Solving Kennedy’s Murder: A Modest Proposal for Progress

November 28, 2013

Boardman does a disservice both by suggesting that there is no hard or conclusive evidence of a second shooter in Dallas in the assassination of JFK (all ballistics, forensic, medical, autopsy records, eyewitness, photographic and other evidence collected and revealed over the last 50 years has proven nothing else), and that the issue can be reduced to this question alone, he does point to one possible route among many that could shed light on the ballistics conclusion – removing the fragments of bullet still inside the body of Governor Connally for examination. The fragments already removed not only do not match the bullets allegedly fired by Oswald and his alleged murder weapon, but they weigh more than the metal missing from the almost pristine “Magic Bullet” CE 399. We have passed his “threshold question” long ago, it is not a mystery nor unsolved.

Solving Kennedy’s Murder: A Modest Proposal for Progress
By William Boardman
Reader Supported News
26 November 13

There’s no answer to the threshold question after fifty years

or all the words that explain, mystify, speculate on, confuse, analyze, or obscure the reality of the Kennedy assassination, there are none that advance our understanding reliably past the threshold question of whether there was more than one shooter in Dealey Plaza that day in 1963. As historian and private detective Josiah Thompson, author of the out-of-print “Six Seconds In Dallas,” puts it:

“There is, and only ever has been – it seems to me – one threshold question. The only question in the case from the very beginning, was somebody shooting from up there, up front, up to the right front, up there in the knoll area? Was somebody shooting from up there? If shots came from more than one direction, then there is no doubt in my mind, there was a conspiracy. It’s been that simple since back in the sixties, and it’s still there. If that can’t be known … then this case is going to go into history exactly the way it is now, which is a real mess!”

Thompson’s comment is part of a recent 17-minute documentary by Erroll Morris, “November 22, 1963,” on the New York Times Op-Docs webpage, but this is not an investigation that answers the threshold question any better than anyone else has, which is to say with any reasonable factual certainty. This short film leaves the viewer to wonder if the threshold question will ever be answered.

That’s rather disingenuous on the part of the Times, Morris, and Thompson as it turns out, since Thompson’s new book, “Last Second in Dallas,” unambiguously concludes that there was a second shooter, who was on the grassy knoll. [“Last Second in Dallas” is not yet available, apparently, but “Six Seconds” is for sale on Amazon for $446 used or $529 new.]

Is there any hard evidence to confirm the circumstantial evidence?

Thompson’s analysis is based on “self-validating” photographic evidence, including the Zapruder film as well as movies and stills taken by some two dozen people in Dealey Plaza at the time. But there is not, as yet, any known, definitive photographic record of any second shooter.

An argument might be made that there is a known, definitive record of the so-called Umbrella Man, which is true, but the record only demonstrates his existence, to the right front of the motorcade, not that he was (or was not) a shooter. The possibility that he was a shooter is tantalizing – he was standing next to the roadway only a few feet from the spot where Kennedy was shot. He was standing with an open umbrella on a sunny day, in a position behind a highway sign that screened him from view to the oncoming motorcade till it was almost beside him. He holds the umbrella in an ordinary way at first, then raises it high above his head as the President comes into range. For him to have been a shooter, the umbrella would likely have been his weapon, and there is apparently no evidence as to the actual nature of his umbrella. [Thompson has scoffed somewhat superciliously at Umbrella Man as a shooter; others have embraced the idea, without showing that a working umbrella weapon was available in 1963.]

The Umbrella Man is a diversion from the threshold question, being only a candidate for another shooter, not proof that there was one. There are not many likely places where one could find such conclusive evidence, but one of them is the second shooting victim of November 22, former Texas governor John B. Connally, who died on June 15, 1993, at the age of 76, with his body still carrying bullet fragments and scars on his back, chest, wrist and thigh from the Dallas shooting.

In a presidential assassination, is the nation not entitled to the best evidence?

There is no doubt that any bullet fragments remaining in Connally’s body represent highly relevant forensic evidence that has been denied to all investigators for half a century. There is no way to know what that evidence would show, but it’s possible it could provide ballistic proof of a second shooter. At a minimum there are numerous bullet fragments in Connally. One unconfirmed (and unlikely) report has it that Connally’s body contains bullet fragments estimated to weigh more than the remains of the three bullets already in evidence. There has long been circumstantial evidence that Connally was hit by bullets shot from two different guns.

In Connally’s obituary, the L.A. Times reported erroneously that “Connally always went along with the Warren Commission finding that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin, working alone.” While that may be technically correct – that Connally “went along” with the official story – it evades the reality that Connally consistently said he heard the first shot and was hit by the second. If Connally’s clear recollection is correct, then the so-called “Magic Bullet Theory” falls apart and the Warren Commission is left with no basis for concluding that Oswald was the only shooter.

While it is not clear why Connally withheld the evidence in his body while he was alive, the Connally family explicitly refused to let the FBI retrieve the evidence after Connally died. Arguably, this is an obstruction of justice, withholding evidence, that continues after more than fifty years. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has now put Connally’s bloodied and bullet-riddled clothes from November 22 on public display in Austin, for the first time ever in October 2013. Connally’s widow, Nelly, who died in 2006, was in the car with her husband and the president and first lady. She had the clothes cleaned before donating them to the Commission.

Exhumation in criminal cases has ample precedent

At the time of Connally’s death and burial in 1993, both independent researchers and the FBI sought access to Connally’s body to retrieve whatever bullet fragments they could find. The request to the Connally family was handled with abysmal care, including an FBI Dallas office effort to reach the family while the funeral service was in progress. The suspicious observor might say that that’s just how the government would behave if it wanted the request rejected. As the New York Times reported it at the time:

“Mr. Connally’s family said through a spokesman today that most, and probably all, bullet fragments that had lodged in him were removed soon after he was shot and that they clearly showed then, as various official inquiries have concluded, that they were from one of the two bullets that hit the President.

“‘Beyond that,’ said a statement issued by Julian O. Read, a friend of the family, Mr. Connally had been available for 30 years, before dying Tuesday here in Houston, ‘for any legitimate research request,’ and ‘in all that time no such request has been made by any responsible authority.’ The statement said the family would ‘resist vigorously any efforts to disturb the body of John Connally.’ ”

By implication, then, requests were made and denied, because they didn’t come from what Connally deemed “responsible authority.” Both Texas and Federal law require that either the family must agree or a court must issue an order before an exhumation may legally proceed. In 1993, a Justice Department spokeswoman asserted, falsely, that it had no authority to exhume Connally’s body without the family’s permission. The alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was exhumed in 1981 after a three-year legal fight, in an unsuccessful effort to prove an author’s contention that the man buried as Oswald was in fact a Russian agent.

As the old saying has it, “you can’t take it with you.” But in this case, Connally has taken it with him, and what it is, perhaps, is evidence that might resolve one of the more vexing mysteries in American history. The Connally family’s response in 1993, while understandable in human terms, also raises ambiguities about the evidence. The family’s statement asserts that the fragments in Connally “were from one of the two bullets that hit the President.” But that’s not good for the official story, which holds together only if the first shot hitting Kennedy also hit Connally. The family offered no evidence in support of its statement.

The questions about the bullet fragments in Connally’s body are a mystery for only one reason: investigators have had no access to them. We know where the evidence is, we know how to secure it, we know its potential to solve a mystery that the nation needs solved. It’s long past time for some responsible authority to act in the public interest.

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