Renowned forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht says it took five bullets that November day in Dallas, a point that brazenly flies in the face of the Warren Commission’s findings that have dominated since President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination.
Wecht uses careful logic, built on years of hands-on experience in medicine, law and military knowledge. The 82-year-old — the go-to medical examiner in high-profile cases involving celebrities and globally-publicized deaths — ably challenges the Single Magic Bullet Theory, one of America’s strangest chapters yet.
His October visit to Royal Oak’s Oakland Community College campus delved deeply into the JFK assassination, including a re-enactment of the bullet’s alleged path. It was punctuated with refreshing honesty, undeniable common sense and his recurring description for how the government got away with murder: Chutzpah.
“The circumstances of this case and subsequent investigation are so beyond rational belief that no intelligent person could ever buy the explanation of the Commission,” he said. “And, it’s not likely that the truth will be revealed for probably another one to two generations.”
It was Wecht — the first civilian ever given permission to examine the Kennedy assassination evidence — who first discovered that JFK’s brain, and all related data in the killing, were missing in August, 1972.
“After I found that it was gone, they then told me that all materials, including the brain, pictures, slides and so on had been packed into a metal box and given as a ‘gift’ to Mrs. Jackie Kennedy in April, 1965,” said Wecht, with an indignant sniff. “And, I can guarantee you that if anyone bought that story in the first place, the very LAST person who would have wanted possession of those tragic components involving her husband’s gory death was Mrs. Kennedy!”
Having performed more than 18,000 autopsies and consulted on another 38,000 to date, Wecht is equally as knowledgeable on historical events and likely to discuss them freely. One week prior to his Detroit visit, Wecht joined film producer Oliver Stone (“JFK”), chief Parkland Memorial Hospital nurse Marjorie Bell and other witnesses or headliners on the Kennedy case, in a Pittsburgh panel discussion to discuss the historical implications of this case — and how media would likely handle the event today.
As a result, he maintains a healthy skepticism when the subject of government and even international intrigue is broached. He refers to that as "conspiracy realism."
“There is only one other American college that teaches a class on this assassination, the University of South Carolina, and every God******college in the country should be studying this,” he said. “Far too few people today even understand the significance of JFK’s killing. First, it involved a murder — and there is no statute of limitations on that. Second, it centered on the killing of a U.S. president. And, third? Third, the bottom line is we have some very bad underlying things in this country — like people in positions of power who continue to wreak havoc in our lives today.”
Wecht reflected on the adage, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
To that end, he blames the CIA’s role in the Kennedy killing and cover-up, including the agency’s established connection with the Mafia. The latter was brought in to handle the assassination clean-up, by having Jack Ruby (Rubenstein) shoot Oswald before he could reveal sufficient information that would’ve vindicated him.
In fact, in reviewing official and public opinion after Oswald's killing, most people felt he had been shot "to shut him up."
Still, why was it important that the CIA do away with Kennedy? Wecht has clear reasons as to why it happened.
“Kennedy was reviled for his handling of the Cold War with Russia, relations with China and Cuba, and what had been his recent interest in the Vietnam situation,” he said, “and he’d recently been 'suckered' into the Bay of Pigs, which put great fear into everyone at that time.”
The OCC class, devised and taught by OCC instructor and local attorney Ronald Burda, was first begun in 1993, when he successfully sold the college hierarchy on the importance of studying the killings of assorted American icons: JFK and his brother, Senator Robert Kennedy; Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
It has since been streamlined to focus on just JFK. In its annual course offering, there is a trial of for Lee Harvey Oswald, who is tried on the basis of today’s subsequent knowledge and obvious contradictions in documents and testimony.
“The class has gone through a transformation from its initial whodunit status,” Burda said. “Now, we study the why, what, and other facets. And, interestingly, only one class has ever convicted Oswald, although not as the lone assassin.”
Meanwhile, Wecht agrees it was necessary for Oswald to die before he could provide factual information to rock the government’s contentions.
“He was set up as a patsy — and Oswald was not the shooter,” he said. “There is also no record of questions being asked after the post-shooting paraffin test on him. That test failed to show gun powder residue. In holding a rifle to his cheek to shoot the weapon, residue would've clearly been present. There was none.”
Of note, says Wecht, is the poor marksmanship that characterized Oswald’s gun abilities and is incongruous with the accusations against him. Also, his — as well as any gunman’s — inability to get off any successive shots with the particularly cumbersome weapon used has never been acknowledged by the Warren Commission.
Pointing to ballistic proof, Wecht references subsequent practice shots made by that weapon into three targets: cotton batting, goat carcasses and human cadavers.
“That’s the only effort toward resolution that came from the Warren Commission,” he said. “It was also the only sign that somebody on the Commission had a sense of decency to get at the truth, because it proved that the so-called bullet said to have been retrieved from Kennedy — which was in pristine condition — could not possibly have caused the murder.”
When Kennedy ventured to Dallas on his re-election campaign tour in 1963, he knew he was venturing into dangerous territory, says Wecht. Although on the day of the assassination, the Kennedy motorcade seemed to be surrounded by cheering crowds and a receptive community, Adlai Stevenson had experienced problems when in the Texas city one week prior and warned Kennedy not to visit there.
Stevenson had been jostled and spat on, as well as witnessed handbills listing JFK as “wanted for treason.” Sentiment continued in that anti-Kennedy vein after the shooting, says Wecht, when Texas school kids burst into applause at the announcement of Kennedy’s death.
Wecht shared slides taken from the Abe Zapruder film, captured by the tourist that November day. The film is featured dominantly in the current Paul Giamatti film, “Parkland.” It clearly shows Kennedy was hit by at least two separate shots — one going through his throat that sends him clutching it as he falls forward. The second shot jerks his head backward, spraying blood and debris simultaneously as it removes the back of his skull. Jackie Kennedy subsequently attempts to retrieve that skull segment after climbing atop the limo’s trunk.
Later explanations that the backward head jerk was caused by the limo speeding up in escape fail to mention why the red spray occurred just as the head snaps back.
More problems with the Commission’s findings lie in the reports furnished after the killing by medical staff at Dallas’ Parkland Memorial Hospital, says Wecht. Inexperienced and totally inaccurate doctors, whose “findings” were used as expert medical opinion, were actually so far wrong that Wecht is personally miffed by it. Autopsy drawings and verbiage on the bullet wounds of Kennedy's head erroneously are off by a full 18 inches in those reports.
“And, it’s incredible that they got away with this,” he said. “Naval Commander James Humes was one of two doctors who provided half the autopsy note information that the findings were based on. He wrote his notes on the Friday of the assassination — then he BURNED them two days later, on Sunday, in the fireplace of his home. WHY — and who would do that?”
Wecht extends kudos to Oliver Stone for efforts to reveal factual info in his 1991 “JFK” film, which was met with ongoing derision months before its scheduled release.
“Oliver Stone deserves credit for showing a great amount of courage,” he said. “Despite the campaign to destroy his credibility and discredit his movie as mere conspiracy theory, the result of his tenacity instead led to the Congressional creation of the Assassination Records Review Board, or AARB. That then led to the declassification of JFK records from the shooting and more light being shed on the assassination.”
In yet another ironic moment, the night Wecht arrived in Detroit, news broadcasts led with stories of the Colorado grand jury’s indictment of John and Patsy Ramsey. Wecht, who was an important component in that investigation, was startled by the news that an indictment recommendation was actually made more than 15 years ago. It had never been acted on by authorities, however.
Wecht challenges others with knowledge of that 15-year-old secret propensity toward justice to step up now and see justice happen. He'd love to see the case solved in yet another bizarre mystery, one that hides truth behind a supposed stranger/intruder theory that makes no sense.
“I commend the reporter who filed a formal lawsuit to release the grand jury’s 15-year-old indictment story, and I commend the judge who had the courage to finally pursue this,” he said. “With that, the Ramseys, in essence, are being scrutinized through two identical counts each. That action revolves around their having placed their daughter, JonBenet, in the position of being a victim in this crime. When the murder and their initial battled occurred, few people were willing to cross them. The Ramseys used high-powered attorneys, ongoing protection and other measures meant to shield them, instead of working to reveal what happened to their daughter.”
Boulder County, Colo. District Attorney Alex Hunter, says Wecht, also had a terrible track record of convictions, instead, plea-bargaining 97 percent of all cases.
“He should’ve been a public defender or defense attorney, not a prosecutor,” said Wecht. “This was a disgrace, a travesty of justice, and it is highly deplorable that that indictment was not pursued when it was originally handed down. That grand jury got to know what the hell went on in its investigations and it needed, and still needs, to be pursued.”
Wecht, who says he was approached by media when the murder case originally broke recalls his initial reaction to seeing the six-year-old beauty pageant contestant’s image. Relentlessly pushed by her parents to take part in contests since even younger, JonBenet bore a strange physical appearance that he describes thus:
“It was surreal; I didn’t know if it was a dwarf or a girl, or what. She was covered in lipstick and hair and bizarre amounts of makeup and costumes far older than a child her age would wear."
In fact, he adds, the only thing that rivals this case for weirdness is the Casey Anthony trial for the murder of her two-year-old daughter, Caylee.
Wecht admits that both the Ramsey and Anthony cases were the most jarring he’s encountered in his long professional career, and are the ones that still haunt him.
“That Anthony jury (who acquitted her of killing Caylee) was strictly from Mars,” he said, fuming.
Wecht’s bent for truth has also led to some unfortunate backlash in his own career. He admits it has affected him personally, professionally and legally.
“I have paid for my input and opinions,” he said. “But even though you can see the military can be used to do the dirty work, the government today can’t order others around, especially top-notch civilians.”
Wecht encourages people to use common sense when dealing with events that don't "seem right." He says we need to seriously question with logic events and people, and that includes disapproval of modern government trends, such as spying on our allies.
“Think how you feel about things being done in a clandestine fashion when we should live in a system of justice,” he said.
When the History Channel interviewed him about the JFK assassination in 2012, he stated that in a survey of 2200 people, 85 percent do not believe the Warren Commission’s opinion.
“That makes us the vocal majority,” he said. “We need to say ‘screw you, man; I’m with the majority!’ And, the government needs to accept it and deal with it in an open fashion.”
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