Monday, August 12, 2013

Case for a New Autopsy

By William Kelly (

The victim was murdered, gunned down on the street in broad daylight in front of hundreds of witnesses.

The cause of death - a bullet to the head, was determined by an autopsy. But after that fact was clearly established, there is complete legal confusion - as the body was improperly removed from the state where the murder occurred before there was a proper forensic autopsy, as required by law. Rather than a proper forensic autopsy – which creates certified evidence that can be used in a court of law, a less thorough regular autopsy was performed, the purpose of which was to determine the cause of death - gunshot to the head.

But there were three different autopsy reports prepared, the doctors who conducted the autopsy did not talk about the wounds with the emergency room doctors who treated them, and there were two brain exams, one of a brain that was not that of the victim.

The photos, x-rays and reports of the autopsy could not be introduced as evidence in a court of law because the technicians who took the photos and x-rays could not identify them as the ones they created, so the provenance - the chain of evidence from the scene of the crime to the grave, is broken and lost, much like our history.

If the victim was an unknown bum found dead in a street gutter and his death was considered suspicious, his remains would be routinely exhumed and given a proper forensic autopsy - one that would produce photos, x-rays and reports that could be introduced as evidence in a court of law.

But justice has been thwarted in this case because the victim was the President of the United States named John F. Kennedy, and political forces have intervened to prevent a proper legal resolution of the case and keep the truth from being known.

The details of the original, botched autopsy are well known. When the doctors in the emergency room at Parkland Hospital in Dallas viewed the wounds within minutes after they were inflicted, they only examined the throat and head wounds. The throat wound they assumed, because of its small size, to be one of entrance, and it was enlarged to insert breathing tubes.

The head wound, as all the Parkland doctors agreed, was a large, grapefruit sized whole in the back of the head, indicating an exit wound, and a flap of bone and flesh on the side of the head above the ear exposed the brain. The large, gaping hole in the back of the President’s head was also confirmed by Secret Service agent Clint Hill, who twice viewed it and confirmed its existence.

Because the President was lying on his back on the hospital gurney,and the nature of the head wounds precluded his survival, the Parkland doctors didn’t turn him over and didn't know there was also an entrance wound in the back, about six inches below the neck.

They did however, find a nearly pristine bullet on a gurney that may have been used by to wheel the President or Texas Governor John Connally into the emergency room.

The autopsy doctors, when they discovered the entrance wound in the back, found that the bullet only penetrated a few inches, less than a finger, and the bullet probably fell out and was the one discovered on the gurney at Parkland. A four star military general ordered the doctors not to track the full extent of the back wound.

The next day the autopsy doctors were surprised to learn that the Parkland emergency doctors had enlarged an already existing throat wound – which they believed to be an entrance wound, so it was realized that, even though their conclusion as to the cause of death - gunshot to the head, was correct, the rest of their report was invalid as more information became available from witnesses at Parkland.

Eventually the official report on the assassination concluded that the back wound was not a superficial, two inch deep wound, but did in fact transit the victim and exited his throat, and then inflicted all of the wounds on Governor Connally in the jump seat in front of the President, creating the “Single Bullet Theory,” which is required if all of the wounds were by one gunman shooting from behind.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigated the murder in the late 1970s and in the 1990s the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) questioned the doctors, photographers and x-ray technicians. They testified that could not recognize their work, sometimes explaining that the photos in evidence could not have been the ones they took because they were of a different type of film and not from the angles of the photos they took.

In retrospect, everyone with any knowledge of the Bethesda Naval Hospital autopsy agrees that it was a medical and legal abortion, and all of the autopsy reports, exams, x-rays and photos have lost their chain of possession and the provenance necessary for them to be introduced into evidence in a court of law.

 Because the cause of death was a “gunshot to the head,” and therefore a murder, this case certainly meets the “suspicious death” threshold necessary for the law to require a new, proper forensic autopsy, one that would answer all outstanding questions and recreate the lost provenance of the chain of evidence in the case.

But since the victim is not an ordinary American citizen, but the President of the United States, the laws, rules and standards are considered different - and rather than give the President the best and most thorough autopsy he deserves, observance of the law is relegated to the feelings of the Kennedy family.

In a press release for the NOVA TV science program Cold Case JFK it is noted that, “Renowned JFK assassination expert and professor John McAdamas weighs in on the findings of the Warren Commission , the deficiencies of the medical and autopsy evidence, and the lack of understanding on the part of the Kennedy camp on the need for a forensic autopsy at the time..”

Indeed, a forensic autopsy is what is needed, and it is one that can and should be done today, in honor of the president on the fiftieth anniversary of his murder.

Society gives the family primary control over the body of the deceased, yet in many cases a coroner, district attorney or grand jury has the power to order the exhumation of a body for a forensic autopsy, especially in the case of a suspicious death or homicide.

In an academic presentation on the subject of a new autopsy at a 2003 Conference, the topic should have been presented in an objective, unbiased fashion, but instead, an emotional appeal was made to respect the Kennedy family, to honor the revered dead and let them rest in peace.

Well, the revered dead are turning over in their graves and will never rest in peace, and neither will we, until the total truth is determined, including the answers to the many questions concerning the medical evidence and botched autopsy of the President.

The first objection to a proper forensic autopsy is the feelings of the Kennedy family, and like the decision of the Connally family at the death of John Connally, not to permit an autopsy, it has always been assumed that the Kennedy family would also oppose a new, proper forensic autopsy.

John Connally and his wife were sitting just in front of President Kennedy and he was wounded in the same barrage of bullets. They never believed the “single bullet theory,” and it has been suggested that there is more lead in Connally's wrist than is missing from the so-called “magic bullet.”

When Connally died the Justice Department requested the bullet fragments be removed, but the request was denied by the Connally family.

When the Department of Justice agreed to request of John T. Orr, Jr. one of the most respected federal attorneys, to subject bullet fragments CE567 to further tests, they also noted in a memo for the record that: “...It is our view that the Department (of Justice) has retained investigative jurisdiction over the assassination, though such investigation is restricted to activities which are not based upon the expectation of an eventual federal prosecution. Thus, the examination of evidence in federal possession is seemingly appropriate, [while] obtaining evidence by grand jury subpoena would likely be inappropriate. This position was adopted by the Division and endorsed b the Office of the Deputy Attorney General when we declined to seek a court order for exhumation of former Governor Connally’s body following allegations that bullet fragments remaining in his body from the incident would reveal, by weight or composition, the existence of additional bullets.”  [For more on CE567 see:]

Though no one has actually asked them, like the Connallys, it has always been assumed that the Kennedys will deny such a request as well.

That may have been the case with the previous generation who witnessed the public exhumation and butchering of the body of Lee Harvey Oswald, which was done to positively establish his identity.

But today a proper forensic autopsy can be conducted with dignity, it can answer many of the outstanding questions, legally reestablish the provenance of the medical evidence in the case and reconnect the truth to history.

In fact, with today's modern scientific techniques and equipment, the body can be photographed, x-rayed and given MRI and similar non-intrusive surveys so that the body does not have to be touched or probed. These photographs, x-rays and scans will not be gruesome, but are like works of art, and will be studied by forensic science students for generations into the future.

Now that the Kennedy family is led by a new generation who are interested in public service, they should allow for the legal process, established by the Constitution, to function as it should, and permit a proper forensic autopsy, not only in the interest of the Kennedy family, but in the best interests of the nation.


               Your discussion re the original JFK autopsy and the legal /forensic scientific basis for proposing an exhumation examination are quite valid and clearly stated.

               Based upon my 51 years as a practicing forensic pathologist who has performed approximately 18,000 autopsies and reviewed, supervised, or has been consulted on approximately 36.000 other post-mortem examinations, I can state that you are correct in your assertion that such an exhumation and repeat autopsy would be undertaken if the scenario you have set forth involved some “run-of-the-mill” citizen. [In fact, I have personally performed about 30-36 such examinations in my years of practice].

               Although I very much doubt that either the Kennedy family [i.e., Caroline] or the US government will ever agree to have this done, there is no reason why the well-reasoned argument you have set forth should not be proposed in appropriate fashion, i.e., with utmost respect and buttressed with solid, unarguable forensic scientific/legal reasoning.

               MRI and CT Scan in a virtual autopsy fashion. Along with careful, detailed, precisely measured visual external examination could provide us with all the necessary information without having to perform any further dissection.

               As part of such a dignified “campaign”, why not also pursue the mystery of the missing brain?  Since I publicly revealed this in August 1972, nobody has officially and formally accounted for the “disappearance” of this vital piece of evidence.

               Keep me posted on how you intend to pursue this matter.

               Best wishes.
Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D.

Also thanks to Gary Mack for this note and calling our attention to the cemetery's policy that permits reinterment by order of a court with proper jurisdiction or with permission of the family, and without any cost to the government. While an order from a court is more likely, if the family permits, the costs would be offset by most of those involved working pro bono.

Gary Mack notes:

While she's alive it cannot happen without Caroline's approval and Bill's payment of all costs involved:  And here are the pages with the relevant legal information:

It seems to me we've had 50 years of personal interpretations of what documents and information mean to CTs, but there's no significant proof of anything other than Oswald being the killer and having a really strange history that may not have been fully revealed.

By the way, the only reason the Connally family declined an autopsy was because they were asked AT the grave site services.  Had the request gotten to them sooner, and the FBI did make a very good effort as a result of a plea from or through Jim Lesar, they would have considered it.  And yes, I've asked that question of a family member and another very closely connected to Governor Connally.

For more on Lesar and FBI inquiry see:
JFKCountercoup2: Connally Bullet Fragments

Gary Mack

Department of Veterans Affairs (p.75)

1.621 Disinterment from national cemeteries.
(a) Interments of eligible decedents in national cemeteries are considered permanent and final. Disinterment will be permitted only for cogent reasons and with the prior written authorization of the National Cemetery Area Office Director or Cemetery Director responsible for the cemetery involved. Disinterment from a national cemetery will be approved only when all living immediate family members of the decedent, and the person who initiated the interment (whether or not he or she is a member of the immediate family), give their written consent, or when a court order or State instrumentality of competent jurisdiction directs the disinterment.

For purposes of this section, “immediate family members” are defined as surviving spuse, whether or not he or she is married; all adult children of the decedent; the appointed guardian(s) of minor children; and the appointed guardian(s) of the surviving spouse or of the adult child(ren) of the decedent. If the surviving spouse and all of the children of the decedent are deceased, the decedent's parents will be considered “immediate family members.”
(b) All requests for authority to disinter remains will be submitted on VA Form 40-4970. Reauests for Disinterment, and will include the following information:
  1. A full statement of reasons for the proposed disinterment.
  2. Notarized statement(s) by all living immediate family members of the decedent, and the person who initiated the interment (whether or not he or she is a member of the immediate family), that they consent to the proposed disinterment.
  3. A notarized statement by the person requesting the disinterment that those who supplied affidavits comprise all of the living immediate family members of the deceased.
(Authority :38 U.S.C.2404 lieu of the documents required in paragraph (b) of this section, an order of a court of competent jurisdiction will be considered.

    (d) Any disinterment that may be authorized under this section must be accomplished without expense to the government.
    (The reporting and record keeping requirements in paragraph (b) have been approved by the Office of Management under OMB control number 2900-0365)   


Jamey Hecht said...

Thank you for this thoughtful contribution. Your position implies a confidence that the President's body really is buried in Arlington. I know of no reason to doubt it, but given the mayhem surrounding the caskets and the postmortem surgery, as well as the enmity and bottomless cynicism of those who were in control (apart from RFK), I always wondered if his mortal remains might be entirely elsewhere. I don't know.

Mark OBLAZNEY said...

Does not technology allow a less intrusive attempt, as in x-raying over the grave? ....... Who knows where the tech will be even five years from now? Or fifty? Thank you for this article, Mr. Kelly.

Fergal Cantwell said...

Hi, I have in my possession a share certificate for Magma Copper Company issued to one Arthur W A Cowan, when I googled this name, an article by you, came up. Can you shed any light on who this man was? Thank you

Randall Bennett said...

Yes. I can.

Randall Bennett said...

Yes. I can.

Kubark12 said...

About 15 minutes ago, I googled in google books something I have never seen before. It was from the Hawaiian Supreme Court archives from 1966 "Be it resolved that [various names] Arthur W. A. Cowan" In Memoriam.....It may not shed light on what part he played in relation to JFK, but it seems obvious no-one in the JFK research community has seen it. Can any JFK researchers in Hawaii look into this?

Peter Martyn said...

Yes yes a new autopsy. And first an indictment for whoever made a photographic forgery to hide a big hole in the back of the head, as found among the autopsy photos, or for whoever put him up to it.

Jim Smith said...

What a very interesting article about a new forensic pathology autopsy of JFK.I respect the Kennedy family's feelings but JFK was a public servant of the United States government.The mystery surrounding the assasination warrants a new investigation and new autopsy of JFK.The Kennedy family loved the president but the president was a elected official of the US government and in essence was the American peoples federal employee.This US government cannot afford to let the truth be known surrounding the fatal head shot.The Kennedy family are relatives of JFK but he served the American people and a new forensic autopsy is warranted because of the employee status of JFK.He belonged to the American government first and then the family.WE need attorneys to argue this point that he was a federal employee and therefore the US government has the final decision regarding an exhumation and examination of the body.The Clintons believe they are above the law,Nixon thought he was above the law and the Kennedy's believe they are above the law.We have organizations such as Judicial Watch that have to try and pry information from the government for information that should be freely seen by the American government.We have a slain president that is an open homicide yet no law firm or group will take the case on to find out once and for all was our president murdered as the result of a criminal conspiracy.Only a new forensic autopsy can answer was the Warren commission a sham.The Warren commission was NOT an investigative body to investigate a homicide it was formed for one purpose and that was to come to the conclusion that there was only one shooter and to fit their facts into a "single bullet theory"espoused by Pennsylvania's Arlen Spectre.