ITEK report, p. 64)
If Sturdivan's theory seems plausible before closer analysis, that is more than can be said for Luis Alvarez's jet effect hypothesis. Alvarez, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, suggested that in a similar fashion to the thrust developed in a jet engine in response to its exhaust, the explosive exiting of blood and brain matter from the right side of Kennedy's head created a corresponding propulsive momentum in the opposite direction, pushing it backwards. He claimed to have proven his theory by firing a rifle at melons wrapped in tape which, as Ayton and Von Pein write, were "propelled backward in the direction of the rifle." (p. 97) But, as should be immediately obvious, a melon is nothing like a human head. It weighs around half as much and so requires far less energy to set in motion. It also lacks a bone and, therefore, offers little resistance to a bullet. This means that there is little deposition of momentum and, consequently, very little force to overcome.
Alvarez first presented his theory and the results of his melon tests in the September 1976 issue of the American Journal of Physics. As author Josiah Thompson discovered a few years ago when he acquired the raw notes and photos from all of Alvarez's tests, the physicist had kept some important information to himself. Alvarez had reported on tests performed on May 31, 1970, during which 6 out of 7 melons had recoiled "in a retrograde manner." What he did not divulge was that there had been two earlier rounds of testing which painted a very different picture. During those earlier firings, Alvarez had used larger, heavier melons which apparently did not behave the way he wanted them to. In later tests he reduced their size by half and jacked up the velocity of his bullets to 3000 fps. Alvarez also fired at a variety of other objects besides melons. There were coconuts filled with jello which were blown 39 feet forward; a plastic jug of water which went 6 feet downrange; and 5 rubber balls filled with gelatin; all of which were blown away from the rifle. In fact, as Thompson noted during his presentation at the Wecht Institutes' Passing the Torch symposium in 2013, "in these tests, every time they shot anything but a melon it went with the bullet. But Alvarez didn't tell anybody that." Nor did he disclose the fact that his JFK experiments had been funded by the U.S. Government. (Wrone, p. 103)
According to Ayton and Von Pein, "a key point that is often overlooked or downplayed by conspiracy theorists is the fact that when JFK is struck in the head with a bullet...the President's head initially moves forward, not backward...which is consistent with the head shot coming from behind..." (p. 98) Can they be serious? Far from being "overlooked or downplayed" this alleged forward motion was actually first discovered by a "conspiracy theorist," Josiah Thompson, who wrote about it in detail in his classic book, Six Seconds in Dallas. Thompson measured the forward movement between Zapruder frames 312 and 313 as approximately two inches and, together with the much larger backward motion, took it as evidence of two shots striking the skull almost simultaneously. However, Thompson has since realised that he made a crucial mistake.
In his online essay, Bedrock Evidence in the Kennedy Assassination, Thompson writes, "In the years since those measurements were made, I've learned I was wrong. Z312 is a clear frame while Z313 is smeared along a horizontal axis by the movement of Zapruder's camera. The white streak of curb against which Kennedy's head was measured is also smeared horizontally and this gives rise to an illusory movement of the head. Art Snyder of the Stanford Linear Accelerator staff persuaded me several years ago that I had measured not the movement of Kennedy's head but the smear in frame 313. The two-inch forward movement was just not there." Thompson further explained in his 2013 Wecht symposium presentation, "Since highly exposed areas; that is bright areas of the film; have a whole lot of energy to them, if the shutter is open and the camera moved, then those highly energized areas will intrude into low energized areas. It's a basic photographic principle." Indeed, during his presentation Thompson demonstrated how this principle affected other objects in the Zapruder film besides Kennedy's head.
What all this means according to Thompson is that "there is no longer any solid evidence whatsoever; whatsoever; that John Kennedy was hit in the head from the rear between 312 and 313." As Thompson's co-presenter, Keith Fitzgerald, demonstrated, JFK's head actually exhibits its fastest forward movement between frames 328 and 330, which just so happens to be precisely when the final shot from the Book Depository appears on the Dallas Police dictabelt recording if we align the Grassy Knoll shot with frame 313. This synchronization of audio and visual evidence fully supports the belief of Drs. Riley, Wecht, and Robertson that Kennedy's head was struck by two bullets; one from the front and one from the rear.
No Krazy Kid Oswald book would be complete without the obligatory gratuitous attack on Jim Garrison, so it comes as no surprise to find one in Beyond Reasonable Doubt. Although there is literally nothing new or original anywhere in the book, the chapter entitled "The New Orleans Debacle" still manages to stand out as the most outdated and ultimately worthless chapter in the entire volume. Which, as the reader can see, is quite a negative achievement. The authors make no reference to any of the numerous files from Garrison's investigation which were made public in the 1990s by the ARRB. Or any of the official government documents detailing just how his probe was obstructed at a federal level. Instead they dust off the same tired old fabrications, half-truths and innuendoes that were long ago debunked and discredited by real researchers like Jim DiEugenio, Lisa Pease and Bill Davy.
Ayton and Von Pein launch their assault by claiming, without a shred of evidence, that the former District Attorney of New Orleans "came to prominence through corruption and a dangerous lust for publicity," (p. 262); and by shamelessly repeating a ridiculous charge that Garrison was a "psychopath" of the "charming con artist" variety. (p. 263) With nothing of substance to support any of this garbage the authors quickly move on to the overly used Mafia smear, implying that Garrison was lenient on organized crime because of some unspecified relationship with Mob boss, Carlos Marcello. In support of this they offer a September, 1967, article from Life magazine. What they don't tell readers is that the author of the piece, Sandy Smith, was an FBI collaborator whom the Bureau itself described as "a great admirer of the Director" who had been "utilized on many different occasions." (Davy, Let Justice Be Done, p. 162) Additionally, one of the researchers for the article was one David Chandler; a close friend of Clay Shaw; the man whom Garrison had indicted for conspiracy to kill the President. Pointedly, the Life article offered nothing of substance beyond the "revelation" that Garrison's tab had been picked up by management when he stayed at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Garrison himself laughed off the insinuation, pointing reporters to a hefty valet and telephone bill. "Apparently I am not very highly regarded by the Mafia", he quipped, "if they won't even pick up my phone bill." (Ibid, p. 153)
Ayton and Von Pein claim that Garrison's initial investigation of the assassination "stalled when he found no evidence to support his suspicions" and that after a 1966 conversation with Senator Russell Long he "reopened his investigation immediately and found an alleged getaway pilot...David William Ferrie." (p. 265) This is not even close to what happened.
On the weekend of the assassination, private detective and police informant, Jack Martin, had telephoned assistant DA, Herman Kohlman, to inform him of a seemingly mysterious trip to Texas that Ferrie had taken with two friends, Alvin Beauboeuf and Melvin Coffee, on the day of the President's murder. Martin told Kohlman that Ferrie had known Oswald for some time and may have been his superior officer in the Civil Air Patrol. (HSCA Report, p. 143) When Ferrie arrived back in New Orleans on November 24, waiting police officers took him to the DA's office for questioning. Garrison found "indigestible his explanation that he had driven through a thunderstorm to go ice-skating in Texas" and turned Ferrie over to the FBI for further questioning. (Garrison, A Heritage of Stone, p. 102) But the Bureau was not looking to find a conspiracy. So they quickly let Ferrie go without charge. Even though Ferrie committed perjury numerous times in his FBI interview. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, Second Edition, pgs. 176-77)
Three years later, his conversation with Long now made him question the efficacy of the Warren Report. Garrison again wondered about the drive through a violent thunderstorm Ferrie and his companions had taken on the evening of the assassination to go ice-skating in Texas. Of course, Ayton and Von Pein maintain that there was nothing suspicious about this trip, and they quote Beauboeuf as saying that it was not even Ferrie's idea, it was his. (p. 269) Indeed this is precisely what Beauboeuf told the DA's office, adding that he had planned it a week in advance and they had left around 4:00 PM. The trouble is, Coffee gave a different story. He claimed that the trip was Ferrie's idea, that he had made arrangements a couple of days in advance, and that the trio had departed after dark, around 7:00 PM. Ferrie gave a third version of events, claiming that the trip was an entirely spontaneous affair. They had left after supper time to go ice-skating and duck hunting, each taking a shotgun along. Yet Beauboeuf and Coffee both insisted that there were no weapons in the car. (Davy, pgs. 45-46) The conflicts in their accounts understandably heightened Garrison's suspicions. The only point that Ferris and his friends agreed on was that at some point that evening they arrived at an ice-skating rink in Houston. Intriguingly, the owner of the rink, Chuck Rowland, told Garrison's office that Ferrie did no skating. Instead, he spent his time making and receiving calls on the public telephone. (Ibid)
Before he left for Houston, however, Ferrie had an important errand to run. As Oswald's former landlady, Jesse Garner, told the HSCA, Ferrie turned up at her house that evening asking about Oswald's library card. Apparently, Jack Martin had circulated the story that Ferrie's card had been found amongst Oswald's possessions after his arrest and Ferrie was worried that it might be true. When Garner refused to talk to him, Ferrie visited her neighbour, Doris Eames, asking if she "had any information regarding Oswald's library card." (10HSCA113-114) Ayton and Von Pein want this connection between Ferrie and Oswald to disappear so they withhold Ferrie's actions from their readers and point out that the story of his card being among Oswald's possessions was simply made up by Martin. (p. 271) But the truth of the story is irrelevant. What matters is that Ferrie himself clearly believed it was possible that Oswald had his library card, which demonstrates that he had been in contact with Oswald in the summer of 1963. And right then and there, any objective person would wonder what the rightwing, CIA affiliated Ferrie would be doing associating with the former Marxist defector.
Ayton and Von Pein admit that Ferrie and Oswald were photographed together at a Civil Air Patrol picnic when Oswald was 15 but they downplay the significance. They can get away with this because they do not reveal Ferrie's search for his library card after the assassination. Or the fact, that Ferrie was trying to track down that photo in the wake of the assassiantion. (DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, p. 152) And they do not inform readers of yet another connection between the two men. During his summer in New Orleans, Oswald had launched a one-man chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and stamped the address "544 Camp Street" on some of his FPCC leaflets. That famous address was one entrance to the Newman building, which also housed the offices of former FBI agent turned private investigator, Guy Banister. And guess who was doing investigative work for Banister in 1963? None other than David Ferrie. Not only did Oswald stamp the address of a building Ferrie was working out of on his pamphlets, numerous witnesses placed Oswald himself in Banister's office. (see DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, second edition, pgs. 110-113) The fact that Oswald was associating with CIA-connected, violently anti-communist activists like Banister and Ferrie obviously suggests that his FPCC activities were a ploy; part of a plan to discredit the organization. And it is now known that both the CIA and FBI were running projects aimed at doing just that. The idea that Oswald was involved in this effort is re-enforced by the fact that his activities only resulted in embarrassing the FPCC when Oswald was eventually "exposed" as a communist during a radio debate.
Regardless, Ferrie did have an association with Oswald and, since Banister had died before Garrison began his investigation, Ferrie became the DA's principle suspect. That is, until the investigation went public and Ferrie suddenly turned up dead. At that point, Garrison concentrated on finding the mysterious "Clay Bertrand;" a name that appears in the Warren Commission volumes thanks to the colorful testimony of French Quarter lawyer, Dean Andrews. Andrews told the Commission that he had recieved a call from Bertrand on the day of the assassination asking him to fly to Dallas to represent Oswald. According to Ayton and Von Pein, this was just "one version of Andrews's story. In another, he told the FBI the whole thing had been a hoax." (p. 266) In actual fact, as Andrews testified for the Commission, he had been pressured by the FBI to the point that he told them to "Write what you want, that I am nuts. I don't care." Which is precisely what the Bureau did. Despite the fact that Andrews's secretary, Eva Springer, and his employee. R.M. Davis, both confirmed that Andrews had told them about the Bertrand call on the weekend of the assassination. (Davy, pgs. 51-52)
Ayton and Von Pein do not care about such facts, though, they just want to pretend that Bertrand either did not exist or had nothing to do with Oswald and the assassination. Needless to say, they choose not to tell readers that FBI agent Regis Kennedy confirmed under oath at the trial of Clay Shaw that he been seeking a Clay Bertrand in connection with the assassination before the FBI had even spoken with Andrews. (Ibid, p. 194) The truth is that Clay Bertrand most defintely existed and his real name was Clay Shaw. As declassified documents have revealed, the FBI knew this to be true at least as far back as February, 1967. One particular memorandum, dated March 2, states, "On February 24, 1967, we recieved information from two sources that Clay Shaw reportedly is identical with an individual by the name of Clay Bertrand..." Another, dated March 22, reports that "three homosexual sources in New Orleans and two homosexual sources in San Francisco have indicated that Clay Shaw was known by other names including Clay Bertrand." (Ibid, p. 193)
Like just about everyone else who appeared on Garrison's radar, Shaw was heavily connected to the CIA. Ayton and Von Pein recite the apologists mantra that Shaw was just one of many normal businessmen who supplied information to the Agency's Domestic Contacts Service. Unfortunately for the authors, at the 2013 Wecht Symposium, author Joan Mellen presented a newly discovered internal CIA document which states in black and white that "Clay Shaw was a highly paid CIA contract source until 1956." His relationship with the Agency clearly extended for quite some time past 1956, however, as other documents show that he retained a covert security clearance until at least March 16, 1967. (Ibid, p. 195) Unfortunately for Garrison, he could not prove this at the time and it hurt his case because it left him unable to provide a motive for Shaw to participate in a conspiracy.
One thing Garrison could and did prove is that Shaw was seen in the company of Ferrie and Oswald when the trio made visits to the small towns of Clinton and Jackson, Louisiana in the summer of 1963. The witnesses to these appearances remain as credible and convincing as ever despite numerous attempts to make them appear otherwise. Ayton and Von Pein have little choice but to suggest that they were all liars and; relying on a far-fetched conspiracy concocted by Garrison-basher, Patrica Lambert; write that the Clinton witnesses "embellished the truth" and "conspired to invent stories..." (p. 277) This is laughable idiocy. The Clinton-Jackson folk whom Lambert suggests were plotting together included both right-wing whites; some of whom were actually Klansmen; and oppressed blacks! It also included the two children of State Representative, Reeves Morgan. How on Earth did these folks all come together? And to what end? It boggles the mind. As Jim DiEugenio recently noted, "...to propose that dozens of witnesses, young and old, white and black...all lied for Jim Garrison is simply a non starter."
Although Garrison had a number of witnesses who could place Shaw with Ferrie and Oswald, he only had one whose testimony directly implicated Shaw in the assassination. A young insurance salesman named Perry Russo said that he attended a gathering at Ferrie's apartment in September, 1963, where Shaw, Ferrie, "Leon" Oswald and some Cubans discussed the assassination. Ayton and Von Pein give us the usual spiel that Russo did not begin talking about the so-called "assassination party" until after he was administered Sodium Pentathol (commonly known as "truth serum") and hypnotized. But this claim was flatly disputed under oath by both Russo and the assisstant DA who first interviewed him, Andrew Sciambra. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, second edition, pgs. 218, 246)
The authors also allege that "At the time of the Shaw trial, Russo had second thoughts about his testimony...refused to repeat the fabrication about the Ferrie party" and "recanted" to Shaw's lawyers. (p. 280) This is unmitigated nonsense. At Shaw's trial, Russo spent two and a half days on the stand repeating and defending the testimony he gave at the preliminary hearing. It was almost two years after the trial was over, whilst Garrison was rightly attempting to prosecute Shaw for perjury, that Russo approached Shaw's lawyers. From the time of Shaw's arrest, Russo's integrity had been under attack and he came to feel that his involvement in the case had ruined his life. Consequently, he told Shaw's lawyers that he no longer wished to testify for either side. But he never said that the assassination discussion at Ferrie's had not happened. His "recanting" really only amounted to saying "Not really" when asked if he was positive that Shaw was Bertrand. And this was after Shaw's lawyers threatened to make an issue of Russo's sexual proclivities. (Joe Biles, In History's Shadow, p. 123)
The veracity of Russo's account, and Shaw's participation in the assassination, will likely be debated forever. At the end of the day, the jury at Shaw's trial did not believe that Russo's testimony alone was enough to prove Shaw's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But this in no way, shape, or form indicates any wrongdoing by Garrison and his staff. Garrison had every reason to believe Russo, especially after he attempted to verify Russo's account using Sodium Pentathol and hypnosis. Lone nut authors like Ayton and Von Pein like to repeat claims made by Walter Sheridan and NBC that Garrison's staff bribed and intimidated witnesses and used "other questionable tactics." (p. 267) Yet all of these ridiculous allegations were long ago proven to be completely false. In fact, the unehtical witness intimidation and bribery was done by Sheridan, NBC, Hugh Aynseworth and James Phelan: all allies of Clay Shaw. (See the second edition of Destiny Betrayed, pgs. 237-55, for a long and detailed expose of these matters.) Garrison noted in his famous 1967 interview for Playboy magazine that the entire purpose of such charges was "to place our office on the defensive and make us waste valuable time answering allegations that have no basis in fact." This still holds true today as false allegations of improprieties by Garrison's office provide Warren Commission apologists with a useful tool to distract others from the valuable facts the DA uncovered.
Ayton and Von Pein seem to be implying that Garrison violated Shaw's rights when they say that he "leaked details of the case" and "presented his findings on 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson'". (Ibid) Yet one of the very first things Garrison said to Carson during his appearance on the show was "I wish you'd also ask me any questions, of any kind that occur to you, as long as they don't touch on Mr. Shaw. I haven't made a comment about Mr. Shaw since the day we arrested him, and I don't intend to talk about him." The authors also recite the age-old smear that Garrison "had not brought the case of Shaw to trial to solve the assassination, but to further his own ambitions." (p. 283) Which makes very little sense. Garrison provided an eloquent response to this in his Playboy interview: "...I'm inclined to challenge the whole premise that launching an investigation like this holds any political advantages for me. A politically ambitious man would hardly be likely to challenge the massed power of the federal government and criticize so many honorable figures and distinguished agencies...why would I climb out on such a limb and then saw it off?...I was perfectly aware that I might have signed my political death warrant the moment I launched this case; but I couldn't care less as long as I can shed some light on John Kennedy's assassination." In reality, Garrison threw away a very promising political career in pursuit of the real facts about Kennedy's death. One that very likely would have led to the governor's office. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, seocnd edition, pgs. 169-74)
The truth is that the too-trusting, sometimes gullible Jim Garrison did make some serious mistakes, and there are a number of legitimate criticisms than can reasonably be made of his investigation. But you will not learn of any of them from reading Beyond Reasonable Doubt.
This review could go on and on. But pointing out everything that is wrong with, or missing from, Beyond Reasonable Doubt would require an encyclopedia-size book of its own. And there is no need because it has already been amply demonstrated above that Ayton and Von Pein care little about the truth. They have an agenda, a theory to push, and like all theorists they deal only in what is convenient to them. In the process, they repeatedly make blatant hypocrites of themselves. The authors stand on their soapbox, yelling about how "conspiracy advocates...have continually abused the evidence in the case" and "mispresented the facts through selective use of witnesses". (p. 348) But, as I have shown time and again above, these are the very tactics they themselves employ throughout their tedious, unoriginal, and uninformative volume.
As I have tried to make clear in this review, Ayton and Von Pein prove themselves to be masters of cherry-picking and misrepresenting evidence. Further examples could be gleaned from just about any page of their book. For instance, in their treatment of the Single Bullet Theory, they allege that "All wounds to both men [JFK and Governor Connally] are perfectly consistent with the Single-Bullet Theory" (p. 90). But they are witholding the fact that the throat wound was missed at autopsy and the emeregncy room doctors who did see it said that it appeared to be consistent with an entrance wound. The authors further state that "All three...wounds on JFK and Connally line themselves up in such a fashion on the bodies to give the general appearance that they could have all been caused by just a single missile..." (Ibid) What they do not admit is that, although the precise location of the back wound was not recorded by Kennedy's pathologists, experts agree that it was anatomically lower than the hole in the throat. Or that the diameter of the back wound was larger than the throat wound. And nowhere in Ayton's and Von Pein's defense of the indefensible SBT is there any mention of the fact that the only physical inspection of the back wound ever conducted indicated that it was shallow and with no point of exit.
As well as all the selectivity and misrepresentation, the authors show themselves to be more than willing to stoop to the construction of straw man arguments. For example, they write that multiple gunmen in Dealey Plaza is "very unlikely from the popular 'Oswald was framed as the patsy' perspective. Would any conspirators have deliberately been so foolhardy and utterly reckless as to fire several bullets into JFK's body...and yet still expect every last scrap of ballistics evidence to get traced back to only Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle..?" (pgs. 91-92) The reason this qualifies as a straw man argument is because it conflates the conspiracy to kill Kennedy with the conspiracy to cover it up. We have no reason to believe that the two were orchestrated by the same people and no reason to believe that Kennedy's killers wished to hide the existence of a plot. In fact, there is a general consensus among sensible researchers that those responsible for the assassination may have wanted it to appear as if Oswald was part of a hit team organized by Fidel Castro. And the fear of what might happen if word should get out that Castro killed Kennedy is what led to the cover-up and the creation of the lone nut legend.
Perhaps the most troubling thing about Beyond Reasonable Doubt is that it tries to push the notion that Lee Harvey Oswald should be treated as guilty until proven innocent. In the final chapter, Ayton and Von Pein try to outdo the prince of hyperbole, Vincent Bugliosi. The authors actually state their absurd belief that "not a 'scintilla' of evidence has been found which would call into question Lee Harvey Oswald's guilt, beyond all reasonable doubt." (p. 346) Not only is this statement laughably wrong on a factual level, the attitude behind it is one that attempts to turn the American judicial system on its head. Had Oswald lived to face trial, he would have been legally entitled to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. In death, the Warren Commission and its acolytes have attempted to strip him of that right. Yet the cold, hard fact remains that no one has ever come remotely close to proving Oswald's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; least of all Ayton and Von Pein.
What do the authors offer? They give us the testimony of Howard Brennan; a man who failed to pick Oswald out of a line-up and admitted that his own recollection had been clouded by outside influences. They give us an old, dry palm print and some fibers on the rifle that may or may not have come from a shirt Oswald was probably not wearing at the time of the assassination. And they offer a highly contradicted, uncorroborated, and probably false claim that fragmentary fingerprints on the rifle could be matched to Oswald's prints. In the end, their entire case rests on the dubious claim that the rifle found on the sixth floor belonged to Oswald. Yet assuming that to be true; which is a big assmumption--what does it actually prove? Would it not make sense for someone wishing to set Oswald up to use a rifle traceable to him? The inarguable fact is that Oswald did not have the rifle in his posession for at least two months leading up to November 22, 1963, and nobody can vouch for its whereabouts during that time.
As former Dallas Police Chief, Jesse Curry, candidly admitted to the Dallas Morning News in 1969, "We don't have any proof that Oswald fired the rifle, and never did. Nobody's yet been able to put him in that building with a gun in his hand." This statement remains as true today as it did in 1969, whether Ayton and Von Pein like it or not. In the words of attorney Jeremy Gunn "...there is just no question that [Lee Harvey Oswald] is not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
(Editor's Note: Ayton and Von Pein rely on the work of Michael O'Dell to discredit the HSCA's acoustics evidence of a second gunman. Don Thomas had at one point indicated he would publish an appendix to this review showing the "faults" in that work; in the meantime, one may refer to Thomas's 2001 article, "Echo correlation analysis and the acoustic evidence in the Kennedy assassination revisited", published in the peer-reviewed Science & Justice.).