Further, the doctors who performed the autopsy, and the Warren Commission which had to reach conclusions based on the medical evidence, blundered in substantial ways. These blunders can be presented as evidence of some sinister conspiracy, rather than then result of haste and an excessive concern for the feelings of the Kennedy family.
The information here, while not giving a comprehensive overview of the evidence, will at least highlight some of the common errors (and worse) that the conspiracy books make.
And example of how conspiracy books use evidence selectively can be found in an account written on the day of the assassination by Dr. Marion "Pepper" Jenkins. The account says the wound was "occipital" and that "cerebellum" protruded from the wound. Both of these statements imply that the back of the head was blown out. Yet the account says the wound was to the "right side of the head" and that it was "temporal" (which means the side of the head). Guess which statements conspiracy books tell their readers about, and which they withhold?
Dr. Robert Grossman has testified to being in Trauma Room One at Parkland Hospital during the futile attempt to save John Kennedy. A respected neurosurgeon, he certainly seems like the sort of witness one could rely on. Unfortunately, his testimony is problematic in many ways, as David Lifton argues in "Dr. Robert Grossman—Phantom of Trauma Room One."
Randy Robertson claims to have found, in the x-rays of Kennedy’s skull, evidence of two bullet hits to Kennedy’s head. This is his statement to Rep. Conyer’s subcommittee of the U.S. Congress in November 1993. Also included is one of the reviews of his article that caused the journal Radiology to reject it, as well as a brief critique from me.
Speaking of the head wound, the distribution of bullet fragments in Kennedy’s brain, as shown in the autopsy x-rays, gives a lot of information about the bullet that hit Kennedy, and (more importantly) rules out a variety of theories about the head shot. WOUND1.GIF is a drawing, from conspiracy author Charles Wilber, of the distribution of fragments. Drawn from the work of Cyril Wecht, it is quite consistent with Lattimer’s drawings in Kennedy and Lincoln.
Like Wecht, John Lattimer was one of the first people to see the autopsy photos and x-rays. LATERAL.GIF is his drawing of the damage to Kennedy’s head. Compare it to the drawings in books by authors like Groden and Livingstone.
The nature of Kennedy’s head wound has been a matter of continuing controversy. ANGEL1.GIF, ANGEL2.GIF, and ANGEL3.GIF are the report Dr. Lawrence Angel, a forensic anthropologist of the Smithsonian Institution, submitted to the HSCA. Particularly interesting is Angel’s drawing of the damage shown in the photos and x-rays in ANGEL3.GIF.
HEAD.JPG is the famous photograph of the inside of Kennedy’s skull, with the brain removed. Conspiracy books usually print it rotated 90 degrees. Here it is right side up. Compare this photo to ANGEL3.GIF (above).
The Harper Fragment was a piece of bone discovered in Dealey Plaza the day after the assassination. A Dallas doctor (A. B. Cairns) identified it as occipital bone from a human skull. Further, conspiracy books claim the fragment was found behind the location of the limo at the moment Kennedy’s head exploded. If these claims are correct, that means the back of Kennedy’s head was blown out, which would imply both a shooter in front of Kennedy and fakery in the autopsy photos and x-rays. But what does the evidence show on these points?
See for yourself what the Zapruder film shows. Of course, conspiracy buffs are increasingly insisting that the Zapruder film has been tampered with (this is after 30 years of insisting that it is ironclad evidence of conspiracy). Then, you might ask, how do the Dealey Plaza witnesses describe the head wound. Take a look at how Zapruder described the wound to Jay Watson of WFAA-TV shortly after the assassination, and read how the wound was described by Marilyn Sitzman, who was standing next to Zapruder.
Likewise, James Altgens was standing in front of and to the right of the limo at the time of the head shot. Here is the portion of his Warren Commission testimony describing the explosion of Kennedy’s head. Read this carefully, because Altgens is mistaken on a point or two.
The image at right is one of the X-rays of John Kennedy taken at the Bethesda autopsy. It’s the "AP" (anterior-posterior) image of the head. Click on the image to see a larger version. This X-ray is extremely controversial, as is the corresponding lateral view of the skull. It’s supposed to show fakery of the autopsy photographs, and thus a conspiracy to kill Kennedy. It is puzzling if you don’t know how to read X-rays. But when people who do know how to read X-rays examine the films, they yield a clear picture of the wound, as explained in this essay by Joe Durnavich.
|Key Concept: Beveling. When a bullet penetrates the skull bone, it will leave a small hole on the side from which it enters, and a larger dished-out crater on the side that it exits. The existence of beveling of the bone of Kennedy’s skull allowed the autopsists and later panels of forensic pathologists to establish that the bullet that hit Kennedy in the head entered from behind, with at least one large fragment exiting toward the front. See JFK Exhibit F-61, from the House Select Committee on Assassinations.|
John Lattimer has done several experiments to determine whether the Single Bullet Theory is scientifically supportable. In the first he deals with the question: were there so many fragments in John Connally that they could not all have come from CE 399? In the second, he deals with the question: could an exit wound in the front of Kennedy’s neck look like an entrance wound?
Years before Lattimer’s Kennedy and Lincoln was published, Josiah Thompson carefully scrutinized the evidence on the issue of whether the bullet fragments found in John Connally had (in total) too much mass to have come from CE 399. Here is the section of Six Seconds in Dallas dealing with this issue.
Conspiracy books describe the Dallas doctors as being absolutely sure that the wound in Kennedy’s throat was an entrance wound. What they usually omit is the fact that the doctors who actually saw the wound speculated that it was an exit wound from a fragment from the head shot. They also imply that ER personnel can easily tell whether a wound is an entrance wound or an exit wound. This essay consists of two parts. The first documents the speculations of the Dallas doctors about the wound, and the second is a passage from the JAMA describing a careful study of the ability of ER personnel to make judgments about the forensic aspects of wounds.
Dr. Kenneth Strully, a neurosurgeon from New Hampshire, also has addressed the issue of Kennedy’s arm movements, and also sees them as the result of a neuromuscular reaction.
Telling the Truth at Long Last?
The man at right is Dr. Charles Crenshaw, who was in the Emergency Room when Kennedy was treated at Parkland Hospital. He claimed in his 1992 book Conspiracy of Silence to be finally telling the truth about the assassination a truth he feared to tell earlier. His testimony, quite conveniently, "corroborates" what conspiracy books have been saying for years. Is he a crackpot, a profiteer, or a brave truth-teller? Click here for the "scoop."
Of course, the House Select Committee had already thoroughly examined the "forgery" issue. It commissioned the nation’s top experts to examine the autopsy materials for fakery, and here is their report. If you actually believe that Harrison Livingstone is an expert on the photos and x-rays, you need to read this. Accompanying this file is a graphic showing the face measurements forensic anthropologists used to establish that the person in the autopsy photos was John F. Kennedy.
Of course, if the autopsy photos and x-rays are faked, just how many people would have to be implicated in doing and lying about the fakery? This essay by Joel Grant discusses the history of this issue.
The autopsy doctors, have always accepted the photos and x-rays as genuine. In early 1967 all three autopsists (Humes, Boswell, and Finck) examined these materials at the National Archives. Their report authenticates the photos and x-rays as genuine.
The most famous piece of missing evidence in the world is John Kennedy’s brain. What happened to it? Did The Conspiracy grab it because it contained incontrovertible evidence that Kennedy was shot from the front? The HSCA made a strong effort to find out what happened. Their report makes it pretty clear what did.
Another supposed piece of missing evidence is a bullet that Admiral Osborne said he saw fall out of the wrapping of Kennedy’s body when it arrived at Bethesda. OSBORNE.TXT is the HSCA’s investigation of this claim.
A full account of autopsist Pierre Fink’s experiences at the autopsy can be found in the "Blumberg Memo" written on 1 February 1965. Click here to see the memo.
|Key Concept: Probing a wound. Conspiracy books place great emphasis on the fact that the autopsists were unable to probe the wound in Kennedy’s back more than a inch or so into the body. They believe that this proves that the bullet didn’t penetrate more then an inch or so. Forensic pathologists don’t accept this idea. The following is a quote from the Forensic Pathology Panel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations:
(430) The panel believes that the difficulty which Drs. Humes, Finck, and Boswell experienced in trying to place a soft probe through the bullet pathway in President Kennedy’s neck probably resulted from their failure or inability to manipulate this portion of the body into the same position it was in when the missile penetrated. Rigor mortis may have hindered this manipulation. Such placement would have enabled reconstruction of the relationships of the neck and shoulder when the missile struck. It is customary, however, to dissect missile tracks to determine damage and pathway. Probing a track blindly may produce false tracks and misinformation.
David Lifton is far from the worst JFK assassination researcher. Indeed, he’s a pretty good JFK researcher. But he supports some very bad theories. For example, he believes that Kennedy’s body was taken and surgically altered between Parkland Hospital and the autopsy in Bethesda. Supposedly, this was done to conceal the fact that all the shots that hit Kennedy came from the front. Is this as crazy as it sounds? Yes, it is.
The expert the conspiracy books are always quoting is Cyril Wecht, forensic pathologist and long-time advocate of a conspiracy. Wecht is a competent forensic pathologist where the Kennedy assassination is not involved. Unfortunately the part of his book Cause of Death dealing with the assassination is awash in mistakes and inaccuracies. When Wecht appeared online on the Prodigy service in 1994, Dr. Robert Artwohl challenged him on several errors and misrepresentations in the book. Wecht failed to respond to any of Artwohl’s messages.
Wecht has claimed that Kennedy's "back and to the left" motion indicates a shot from the Grassy Knoll. But when called as a expert witness in the Menendez retrial, he insisted that simple Newtonian physics isn't much use in determining how people will react to a shot.
When the Rockefeller Commission (The Commission on CIA Activities) examined the assassination, in the 1970s, Wecht was an important figure claiming that there was a conspiracy. Given his good medical credentials, the Commission made a point of talking with him, and indeed questioned him closely. When the Commission's report was released, Wecht fussed and fumed that he had been misrepresented, and that he had given the Commission much convincing evidence of a conspiracy, but was ignored. In this essay, Megan Knuth examines what Wecht said, based on the transcript of his interview with the Commission, and compares it with how his testimony is presented in the Commission's Report. Was he really misrepresented?