Wednesday, 14 December 2016 22:17

A Coup in Camelot

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poster thumbAside from Shane O'Sullivan's mostly worthwhile Killing Oswald, there has been very little of note that has even attempted to counter the MSM's seemingly endless deluge of propaganda with reliable evidence and solid reasoning. A Coup in Camelot clearly aims to fill that void. Unfortunately, however, it falls considerably short of the mark, writes Martin Hay.

 

 


Considering the large number of films and TV specials about the assassination of President Kennedy that have appeared over the last ten or fifteen years, genuinely worthwhile documentaries on the subject are sadly few and far between. The likes of Mark Lane's Rush to Judgement and Chip Selby's Reasonable Doubt were fine for their day but given the wealth of information and technological tools that have become available in the time since those films were produced they appear more than a little outdated now. Sadly, the majority of well budgeted, slickly produced documentaries of the 21st century have been created solely to push the delusory mythology of the Warren Commission. Aside from Shane O'Sullivan's mostly worthwhile Killing Oswald there has been very little of note that has even attempted to counter the MSM's seemingly endless deluge of propaganda with reliable evidence and solid reasoning. A Coup in Camelot clearly aims to fill that void. Unfortunately, however, it falls considerably short of the mark because it consistently confuses theory with fact.

The film begins strongly enough with a ten minute introduction that briefly discusses Kennedy's intention to withdraw American troops from Vietnam then outlines the reasons for his trip to Dallas and explains how, within hours of the assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald was fingered as the lone nut assassin. From there A Coup in Camelot moves swiftly into one of its strongest segments, featuring respected author and researcher Vince Palamara as its main talking head. Over the years, through his diligent hard work in locating and interviewing members of the Secret Service, Palamara has made himself the go-to expert on the subject of President Kennedy's protection―or lack thereof―in Dallas. I must admit that I have never been convinced the Secret Service was actively involved in the assassination. Yet Palamara's work most certainly gives reason to at least consider the idea that JFK's protection on November 22, 1963, was intentionally compromised.

Secret Service authority
Vince Palamara

Palamara details just how many of the Secret Service's usual practices were not followed that day. For example, it was standard procedure during an open motorcade for agents to be walking or jogging alongside the Presidential limousine. In fact there were two hand rails in place for agents to hold onto as they stood on the rear running boards of the car. As Palamara points out, “Secret Service agents are powerless to really do much of anything if they're not close to the President.” And yet there were no agents on or near the limousine in Dallas. Defenders of the official mythology have long claimed that Kennedy himself had ordered the agents off the back of the car because he wanted the public to get a good look at him. But when Palamara spoke with Gerald Behn, the Special Agent in charge of the White House detail, Behn told him in no uncertain terms that he had never heard any such request from the President. Palamara then contacted numerous other Secret Service agents and White House aides and each one of them told him the same thing: Kennedy had not ordered the agents off of the car.

Lone nut mythologists also tend to blame Kennedy for the fact that the limousine's plexiglass bubble top was not used that day. Although the bubble top was not bullet proof or resistant it was, as Palamara notes, “a psychological deterrent because most people assumed it was bullet proof...The bottom line what the bubble top would have done is it would have obscured an assassin's view via the sun's glare.” To discover whether or not Kennedy really had ordered its removal, Palamara spoke with Special Agent Sam Kinney who was the driver of the Secret Service follow-up car. “Sam Kinney adamantly on three different occasions told me that President Kennedy had nothing to do with it; it was solely his responsibility.”

Houston, 11/21/63

Another procedure not followed in Dallas involved the additional protection customarily provided by local law enforcement. Whenever and wherever there was to be a motorcade, the Secret Service would usually work hand in hand with local police who would provide a motorcycle escort of six to nine officers that would ride in a wedge formation in front of and beside the Presidential limousine. This formation had been in place on all of the previous stops along Kennedy's Texas trip. Yet in Dallas the escort was reduced to just four motorcycle officers who ended up riding behind the limo instead of beside it. As Palamara notes, “The formation was meaningless. It offered no protection at all...They left Kennedy a sitting duck.”

II

Having detailed these and many other irregularities in JFK's protection, A Coup in Camelot moves on to a discussion of the “Blood, Bullets & Ballistics”, focusing largely on the conclusions of retired crime scene investigator, Sherry Fiester. It is Fiester's contention that the massive spray of blood seen in frame 313 of the Zapruder film represents “back spatter” from a frontal shot. She further asserts that, despite numerous witnesses believing they heard shots or saw smoke coming from behind the fence on top of the “grassy knoll”, her own trajectory analysis excludes it as the source of the head shot. The actual source of the shot, she claims, was on the other side of Elm Street at the southern end of the triple overpass. But despite her impressive credentials and her 30 years experience with the Dallas police, Fiester's conclusions fail to convince.

Medical, scientific and ballistics experts such as Dr. Cyril Wecht, Dr. Gary Aguilar, Dr. Donald Thomas, and Larry Sturdivan agree that, by itself, the explosion of blood, bone and brain matter seen in the Zapruder film actually tells us very little about the direction in which the projectile was travelling. That is because it does not occur at the point of entrance or exit but near the mid-point of the bullet's trajectory. Rifle wounds of the skull can be a very different matter than gunshot wounds to other parts of the body. The skull is a closed vessel containing fluid contents that cannot be compressed. The energy and momentum imparted to the skull by the passage of the bullet creates a temporary cavity. The result of cavitation in an enclosed skull containing blood and brain is a hydraulic pressure applied to the cranium causing it to burst open. As Aguilar and Wecht explain, the resultant “spew” of blood and tissue is “radial to the bullet's path and is separate from the inshoot and outshoot splatter.” (Aguilar & Wecht, Letter to the Editor, AFTE Journal, Volume 48 Number 2, p. 76) This is what is known as the “Krönleinschuss” effect―named for the German ballistics expert who first demonstrated it using skulls filled with clay.

This type of effect was demonstrated during filmed simulations performed in the Biophysics laboratory at Edgewood Arsenal in 1964 when rifle bullets were fired into numerous skulls filled with ballistic gelatin. Describing a typical example Sturdivan writes, “The bullet entered the back of the skull and exited in a small spray at the front in the space of one frame of the high-speed movie. Only after the bullet was far down-range did the internal pressure generated by its passage split open the skull and relieve the pressure inside by spewing the contents through the cracks. A similar type explosion would have taken place if the bullet had gone through in the opposite direction. The only way to distinguish the direction of travel of the bullet is to examine the cratering effect on the inside of the skull on entrance and on the outside of the skull at exit.” (Sturdivan, The JFK Myths, p. 171)

The empirical evidence, therefore, demonstrates that Fiester is mistaken in believing the explosive spray of matter we see in the Zapruder film is back spatter. In fact, forward spatter and back spatter are not seen in the film; probably because of the limitations of Zapruder's camera. The film of the Edgewood simulation shows little to no back spatter and only a very small amount of forward matter which, as Sturdivan explains, was only visible “because of the strong lighting, a close-up view, and (especially) a very high framing rate...over 200 times the framing speed of the Zapruder movie...” (ibid. p. 174)

Sherry Fiester

Fiester's trajectory analysis is also deeply flawed because it assumes something there is no reason to assume. Namely, that the bullet followed a straight path through the skull. In 1978, when the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) hired a NASA scientist to perform the same type of backward projection analysis, the committee's forensic pathology panel cautioned against placing too much faith in it. The panel noted that, in their experience, “if a missile strikes an object capable of creating a shearing force, such as the skull, the bullet's pathway in the body might be significantly different from the line of its trajectory prior to impact.” (7HSCA168) In other words, a bullet striking a dense, resistant skull bone is likely to become deformed and be deflected. Sturdivan writes that “The path of a deformed bullet through a body is never straight...Of the thousands of examples of yawed, deformed, and broken rifle bullets fired into gelatin tissue simulant at the Biophysics Division lab and other similar facilities, none had a perfectly straight trajectory. Few were even close.” (ibid. p. 208) So drawing a line between the presumed entrance and exit points in JFK's skull will not tell us where the gunman was located no matter how far that line is extended into Dealey Plaza.

Far from being excluded as Fiester asserts, the grassy knoll remains the most likely location for a frontal shooter. Not only because it was the location to which numerous witnesses pointed, but also because two teams of America's top acoustical scientists agreed that the Dallas Police dictabelt recording they analyzed on behalf of the HSCA contained the acoustic fingerprint of a gunshot fired from the knoll. And the dictabelt recording synchronizes perfectly with the Zapruder film when―and only when―the knoll shot is aligned with frame 313.

Featured alongside Fiester's theories in this segment of A Coup in Camelot is the claim that President Kennedy was shot in the throat from the front. Yet aside from a brief reference to the way the wound was “described by doctors at Parkland Hospital”, no detail is provided to substantiate this assertion. As most readers will no doubt be aware, the Parkland physicians were indeed under the initial impression that the wound might have been an entrance; describing it as small, round, clean cut, and measuring little more than 5 mm in diameter. But those who hold these descriptions up as proof that a bullet entered the throat need to deal with the fact that studies have shown emergency room doctors to be frequently wrong in their assessment of bullet wounds. This is precisely why the premiere textbook for trauma room physicians, Rosen's Emergency Medicine, cautions that “Clinicians should not describe wounds as 'entrance' or 'exit' but should document, using appropriate forensic terminology, a detailed description of the wound, including its appearance, characteristics, and location without attempting to interpret the wound type or bullet caliber. Exit wounds are not always larger than entrance wounds, and wound size does not consistently correspond to bullet caliber.” (Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice, p. 828)

Those who propose that a bullet entered the throat must also deal with the fact that said bullet would have had to have disappeared entirely almost immediately after piercing the skin. Because not only was there no exit in the rear and no bullet found anywhere in the body, there was also no damage to the spine as there would almost certainly have had to have been had a missile entered Kennedy's throat near the midline. It is for these reasons that, despite its appearance, the wound is extremely unlikely to have been one of entrance.

III

A Coup in Camelot moves from Dallas to Bethesda for a lengthy discussion of JFK's autopsy, centred largely around the highly controversial theories of Douglas Horne. In a nutshell, Horne believes that Kennedy's gunshot wounds were altered to hide evidence of a frontal shooter. This, of course, is not a new idea. It was first popularized by author David Lifton in his 36-year-old book, Best Evidence. But whereas Lifton postulated that unknown conspirators had hijacked the President's body en route to Bethesda and altered his wounds to fool the autopsy surgeons, Horne suggests that the prosectors themselves altered the head wound during a secret “pre-autopsy” at the Navy morgue. For what purpose and to fool whom is never really made clear.

Doug Horne

At the very heart of Horne's hypothesis is a comment made by Tom Robinson―an embalmer who was present for most of the autopsy―during a 1996 interview for the Assassination Records Review Board. When shown a photo displaying a large defect in the top of Kennedy's head Robinson recalled that this was “what the doctors did”. He then explained that the autopsy surgeons had cut the scalp open and “reflected it back in order to remove bullet fragments.” (ARRB MD180) He also recalled seeing that “some sawing was done to remove some bone before the brain could be removed.” (ibid) What Robinson described is, of course, a perfectly normal part of an autopsy and he himself called what he saw a “normal craniotomy procedure.” (ibid) Yet somehow Horne construes Robinson's remarks as evidence of some clandestine pre-autopsy activity. Why?

The reason, according to Horne, is that “Dr. Humes always denied having to saw the skull open, he always maintained that the wound was so big that he just removed the brain with a minimum of cutting of the scalp; he never had to cut any bone.” However, as this passage from Hume's sworn deposition for the ARRB demonstrates, Horne is entirely mistaken :

GUNN: But just let me start out first: Where was the first incision made?

HUMES: I believe, of course, the top of the skull to remove the skull plate of the brain. To remove what remained of the calvarium and to approach the removal of the brain.

GUNN: And was that incision simply of the scalp, or did you need to cut –

HUMES: No, we had to cut some bone as well. [my emphasis]

* * *

GUNN: Where did you cut the bone?

HUMES: I find that--it's hard to recall. Once we got the scalp laid back, some of those pieces could just be removed, you know, by picking them up, picking them up because they were just not held together very well, other than by the dura, I suppose. So other than that, we probably made it like we normally do, in a circumferential fashion from books, like right above the ear around. But it was a real problem because it was all falling apart, the skull. And I can't recall the details of exactly how we managed to maneuver that, because it was a problem. (ARRB Deposition of James J. Humes, pgs. 101-102)

As the reader can see, not only did Humes not deny having to saw the skull, he specifically testified to doing so. But Horne does not quote Humes himself and instead refers to a report written in 1965 by autopsy surgeon Dr. Pierre Finck―who did not arrive at Bethesda until after the brain had already been removed―in which Finck recalled being told that “no sawing of the skull was necessary”. What this means, therefore, is that the basis of Horne's claim that “Humes always denied having to saw the skull open” is not any direct quotation from Humes himself, but the hearsay claim of a man who wasn't even present when the brain was removed. This type of methodology is extremely difficult to defend. And what makes it all the more confounding is that Horne himself was actually present for the deposition during which Humes specifically swore to cutting the skull bone.

Sadly, this is not the only instance in A Coup in Camelot in which Humes' words are misconstrued in support of pre-autopsy surgery. The film's co-writer, Art Van Kampen, suggests that “Something had to have happened to that body before the photos were taken”, and in the case of some photos that is indeed true. But Van Kampen claims that “Dr. Humes is very clear that no autopsy work had been done on the President's skull before either photos or X-rays were taken.” This, again, is a clear misinterpretation of what Humes actually said. When asked during his ARRB deposition whether or not any incisions were made before the photographs were taken, Humes responded, “Well, depending on which photographs you're talking about. We didn't photograph the wound in the occiput until the brain was removed, you know. Sure, we had to make an incision to remove the brain and so forth, but no, generally speaking, no, we didn't make any incisions at all [my emphasis].” (ibid. p. 95) Humes was then shown the photographs of the top of the head and asked whether or not, before the photo was taken, he had pulled the scalp back “in order to be able to have a better look at the injury” to which he responded “Yes, I probably did.” (ibid. p. 162) So, as should be perfectly clear, Humes confirmed that “generally speaking” most of the photographs were taken before any incisions took place but that some were indeed taken during the course of the autopsy. He also said essentially the same thing as Tom Robinson, which is that the photographs of the top of the head were taken after the scalp had been manipulated. There is, then, no meaningful discrepancy between what the autopsy pictures show and what Humes testified to.

There has been confusion over Kennedy's head wounds ever since the Warren Commission issued its findings. In large part this is due to there being two entirely different descriptions of the wounds on record. By and large the doctors at Parkland Hospital recalled seeing one fairly large hole that was located near the right rear of the head. Yet the autopsy report describes a massive defect involving almost the entire right side of the cranium. It was to explain this discrepancy that the body alteration hypothesis was first offered. However, as Dr. Aguilar has noted, “that the wound was described as larger at autopsy than noted by emergency personnel is not proof that it was surgically enlarged. Wounds picked apart during an autopsy are often found to be larger than they first appeared to emergency personnel.” (Murder in Dealey Plaza, p. 187)

There is a simpler, far more reasonable explanation than clandestine alteration. One that, ironically enough, is touched upon in A Coup in Camelot. Shortly before discussion of the autopsy begins, the film's narrator correctly informs viewers that “In the Zapruder film, a flap of skull can be seen opening up after the head strike. During the frantic ride to Parkland Hospital the flap had been folded back into place where the blood acted like glue and sealed the wound.” Indeed, Jackie Kennedy later testified to trying to hold her husband's skull together on the way to the hospital. As Dr. Aguilar writes, “It is not hard to imagine the possibility that during the time it took the Presidential limousine to get to Parkland Hospital, clot had formed gluing a portion of disrupted scalp down making JFK's skull defect appear smaller to treating surgeons than it later would to autopsy surgeons.” (ibid) In other words, because the flap had been closed up, the emergency room staff only saw the rearmost portion of the wound.

IV

The idea that something out of the ordinary occurred at Bethesda is buttressed by stories of multiple coffins being brought into the morgue on the night of the autopsy. At Parkland Hospital, Kennedy's body had been placed into an ornamental bronze casket. However, in A Coup in Camelot it is alleged that the body actually arrived at Bethesda in an aluminium shipping casket at around 6:35 pm. This means that when the bronze casket was brought into the morgue at 7:17 pm it was, unbeknownst to the FBI agents who accompanied it, completely empty. Or so we are told. Horne further alleges that for some reason the Dallas casket then “made a second entry that night...at 20:00 hours military time.”

Once again the evidence does not support the theory. As presented in the film, the idea that Kennedy's body arrived in an aluminium shipping casket is based on the recollection of Naval petty officer, Dennis David, who recalled helping carry one into morgue. Yet, as the summary of his ARRB interview states, David “emphasized that he had no direct knowledge, by observation, that President Kennedy was in the gray shipping casket...” (ARRB MD177) The reality is that, being as Bethesda was a morgue, there is no reason to believe that Kennedy's body was the only one to be brought there that night. In fact, FBI agent Francis O'Neill specifically recalled being told that one of the four drawers in the anteroom adjacent to the autopsy room contained the body of a child “that had died that day.” (O'Neill ARRB deposition, p. 57)

Perhaps more importantly, the claim that the bronze casket was empty when brought into the mortuary is belied by the testimony of both O'Neill and his FBI colleague, James Sibert. These two agents who helped unload the casket from the ambulance swore that they stayed with it until it was opened and saw with their own eyes the President's body taken out. O'Neill stated without hesitation during his ARRB deposition that there was “no time” from the time he first saw the casket “until the time it was opened and the body taken out that the casket was not in my view...” (ibid. p. 59) Similarly, when asked whether or not there had been any time between being unloaded from the ambulance and being opened that the casket had been out of his sight, Sibert responded, “I was there until it was opened.” (Sibert ARRB deposition, p. 45) There is, therefore, no basis for claiming that the casket was “certainly empty” as Horne does.

Finally, the supposed 20:00 re-entry of the casket is based on a time notation which appears in an unsigned, undated document titled “The Joint Casket Bearer Team.” This document describes the activities of a group containing one officer and seven enlisted men “from each branch of the Armed Forces” who were “trained to carry the casket to and from the ceremony sites and to fold the flag which draped the casket following the internment service.” (ARRB MD163) This team, as A Coup in Camelot correctly informs, was also known as the “honor guard”. It appears quite apparent that, far from being proof of a second entry for the bronze casket, the 20:00 hours time notation on this document is nothing more than a mistake. Why? Because despite the film's claim that Sibert and O'Neill had carried the casket into the morgue at 7:17 pm alongside Secret Service agents Roy Kellerman and William Greer, O'Neill explained in his ARRB deposition that, in actual fact, it was the honor guard who had physically lifted the coffin at that time. (O'Neill deposition, p. 57) So unless anyone wants to believe that the honor guard carried it in twice, they are going to have to accept that the unknown writer of the document was in error and there was only one entry for the bronze casket.

A coup in Camelot intermingles these stories of casket-swapping and wound tampering with claims that the autopsy X-rays and photographs have also been altered. This, once again, is not a new theory. In fact it has been a commonly held belief amongst students of the assassination for decades. And yet nothing approaching proof of alteration has ever emerged. The most commonly cited reason for believing the photos have been tampered with, the one repeated in A Coup in Camelot, is that the pictures appear to show the back of the head completely intact. This is, of course, at odds with the testimony of the Parkland physicians who recalled seeing a large wound in the right rear. But as autopsy surgeon J. Thornton Boswell explained to both the HSCA and the ARRB, the reason the rear skull damage is not seen in the photographs is because the scalp is being held up and “pulled forward up over the forehead, toward the forehead.” (Boswell ARRB deposition, p. 150) This has the effect of hiding the wound underneath.

Those who choose to ignore Boswell's words are still stuck with the reality that the autopsy photographer, John Stringer, authenticated the photographs during his own ARRB deposition, repeatedly stating that he had no reason to believe the existing photographs were anything other than the ones that he himself took on the night of the autopsy. The same is true of the X-rays. The technician responsible for taking them, Jerrol Custer, repeatedly swore to the accuracy and authenticity of the existing X-rays for the ARRB. For example, when shown the anterior/posterior view:

GUNN: Is there any question in your mind whether the X-ray that's in front of you right now is the original X-ray taken at the autopsy?

CUSTER: No question.

GUNN: And the answer is––

CUSTER: It is the original film. (p. 122-123)

And when shown the right lateral skull X-ray:

GUNN: ... Mr. Custer, can you identify the film that is in front of you right now as having been taken by you on the night of the autopsy of President Kennedy?

CUSTER: Correct. Yes, I do, sir.

GUNN: And how are you able to identify that as being––

CUSTER: My marker in the lower mandibular joint. (p. 124)

With the men who took them―and all three autopsy doctors―swearing to their authenticity, there seems little doubt that the autopsy photographs and X-rays would have been admitted into evidence were there to be a trial in the Kennedy case. And with questions of validity settled, a more important question would be asked: What do the skull X-rays actually show? The answer to that, as a number of experts including neuroscientist Dr. Joseph Riley and radiologist Dr. Randy Robertson have attested, is that the official theory of a single shot from the rear simply cannot be true.

As Dr. Humes explained in his Warren Commission testimony, the pathologists found an entrance wound that was 2.5 cm to the right, and “slightly above” the external occipital protuberance―a small bump located very low down in the rear of the skull―and “a huge defect over the right side” involving “both the scalp and the underlying skull...” After a “careful examination of the margins of the large bone defect” on the right side, the doctors were unable to find a point of exit, which Humes put down to the fact that they “did not have the bone.” However, the pathologists concluded that a single bullet was responsible for all the damage, having entered the rear and exited the right side. In support of this contention, Humes implied that the path of the bullet was laid out by a trail of metallic fragments that could be seen on the X-rays “traversing a line from the wound in the occiput to just above the right eye...” (Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. II, p. 351-353)

Annotated X ray

Unfortunately for Dr. Humes, the X-rays do not show what he claimed. The entrance wound in the lower rear of the skull is indeed visible. So too is the trail of bullet fragments. But the two are in no way related. In fact, the trail lies along the very top of the skull, several inches above the entrance site. Therefore, those fragments could not have been left behind by a bullet which entered near the external occipital protuberance. As Aguilar and Wecht have noted, “...the fragment trail alone almost completely eliminates the official theory JFK was struck from above and behind by a single bullet that entered his skull low...” (Aguilar & Wecht, Op. cit. p. 78) Dr. Joseph Riley, who has a Ph.D in neuroscience and specializes in neuroanatomy and experimental neuropathology, noted decades ago that the medical evidence as it stands is only compatible with two separate bullet strikes. It is for that very reason that I see little logic in suggesting that the X-rays have been altered to support the official story.

V

These largely specious claims about the medical evidence form the centrepiece of A Coup in Camelot and, clocking in at nearly 40 minutes, comprise well over a third of the film's running time. For those who are familiar with the facts that are being misinterpreted and/or overlooked, this time will not pass quickly. Things do pick up, however, for the final 20 minutes of the film which deals partially with the enigmatic Lee Harvey Oswald. Whether or not Oswald was on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository with a rifle in his hands at the time of the assassination has never been conclusively established. But A Coup in Camelot demonstrates, through the pioneering research of former investigative reporter Barry Ernest, that in all likelihood Oswald was where he claimed to be when the shots were fired; on the first floor of the building eating lunch.

Barry Ernest

Ernest centred his research on an often overlooked witness named Victoria Adams who had viewed the assassination from a fourth floor window of the depository building. As most students of the case know, Oswald was seen by his boss Roy Truly and police officer Marion Baker in the second floor lunch room approximately 90 seconds after the shots were fired. Baker was on his way to the roof where he believed the gunman might be located but, upon spotting Oswald alone in the lunch room, he halted his ascent and demanded Oswald identify himself. Truly quickly informed Baker that Oswald was an employee and the pair then continued their dash up the stairs. Oswald later told police that he had gone from the first floor to the second in order to purchase a Coke. But, of course, the Warren Commission claimed that he had actually rushed down from the sixth floor immediately after shooting the President.

In that regard, Victoria Adams was a problematic witness for the Commission. After watching the motorcade pass by with three co-workers, she had stayed at the fourth floor window for what she said was around 15 to 30 seconds and then quickly made her way down to the first floor. What this means, as Ernest explains, is that “she would have been on the stairs at the same time Oswald was descending from the sixth floor.” The problem is “...she did not see or hear anyone on the stairs during that period.” The Commission's handling of her story typified its approach to the investigation. It did not bother to question any of those who had stood at the window with her to watch the motorcade―not even Sandra Styles who had accompanied Adams down the stairs―and instead suggested that she was simply mistaken about the time she left the fourth floor window.

Victoria Adams

In support of this contention, the Commission alleged that Adams had testified to seeing two other employees of the building, William Shelley and Billy Lovelady, when she arrived on the first floor. And because Shelley and Lovelady had testified to being outside on the depository steps during the shooting and not re-entering the building until several minutes later, the Commission claimed that Adams' “...estimate of the time when she descended from the fourth floor is incorrect, and she actually came down the stairs several minutes after Oswald and after Truly and Baker as well.” (Warren Report, p. 154) The problem with the Commission's argument is that when Ernest tracked Adams down she “flat-out denied” ever saying she had seen Shelley and Lovelady on the first floor. In order to confirm or refute her assertions, Ernest searched the National Archives for the stenographic tape of Adams' testimony. Not surprisingly, however, he soon discovered that there is no record of her April 7, 1964, testimony and the stenographic tape has gone mysteriously “missing.”

But in 1999 Ernest discovered a bombshell document in the Archives in the form of a June 2, 1964, letter written by Assistant United States Attorney, Martha Joe Stroud, to Warren Commission Chief counsel, J. Lee Rankin. This letter contains the only known reference in the Commission's files to an interview with Dorothy Garner, who was Adams' supervisor and one of those with whom she had stood at the fourth floor window. The letter notes matter-of-factly that “Miss Garner...stated this morning that after Miss Adams went downstairs she (Miss Garner) saw Mr. Truly and the policeman come up.” Thus Garner provided complete corroboration for Adams' testimony. Just as she swore, Adams had indeed descended those old wooden steps at the same time Oswald was supposed to have been on them. And the corroboration of this fact was completely ignored by the Commission who made no mention of Garner's interview whatsoever.

As Ernest details in his indispensable book, The Girl on the Stairs, he went on to locate and interview Garner for himself. He asked her about her own activities following the assassination and Garner explained to him that as Adams and Styles made their way downstairs, she herself went to a storage area by the stairway. It was from there that she was able to see Baker and Truly ascend the stairs. Garner said that she was “right behind” Adams and Styles in leaving the window and although she didn't actually see them enter the stairway, she heard them “after they started down” because “the stairs were very noisy.” (The Girl on the Stairs, p. 268) Garner, it appears, had arrived on the fourth floor landing area only seconds after Adams and was there long enough to see Baker and Truly. Quite obviously, then, if Oswald had descended from the sixth floor during that time as he would have had to have done in order to make it to his second floor encounter with Baker, then Garner was in a position to see him. Yet, as she told Ernest, “I don't remember seeing him at all that day...except on TV.” (ibid)

It is impossible to overstate how damaging all of this is to the case against Oswald. It is clear that he could not have made it down to the second floor ahead of Adams because he did not have the time. This means he would have had to have descended long enough after Adams for her not to have heard his footsteps. Yet if he was 10 or 15 seconds behind her on the stairwell, it seems highly unlikely that he would not have been spotted by Garner who did not see or hear him on the noisy old stairs, even though she stayed on the fourth floor landing area long enough to see Truly and Baker. The most logical conclusion to be drawn is that when Oswald arrived at his second floor meeting with Baker, he had not come from the sixth floor but from the first, just as he said he had. And that would mean that, whatever else he did that day, Oswald did not shoot President Kennedy.

VI

A Coup in Camelot finishes with a brief discussion of how Kennedy's plans to pull American military personnel out of Vietnam were reversed after his death and how private US contractors profited from the all-out war that followed. However none of this is explored in any detail and no attempt is made to show how it can be directly connected to the assassination. Had the writers and producers chosen to focus more heavily on these areas they may well have created a more valuable and compelling film than this one.

It is clear that the filmmakers wanted to offer forensic proof of a conspiracy and, in fact, at the end of the film it is claimed they have done just that. “We have proven through modern forensics”, narrator Peter Coyote says, “that a shot or shots were fired from the front.” Yet, as I have demonstrated above, proof of such is not offered in A Coup in Camelot. What is provided instead is a bloodspatter theory that, whilst plausible on the surface, is entirely contradicted by empirical evidence. Instead of relying on the opinions of one individual, the filmmakers should have consulted with other, perhaps better qualified experts to ensure that what was being proposed had really been put to the test. How else can one claim to have proven something? There are numerous medical and scientific professionals who are well-versed in the facts of the assassination―such as Doctors Wecht, Aguilar, Robertson, and Thomas―who, I am sure, would have been more than happy to share their expertise.

As I see it, this is the fatal flaw of A Coup in Camelot. Theory is all too readily accepted and promoted by the filmmakers without any independent verification or even basic fact-checking. How difficult would it have been to have had somebody actually read Dr. Humes' various testimonies to see if he really had “always denied having to saw the skull open”? Or to have studied the deposition of Francis O'Neill to discover who had physically carried the casket into the morgue at 7:17 pm? A clearer understanding of these two points alone would have been enough to call into serious question the highly dubious claims of multiple casket entries and wound tampering at Bethesda.

Theories about the Kennedy assassination―many of them nutty―have been promulgated for far too long and they are not convincing anyone outside of the so-called “research community”. When you attempt to counter the ballistics experiments and slickly-produced computer simulations featured in mainstream lone gunman documentaries with something as bizarre-sounding and ill-founded as the body alteration hypothesis you are not likely to win many converts amongst the general population. What is needed is real expert opinion and cold, hard evidence presented in a compelling manner. A Coup in Camelot is skilfully produced on what appears to have been a reasonable budget and if the filmmakers had consulted the right individuals and doubled down on their facts they could well have produced something of real value. For that reason the film strikes me as a wasted opportunity.

Last modified on Friday, 16 December 2016 23:04
Martin Hay

Martin Hay is a writer and musician living near London. He has been a keen student of the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King for over 15 years and, as well as contributing popular articles to CTKA, maintains his own well-regarded blog, The Mysteries of Dealey Plaza.

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