TESTIMONY OF JACQUELINE HESS
Ms. HESS - I do.
Chairman STOKES - Thank you. You may be seated.
Ms. HESS - Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. The issue of mysterious deaths, that is, that a statistically improbable number of individuals with some direct or peripheral association with the Kennedy assassination died as a result of that assassination, there- by raising the specter of conspiracy, was first brought to national attention as the result of a promotional campaign for the movie "Executive Action" which was based on Mark Lane's novel, "Rush to Judgment." Mr. Chairman, I would direct your attention to JFK exhibit F-544 and ask that it be admitted into the record at this time.
Chairman STOKES - Without objection.
[The information follows:]
JFK EXHIBIT F-544
Ms. HESS - It is a blowup of an advertisement for the movie Executive Action. As you can see, it states that an actuary engaged by the London Sunday Times concluded that on November 22, the odds against 18 material witnesses being dead within a year period were 100,000 trillion to 1. Since the publication of that figure, it has turned up in articles, letters, books, and conversation as anywhere from 1,000-to-1 to 1 billion-to-1. Very few people seem to know what it is that they are quoting, but they do have a sense of some enormous odds existing with respect to the deaths of a group of Kennedy-assassination-related witnesses. Illustrative of the widespread concern over this issue is the query President Fidel Castro made during the interview of him by this committee in Cuba on April 3, 1978:
If I may ask you, is there anything true, or how much could be true about those publications which state that many people who could have had a part in Kennedy's death have died in accidents and things like that?
On April 27, 1978, the committee obtained a copy of an article printed in the London Sunday Times on February 26, 1967. Mr. Chairman, at this time I ask that the article be admitted into the record as JFK exhibit F-54], and I direct your attention to the enlargement of the article which is on the easel. The chart in the article lists 19 individuals as being the victims of mysterious deaths, including Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby. states that the London Sunday Times asked an actuary to compute the life expectancy of 15 of these individuals. It further states that the actuary concluded that on November 22, 1963, the odds against all 15 being dead by February 1976 were about 1 in 10 to the 29th power, or 100,000 trillion to 1.
On April 28, 1978, the committee sent a letter to the London Sunday Times requesting a copy of the actuarial study and of all documents used in the preparation of the study. I would now ask that that letter, JFK exhibit F--542, be admitted into the record.
Chairman STOKES - Without objection JFK exhibits F-541 and F-542 may be entered into the record,
[The information follows:]
JFK EXHIBIT F--541
Select Committee on Assassinations
U.S. House of Representatives 3331 House Office Building, Annex 2
Washington, D.C. 20515
April 25, 1978
London Sunday Times
P. O. Box 7
200 Gray's Inn Road
London, England WCIX 8E2
In connection with its investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of President Kennedy, the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives requests a copy Of the actuarial study referenced in the attached February 26, 1967 London Sunday Times article and of all documents relating to the preparation of the study.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this request.
We appreciate the cooperation of your Washington and New York offices, particularly that of Ms. Katherine Grayson of the Washington Office.
G. Robert Blakey
Chief Counsel and Director
G RB: jhd
cc: Katherine Grayson
JFK EXHIBIT F-542
Ms. HESS - On May 19, 1978, the committee received a response from the London Sunday Times. I direct your attention again to the easel, to JFK exhibit F-543, an enlargement of that letter. I would now like to read that letter into the record. It is directed to Mr. G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel and director, Select Committee on Assassinations, and it is entitled, Kennedy deaths statistics--
The Sunday Times, February 26, 1967.
The Editor has passed me your letter of 25th April.
Our piece about the odds against the deaths of the Kennedy witnesses was, I regret to say, based On a careless journalistic mistake and should not have been published. This was realized by The Sunday Times' editorial staff after the first edition--the one which goes to the United States and which I believe you have--had gone out, and later editions were amended.
There was no question of our actuary having got his answer wrong: It was simply that we asked him the wrong question. He was asked what were the odds against 15 named people out of the population of the United States dying within a short period of time to which he replied--correctly--that they were very high. However, if one asks what are the odds against 15 of those included in the Warren Commission index dying within a given period, the answer is, of course, that they are much lower. Our mistake was to treat the reply to the former question as if it dealt with the latter--hence the fundamental error in our first edition report, for which we apologize.
None of the editorial staff involved in this story can remember the name of the actuary we consulted, but in view of what happened you will, I imagine, agree that his identity is hardly material.
Yours sincerely, Antony Whitaker, Legal Manager.
Even though the London Sunday Times had not structured its actuarial inquiry properly and, therefore, the 100,000 trillion to 1 odds were invalid, the committee staff looked into the possibility of conducting a valid study, contracting with our own actuarial firms here in the District of Columbia: Edward H. Friend & Co., Towers Perrin, Forster & Co., and the Wyatt Co., We then had meetings with representatives of each company and each subsequently sub- mitted a proposal, addressing both the general issue of which actu- arial principles did or did not apply, and the specific issue of the practical problems which would be encountered in attempting to apply those principles to this particular case. As a result of these conversations and of a review of the proposals, we determined the following facts concerning the validity and feasibility of attempting to apply actuarial odds to the group of deaths.
One, to compute valid actuarial statistics, one must be able to determine to a reasonable degree of specificity, the universe of individuals to which the specific group is being compared. In other words, we would have to determine the total number of individuals who exist in each of the categories into which those individuals who have mysteriously died, fall. This means that we would need to establish the number of individuals who in any manner could be considered witnesses to the assassination of President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, the number of individuals who had any contact with Oswald or Ruby or with Ruby's nightclubs, the number of individuals who professed to have material knowledge of the case or of the major figures in the case, all news reporters who had expressed interest, taken interviews or investigated the case, and all Members of Congress who sought to introduce legislation con- cerning the investigation of the case. This, as you can imagine, would have been an impossible task.
Two, in addition, for each of the individuals identified in the groups I have just listed, we would have to establish age, sex, race, occupation, geographical location, and any other extraordinary fac- tors which have to be taken into consideration in order to compute mortality rates. Again, this was judged to be an impossible job.
Three, we would need to determine the number of individuals in these categories who have, in fact, died and the number of individ- uals who, according to actuarial mortality rates, should have died.
We had thus established the impossibility of attempting establish through the application of actuarial principles, any meaningful implications about the existence or absence of a conspiracy. Despite the fact that an inference of conspiracy, as here postulated by the critics, did not exist, we nevertheless decided not to dismiss the cited deaths out of hand, but rather, to look more closely at the nature of certain specific deaths to determine whether or not theycould individually be considered mysterious or in some other manner a reflection of some sort of conspiracy.
In an attempt to investigate the circumstances of the deaths individually, we did several things. First, we compiled a more comprehensive list of those individuals whose deaths were considered by the critics to be mysterious. In some cases, it proved difficult to determine which deaths the critics considered mysterious. In many cases, instead of statements of fact, we found unsubstantiated inference and innuendo, with little concrete information provided. For example, david Goldstein and FNU Levens are both included in sylvia Meagher's beek, "Accessories After the fact," as mysterious deaths. Goldstein is described as having helped the fBI trace the revolver used in the murder of Officer tippit. Levens is described as a Fort Worth burlesque theater operator who employed some of the same entertainers as Jack Ruby. Meagher notes that both of their deaths have been officially ascribed to natural causes and lists the places of death as unknown. No conspiracy theory which would include Goldstein and Levens is put forth; it is unclear why their deaths are to be considered mysterious. And while Ms. Meagher may have had no way of knowing it, the FBI's file on the Kennedy case includes dozens of reports and letters from citizens offering clues in the identification of the revolver in question, as, of course, there are undoubtedly a number of persons who would have employed some of the same entertainers as Ruby.
Penn Jones in his book, "Forgive My Grief," volume I, states that Earlene Robert's, the manager of the roominghouse in which Lee harvey Oswald lived at the time of the assassination, died. He then states that she had important evidence to contribute. The implication is that Mrs. Roberts' death is mysterious. While it is clear that Mrs. Roberts did indeed have important evidence to contribute, there is no indication in the records relating to her death, or in Mr. Jones' book, as to what exactly was mysterious about a 61-year-old woman with large calcium deposits and a case of pneumonia, dying of acute heart failure. The same is the case with other deaths cited in the same book, for example, Dr. Nicholas Chetta, the coroner who served at David Ferrie's death, and Thomas Howard. Jack Ruby's attorney, both of whom died of heart attacks.
Despite this problem, we compiled a list of individuals from the books and articles of Meagher, Jones, Bernard Fensterwald, David Martindale, and David Welsh. We added to the list Sam Giancana and John Roselli, both of whom had died too recently to be includ- ed in most of the critical literature.
We then asked the Library of Congress to compile all newspaper articles which had appeared concerning any and all of the individ- uals. We further asked them to give us their evaluation of the critical literature and the press accounts on each individual and to make recommendations with respect to further investigation in each case. Independently, we sent requests to the Bureau of Vital Statistics, the medical examiners' offices and the police depart- ments in the jurisdiction in which each death was believed to have occurred, for the death certificates, medical records, police reports, and any other documents which might exist concerning the death. Because there were many cases in which there was no informationindicating the appropriate jurisdiction, we sent letters to the pertinent offices in Dallas and Fort Worth, Tex., in New Orleans, La., and in Miami, Fla., listing all the names on which we desired information. In the case of some of the individuals, information was requested from Federal investigative agencies. In the cases of Roselli and Giancana, we requested and received a briefing on the Justice Department investigations of those deaths. In the cases in which further investigation was deemed necessary, it was initiated.
Our final conclusion on the issue is that the available evidence does not establish anything about the nature of these deaths which would indicate that the deaths Were in same manner, either direct or peripheral, caused by the assassination of President Kennedy or by any aspect of the subsequent investigation.
Chairman STOKES - Is your report completed?
Ms. HESS - Yes; it is.
Chairman STOKES - The gentleman from Tennessee, Mr. Ford. Mr. FORD. I have no questions. I will yield back my time to the Chair.
Chairman STOKES - The gentleman from indiana.
Mr. FITHIAN - Just one question, Miss Hess, is it your feeling, having gone through this, there is no statistical significance to this? Is that what I am to understand?
Ms. HESS - That is correct.
Mr. FITHIAN - Is it possible, then that any death which is remote- ly related to this gets reported more than others therefore there is an appearance of a kind of unusual gathering of deaths?
Ms. HESS - It is possible. That is one of the bases for the development of the issue; yes. You understand the problem in establishing the statistical inference is that you cannot establish any type of universe. While it may seem like these people come from a very small group of people, they come from a very, very large universe of people.
Mr. FITHIAN - I have no other questions, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman STOKES - The time of the gentleman has expired. The gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Devine.
Mr. DEVINE - No questions, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman STOKES - The gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Edgar.
Mr. EDGAR - Wilt you provide for the record a detailed listing of the 21 names and the evidence you have found relating to their deaths?
Ms. HESS - Yes. Do you want me to read them for the record?
Mr. EDGAR - It might be helpful.
Ms. HESS - Edward Benairdes, Albert Guy Bogard, Hale Boggs, Lee Bowers, Jr., Bill Chesher, Nicholas J. Chetta, David Goldstein, Thomas Hale Howard, William Hunter, Clyde Johnson, Dorothy Kilgallen, Thomas Henry Killam, Jim Koethe, FNU Levens, Nancy Jane Mooney, Teresa Norton, Earlene Roberts, Harold Russell, Marilyn April Walle, a.k.a. Betty McDonald, William W. Whaley, James R. Worrell, Sam Giancana, John Roselli.
Mr. EDGAR - Thank you. I think it very helpful for the record that those names be included. Can you indicate why Mr. DeMohrenschildt's name was not in- cluded?
Ms. HESS - His was one of those which deemed further investiga- tion and became part of a great investigative effort.
Mr. EDGAR - That was not part of the exact study?
Ms. HESS - It was in terms of the compilation of data. I compiled the data on his death and any police reports, et cetera, as part of this project. But then in terms of subsequent investigation that was done by the investigators.
Mr. EDGAR - I think it would be helpful in terms of our final analysis to have a chance to review the material you compiled. I thank you for your report.
Chairman STOKES - The time of the gentleman has expired.Mr. Sawyer.
Mr. SAWYER - No Questions.
Chairman STOKES - There being nothing further, Miss Hess, thank you very much for your testimony. You are excused. The Chair will suspend for just a moment. [Brief recess.]
Chairman STOKES - Because of a heavy schedule tomorrow of wit- nesses, along with the fact the committee must vacate the room at an early hour for an affair to be held in this room later tomorrow evening, the committee today will adjourn until 8:30 tomorrow morning.