Loading...
Sunday, 04 January 2004 13:14

Gerald Posner, Case Closed – The Art of Misrepresenting Evidence

Written by

From an unpublished book review of Case Closed written by Stewart Galanor in October 1993, in which he exposes Posner's misrepresentation of eyewitness testimony.


How many books have been written on the Kennedy assassination? In announcing the publication of seven new books on the subject this fall, Publishers Weekly put the total at over four hundred. Too high? No, too low, way too low, according to Gerald Posner, who opens his book Case Closed by telling us it's over two thousand! This startling figure, if it can be believed, indicates how deeply President Kennedy's death has dug into our nation's psyche. The mystery and drama of a charismatic president gunned downed in the arms of his wife fascinates and haunts us. It has become, as the trailer to the movie JFK advertised, the story that will not go away. It is part of our mythology.

Indeed, Oliver Stone has said that by blending fact with fiction he was trying to create a mythology to counter the Warren Commission's. With the success of JFK and the deluge of new conspiracy books as the thirtieth anniversary nears, it was inevitable that at least one major publisher, in this case Random House, would put its prestige behind the lone assassin theory. Posner resolves the greatest murder mystery of our time, we are told on the book's jacket.

Not surprisingly, mainstream media has greeted the book with the same unquestioning acceptance it did the Warren Report twenty-nine years ago. U.S. News and World Report devoted half an issue to it. It has been heralded around the nation in major newspapers and magazines as the authoritative work on the assassination, supplanting the role once played by the Warren Report. Posner has appeared unchallenged on TV and radio talk shows, a stark contrast to the rough going Stone got from the mainstream media even before his film opened.

Case Closed is nothing more than a rehash of the Warren Report; same evidence, same conclusion dressed up with computer simulations and even bolder speculations passed off as scientific certainty. Posner's work shows a simple, unquestioning faith in the evidence gathered by the Warren Commission. It is riddled with misrepresentations of evidence. On one issue alone, whether witnesses saw a puff of smoke on the grassy knoll during the assassination, Posner manages to make five misrepresentations of the evidence, all on one page. So here we go again, another round of claims and counterclaims on the question: Was there a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy?

Posner Claim:
"Railroad workers on the overpass could not have seen puffs of smoke from rifle fire on the knoll, because modern ammunition is smokeless, it seldom creates even a wisp of smoke." (Case Closed, page 256)

Evidence:
Posner's claim is easily disproved by visiting a rifle range. Just watch people shoot. Puffs of smoke will be seen all over the place. Even a government investigation conceded that "modern weapons do in fact emit smoke when fired." ( House Select Committee on Assassinations, Report, 1979, page 606)

Posner Claim:
"Edward Jay Epstein in Inquest, writes 'Five of the witnesses on the overpass said they had also seen smoke rise from the grassy knoll area.' Epstein's citation lists only four names, three of which do not support the proposition that the smoke resulted from gunfire". (Case Closed, page 256)

Evidence:
There are seven well-documented witnesses who claim to have seen smoke on the knoll. They are S. M. Holland (who testified before the Warren Commission (6H243), James Simmons and Richard Dodd (both interviewed by Mark Lane in the film Rush to Judgment), Walter Winborn and Thomas Murphy (both interviewed by me in May 1966), Austin Miller (who wrote a statement to the Dallas Sheriff's Department on November 22), and reporter Ed Johnson (who wrote for his paper the next day. "Some of us saw little puffs of white smoke that seemed to hit the grassy area in the esplanade that divides Dallas' main downtown streets." (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, November 23, 1963)

Posner Claim:
"James Simmons said [to the FBI] he thought the shots came from the Book Depository and that he saw 'exhaust fumes' from the embankment." (Case Closed, page 256)

Evidence:
This is indeed what two FBI agents claim Simmons said to them in March of 1964. (22H833) This FBI report, however, is a fabrication. One of Posner's main flaws, which he shares with the Warren Commission, is his unquestioning reliance on hearsay reports of FBI agents. Many witnesses contradicted what was in their FBI reports, and Simmons was one of them. Simmons told Mark Lane in a filmed interview, "It sounded like it came from the left and in front of us towards the wooden fence. And there was a puff of smoke that came underneath the trees on the embankment... It was right directly in front of the wooden fence." Simmons told the FBI agents when they visited him that he had seen a "puff of smoke on the knoll." Evidently, they chose to hand in a false report instead. (The film Rush to Judgment)

Posner Claim:
"Austin Miller 'thought the smoke he saw was steam. . . . There was a steam pipe along the wooden fence near the edge of the Triple Underpass...' If there was smoke, it is most likely that Austin Miller was right, and it was from the pipe." (Case Closed, page 256)

Evidence:
Not quite. Posner does not accurately represent what Austin Miller said. In a sworn statement to the Dallas Sheriff's Department on November 22, Austin Miller said, "I saw something which I thought was smoke or steam coming from a group of trees north of Elm off the Railroad tracks." (19H485) When he was questioned four and a half months later by Commission counsel David Belin, he was not asked one question about the smoke or steam he observed. The steam pipe that Posner refers to can been seen in the film Rush to Judgment. It is over 100 feet away from the point on the knoll where smoke was observed by seven witnesses. No one reported smoke or steam at the location of the steam pipe. If a steam pipe had been the cause of smoke at the site of the steam pipe or on the grassy knoll, one would expect the steam or smoke to have been seen again. No such sightings occurred. Posner has a tendency to misrepresent what the witnesses said. He criticizes another author for listing Victoria Adams as a witness who picked the knoll as the origin of the shots when she actually described the shots as coming from the vicinity of the Book Depository. (Case Closed, page 237) Adams did no such thing. She was looking out of a fourth floor window of the Book Depository when the shots were fired. She testified, "And we heard a shot, and it was a pause, and then a second shot, and then a third shot. It sounded like a firecracker or a cannon at a football game, it seemed as if it came from the right below [the knoll] rather than the left above." She then ran out of the building and over to the knoll in the direction she believed the shots came from. (6H388)

Posner Claim:
"Clemon Johnson [another railroad worker] saw white smoke but told the FBI that it 'came from a motorcycle abandoned near the spot by a Dallas policeman.'" (Case Closed, page 256)

Evidence:
The railroad workers saw a puff of smoke right after they heard the last shot. There was no motorcycle on the knoll at that time, as clearly shown in photographs taken by a witness, Wilma Bond, after the assassination. (Life magazine, November 24, 1967)

Posner's presentation of the evidence of the assassination is deceptive and contrived. He is so confident of his arguments, so disdainful of the questions that have been raised, that he is disposed to make any argument, no matter how fatuous or fabricated, that a lone assassin killed Kennedy. To say otherwise, in light of the overwhelming evidence, he tells us in the last line of Case Closed, "is to absolve a man with blood on his hands, and to mock the President he killed".

In his preface, Posner explains why the public has been particularly receptive to conspiracy theories in this case. (Case Closed, page ix) One reason he gives is that "public receptivity to the theories is also fed by suspicions that politicians lie and cover up misdeeds." (Case Closed, page x) But hasn't recent history, from Vietnam to Watergate to the Iran- Contra scandal, given the most innocent among us reason to be suspicious? To read Case Closed is to descend into a world understood from the most naive perspective of how people behave and how governments work.

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 23:08

Find Us On ...

Sitemap

Please publish modules in offcanvas position.