Monday, 29 June 2015 19:11

Flip de Mey, Cold Case Kennedy: A New Investigation Into the Assassination of JFK (2013)

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Flip de Mey’s well written and entertaining book makes valuable contributions. But in the end it must be said it is far from completely satisfactory. However, there is great material in the book and students are encouraged to read it, and then decide for themselves, writes Gary Aguilar.



Landing on the 50th anniversary of JFK’s murder alongside scores of other new or reprinted volumes, author Flip de Mey attempts to set his new book, Cold Case Kennedy, apart from the rest. “If so much ink has already flowed on the assassination of Kennedy,” he writes, “what is the point of yet another book? Cold Case Kennedy places the emphasis on what the whole thing is supposed to be: a murder investigation. The emphasis is on what the evidence says, not on what believers or conspiracists claim.” (p. 9) (emphasis in original) True to that pledge, de Mey emphasizes evidence, while skewering the distortions that have come from both Warren loyalists and skeptics alike. Ultimately concluding that Lee Harvey Oswald was a patsy, de Mey argues for a conspiracy that involved oil men, the mafia and the CIA. (p. 386)

Although novices will doubtless find the detail in the book daunting, de Mey writes entertainingly and well, and he does a credible job of making his work accessible even to those with only limited background. His sweep is wide, but throughout he keeps his focus on hard evidence, possible suspects, and the flaws in the original investigation.

Borrowing from the work of Walt Brown, his analyses and insights are particularly astute regarding the weaknesses of what might have been the legal case against Lee Harvey Oswald, had he survived his encounter with Jack Ruby while in police custody (pp. 376-380). Echoing the official conclusions of the Church Committee and the House Select Committee, de Mey answers Earl Warren’s oft heard remark, “Truth was our only client,” with, “The necessary cooperation between the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service and similar institutions was therefore established in circumstances in which uncovering the truth was not a priority – to put it gently.” (p. 46) Or, as the Senate Select Committee (“Church Committee”) put it, “[T]he Commission was dependent upon the intelligence agencies for the facts and preliminary analysis … The Commission and its staff did analyze the material and frequently requested follow-up agency investigations; but if evidence on a particular point was not supplied to the Commission, this second step would obviously not be reached, and the Commission’s findings would be formulated without the benefit of any information on the omitted point.”1 And, “although the (Warren) Commission had to rely on the FBI to conduct the primary investigation of the President’s death … the Commission was perceived as an adversary by both Hoover and senior FBI officials … such a relationship was not conductive to the cooperation necessary for a thorough and exhaustive investigation.”2 This poisonous atmosphere proved disastrous to the believability of Earl Warren’s work.

“Reading the volumes and the many underlying, unpublished documents does not bring clarification,” de Mey writes, “Quite the opposite. Gaps, distortions, contradictions, nonsensical window-dressing, legal trickery, deception of witnesses, ambiguous wording … there is no end to it.” (p. 54) de Mey concludes that, “Many of the most ardent critics, in fact, became relentless critics after they had thoroughly read and re-read the (Warren) report, after they had studied and re-studied thousands of documents, after they had searched for years on end for the answer to a specific question … (only then) they became more convinced that the official truth is teeming with errors, manifest lies and omissions … .” (p. 54) The House Select Committee agreed, concluding, “It is a reality to be regretted that the Commission failed to live up to its promise.”3

de Mey’s analysis will both delight and annoy both skeptics and loyalists alike. Skeptics will delight in his excellent, succinct summary of the “improbabilities” that are the sine qua non of the Warren Commission’s case for a lone gunman (pp. 364, 371-372). Many skeptics will also warm to his conclusion, “The conspirators could be found amongst the higher echelons of the oil industry and the mafia, and certain elements within the CIA,” groups who had “a powerful motive to eliminate Kennedy (p. 386).” Warren Commission loyalists will cheer his embrace of the controversial Single Bullet Theory, the theory that a single bullet fired from behind (Commission Exhibit #399), struck both JFK and Governor John Connally, inflicting seven non-fatal wounds in both men. (p. 300-303).

Photo of Governor John Connally’s jacket showing location of bullet hole.10

But loyalists will cringe at his claim that the first shot at Z-160 missed, and that the second, “magic bullet,” shot, must have hit circa Z-211. This latter conclusion rests on his rigid vertical and horizontal trajectory constraints, which he says only permit such a “Magic Bullet” to have hit between Z-207 and Z-211 (p. 300 – 303). So much, then, for Connally’s “lapel flip” at Z-224, held by many loyalists as proof #399 exited the Governor’s chest at that moment, and therefore that Z 223-224 was the moment of impact.4 5 6 And so much for the House Select Committee’s conclusion that the nonfatal shot hit at Z-190.7

Besides the problems de Mey’s proposed trajectory has with a hit at Z-224, Governor Connally’s hand, he says, “was not even in the correct position (at Z-224). How could the bullet that exited Connally’s chest ten centimeters below the nipple enter his right wrist when it was not there?” (p. 274) However, de Mey does not explain how he knows exactly where Connally wrist was in Z-224, since it is not visible in frame 224, nor any of the frames before or after 224.8 But he does point out that, “Connally was still moving his uninjured hand and his snow-white cuff and Stetson above the edge of the limousine in Z-230 and Z-272.” (p.330) He might also have asked, as Cyril Wecht, MD, JD and Wallace Milam asked, how it was that Connally’s lapel flipped when the presumed exit wound in the Governor’s jacket was decidedly below the lapel of his jacket; or why no flying blood and bone debris is visible in Z-224-225 from the exiting bullet that supposedly flapped the lapel.9 (The expected spray of debris would not have been visible when de Mey says both men were hit, at Z-211, as the Stemmons freeway sign blocked the view.)

de Mey further insists that #399 did not inflict all of the non-fatal wounds in both men - JFK’s back and throat wound, as well as Connally’s back, chest, wrist and thigh wounds - as per the Warren Commission’s Single Bullet Theory. Rather, de Mey argues that #399 caused JFK’s back and throat injuries as well as Connally’s chest and thigh wounds. But it was a fragment from another “magic bullet,” one fired from the “sniper’s nest,” striking JFK’s head at Z-312-313, that caused Connally’s wrist injuries. I say “magic” because de Mey claims the Z-312 bullet did a lot more than just break bones in JKF’s skull and Connally’s wrist.

In all, he claims to have identified eight fragments from that amazing shell: One damaged the chrome above the limo’s windshield. A second hit the front windshield. A third fragment scratched a sewer cover and then left a hole in the grass at the edge of Elm St. A fourth fragment struck Connally’s wrist, leaving fragments in the wound after fracturing his heavy radius bone. A fifth fragment flew across the front windshield and struck a curb 80 meters down range, kicking up a concrete fragment that injured bystander James Tague. (Tague himself has said that he was not hit by the last shot; he heard a shot after the one that hit him.11) And three smaller fragments eventually ended up underneath Mrs. Connally’s jump seat. (p. 383)

de Mey is strapped to this peculiar conclusion because he says only three bullets were fired toward the limousine and one of them missed entirely. And that no shots were fired from any other direction, including a frontal shot many claim came from the “grassy knoll.” That left but two shells to explain all the wreckage. One of them, #399, passed through JFK and the Governor’s chest, ending up in his thigh, de Mey argues, without striking the latter’s wrist. A paucity of ammo means that the bullet that struck JFK’s skull is all that’s left to explain Connally’s wrist injuries, James Tague’s injuries, the scratched sewer cover, the dented chrome strip in the limo, as well as the three fragments found in the limo. In all, he says, “eight fragments from the (bullet that hit JFK’s) head … were projected forward.” (p. 331) de Mey needn’t have embraced this improbable scenario. For, as he acknowledges (p. 148-9), the long-heralded neutron activation analysis “proof” that all the recovered bullet evidence traced to but two bullets, both firearms-matched to Oswald’s rifle, has been debunked. As Lawrence Livermore Lab scientists Eric Randich, Ph.D. and Pat Grant, Ph.D. have shown in the peer-reviewed literature, the recovered fragments may have come from as many as 5 bullets, including non-Mannlicher Carcano ammunition.12

The Bottom Sling Mount
Oswald “backyard photo” holding a Mannlicher Carcano13

Perhaps one of de Mey’s more imaginative speculations is that the murder may have been “executed by an experienced sniper using a sound weapon with bullets that had been prepared in advance with the above-mentioned Carcano” (that is, shot through Oswald’s ’museum piece’ so as to lay a trail to the patsy, then later fitted with a sabot to allow the incriminating rounds to be fired through a more reliable weapon on 11.22.63) (p. 365) This “scapegoat hypothesis,” he says, explains the absence of fingerprints on the weapon, since it was planted. It explains why Oswald never bought or possessed bullets (three shell casings and a live round in the rifle’s chamber were the only rounds that ever surfaced in evidence). It also explains why Oswald, who was right-handed hadn’t adjusted the gun sight, which was set for a left-hander.

More importantly, it also supposedly explains one of de Mey’s more ambitious claims: why the Carcano seen in Oswald’s hand in the “backyard photographs” is not the same Carcano found in the Book Depository, presumably Commission Exhibit #139. The only difference he specifies is what ambiguously appears to be an object of some sort on the bottom of the weapon’s barrel in the backyard images, which he says is the “fixing ring for the strap.” (p. 171) This object is absent in the photos of the Carcano in evidence. But it’s possible that the “fixing ring” on the barrel’s underside is actually a shadow from an object in the background, as there are other nearby shadows in the images. Moreover, the backyard photos appear to show that the strap is attached, fore and aft, to the side of Oswald’s rifle. If indeed the fixing ring was on the underside of the barrel of Oswald’s rifle and not the side, as he claims, there would have been a matching rearward fixing ring on the rearward underside of the stock of the weapon. No such object is visible in the backyard photos; nor is one evident in Commission Exhibit #139. Rather, the strap in the backyard photos seems to attach to the side of the stock, not the bottom, as it does in #139.

de Mey makes much of Kennedy’s botched autopsy, placing much of the blame on the Kennedys, particularly Robert. “The Bethesda autopsy was poorly conducted by physicians without any pathological experience, was poorly documented and some of the autopsy findings that were contrary to the desired scenario were adjusted accordingly, even after Kennedy had already been buried.” (p. 247) “The incomplete and inaccurate autopsy was arranged by Admiral Burkley at the request of the Kennedys … [t]he errors in the autopsy were largely due to the lack of experience of the pathologists who carried out the autopsy. This, again, was a consequence of the Kennedys’ interference in the procedure.” (p.39) While de Mey is on solid footing arguing Kennedy’s autopsy was botched, he’s unconvincing on why. A case can be made he aims fire in the wrong direction.

First, it’s false that JFK’s surgeons had no pathological experience. All three were board-certified pathologists with lots of experience, but in “natural death,” death due to heart attacks, strokes, cancer and so on. What they were shy of was experience in forensic pathology, deaths from “unnatural” causes, such as gun shots, stabbings, etc. But one of them, Commander Pierre Finck, did have proper forensic credentials; he was board certified in forensic pathology. de Mey’s point should have been that JFK’s autopsy was error-ridden because none of the surgeons, not even Finck, was up to the task at hand on 11/22.

The famed New York City coroner Milton Helpern, MD, laid out the problem particularly well: “Colonel Finck’s position throughout the entire proceeding was extremely uncomfortable. If it had not been for him, the autopsy would not have been handled as well as it was; but he was in the role of the poor bastard Army child foisted into the Navy family reunion. He was the only one of the three doctors with any experience with bullet wounds; but you have to remember that his experience was limited primarily to ’reviewing’ files, pictures, and records of finished cases. (Finck had not done an autopsy himself in ~2 years before 11.22.63) There’s a world of difference between standing at the autopsy table and trying to decide whether a hole in the body is a wound of entrance or a wound of exit, and in reviewing another man’s work at some later date in the relaxed, academic atmosphere of a private office … .” 14

JFK’s postmortem wasn’t helped by the fact the pathologists probably felt under the gun to finish quickly. On the 17th floor of the hospital sat the mortified and exhausted Kennedy family entourage. More than once there were calls down to the morgue to inquire about the progress of the examination and how much more time would be required. Might the military have buckled to Kennedy family pressure?

There was at least one good reason to suppose it had. Although the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology was by far the best place for a murder autopsy, and although the Institute was recommended to the Kennedy family, Jackie picked the less expert Naval hospital at Bethesda instead. Her reason? Not because she could control the Navy, but merely because Jack had been a lieutenant in the Navy. This is not to say Bethesda was a bad hospital; it wasn’t. It was an active teaching hospital with an active autopsy service in 1963. But its cases came overwhelmingly from deaths due to natural causes, not murder. So the pathology staff had little experience with the types of injuries JFK sustained, and there was no “on-campus” forensic pathologist handy when they needed one.

Historian William Manchester,15 author Gus Russo,16 and John Lattimer, MD, a urologist who has published articles and a book about the Kennedy case,17 have all argued that Kennedy family interference goes a long way towards explaining the failings of JFK’s autopsy. However, the weight of the evidence, including some new evidence, suggests that the Kennedy family cannot be faulted for the most important failings of JFK’s post mortem. (Not even the discredited18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 Warren Commission loyalist Gerald Posner believes they can.27) It is more likely that the military deserves that distinction.

For example, one cannot rule out the possibility that the Kennedy family tried to prevent an examination of JFK’s Addison’s disease-ravaged adrenal glands, then a dark family secret. But in 1993 in JAMA, Finck recalled that, “The Kennedy family did not want us to examine the abdominal cavity, but the abdominal cavity was examined.”28 29 And indeed it was. Kennedy was completely disemboweled.30 So while there’s no indisputable proof, perhaps the family did request that JFK’s abdominal cavity, which houses the adrenals, be left alone, especially since JFK suffered no abdominal injuries. If Finck was right, so much for the military’s cutting corners to kowtow to the Kennedys’ need for speed. (The doctors were not entirely insensitive to family wishes, however. They kept mum about JFK’s atrophied adrenal glands, even 30 years later, in JAMA. But by then Kennedy’s Addison’s disease was an open secret, having already been discussed by John Lattimer in his 1980 book.31)

Though they might have been unsuccessful in keeping the military out of JFK’s belly, it is not unreasonable to wonder if the family might have otherwise interfered. The likely ` answer is that they probably didn’t, at least not in any way that influenced the outcome. Under oath to the ARRB, Humes admitted that JFK’s personal physician, Burkley, seemed keen to move things along, but “as far as telling me what to do or how to do it, absolutely, irrevocably, no.” By way of explanation, Humes made the obvious point that, since Burkley was not a pathologist, “he wouldn’t presume to do such a thing.”32 Boswell told the ARRB that they were “not at all” in any rush or under any compulsion to hurry.33 “It was always an extension of the autopsy,” that was encouraged, “rather than further restrictions.”34 Similarly, after an interview with the Commanding officer of the Naval Medical Center, the HSCA reported that, “[Admiral Calvin B.] Galloway said that he was present throughout the autopsy,” and that, “no orders were being sent in from outside the autopsy room either by phone or by person.”35 (emphasis added) In a sworn affidavit executed for the HSCA on November 28, 1978, JFK’s personal physician, Admiral George Burkley, claimed, “I directed the autopsy surgeon to do a complete autopsy and take the time necessary for completion.”36

The family didn’t, for example, select the sub-par autopsists; military authorities did. Realizing how over their heads they were, JFK’s pathologists told Lattimer that they (wisely) requested to have nonmilitary forensic consultants called in. Permission was denied.37 The Autopsy of the Century was thus left in the hands of backbenchers. Given the “can do” mentality so prevalent in the military, this shortcut isn’t surprising. But it is one the family didn’t take. Had the government but asked, it is impossible to imagine that any expert forensic pathologist in the entire country would have refused his duty during this time of national tragedy, or that the family would have objected.

The HSCA explored the question of the family’s role in considerable detail in 1978, concluding that, other than (reasonably) requesting the exam be done as expeditiously as possible, the Kennedys did not interfere in the autopsy.38 Moreover, in an important legal matter, RFK left blank the space marked “restrictions” in the permit he signed for his brother’s autopsy.

While a compelling case for family interference is difficult to sustain, a case can be made that there was at least some interference in JFK’s autopsy. The most glaring errors – the selection of inexperienced pathologists and the exclusion of available, experienced ones, the failure to dissect JFK’s back wound, and the failure to obtain his clothing – had nothing to do with camouflaging JFK’s secret disease, or even with significantly speeding the examination. (Dissecting the back wound would have taken not much more than one hour. JFK was in the morgue more than eight.) Nor is it at all likely the Kennedys would have imposed those specific restrictions, in the off chance they had even thought of them. Instead, these peculiar decisions are more likely to have come from the military.39

Without so much as even acknowledging, to say nothing of refuting, the extensive acoustics work of Don Thomas, including that which was published in the British peer-reviewed forensics journal, Science and Justice,40 de Mey entirely discounts all evidence, including the HSCA’s acoustics-based conclusion, that there was a shot from the right front. He thus has to explain how a shot from behind fits with JFK’s rearward head snap following Z-312. To do that, DeMey embraces the twin theories favored by loyalists: a “jet effect” of forward-exiting brain and skull matter, as well as a “neuromuscular reaction,” are responsible for driving Kennedy’s head back and to the left. On page 325 he writes, “The kinetic energy is transferred into the impact on the skull, the fragmentation of the bullet and the projection of the fragments. There is also a massive blast out (sic) of brain tissue and blood. (In the case of Kennedy, 35 percent of the content of the right cerebral hemisphere and large sections of the skull were projected and sprayed out at high velocity.) (sic). Such an explosion not only absorbs kinetic energy, it also causes a backwards momentum … The contraction of Kennedy’s back muscles explains the further backwards movement. Professor Kenneth A. Rahn calculated scientifically and in detail how this happened on the Academic JFK Assassination Site.” (emphasis and italics in the original) (p. 325)

There are so many problems with those sentences that a proper discussion much longer than this entire review could easily be devoted to exploring them. But in short, de Mey admits that kinetic energy may be imparted to a skull on bullet impact. But in the JFK case any forward energy was more than compensated for by rearward momentum resulting from the “massive blast out” of debris exiting from the front – a classic restatement of Nobel Laureate-physicist, Luis Alvarez’s, famous theory.



Although he couldn’t have known it when he wrote “Cold Case,” Alvarez’s ’proof of concept’ – his melon-shooting experiments demonstrating a “jet effect” that throws blasted melons backward, toward the rifle – have been largely debunked. In his “peer-reviewed” American Journal of Physics article (9/76) Alvarez asserted, “It is important to stress the fact that a taped melon was our a priori best mock-up of a head, and it showed retrograde recoil in the first test … If we had used the ’Edison Test,’ and shot at a large collection of objects, and finally found one which gave retrograde recoil, then our firing experiments could reasonably be criticized. But as the tests were actually conducted, I believe they show it is most probable that the shot in 313 came from behind the car.”41

Recently, author Josiah (“Tink”) Thompson made an amazing discovery. He gained first-time access through Alvarez’s former graduate student, Paul Hoch, to the actual photos taken during the shooting tests Alvarez had conducted in the 1970s. They showed that Alvarez had, in fact, pretty much used the “Edison Test,” meaning that he had shot at numerous objects, including coconuts, pineapples, plastic jugs filled with water, rubber balls filled with gelatin, etc. All his targets, except the melons, were driven downrange, something he never mentioned.

Thompson pointed out another problem with Alvarez’s jet effect: “Whether taped or not, a bullet will cut through the outside of a melon like butter. A human skull is completely different. The thick skull bone requires considerable force to be penetrated and that force is deposited in the skull as momentum … A much closer ’reasonable facsimile of a human head’ is the coconut.” When Alvarez used it in his tests, it did not show recoil motion, but was instead blasted down range.”42

Ida Dox Drawing of an actual photograph of JFK’s brain taken at autopsy. House Select Committee on Assassinations Exhibit, #302.50

Even if we were to grant de Mey that forward-moving ejecta explains JFK’s rearward jolt, another problem immediately pops up: If de Mey is right that that 35% of JFK’s right cerebral hemisphere was blasted out, a claim that is consistent with what witnesses at the autopsy have said,43 what missing ejecta explains the “jet effect?” The University of Washington puts the weight of a complete, undamaged brain at 1300 to 1400 grams.44 At Kennedy’s brain autopsy, after fixation with formaldehyde, his brain weight was measured at 1500 grams.45 Even if we were to assume JFK’s brain weighed more than average, and/or that formaldehyde had somehow increased the weight of JFK’s brain, it’s hard to imagine that a brain missing “35% of its right cerebral hemisphere” would weigh 100 grams more than an average, complete brain. Autopsy witnesses gave telling accounts.

FBI Agent O’Neill told the ARRB in 1997 that when JFK’s brain was removed, “more than half of the brain was missing.”46 (The assistant autopsy photographer, Floyd Riebe, recalled things much the same way. When asked by ARRB counsel, “Did you see the brain removed from President Kennedy?” Riebe answered, “What little bit there was left, yes … Well, it was less than half of a brain there.”47) Moreover, in JAMA, Dr. James Humes reported that, “Two thirds of the right cerebrum had been blown away.”48 Dr. Boswell recalled that one half of the right cerebrum was missing.49 The Zapruder film shows a massive explosion of Kennedy’s head, with such a shower of brain matter being ejected from the right side of the skull that no one would dispute these autopsy witnesses. And yet the photos of what is supposed to be JFK’s brain show considerable disruption, but very little in the way of actual tissue loss.

One possible explanation for the discrepancy between the witnesses and the brain in the official autopsy report was one that was proposed by Assassinations Records Review Board analyst, Douglas Horne. Namely, that there were two different JFK “brains,” and that the one that measured 1500 grams and is pictured in the autopsy photographs was not actually Kennedy’s.51

Flip de Mey’s well written and entertaining book makes valuable contributions. But in the end it must be said it is far from completely satisfactory. However, there is great material in the book and students are encouraged to read it, and then decide for themselves about his timing of the shots, his neo-Single Bullet Theory and his hypothesis a bullet fired through Oswald’s rifle was then fitted with a sabot to allow the incriminating rounds to be fired through a more reliable weapon on 11/22/63.

1  Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations, 1976, Book V, p 46.

2  Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations, 1976, Book V, p 47.

3  House Select Committee on Assassinations, Final Assassinations Report, p. 261.

5  “Experimental Duplication of the Important Physical Evidence of the Lapel Bulge of the Jacket Worn by Governor Connally When Bullet 399 Went Through Him”, Journal of the American College of Surgeons, Vol. 178(5):517-521 (May 1994).

6  Dale K. Myers, “Secrets of a Homicide.”

7  Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives, p. 47:

8  Costella Combined Edit Frames (updated 2006)

9  C.H. Wecht and W. Milam, “THE GREAT LAPEL FLAP: A Rebuttal of Dr. John K. Lattimer’s Interpretation of the Kennedy and Connally Wounds”: “In the actual assassination, a transiting bullet would have produced debris not only from dried ribs (as in Lattimer’s test), but from blood and other chest tissues as well, so that the resulting spray should have been far more conspicuous than is seen in Lattimer’s test. The absence of any such spray at frame 224 is persuasive evidence that no such chest shot occurred at that point.”,

12  E. Randich and P.M. Grant, “Proper Assessment of the JFK Assassination Bullet Lead Evidence from Metallurgical and Statistical Perspectives,” Journal of Forensic Sciences, Vol. 51(4):717-728 (July 2006).

14  Quote cited in: Josiah Thompson, Six Seconds in Dallas (New York: Bernard Geis Associates for Random House, 1967), p. 198.

15  William Manchester, The Death of a President (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), p. 419. Note: Manchester makes the flat statement (quoted by Russo’s in his book on p. 324): “The Kennedy who was really in charge in the tower suite was the Attorney General.” But the decisions Manchester attributes to RFK had nothing whatsoever to do with autopsy limitations.

16  Gus Russo, Live by the Sword (Baltimore. Bancroft Press, 1998), pp. 324-328. (Russo cites Livingstone’s assertion, in High Treason [1992, p. 182], that Robert Karnei, MD – a Bethesda pathologist who was in the morgue but not part of the surgical team – claimed the Kennedys were limiting the autopsy. However, the ARRB released an 8/29/77 memo from the HSCA’s Andy Purdy, JD [ARRB MD # 61], in which, on p. 3, Purdy writes: “Dr. Karnei doesn’t ‘ … know if any limitations were placed on how the autopsy was to be done.’ He said he didn’t know who was running things.”)

17  John Lattimer, Kennedy and Lincoln (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), p. 195. (“He [Dr. Humes] was severely limited in what he was permitted to do by constraints imposed by the family.”)

18  While Posner’s book, not unexpectedly, won praise in the New York Times (J. Ward, NY Times Book Review, 11/21/93), University of Wisconsin historian David Wrone, a legitimate JFK authority who Posner approvingly cited repeatedly in Case Closed, described Posner’s book as “so theory driven, so rife with speculation, and so frequently unable to conform his text with the factual content in his sources that it stands as one of the stellar instances of irresponsible publishing on this subject.” See Journal of Southern History, V.61(1):186 (2/95).
However, another historian, Thomas C. Reeves - whose credentials on the JFK case are so meager that he is nowhere cited in any book on the JFK subject (including Case Closed) - did write a favorable review in the Journal of American History, Vol. 81:1379-1380 (12/94). Michael Parenti described Reeves’ review as “more like a promotional piece than an evaluation of a historical [sic] investigation.” (M. Parenti, History as Mystery [San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1999], p. 195; Parenti provides an extensive review of the peculiar media flattery of Posner in this book.)

19  Notre Dame Law professor, and former HSCA chief counsel, Robert Blakey, another legitimate authority Posner repeatedly cited in Case Closed, wrote: “Posner often distorts the evidence by selective citation and by striking omissions ... (he) picks and chooses his witnesses on the basis of their consistency with the thesis he wants to prove.” (In: G. Robert Blakey’s article “The Mafia and JFK’s Murder - Thirty years later, the question remains: Did Oswald act alone?”, The Washington Post National Weekly Edition, November 15-21, 1993, p. 23).

20  Case Closed cited in extenso, but selectively, the work of Failure Analysis Associates, Inc. (FaAA) of Menlo Park, California, which prepared evidence for both sides of an American Bar Association mock trial of Lee Harvey Oswald in 1992. On December 6, 1993, FaAA’s CEO, Roger McCarthy, swore out an affidavit in which he declared that Posner had requested FaAA’s prosecution material, but not the defense material; that Posner failed to disclose that FaAA had also prepared a defense, and that the jury that heard both sides “could not reach a verdict.” McCarthy’s affidavit is available on the web at:

21  In testimony before the Congress, Posner reported that both Humes and Boswell had told him they’d changed their minds, and that the autopsy report was wrong about JFK’s skull wound being low. Posner claimed they had admitted to him that they’d come around to the view the wound was high, and so consistent with a shot from Oswald’s position. But as author Aguilar first reported in the Federal Bar News and Journal, Vol. 41(5):388 (June, 1994), both Humes and Boswell, in recorded conversations (now available at the National Archives), denied having ever changed their minds that JFK’s skull wound was low. (They repeated their assertion that they had never changed their minds JFK’s skull wound was low under oath to the ARRB.) Boswell also told Aguilar, twice, that he’d never spoken with Posner. Aguilar gave the recordings, which suggested Posner had perjured himself, to the ARRB. Aguilar also sent the ARRB a copy of a letter calling Posner’s testimony into question, a letter that had been published by a committee chaired by Rep. John Conyers. (See letter in: Hearing before the Legislation and National Security Subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations House of Representatives, One Hundred Third Congress, First Session, November 17, 1993. Washington, D. C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1994. It appears on the final 5 pages of the report.) Subesquently, the ARRB asked Posner for his notes and records substantiating his claims regarding Humes and Boswell. As the ARRB reported on page 134 of the Final Report of the ARRB, Posner declined to cooperate.

22  Peter Dale Scott, “Case Closed? Or Oswald Framed?” The San Francisco Review of Books, Nov./Dec., 1993, p.6. (This review is perhaps the most eloquent, concise, authoritative and damning of all the reviews of Case Closed.)

23  Jonathan Kwitny, “Bad News: Your Mother Killed JFK”, Los Angeles Times Book Review, 11/7/93.

24  Mary Perot Nichols, “R.I.P., conspiracy theories?” Book review in: Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/29/93, pp. K1 and K4.

25  George Costello, “The Kennedy Assassination: Case Still Open”, Federal Bar News & Journal V.41(3):233 (March/April, 1994).

26  Jeffrey A Frank, “Who Shot JFK? The 30-Year Mystery”, Washington Post - Book World, 10/31/93.

27  Summarizing what appears to be his own view, Posner writes, “The House Select Committee concluded that Humes had the authority for a full autopsy but only performed a partial one.” G. Posner, Case Closed (New York: Anchor Books/Doubleday edition, 1993), p. 303n.

28  Dennis Breo, “JFK’s death, part III – Dr. Finck speaks out: ‘two bullets, from the rear.’” JAMA Vol. 268(13):1752 (October 7, 1992).

29  Without citation, this episode was also cited by Gus Russo in Live by the Sword, p. 325.

30  Dennis Breo, “JFK’s death – the plain truth from the MDs who did the autopsy”, JAMA, Vol. 267(12):2794 ff. (May 27, 1992).

31  John Lattimer, Kennedy and Lincoln, pp. 223-224.

32  ARRB testimony James H. Humes, College Park, Maryland, pp. 32-33.

33  ARRB testimony J. Thornton Boswell, College Park Maryland, 2/26/96, p. 29.

34  ARRB testimony J. Thornton Boswell, College Park Maryland, 2/26/96, p. 30.

35  Interview of Admiral Calvin B. Galloway by HSCA counsel Mark Flanagan, 5/17/78. HSCA Record Number 180-10078-10460, Agency File # 009409.

36  Sworn affidavit of Vice Admiral George G. Burkley. HSCA record # 180-10104-10271, Agency File # 013416, p. 3.

37  Lattimer writes, “Commanders Humes and Boswell inquired as to whether or not any of their consultants from the medical examiner’s office in Washington or Baltimore should be summoned, but this action was discouraged.” In: John Lattimer, Kennedy and Lincoln, p. 155.

38  HSCA. Vol. 7:14: “(79) The Committee also investigated the possibility that the Kennedy family may have unduly influenced the pathologists once the autopsy began, possibly by transmitting messages by telephone into the autopsy room. Brig. Gen. Godfrey McHugh, then an Air Force military aide to the President, informed the committee that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Kenneth O’Donnell, a presidential aide, frequently telephoned him during the autopsy from the 17th floor suite. McHugh said that on all occasions, Kennedy and O’Donnell asked only to speak with him. They inquired about the results, why the autopsy was consuming so much time, and the need for speed and efficiency, while still performing the required examinations. McHugh said he forwarded this information to the pathologists, never stating or implying that the doctors should limit the autopsy in any manner, but merely reminding them to work as efficiently and quickly as possible.” (emphasis added)

39  For a more extensive discussion, see “The Medical Case for Conspiracy,” Chapter 8 in: C. Crenshaw, Trauma Room One (New York: Paraview Press, 2001).

41  Alvarez, Luis, “A Physicist Examines the Kennedy Assassination Film”, American Journal of Physics, Vol. 9:813-827 (1976). Available on line at:

42  Personal communication, 3/2014.

43  See “The Medical Case for Conspiracy,” op. cit. Crenshaw.

46  Washington Post, 11/10/98, p. A-3.

47  Deposition of Floyd Albert Riebe, 5/7/97, pp. 43-44.

48  JAMA, Vol. 267(12):2798 (May 27, 1992).

49  ARRB testimony J. Thornton Boswell, College Park Maryland, 2/26/96.

51  George Lardner, “Archive Photos Not of JFK’s Brain, Concludes Aide to Review Board”, Washington Post, 11/10/98, p. A-3.

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 21:57
Gary Aguilar

Gary L. Aguilar, MD, is one of the few physicians outside the government ever permitted to examine the still-restricted photographs and X-rays taken during President Kennedy’s autopsy.  He has published widely on the medical evidence in professional journals, books and on-line.  He has  lectured before academic medical, academic medico-legal, and non-professional public audiences on the subject. He is currently Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology, U.C. San Francisco, and the head of ophthalmology and the Vice Chief of Staff at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco.

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