By W. Tracy Parnell Ó 2001
Dr. James Fetzer* has an affidavit on his Assassination Science website sworn by Roger McCarthy of Failure Analysis Associates (FaAA), the firm which provided material for the ABA mock trial of Lee Harvey Oswald in 1992. Fetzer provides the affidavit with several other documents in an attempt to show errors in the book Case Closed by Gerald Posner. I checked the revised LSC (Large Soft Cover) edition of the book (which happens to be the only version I own) to see if the implied allegations in McCarthy's affidavit were relevant. I was surprised to find they were not.
Of course, the affidavit refers to the original version of Case Closed, which by the way is quite possibly the most scrutinized assassination title ever. However, I can see no reason why Fetzer would object to an author or editor revising a book and having the book judged by that revision since that is apparently what happened in the case of his own Assassination Science. The following is a quote (all quotes appear in italics) from an email at Clint Bradford's website in which Fetzer responds to allegations of errors in the book:
I will certainly do something to "clean this up" in the fourth printing of the book.
Later in the same email:
In a work of complexity dealing with events of this magnitude, there will (almost invariably) be some errata.
I have no objections to your bringing these things up…
So it seems Fetzer understands from his own experience that no book will be without some errata. Does the revised version of Case Closed address the errors implied in the affidavit?
The affidavit lists eight points of fact, although Posner is not mentioned until the seventh point:
Subsequent to our presentation one Gerald Posner contacted Dr. Robert Piziali, the leader of the prosecution team, and requested copies of the prosecution material, but not defense material, which we provided. Eventually Random House published a book by Mr. Posner entitled Case Closed. While Mr. Posner acknowledges in the book the material from Failure Analysis Associates he does not mention or acknowledge the ABA, or mention or acknowledge that there was additional material prepared by FaAA for the defense. Incredibly, Mr. Posner makes no mention of the fact that the mock jury that heard and saw the technical material that he believes is so persuasive and "closed" the case, but which also saw the FaAA material prepared for the defense, could not reach a verdict.
McCarthy mentions the fact that Posner only requested the prosecution material. On page 316-317 of the revised edition of CC is an extensive footnote that answers this and most of the other points presented in the affidavit. Posner states that he found the FaAA material prepared for the defense to be "fundamentally flawed" and obviously would not use it for that reason. Of course, he is under no obligation to defend the choice of material presented in his book and to suggest that conspiracy-oriented books on the assassination have presented information that counters their claims in the interest of equal time is absurd. As for the rest of the paragraph from the affidavit, Posner does in fact mention the ABA and that FaAA prepared material for both the defense and prosecution. Likewise, he mentions the fact that the jury was hung.
On to point eight from the affidavit:
In early televised interviews of Mr. Posner that were witnessed by FaAA staff, Mr. Posner made no attempt to correct any supposition by a questioner that the FaAA analytical work was performed at his request for him, and certainly left quite the opposite impression.
Now I don't know what interviews McCarthy is referring to and Fetzer has made no attempt to identify these or quote from them. But let's assume that McCarthy is correct and someone interviewed Posner and stated that the FaAA work was done for him. In a presumably brief media appearance of this type such an interviewer without the proper understanding of the facts of the case could be expected to make any number of errors of this type. Does it then become Posner's job to spend the entire interview correcting mistakes by the questioner? Or does he realize that the student of the assassination will ultimately understand that the work was done for FaAA (as was stated in the original version of the book) and instead proceed with the interview?
In closing, it is surprising that Fetzer would continue to use this affidavit as proof of "errors" in Posner's book when a revised edition of the book exists that addresses these points. As Fetzer apparently knows, errors are a fact of life in the book business. He has no problem with errors in his own work if they are corrected. But when the book happens to be the hated Case Closed, he obviously believes a different standard should be applied. In fact, most of the errors in the original version of Case Closed have been corrected in the new version of the book. However, this does not stop critics from repeating the errors over and over again in their critiques. If it is agreed and understood that errors sometimes occur and subsequent versions of books seek to correct these errors, then shouldn't the book then be judged by the revised edition? Apparently, it depends on which book you are talking about.