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JFK: The French Connection, by Peter Kross Review by Seamus Coogan
on Lunch with Arlen Specter on January 4, 2012
KENNEDY & ME: A Very Good Book With A Few Pages of Trouble
Jim DiEugenio analyzes and summarizes Larry Hancock's
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The CIA and Political Assassination
Jim DiEugenio reviews the work of Chris Matthews on the life and death of President Kennedy, including his latest biography, "Jack Kennedy: Elusive hero".
IN DALLAS: LBJ, the Pearl Street Mafia, and the Murder of President
The Connally Bullet Powerful evidence that Connally was hit by a bullet from a different assassin, by Robert Harris
Joseph Green on the late Manning Marable's new full scale biography of Malcolm X.
JFK and the Majestic Papers: The History of a Hoax by Seamus Coogan
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is Anton Batey?
Exclusive excerpts from Mitchell Warriner's long
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No Evil: Social Constructivism and the Forensic Evidence in the Kennedy
Figure 1. Silhouette of Backyard Man
My Summary. Although Thomas accepts all of the backyard photos as authentic, I am not yet fully persuaded. He does not discuss Marina’s destruction of some of these, nor does he address the silhouette.
My summary. Reconstruction of the Dealey Plaza crime scene, based on the extant Z-film, is at best a soft science. If the film has been altered, then reconstructions based on it are rather hopeless. On the other hand, the analytical work of Costella, which focuses on film anomalies, is in another league and, for some, provides actual proof of alteration. My observations on the Muchmore film raise another thicket of questions. Thomas does not address any of these concerns.
We now arrive at a subject of profound interest to me—the medical evidence. Here Thomas and I have some major accords but also some weighty disagreements. For example we both believe in evolution—of the autopsy report. Horne (Murder in Dealey Plaza 2000, edited by James Fetzer, pp. 271-273) has documented these likely changes, over a surprisingly long time interval (Thomas, p. 230). Also see Horne’s update (9/24/2010). Thomas and I both agree that a shot struck JFK from the front, very near the hairline, directly above the right orbit. But after these agreements, things go off track, quite badly in fact.
Thomas claims (p. 232) that Malcolm Perry’s surgery (at Parkland) completely obscured the throat wound. Perry, however, actually claimed the opposite: he said that he had left the wound “inviolate.” Thomas does not cite evidence for his contrary conclusion.
Thomas claims that Dr. Perry made his original incision rather large, and Thomas quotes Perry as saying that he did this on purpose: Perry wanted to see clearly on either side of the trachea. This Perry citation, however, poses the same problem for Thomas that he has insistently proffered for the Dealey Plaza witnesses (e.g., ex-con Givens): observations made closer to the original event are intrinsically more reliable than those made later. Perry actually made this statement to the ARRB, well over three decades after the assassination. On the contrary, when he was first asked about his incision (Best Evidence 1980, David Lifton, p. 347) it was only 2-3 cm across. However, as time passed, like Pinocchio’s nose (and even Humes’s recall of the size), it progressively grew. Charles Crenshaw said that the tracheotomy in the photo did not match the one he saw in Dallas. Joe D. Goldstrich, a medical student, who had been learning about tracheotomies that very morning (at Parkland), and who had seen JFK’s neck before and after the tracheotomy, said that when he saw the incision in the autopsy photo, he was stunned (JFK: Breaking the Silence 1993, Bill Sloan, pp. 84-97). John Ebersole, the autopsy radiologist, expressed his horror to me at seeing such a large and irregular incision and said he would never do one like that. The implications of a small incision at Parkland, as compared to the large one at Bethesda, are indeed frightening. Nonetheless, the consequences must be faced. (See Horne 2009, Volume IV, p. 1011.) Thomas also implies that, during the autopsy, George Burkley did not know about the throat wound. On the contrary, Burkley had advised George Barnum during the autopsy about the throat wound (Lifton, p. 671). After all, Burkley had been in the Parkland ER, where he had pushed steroids. Would he really have missed seeing (or at least hearing about) the throat shot? Even Boswell later told the media that he knew about the throat wound during the autopsy. And then there is Manchester, who claims that Humes and friends had learned of Perry’s press briefing that same day; they supposedly even learned that Perry’s surgery had obscured the anterior neck wound. Manchester actually states that Humes telephoned Perry after midnight (Manchester 1967, pp. 432-433). Quite remarkably, this late night phone call is precisely consistent with what Dr. John Ebersole told me.
The Parkland doctors, quite aside from Perry, were very clear that the throat wound represented an entry (p. 245, footnote 34). Dr. David Stewart also said that all of the Parkland doctors in attendance had concluded that the throat wound was an entry (Post-Mortem 1975, Harold Weisberg, p. 60).
Regarding body alteration, Thomas makes his bias clear (p. 225): there was none. That clearly places him outside the camp of David Lifton and Doug Horne. My views have been spelled out in my review of Horne’s book.
But Thomas does not address body alteration in any detail. He does, however, accuse the autopsy photographer of failure to document the head wound properly. (In my opinion, this does accurately describe the extant photograph.) However, since this individual, John Stringer, presumably was the award-winning photographer, this by itself, raises questions about the authenticity of the autopsy collection. But Thomas is reluctant to open that Pandora’s Box.
I agree with Thomas that, in their hurry to remove JFK’s clothing, the nurses’ scalpels created the slits in the shirt. (p. 312. He cites the doctors, but I suspect he really means the nurses.) I have seen the shirt at NARA; that scalpels caused these slits seems obvious. But Thomas concludes that, despite its small size, the throat wound was an exit wound. He does so based on (1) the non-frangibility of a metal-jacketed bullet (e.g., the M-C bullet) and (2) the buttressing of the skin while supported by the collar (see Lattimer’s experiments). However, for multiple reasons this argument stretches credulity beyond reason. I suspect that Thomas is merely trying here to build his case for the SBT (single bullet theory).
Regarding the throat wound I would add the following. WC loyalists like to cite medical articles that ER personnel cannot reliably distinguish entry from exit wounds. Even if true, though, that comment obfuscates the situation here. To the contrary, in this particular case several facts supersede those medical reports: (1) such a tiny exit wound could not be duplicated in experiments by Olivier and Dziemian at the Edgewood Arsenal (see Inside the ARRB 2009, Douglas Horne, Volume IV, p. 1083 and Michael Kurtz, The Assassination Debates 2006, p. 35); and Milton Helpern--who had done 60,000 autopsies--said that, under similar conditions, he had never seen an exit wound that was so small. Where Death Delights, 1967, Marshall Houts). The reader should also view the goatskin tests by Army Wound Ballistics experts (Galanor 1998, Document 3). In addition, note that the pertinent eyewitnesses actually recalled the wound as lying above the tie and above the shirt collar; if so, then Lattimer’s buttressing notions are quite irrelevant.
Then there is the question of the magic bullet, which Thomas does not accept as authentic (although the HSCA did). As Thomas summarizes, its provenance has been extensively investigated by Josiah Thompson, with recent assistance from Gary Aguilar. In the face of the persistent refusal of the relevant witnesses to identify this bullet, most likely it would never have been admitted at trial—and that alone would thoroughly devastate any magic bullet case. (Curiously, David Wrone has made a similar argument against the chain of custody for the Zapruder film; see Assassination Science, 1998, p. 265. Wrone claims that a good lawyer could have kept the film out of the courtroom.) A final telling blow against the magic bullet derives from the NPIC (National Photographic Interpretation Center): before political leverage was exerted, their scenario actually included a frontal throat shot!
I turn next to Thomas’s claim that the SBT is still alive and that this bullet entered JFK’s back, traveled anatomically upward (despite flying downward from the 6th floor of the TSBD), exited JFK’s throat and then struck JBC. This should be just a matter of human anatomy, but the problem is in precisely identifying the entry and exit sites. Thomas admits that this is a challenge (especially to achieve the final upward trajectory), but he hangs his case on these items: (1) JFK was tilted far forward when struck and (2) JFK’s arms were up at that moment. In my opinion, these items cannot save the day. The first problem is the actual level of the back wound—serious disagreement persists here. Thomas even admits that the medical evidence is ambiguous. That alone should cause him to hesitate. Burkley’s death certificate places the back wound at T3 (Galanor 1998, Document 8). Ebersole, in his conversation with me, placed it at T4. The single specialty in which knowledge of internal anatomy must correlate precisely with external anatomy is radiation oncology—that was Ebersole’s specialty (and it is my own, too). The bullet hole in the shirt and coat are nearly at the same level as one another; the hole in the coat lies eight centimeters inferior to the horizontal shoulder seam in the shirt. It also lies three centimeters inferior to the top of the scapula. (I measured these distances on a male model at NARA; also see Galanor 1998, Document 6.) For additional evidence supporting such a low back wound, see Assassination Science, pp. 110-111. Then there is Diana Bowron, a Parkland ER nurse, who saw the back wound and described it as far too low for the SBT; see her notation on the autopsy photo (Killing the Truth 1993, Harrison Livingstone, p. 368; or Horne 2009, Vol. 4, pp. 1070-1072). Also see the photo of the hole in JFK’s coat (Thomas, p. 227).
On the other hand, both the autopsy photo (Galanor 1998, Document 12) and the autopsy diagram (the descriptive sheet—see Galanor 1998, Document 5) place the wound much higher, close to the level of T1 or T2. While before the ARRB, when shown the autopsy photo, Boswell chose T2. Now to give Thomas a fighting chance to make his case for the SBT, I shall adopt the higher level of T1 for this discussion. But where did the bullet exit? While before the WC, Charles Carrico (a surgeon, who saw the wound at Parkland) clearly implied that the wound was above the necktie and above the shirt collar (p. 236). Bowron also reported seeing this wound before JFK was undressed (Horne 2009, Vol. 4, p. 1079)—but she could not have seen it unless it had been above the tie. Thomas, on the other hand, has chosen not to believe either of these witnesses. On the contrary, he states: “the bullet passed below the necktie.” The autopsy describes the wound at the level of 3rd or 4th tracheal ring. However, Lifton notes that Dr. Baxter, who was in the ER, described the incision at the 2nd ring (WC Vol. 6 p.42). Charles Crenshaw placed it at the 2nd or 3rd ring (Trauma Room One 2001, Charles A. Crenshaw, p. 62). If the bullet struck above the collar (as the witnesses and tracheal levels strongly suggest), then Lattimer’s experiment with the buttressed collar (p. 235) is totally irrelevant. However, giving Thomas his best chance again, we adopt C7 for the throat wound (Thomas likes this). A bullet traveling forward from the level of T1 to C7 (see Galanor 1998, Document 13) must travel upward (with respect to JFK’s body). Given a shot from the TSBD, is this truly feasible? JFK’s elevated arms do nothing useful to change to position of C7 with respect to T1. And was JFK really that far forward? Thomas merely states that JFK was leaning forward at Z-224, the supposed critical frame. However, and somewhat astonishingly, he offers no quantitative analysis at this point. Despite this, though, he concludes that a bullet struck the back and exited the throat. In summary, it would seem that Thomas’s zeal to protect the SBT suppresses a full recognition of the desperate paradoxes here. The reader should also recall that we have chosen only the most favorable evidence for the SBT, i.e., C7 for the throat site (it was likely higher) and T1 for the back site (it was likely much lower).
While before the ARRB, Frank O’Neill, one of the two FBI agents at the autopsy, openly scoffed at the SBT. He had seen for himself the level of the throat wound (the incision for the tracheotomy) and the level of the back wound, so he knew what he was talking about. He also ridiculed Boswell for later (verbally) elevating the back wound noticeably higher than Boswell’s own autopsy diagram had shown.
But that is not even the last of the problems for the SBT—we have not yet considered the anatomic conundrums in the horizontal plane. Although Thomas cites (p. 237) my CT scan of an adult male (Galanor 1998, Document 45), he seems not to recognize its full import, or if he does, he evades it. This scan clearly demonstrates that a bullet entry at 5 cm to the right of the midline (in the back) and an exit near the midline of the throat must either (1) demolish bone--which was not seen on the autopsy X-rays or (2) transit some lung tissue, thus producing a pneumothorax (also not seen at the autopsy by the pathologists nor visible now on the autopsy X-rays).
Thomas also cites the abrasion collar seen in the back wound, which implied that the projectile was traveling upward (with respect to the body). However, such an abrasion could also have resulted from any projectile (e.g., a bullet fragment or even flying debris) that bounced up from the street. In my opinion (see discussion below) it was more likely a bullet fragment, rather than an intact bullet. In any case, though, the HSCA pathologists (p. 440) concluded that the (intact bullet) trajectory was anatomically upward, which seems absurd for a downward bullet trajectory from the TSBD.
Even though Thomas admits that the autopsy report was later altered (p. 230), he concludes this section by claiming, somewhat paradoxically, that there is no compelling reason to believe that the available evidence has been altered! Although he does not explicitly list his cited “available” evidence, he must mean the level of the back wound—after all, evidence for its location is all over the back. (Also recall that Gerald Ford decided to play pathologist and elevate the back wound into the lower neck—some powerful motive was surely at play here.) The wildly inconsistent level of the back wound alone leaves the door open to possible alteration of the autopsy photo. On other grounds, I am suspicious that at least one autopsy photo has been altered, but with so much other evidence tampering (as Thomas himself often notes), why must he slam the door so tightly closed against just one more example of this? I have addressed these issues of tampering in the autopsy x-rays and photos (see my Dallas lecture). These questions of deception should be decided purely by the evidence—preconceptions will not avail here.
Finally, there is lots of evidence that the back wound, although one of entry, did not penetrate (p. 231), and therefore cannot be consistent with the SBT. For starters, Humes initially reported that a bullet fell out of this wound via cardiac compression and did not penetrate. JAMA (January 4, 1964) reported that the first bullet struck the upper right shoulder, but then fell out of the back (see Thomas’s long quotation on p. 228). Thomas even notes that someone at JAMA, in order to report this, must have had access to first hand information from the autopsy. That also seems likely to me. Furthermore, in an early WC transcript (January 27, 1964), J. Lee Rankin read from a document (presumably the contemporaneous autopsy report) that a fragment had exited the front of the neck—this was obviously no intact bullet transit. The entire paragraph (Rankin’s quote) is as follows:
We have an explanation there in the autopsy that probably a fragment came out the front of the neck, but with the elevation the shot must have come from, and the angle, it seems quite apparent now, since we have the picture of where the bullet entered in the back, that the bullet entered below [emphasis added] the shoulder blade to the right of the backbone, which is below the place where the picture shows the bullet came out in the neckband of the shirt in front, and the bullet, according to the autopsy didn’t strike any bone at all, that particular bullet, and go through. (Whitewash IV: Top Secret JFK Assassination Transcript 1974, Harold Weisberg, p. 102.)
Directly contrary to the above statement, it cannot escape the reader’s attention that the autopsy photo shows the back wound above the shoulder blade. To clarify whether or not the commissioners actually possessed autopsy photos, we have this dialogue between John McCloy and J. Lee Rankin during a WC executive session (January 27, 1964):
Mr. McCloy: ...They talk about the colored photographs of the President’s body—do we have those?
Mr. Rankin: Yes, it is part of it, a small part of it.
Mr. McCloy: Are they here?
Mr. Rankin: Yes.
(Whitewash IV: Top Secret JFK Assassination Transcript 1974, Harold Weisberg, p. 133.)
In short, the case for the SBT is highly tenuous and plainly inconsistent with a wide array of data. To traumatize Thomas’s case for the SBT even more, though, just note that he does not even attempt a rigorous defense of the SBT, nor does he attempt any quantitative analysis of the 3D paradoxes. That he is capable of such an analytic approach, however, can readily be seen in his Chapter 12.
A few corrections are in order for the footnotes. Footnote 12: Crenshaw did not settle with the AMA for $300,000; it was $213,000. Footnote 39: The recorded interview with John Ebersole, the autopsy radiologist, was not by Gary Aguilar, but rather by me. I keep a copy of this tape safely in a top drawer in my desk; NARA has the original. I also transcribed that interview for Murder in Dealey Plaza 2000, edited by Jim Fetzer (p. 433). My CT scan (cited by Thomas) also appears in that book.
My Summary. A frontal projectile that did not exit (perhaps a shard of glass) might have caused the neck wound. The superficial back wound was probably caused by a bullet fragment (or piece of debris) that bounced up from the street.
Thomas wonders why anyone would suggest that the photographs are fakes when they do not support the WC. To this, I would answer: Whoever said that the WC cared about consistency? Ultimately, though, the evidence must speak for itself; preconceptions about the WC are irrelevant. None of the Parkland doctors recognized the photo of the back of the head—not one of them! Even the medical assistants at the autopsy did not recognize these photos (William Law, In the Eye of History, 2003—see my Foreword), nor did the FBI agents at the autopsy (see their ARRB transcripts). I saw JFK’s floating posterior scalp via stereo viewing at NARA, no matter how I viewed these photos (of that particular view), that can only mean photo tampering. However, this effect was seen solely in this view of the posterior scalp, but in no other autopsy photos. Furthermore, we should not really care in advance whether the photo supports one theory or another, but only whether it is accurate. Surely the back of the head cannot represent reality. The photographer was supposedly John Stringer, highly respected among his peers and a multiple award winner. Furthermore, he (initially) confirmed that the large skull defect (hole) was at the right rear, a conclusion that even Thomas apparently endorses. There is something very wrong with that photo of the posterior scalp. At the very minimum, it is highly misleading—surely not consistent with Stringer’s well-documented skills.
Thomas enthuses over Dr. Lawrence Angel’s reconstruction of the skull (p. 251), especially his placement of the Harper fragment (see my Figures 2 – 4 here).
|Figure 2. Angel’s placement of the Harper fragment (in blue). The delta fragment here (in red) lies anterior to the coronal suture. I borrowed this colored sketch from John Hunt; the uncolored version was published by the HSCA.|
|Figure 3. Harper fragment photos from the Dallas pathologists. The outer surface is on the left: note the faint lead smudge (arrow) at the upper left, on the very edge. The inner surface is on the right.|
|Figure 4. X-ray of the Harper fragment. Note metallic debris, circled on the left, and shown enlarged on the right. This is the same site as the lead-like smudge that is identified on the photograph in my Figure 3—just rotate either photo by 180º for easier comparison. John Hunt is acknowledged (and thanked) as the source for this X-ray, which he discovered at NARA.|
But there are serious problems with this. First, Angel was not told that there was a hole in the occipital bone (a hole that Thomas apparently accepts), so Angel’s options were severely constrained, especially after he named the large delta fragment as frontal bone (I agree with this latter placement). Second, Angel did not see the X-ray of the Harper fragment, which was not discovered until much later. Even worse though, Thomas does not even cite this X-ray, which was discovered at NARA by John Hunt. (Another correction is in order here: John Hunt is not a doctor, but rather a baccalaureate graduate.) It turns out to be an absolutely critical clue. The X-ray (my Figure 4 here) shows metallic like debris just where an (apparent) lead smudge is seen in the photograph. The Dallas pathologists (not the Parkland MDs) who examined this bone also described this smudge as lead-like. (I spoke to one of them myself.) Now here is the point about Angel’s reconstruction (seen in my Figure 2 here): in his sketch, the lead smudge on the Harper fragment would lie near the skull vertex, just left of the sagittal suture. (Angel clearly states that the sagittal suture is visible on the Harper fragment which is also consistent with his sketch.p. 250) But here is the bad news for Angel: the smudge does not match anyone’s entrance or exit point. Perhaps even worse though is this: Angel’s placement requires that the lead smudge be on the outside of the fragment, which implies a bullet entry near the skull vertex! What Angel would have said had he known about the occipital defect and/or if he had seen the Harper X-ray, we will never know. More to the point, when I performed my own reconstruction, using a real skull X-ray (the only such attempt ever made, to my knowledge, under fluoroscopic guidance), the Harper fragment ended up mostly in the occipital area (see my Figure 5 here).
|Figure 5. This is my reconstruction of JFK's posterior skull, showing the Harper fragment (H), McClelland's bone flap (McC), and bone islands C and D. The 6.5 mm "metal" object (blackened here) lies on the small bone island inferior to the letter D (at the oblique arrow). Also see Fetzer 2000, p. 227, or my Dallas lecture, slide 21. Based on a high quality color photo of the Harper fragment, I had earlier placed the lead smudge at the site indicated here by L. I would still do so now, just based on that photo. However, the X-ray places it instead at the site indicated by the horizontal red arrow. The photo also shows an apparent smudge consistent with the X-ray site, but it is not as marked as at site L (on the photo). If one site must be chosen, then the X-ray should serve as the final arbiter. In that case, two sites of shrapnel must lie very close together, i.e., the one on the Harper fragment and the tiny one on the lateral skull X-ray (at the rear). The latter one correlates with the 6.5 mm object seen on the AP X-ray.|
Even after a great deal of arm twisting by the HSCA (which favored a site 10 cm higher), the pathologists stubbornly clung to their EOP entry site. They also identified a hole in the scalp that perfectly overlapped the entry site in the bone. This distinctly contradicts Thomas, who states that the scalp hole matched the upper wound (see Figure 8.10 by Thomas). No pathologist ever said that—and only the pathologists could possibly have made the correct correlation. On the contrary, they have always consistently cited the much lower EOP entry.
Thomas claims that some researchers (no buffs here) have interpreted photo #44 (also known as F8) as a posterior view of the skull. Surely he means me (Murder in Dealey Plaza, 2000, p. 293), from which my Figure 6 (here) has been taken. (For more illustrative details, see my Dallas lecture, slide 22.)
|Figure 6. In my interpretation, this is the posterior skull: photo F8 (alternately #16, #17 in b&w, or #44, #45 in color). The arrow identifies the EOP entry wound that Humes selected while before the ARRB. His identification strongly implies that this indeed is a posterior view.|
It is strange that Thomas should be so certain that this is not a posterior view, despite never viewing this photo at NARA. I have not only done so, but have viewed it repeatedly in stereo. The upper left hand corner cannot be appreciated in reproductions, but it is highly relevant. In that corner, part of the abdomen is visible: the subcutaneous fat is seen folded out (as it was during the autopsy) and even a nipple is visible. Until the recent review by the ARRB, I was the only observer to note these features. Now, however, I am not alone: one of the ARRB experts, Robert Kirschner (a forensic pathologist, no less), saw the same anatomy in this corner of the photo. (See my Dallas lecture, slide 58.) Those specific anatomic landmarks in that corner can mean only one thing: this is a posterior view of the skull. But there is more. When this photo was originally catalogued (during the “military review” by the autopsy personnel on November 1, 1966), they actually described it as a posterior view. Furthermore, when the ARRB asked Humes to identify the posterior skull bullet entry, he identified a site (see my Figure 6 above) that unequivocally proves that he—perhaps subconsciously—interpreted this photo as a posterior view. My correlation of several bone fragments based on (1) the photos—as viewed in stereo, (2) the X-rays, and (3) Boswell’s diagram is totally self-consistent. Such consistency can mean only one thing: this is the posterior skull (see my Figure 5 here and my discussion in Fetzer 2000, pp. 292-295). This latter discussion places the Harper fragment mostly in the occiput. It is also noteworthy that Thomas does not even attempt a similar correlation of the X-rays, photographs, and the autopsy descriptive sheet—as my analysis does. The reader might also profit from a review of John Hunt’s reconstruction, as it includes useful critiques of the HSCA. (Google “A Demonstrable Impossibility.” )
Thomas argues against the pathologists’ EOP entry by citing the trauma in the brain photos. This is, however, a step into a deep morass. Horne has extensively documented the case for a surrogate brain (see Fetzer 2000, p. 299). My Optical Densitometry data add even more power to Horne’s argument. ( See Assassination Science, pp. 120-137 and 153-158), and “Paradoxes of the JFK Assassination: the Brain Enigma,” by Cyril Wecht and me, in The Assassinations 2003, edited by Jim DiEugenio and Lisa Pease .) The lateral X-rays (the OD measurements, especially) clearly imply virtually no brain on either the left or right side in that large dark area at the front. Paradoxically, though, the brain photos show nearly intact brain in the entire frontal region (on both left and right sides). Something is radically wrong here—either the X-rays are inaccurate or the brain photographs are inaccurate (both cannot be correct). But Thomas does not even recognize this profound paradox. Furthermore, the supposed photographer, John Stringer, denies taking this brain photo, which means that it is an orphan—no one has claimed it. To base any case whatsoever on such frail evidence, as Thomas does, can only be fraught with serious risk.
But Thomas next leaps to an even more controversial conclusion: a metal fragment on the posterior skull caused the severe and numerous fracture patterns seen on the X-rays. (Thomas and Angel call this “The Radiopaque Lump”—see my Figure 7 below.) By taking this step Thomas has become a true iconoclast—no expert has ever made such a proposal. But the real problem lies on the lateral skull X-ray: here there is only a very tiny metal fragment, far too small to cause such skeletal trauma (see my Figure 8). The problem is that Thomas has based his case on only the AP skull X-ray, where the 6.5 mm metallic object (within the right orbit on my Figure 7) dominates the image. The two supposedly sequential skull X-rays (AP and lateral) are so radically inconsistent with one another that a profound paradox ensues. To date, despite innumerable experts (including those employed by the ARRB), no one has solved this deep mystery, unless, of course, my proposal of subsequent X-ray alteration in the darkroom is accepted (see my Dallas lecture or Assassination Science, 1998, pp. 120-137).
|Figure 7. The AP skull X-ray. Note the 6.5 "metal" object within the upper right orbit (vertical red arrow). The elongated fragment (7 x 2 mm), lying above and slightly to the viewers’ left of the first one (horizontal red arrow), was authentic and was removed by Humes. The trail of debris (oblique blue arrow), in turn, lies above this, at the very top of the skull. The single tiny piece of shrapnel in the left scalp is indicated by the horizontal blue arrow.|
|Figure 8. The right lateral skull X-ray. Note the faintly visible, tiny metal fragment at the far rear (oblique blue arrow), just inferior to the discontinuity (fracture). This fragment correlates with the 6.5 mm object seen on the AP X-ray. The 7x2 mm fragment, removed by Humes, is at the very front (horizontal red arrow). The single tiny piece of shrapnel in the left scalp is indicated by the horizontal blue arrow.|
Thomas accuses Humes and friends of dissembling about this queer 6.5 mm object (as seen on the AP X-ray). He thinks they actually saw it, which of course they have always denied. All three of them—independently—denied this before the ARRB. And when I asked Ebersole (from my own specialty) about it, he immediately and forever stopped talking about the assassination (listen to my tape of our conversation at NARA). Even worse, though, many bystanders saw those X-rays at the autopsy and not one of them reported this strange 6.5 mm object, despite the fact that such large metallic objects were the sole point of taking X-rays that night. The real problem with this forgery though is that the 6.5 mm object is so radically inconsistent on the two X-ray views. The optical density data clearly demonstrate this. Even the experts for the ARRB strongly emphasized this point. (Regarding these experts, see my Dallas lecture, slides 38-40.) The FBI agents, too, are consistent with my view: they locate the largest piece of metal at the front of the skull (and add that Humes removed it). While the next largest lay at the rear (the tiny one seen on the lateral X-ray). I agree with this FBI report. Thomas thinks these two FBI men locate the largest fragment at the rear, but that is a gross misunderstanding. Furthermore, when interviewed by the ARRB, these men did not recall anything like the 6.5 mm “metal fragment” on the AP X-ray. Finally, there is the clinching statement by Larry Sturdivan, the HSCA ballistics expert: despite seeing nearly 20,000 cases of gunshot trauma, he had never seen anything like this. He does not believe that the 6.5 mm object represents a piece of metal. I agree—it’s not a piece of metal. In fact, it is quite irrelevant to the Dealey Plaza crime scene. (It is, however, relevant to the crime scene—of illegal alteration—that later occurred in the darkroom.) Sturdivan believes that this curious object was an accidental artifact. I disagree—it is a deliberate artifact, placed at a most incredible, but pertinent, location.
The trail of metallic-like debris across the top of the skull X-rays warrants some comment. Thomas notes that this is consistent with a shot from the front. I agree. He also emphasizes that it is not consistent with a shot from the EOP. I agree again. But that is not the end of the matter. The 6.5 mm object that so dominates the AP X-ray is not on that main trail of debris. Thomas agrees with this off-trail location (p. 268, Figure 8.8), but then adds that this site (for the 6.5 mm object) matches the puncture wound in the right temple. I found these comments confusing: Thomas believes in only one headshot; therefore, in his interpretation, shouldn’t all the debris (except for shrapnel) lie on just one trail? Exactly how does he distinguish between the main trail of bullet debris and a right temple entry, or does he consider them identical? I could not be certain. Moreover, that off-trail location for the 6.5 mm object is anything but trivial. Thomas might reply that the 6.5 mm object is merely shrapnel, but there are two problems with that: (1) the lateral X-ray is inconsistent with the AP—the lateral shows only a faintly visible fragment at the corresponding site, and (2) Thomas has just associated this 6.5 mm object with a right temple entry, so the 6.5 mm object can’t also be shrapnel. And that’s where the matter rests.
Furthermore, where did that 7x2 mm fragment come from (the one that Humes removed)? It is also well off the main trail. I cannot be certain, but one possibility is that it derived from the posterior EOP shot, the one cited by the pathologists. Of course, that would promptly mean two head shots. See Horne (2009, pp. 1147-1155) for a thorough discussion of multiple head shots. (Click here for my review of Horne’s book, as well as my discussion of multiple headshots.)
Then there is another problem: although the experts have been rather quiet about this, there are, in fact, multiple tiny metal fragments scattered widely over the skull X-rays (on both views). There are also multiple, tiny fragments immediately below—and even inside (!)—the 6.5 mm object (see my Dallas lecture, slide 33). The most obvious extraneous fragment is high on the left side of the skull, lying within the scalp. This is visible on virtually every reproduction I have seen. It is even faintly visible in Thomas’s low resolution image; it is readily seen in my Figures 7 and 8 here. As viewed at NARA, this tiny object certainly looks like metal; it is visible, and spatially consistent, on all three skull X-rays at NARA, so it is hardly an artifact. It must be shrapnel. The small piece at the rear (cited by the FBI and visible on the lateral X-ray; see the blue arrow in my Figure 8) must also represent shrapnel; that would imply a strike from the rear. Note that this is well off the main trail of debris. Thomas is therefore at least partly right: there was a piece of shrapnel at the back of the skull—but it was tiny, far too small to cause skull fractures. (See my Dallas lecture, slide 25.) So now the key question is this: Was the back wound also caused by shrapnel? Although I cannot prove this, all of the evidence, including Humes’s inability to find a trail through the tissue there, is totally consistent with this interpretation. If so, the SBT is dead. Unfortunately, this possibility (of shrapnel to the back) is not even considered by Thomas, and that is a great loss.
Thomas quotes Vincent DiMaio as saying that the trail of debris does not fit with a full metal jacketed bullet, but rather fits with a high velocity hunting bullet. But no one considers a mercury bullet, which I have discussed elsewhere (see my Figure 9).
|Figure 9. Close-up of the bullet trail on the right lateral skull X-ray. Most fragments have very fuzzy borders, as mercury droplets might|
I cannot say with certainty that it was a mercury bullet, but I can confirm that the borders of the fragments (as viewed at NARA) in the so-called trail are remarkably fuzzy. That stands in stark contrast to the metal fragments that were removed and are known to be metal (lead); by contrast, their borders on the X-ray film are sharply defined. I have repeatedly observed this distinction at NARA. In an odd coincidence that I have previously noted, such devastating mercury bullets were described—in 1963— in The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth.
James Sibert (whom I have met) and Frank O’Neill (spelled “O’Neil” by Thomas) heard Humes’s comment about surgery to the top of the skull. When interviewed again about this before the ARRB, both men adamantly refused to change their story. Thomas apparently does not believe them, but it should be noted that James Jenkins, whom I find highly credible (and whom I have met), also heard this same phrase spoken by Humes during the autopsy (Horne 2009, Volume IV, pp. 1036, 1038). Horne spends several pages addressing this significant issue, a discussion that Thomas omits.
Thomas apparently believes that the “red spot” seen in the posterior head photo was the site of a shrapnel landing. Of course, the pathologists all insisted that there had been no damage of any kind there. In fact, on some NARA photos (especially the black and white set), I saw hair growing directly out of this site. Thomas also insists that the scalp must have been cleaned up before this photo. On the other hand, the ARRB (including Horne) repeatedly quizzed autopsy personnel about this very issue: every one of them denied that any cleaning had been done before these photos were taken, so the source of Thomas’s conclusion is a mystery.
I close this chapter with another major issue. Thomas proposes that a right frontal head shot (the entry I agree with), exited through the right occiput (which implies that there was a large hole in the right occiput). There are several serious problems with this:
(1) the trail of debris is far above this exit site, so why is the exit so low?
(2) The lateral deflection for a GK shot must be astonishingly large for this occipital exit site.
After all, the gunman is quite far to the side: Thomas cites the angle as 60º (p. 372, footnote 68). However, the specific illustrative figure cited in this footnote (Figure 16.9) does not appear in the book—in fact, there are no figures in Chapter 16 after Figure 16.6. But the central question is this: How can such a large deflection occur, merely by striking a skull? Thomas offers only one citation for this: a German publication from 1971 (that he introduces in a later chapter—and which I discuss below). On the other hand, Cyril Wecht was specifically asked about this proposed huge deflection by Bugliosi. And here is the clincher: Wecht clearly denied that such a large deflection was possible—and Cyril is the summa cum laude of forensic pathologists.
My Summary. It is extremely hard to attribute JFK’s head trauma to a single bullet. A mercury bullet may have struck from the front. The GK shot, if any, missed.
Resources for this Review:
|Medical Evidence Panel NID98-12 Stewart Galanor: History of the Moving Head Wounds
Doug Horne, The Medical Depositions
David Mantik: JFK Medical Evidence
NID98-13 David Lifton: 2 Entries, 2 Caskets
Russell Kent: John Connally
Brad Parker & William Law: Key Commentators
NID98-14 The Bethesda Witnesses: Paul O'Connor & Dennis David with William Law
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Enemy of the Truth: Myths, Forensics
and the Kennedy Assassination
by Sherry G. Fiester
Forensics can be a complicated subject, yet Fiester provides the reader with easily understood, accurate, information. Enemy of the Truth: Myths, Forensics and the Kennedy Assassination is so comprehensive in its approach, this work should be used in the instruction of all new crime scene investigators nationwide. William LeBlanc, CFCSI