Electronic Assassinations Newsletter

Issue #1 "Case Closed or Posner Exposed?"


Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK by Gerald Posner: A Preliminary Critique

Part 3

by Martin Shackelford

PHOTO SECTION: Posner describes a photo of Oswald taken in the New Orleans courthouse as "unpublished." It is, in fact, a frame from the Johann Rush WDSU-TV film footage which has appeared in a number of videotapes. In addition, Rush published the frame in his own assassination newsletter. He describes the Moorman photo as having been taken "before the fatal head shot," though it more likely coincides with frame 314, one frame after the head shot. For the most part, the photo section avoids photographs cited in the text and footnotes in support of particular information. The photo of General Walker's house is misleadingly used to support an inaccurate statement about it (see above, "The Walker Shooting").

COMPUTER ENHANCEMENT: Posner states that he relied on "computer enhancements" of the Zapruder film, including "one done by Dr. Michael West ... with Johann Rush," though what West and Rush did was a videotape using the film, not a computer enhancement of the film. (212) The other is by Failure Analysis Associates, whom he fails to mention did two computer studies, one "proving" Oswald did it alone, and one "proving" conspiracy, as a promotional gimmick at a conference of the American Bar Association in 1992.

ZAPRUDER FILM ANALYSIS: Posner repeats that Kennedy is raising his right arm at frame 225 (213), though the film clearly shows that the arm is coming down from a wave, something Posner himself admits at another point. (214) He argues, reasonably, that the first shot missed (215), but is apparently only aware of one witness, Virgie Rachley, who saw it hit Elm Street (2l6), though one of his sources, Jim Moore, and another recent book (217) both catalog a number of witnesses to the impact. When Mrs. Kennedy turns to her right, Posner assumes she is turning toward the Book Depository rather than toward her husband, (218) an indication of his willingness to interpret evidence to fit his thesis. Along the same lines, he quotes his 1992 interview with James Tague, who says he doesn't recall which shot caused his wound, (219) though earlier Tague told the Warren Commission:"I believe that it was the second shot," as he recalled it happened after the firecracker sound of the first shot, and he recalled hearing another shot after it happened. (220) He accepts that the Single Bullet Theory is correct, with the shot hitting at frame 223-224 (221) He notes that Failure Analysis' "cone" projection centers on the 6th floor Depository window (222), but fails to add that the cone includes windows of the Dal-Tex Building across the street. Posner discusses the HSCA neutron activation analysis (223), but fails to report Dr. Guinn's comment that the fragments he tested were not the same ones tested by the FBI in 1964 (224), raising the possibility of substituted fragments from the lead taken by the FBI from CE 399, which would, of course, match CE 399. He also refers to two fragments removed "from the President's brain," which were actually removed from the President's scalp (as can be seen in the preliminary X-rays, unpublished by Posner): the brain particles were so small as to be dust-like, and none were removed.

IN CUSTODY: Posner uses a quote from Jim Leavelle to remind us of Oswald's "smirk." (225)

ATTORNEY: Posner suggests Oswald had opportunities for counsel, but turned them down (226) though John Abt (who Posner says "missed the opportunity") made it clear to newsman that he wouldn't take the case, and the ACLU attorney (Oswald had indicated the ACLU as his second choice, for the reason Posner reported earlier (227): he thought they would be free) was told by police, not by Oswald, that he didn't want an ACLU attorney. (228) Posner cites the testimony of the ACLU attorney, but very selectively, again leaving the wrong impression by selective presentation of testimony. By following with a quote from Louis Nichols, Posner implies that it was Oswald who declined in both instances. He then quotes Bill Alexander's concern that Oswald might get an attorney too quickly (229).

MARINA: Posner says: "She has lived in Texas since the assassination and has been bombarded by the buffs for nearly three decades." (230) In fact, for many years, Marina was under the influence of Warren Commission apologist Priscilla Johnson McMillan, author of Marina and Lee. Her husband Kenneth Porter has stated that Marina was "under the control" of McMillan until at least 1978. (231) As an example of her "susceptibility" to "conspiracy buffs," Posner cites the 1981 exhumation of Oswald in response to the theories of Michael Eddowes, which he implies she accepted. In fact, Marina sought the exhumation to prove Eddowes wrong (232) which was, in fact, the outcome.

RUBY'S TIES: Posner explodes some of the myths about Ruby, and provides a detailed chronology of Ruby's movements Nov. 21-24, (233) but concedes that police downplayed Ruby's relationship with the Dallas police. (234) He is a bit too quick to accept Ruby's explanation that his Cuba trips were "solely for pleasure." (235) He also dismisses reports of Ruby's involvement in narcotics and prostitution, and accepts the statements of Tony Zoppi and Bill Alexander that Ruby "was not a gangster." (236) He avoids more than superficial reference (237) to Ruby's relationship with Dallas' number two Mob boss Joe Campisi, who was one of Ruby's first visitors after his arrest for shooting Oswald, and identifies Campisi only as "evidently associated with a host of leading mobsters." He suggests, somewhat convincingly, that the reports linking Oswald and Ruby are pretty thin. (238)

RUBY AT PARKLAND: He is less convincing when saying of Ruby's visit to Parkland Hospital that "no one saw him except [Seth] Kantor," then dismissing Wilma Tice's report in a footnote (239), and apparently unaware that Ruby was also seen there by radio newsman Roy Stamp who knew Ruby and saw him enter carrying equipment for a TV crew. (240) He finds the Warren Commission refutation of Kantor's testimony inaccurate, however, and ultimately concludes that Ruby did visit Parkland innocently. (241)

RUBY ON JFK: He cites an FBI interview with a Carousel Club hostess (242) and the testimony of Ruby's sister (243) to establish that Ruby "had great admiration for the Kennedy family" and was happy JFK was appointing Jews to prominent positions, but Beverly Oliver, a Colony Club entertainer who often hung out at the Carousel Club, and considered Ruby a friend, reports "Ruby despised JFK." (244) His political awareness can be gauged by the fact that he didn't know who Earl Warren was, except that he "was someone prominent in governnent."(245) Later, Posner cites the fact that Ruby had a picture of JFK in his cell, and kissed it daily, as evidence of mental derangement. (246)

RUBY AT THE POLICE STATION: Again, Posner cites a photo to make a point, that Ruby had a gun there on Friday evening, but doesn't include it in his photo section, nor describe it more specifically than to say "taken in the third-floor corridor that night," (247) When he saw Oswald, says Posner, "Ruby thought Oswald was smirking," (248) his chapter note citing the testimony of Ruby and of Arthur Watherwax (a Dallas Morning News printer) (249). The "smirk," which reportedly made such an impact on Ruby, isn't mentioned in Ruby's account of the event, but only by Watherwax - in fact, nothing from that sentence comes from Ruby's cited testimony, leaving one to wonder why it is cited, except to mislead the reader. Posner disagrees with the Warren Commission, and affirms that Ruby was back at the police station Saturday afternoon. (250)

RUBY THE STALKER: On one hand, Posner portrays Ruby as probably stalking Oswald, (251) but with some hesitation. (252) On the other hand, he portrays Ruby as making plans which indicate he didn't expect to be in custody, (253) dismisses accounts of an early arrival at the police station on Sunday (again, he refers to photographic evidence which he doesn't include in his photo section, but at least he is specific in describing the source: KRLD-TV reel 13) (254) At the same time, Posner indicates Ruby expected a quick release from the jaiI. (255)

HOW RUBY ENTERED: Posner notes several ready access points to the jail basement prior to the shooting of Oswald, (256) but concludes that Ruby entered down the Main Street ramp, (257) citing a witness who saw him near the bottom of the Main Street ramp shortly before the execution style shooting. (258) As in other cases, (259) Posner here greatly exaggerates the number of people who would have had to be party to "a plot" for Ruby to have been planning to kill Oswald. (260)

RUBY'S MOTIVE: Posner notes that the Ruby note (saying Tom Howard originated the story that Ruby shot Oswald to spare Mrs. Kennedy the pain of returning for a trial) is undermined by the number of witnesses who reported Ruby making similar statements before Howard's arrival (261), unless of course Howard gave him the advice before the shooting. The "smirk" as motive, prepared by prior references (above), is raised through the testimony of Ruby's brother Earl. (262)

THE COMMISSION: Posner indicates that LBJ initially endorsed Wagoner Carr's plan for a Texas State inquiry, until Nicholas Katzenbach "worked feverishly behind the scenes to change LBJ's mind and return control of the investigation to Washington. (263) Unfortunately, no source is cited for this entire paragraph. On the membership, his description of John McCloy as "a prominent attorney" (264) somewhat understates the role of the man referred to as "chairman of the Establishment." Posner notes that "The Commission's powers were broad and virtually unprecedented,"(265) but fails to mention that the Commission failed to employ its powers to avoid conflicts with investigative agencies.

METHODOLOGY: Posner mentions the "mammoth examination" by investigative agencies, the "enormous" number of reports filed with the Commission, and denies charges the investigation was biased. (266) He fails to address the issue raised by John Davis and others, that information not supporting theories favored by the investigating agencies were often provided without context, or mixed in with a flood of trivia, that key questions went unasked and leads unfollowed, (267) though he does question the responsiveness of Hoover and the CIA. (268) "The staff," he says, "could call any witness it wanted, and none of its more than 400 requests were ever denied by the commissioners." (269) This is very misleading. When Jack Ruby was questioned, the staff assigned to Ruby were not allowed to be involved. When staff sought to pursue certain leads, they were told by J. Lee Rankin: "At this stage of the investigation, we are supposed to be closing doors, not opening them." Staff working on forensics issues were denied access to the autopsy X-rays and photographs, as Posner notes, but he blames this primarily on "the Kennedy family." (270) These and other issues have been thoroughly documented and discussed in the literature, but Posner shows little familiarity with them, though he concedes the Commission backed off from confrontational issues with Hoover, (271) and quotes Burt Griffin as saying Rankin "never encouraged us to think speculatively [and] operated with his door always closed." (272) He approvingly quotes Walter Cronkite's comment that the lack of agency cooperation "weakened the credibility of the Warren Report," (273) but passes by the question of what effect this lack had on the Report's accuracy. He does summarize some of the flaws in the investigation. (274)

RESPONSES: Posner notes that the Warren Report was praised in the U.S., but says "Many leading European commentators questioned its conclusions without ever reading, the report" (275) omitting the fact that most of those who praised the Report in the U.S. also hadn't read it, much less the 26 volumes of evidence.

THE CRITICS: He ignores Sylvan Fox, author of a 1965 critical book, moves Harold Weisberg's 1965 book to 1966, and relies on G. Robert Blakey for quotes about the critics' work. (276) His criticisms of Mark Lane are relatively on the mark, (277) but he includes among the "rash of books [that] appeared on the heels of Lane's success" several authors who were writing their books before Lane's was published. (278) He provides an interesting discussion of critics' involvement with the Garrison investigation (279), but also seems to blame them for Garrison's persistence in the case, (280) yet correcting blatant errors. (281) He correctly criticizes researchers for the incestuous repetition of each other's errors, using a quote from David Perry. (282) He approvingly quotes Bill Alexander as saying, "No one wants to hear what really happened because it would be the end of their very profitable little business," though Posner concedes there are exceptions, for which he offers psychological explanations from Henry Steele Commager and William Manchester (neither, of course, psychologists). (283) Oswald acted alone, says Posner, and "To say otherwise, in light of the overwhelming evidence, is to absolve a man with blood on his hands, and to mock the President he killed." (284) This, of course, has the tone of a lawyer's summation: rhetoric, but no real content.

TIME-LIFE AND THE Z-FILM: Posner states Time-LIFE purchased the film "for a reported $250,000," (285) though Richard Stolley's most recent account of the purchase gives the more accurate figure of $150,000, (286) also the one generally reported in the literature. Posner cites no source for the higher figure. He does comment on the Zapruder family's active commercialization of the film.

COVER-UP: Posner discusses the obstacles placed in the way of Freedom of Information Act requesters, especially by the FBI. (287) He implies that the attempt to get a Congressional investigation in 1966 was "overshadowed by another event that had started in July 1966," (288) waiting another 10 pages (289) to inform the reader that the "event," the Garrison investigation, didn't become public knowledge until mid-February 1967.

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212  West and Rush, "Confirmation of the Single Bullet Theory" (1992). 

213  pp. 319, 326.

214  pp. 327-8.

215  pp. 320-6.

216  p. 324.

217  Bonar Menninger, Mortal Error, cited in Posner's notes (p. 554) but not
included in his bibliography.

218  p. 322.

219  p. 325.

220  7H 555.

221  pp. 328-35.

222  p. 335.

223  pp. 340-2.

224  HSCA v. 1, pp. 561-2.

225  p. 345.

226  Footnote, P. 347.

227  Footnote, P. 206.

228  7H 323, Testimony of Gregory Olds: "Captain King... assured us that 
Oswald had not made any requests for counsel" and "Justice of the Peace 
David Johnston... assured us... he had declined counsel."

229  p. 347.

230  Footnote, p. 345.

231  1993 Sudbury Ontario conference.

232  Associated Press in Detroit Free Press, Nov. 25, 1980: "The widow... 
said Monday she wonders what powers are preventing authorities from exhuming
the body in her late husband's grave to disprove a theory that the corpse is
that of a Soviet imposter"; Newsweek Sept. 15, 1980: " 'The man I married is 
the man I buried,' insisted Marina Oswald Porter... Marina wants to settle 
the matter once and for all"; also AP & UPI in Detroit Free Press Aug. 15, 
1980; her only concern, based on recently released Warren Commission 
documents, was that the body might have been illegally removed from the 
grave (UPI in Saginaw News, April 5 and Aug. 11, 1981).

233  pp. 366-97.

234  Footnote, p. 359.

235  Footnote 2, p. 360.

236  p. 361.

237  Footnote p. 368.

238  Footnote, p. 369.

239  p. 373.

240  Videotape of Roy Stamp speaking to Jim Marrs' class.

241  p. 374.

242  p. 375.

243  p. 376.

244  1993 Sudbury Ontario conference; asked later to elaborate, she said 
Ruby didn't like Joe Sr., JFK or RFK, but thought Jackie was "classy"; she 
said she and Jack argued about the Kennedys.

245  Footnote 3, p. 388.

246  p. 401.

247  Footnote, p. 379.

248  p. 379.

249  p. 566, note 96.

250  p. 386.

251  pp. 385-6.

252  Footnote, p. 379.

253  pp. 388, 390; footnote 1, p. 394.

254  Footnote, pp. 391-2.

255  p. 399.

256  Footnote, p. 393.

257  p. 395, footnote pp. 395-6.

258  p. 396.

259  e.g. Footnote 1, p. 202.

260  Footnote, pp. 396-7.

261  Footnote, p. 398.

262  p. 399.

263  pp. 404-5.

264  p. 406.

265  p. 406.

266  p. 407.

267  John Davis, The Kennedy Contract, (1993) Ch. 11-12. Though Posner 
would not have seen this book, all of the  points raised in these chapters 
have been previously discussed elsewhere.

268  pp. 407-8.

269  p. 407.

270  p. 409-10.

271  p. 408.

272  p. 409.

273  p. 409.

274  pp. 409-412.

275  p. 412.

276  p. 414.

277  p. 415, including footnote.

278  Richard Popkin, Raymond Marcus, Leo Sauvage and Penn Jones Jr.

279  pp. 442-3, including footnote.

280  p. 446.

281  Footnote, p. 448.

282  P. 466.

283  p. 470.

284  p. 472.

285  Footnote, p. 418.

286  "The Zapruder Film: Shots Seen Round the World: A joumalist's behind-
the-scenes story of the most historic home movie ever," Entertainment 
Weekly, Jan. 17, 1992.

287  pp. 420-1.

288  p. 422.

289  p. 432.

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