Monday, November 25, 2013

JFK Assassination: The Lone Gunman Evidence - Warren Report vs. Conspiracy Theory - Part 1 (2004)

The lone gunman theory or one-gunman theory is the nickname given to the conclusion reached by the Warren Commission that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a single gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald. The Commission report stated that Oswald was a disturbed man, whose radical political views and depression had led him to shoot the President.

In the late 1970s, the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded on the basis of controversial acoustic evidence, that President Kennedy was "most likely killed as the result of a conspiracy." This conclusion is controversial.

The single-bullet theory (or Magic Bullet Theory, as it is commonly called by its critics) was introduced by the Warren Commission in its investigation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to explain what happened to the bullet which struck Kennedy in the back and exited through his throat. Given the lack of damage to the presidential limousine consistent with it having been struck by a high-velocity bullet and the fact that Texas Governor John Connally was wounded and was seated directly in front of the president, the Commission concluded they were likely struck by the same bullet.
The theory, generally credited to Warren Commission staffer Arlen Specter (later a United States Senator from Pennsylvania), posits that a single bullet, known as "Warren Commission Exhibit 399" (also known as "CE 399"), caused all the wounds to the governor and the non-fatal wounds to the president (seven entry/exit wounds in total).
According to the single-bullet theory, a three-centimeter (1.2")-long copper-jacketed lead-core 6.5-millimeter rifle bullet fired from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository passed through President Kennedy's neck and Governor Connally's chest and wrist and embedded itself in the Governor's thigh. If so, this bullet traversed 15 layers of clothing, 7 layers of skin, and approximately 15 inches of tissue, struck a necktie knot, removed 4 inches of rib, and shattered a radius bone. The bullet was found on a gurney in the corridor at the Parkland Memorial Hospital, in Dallas, after the assassination. The Warren Commission found that this gurney was the one that had borne Governor Connally. This bullet became a key Commission exhibit, identified as CE 399. Its copper jacket was completely intact. While the bullet's nose appeared normal, the tail was compressed laterally on one side.

In its conclusion, the Warren Commission found "persuasive evidence from the experts" that a single bullet caused the President's neck wound and all the wounds in Governor Connally. It acknowledged that there was a "difference of opinion" among members of the Commission "as to this probability", but stated that the theory was not essential to its conclusions and that all members had no doubt that all shots were fired from the sixth floor window of the Depository building.

Most pro- and anti-conspiracy theorists believe that the single-bullet theory is essential to the Warren Commission's conclusion that Oswald acted alone. The reason for this is timing: if, as the Warren Commission found, President Kennedy was wounded some time between frame 210 and 225 of the Zapruder film and Governor Connally was wounded in the back/chest no later than frame 240, there would not have been enough time between the wounding of the two men for Oswald to have fired two shots from his bolt action rifle. FBI marksmen, who test-fired the rifle for the Warren Commission, concluded that the "minimum time for getting off two successive well-aimed shots on the rifle is approximately 2 and a quarter seconds" or 41 to 42 Zapruder frames.

In 1979, the House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations stated that it agreed with the single-bullet theory but differed on the time frame. The single-bullet theory has been staunchly defended by those who believe the Warren Commission's finding was correct; it has been roundly criticized by those who disagree.