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The fragment behind the eye

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From patspeer.com, chapter 18


Believing is Seeing

Satisfied with the results of my distortion analysis, I decided to try to do a comparison between the A-P x-ray and the lateral x-ray. While I had initially planned on copying the proportions and angles used by Joe Durnavich in his article, I quickly realized that you could not accurately project the distorted image of the A-P x-ray onto the lateral x-ray. I thought about cutting up the lateral x-ray into 10 slices, and then make each one progressively shorter than the first one, and then try to line them up to get a concept of how they would appear in the A-P x-ray. I started with the forehead. I decided to line up the exact heights of the forehead fragment. And then I had another breakthrough…

For when I lined up the forehead fragment in the A-P x-ray with the identical-sized forehead fragment on the lateral x-ray, I found the location of the “slice” on the back of the head. And it wasn’t on the back of the head. And it wasn’t even a “slice.”

I noticed that just above the right eye socket there were a number of fragments, and that the largest of these fragments had the identical height of the supposed slice. I noticed also that it was at a slight angle, whereby it would appear to be thicker in the A-P and more radio-opaque than when viewed upright. I then spotted a small fragment just below it. And found that just below the “slice” supposedly on the back of the head there was a similar fragment. In short, I realized that the Clark Panel’s statement that “there is, embedded in the outer table of the skull close to the lower edge of the hole, a large metallic fragment… Immediately adjacent to the hole on the internal surface of the skull, there is localized elevation of the soft tissues. Small fragments of bone lie within portions of these tissues,” was, in fact a description of an area just above Kennedy’s right eye socket. I looked back at the un-enhanced x-rays used by the Clark Panel, and realized that this fragment was not visible on the lateral view, only on the A-P view, and that the small fragment in the forehead, believed by many to be the fragment recovered at the autopsy, was barely visible on the lateral view, and invisible on the A-P. This led me to believe that Clark Panel radiologist Dr. Russell Morgan had made an honest mistake. He saw a fragment on the A-P view, couldn’t find it on the lateral, convinced himself it was at the back of the head by the bullet hole “discovered” by Dr. Russell Fisher, and moved the fragment much as Fisher had moved the bullet entrance. The autopsy protocol used by The Clark Panel to help with their report stated only that “From the surface of the disrupted right cerebral cortex two small irregularly shaped fragments are recovered.” There is no evidence that Morgan or anyone else on the panel was aware that Humes had testified the largest fragment was behind the right eye. There is no evidence that the Clark Panel even considered the possibility that the fragment on the x-rays was behind the right eye. The mistake of one expert became official government doctrine.

I was dazed by this revelation, and a bit saddened. I thought back to all the things I’d read about this fragment, how it was faked, how it was proof of forgery, how it was proof the head shot struck Kennedy in the cowlick. I thought of the HSCA’s forensic pathology report and how it over-ruled the autopsy doctors on the head wounds. I thought about some of the statements in the report, such as how when discussing the A-P x-ray they claimed the “missile fragment to be slightly to the right of the midline and in approximately the same vertical plane as in the above mentioned lateral view.” Approximately? They were given two years to solve the mysteries of Kennedy’s head wounds, and that’s the best they could do?”

I thought about this some more. And then I got mad.


The “Missing” Missile

I got mad on behalf of Dr. James J. Humes. Not only did he accurately depict the position of the large fragment in Warren Commission Exhibit CE 388, but he was right about its angle within the skull. And yet, even so, everyone believed the Clark Panel when they said the largest fragment on the x-rays was on the back of Kennedy’s skull. Why did they believe them? (Heck, for that matter, why did I for the longest time believe them?) Were we pre-disposed to disbelieve Humes because of his military background? Or was it his Warren Commission experience in particular that destroyed his credibility? Were the autopsy doctors the boy who cried wolf and the Clark Panel a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

I re-read every reference to the large fragment I could find. The autopsy report written by Dr. Humes states: “There is edema and ecchymosis (bruising) diffusely over the right supra-orbital ridge (the eye socket) with abnormal mobility of the underlying bone” and that “roentgenograms (x-rays) of the skull reveal multiple minute fragments along a line corresponding with a line joining the above described small occipital wound and the right supra-orbital ridge… From the surface of the disrupted cerebral cortex two small irregularly shaped fragments of metal are recovered. These measure 7 x 2 mm and 3 x 1 mm.” While these statements supported that the fragments were behind the eye, one might stretch them to support they were just behind the forehead as well. Perhaps then Humes' testimony was more specific.

Indeed, it was. Before the Warren Commission, Humes testified: “We attempted to examine the brain, and seek specifically this fragment which was the one we felt to be of a size which would permit us to recover it.” Arlen Specter then asked: When you refer to this fragment, and you are pointing there, are you referring to the fragment depicted right above the President’s eye?”” To which Humes replied: “yes, sir. Above and somewhat behind the President’s eye.” Humes tried to get through to the HSCA as well. Dr Petty: “the least distorted and least fuzzy portion of the radiopaque materials would be closest to the film, and we would assume then that this peculiar semilunar object with the sharp edges would be close to the film and therefore represent the piece that was seen in the lateral view” Dr. Humes: “Up by the eyebrow.” Dr. Petty: “no up by the—in the back of the skull.” Petty returned to the topic later: “we’re trying to establish whether this particular sharp-edged radiopaque defect is close to the back of the skull or close to the front of the skull. Dr. Humes: “I can’t be sure I see it in the lateral at all, do you? Do you see it?” Dr. Petty evaded Humes’ question and turned to Dr. Boswell: “Were these fragments that were recovered at all?” To which Boswell, obviously trusting Petty that the fragments were where he said they were, replied: “No. They were not.”

When asked about the large fragment by the ARRB, Humes similarly relented: “I don’t remember retrieving anything of that size.” Later, however, when asked if he could spot any fragments on the lateral x-ray, however, he said: “Well, you see, there’s nothing in this projection that appears to be of the size of the one that appeared to be above and behind the right eye on the other one.” Wait. He claimed not to recognize the fragment, and yet he still knew exactly where it was—and it just so happened to be in the exact location where he’d found a fragment during the autopsy??? From this strange slip-up, I believe Humes suspected all along that the Clark Panel’s fragment on the back of the head was in reality the fragment he’d found near the forehead. By the end of his ARRB interview, in fact, he admitted as much, telling Jeremy Gunn that the large fragment “that you saw in the first AP view of the skull could be the 7 by 2 millimeter one that we handed over to the FBI.”

Well, at least Humes tried to tell the truth. Unfortunately, no one believed him… that is, except Dr. Boswell, who confirmed his identification of the fragment. When looking at the lateral x-ray, Dr. Boswell told Gunn “I think we dug this piece out right here,” and then explained “right here” as near the “right eye...right supraorbital area.” He later told Gunn that the large semicircular fragment he’d initially had trouble identifying on the A-P x-ray might very well be “the same as the one that appears to be in the frontal bone in the lateral.” Well, which part of the frontal bone? In any event, he was on the right track.

And he wasn't alone. While the radiologist at the autopsy, Dr. Ebersole, died years before he could be called to testify before the ARRB, his two assistants at the autopsy, x-ray technicians Jerrol Custer and Edward Reed, who actually took the x-rays, were called to testify, and both confirmed that the large fragment on the x-rays was found behind the right eye. When asked in a series of questions if he could see the large fragment visible on the A-P x-ray on the lateral x-ray, Reed told Gunn, "Yes, I can...In the frontal lobe...Right above the supraorbital ridge...Supraorbital rim. It is right impregnated in there." Even more telling, when asked the same question a week later, Reed's boss on the night of the autopsy, Custer, testified that the large bullet fragment was located in the "Right orbital ridge, superior."

So here we have the four men most intimately involved with the skull x-rays to be questioned on the subject ALL stating that the large fragment on the A-P x-ray was in the supraorbital ridge. But were there any other witnesses to confirm the location of this fragment? Perhaps someone who, unlike Custer and Reed, actually saw this fragment removed?

Amazingly, yes. The FBI agents at the autopsy, James Sibert and Frank O'Neil, both confirmed this location. Their report on the autopsy asserts “The largest section of this missile as portrayed by x-ray appeared to be behind the right frontal sinus.” The right frontal sinus is just above the eyebrow and is an inch or so lower than the club-shaped fragment found on the x-rays. On the night of the autopsy, moreover, agents Sibert and O’Neill took custody of this fragment. The receipt said: “I hereby acknowledge receipt of a missile removed by Commander James J Humes.” These agents were therefore intimately involved in the recovery of this fragment. One might think then that they'd be sure to remember from where it had been recovered. Although a 10-24-78 affidavit signed by Agent Sibert for the HSCA said merely that the fragments were recovered from the head, a report on an 8-25-77 interview with James Sibert notes "Sibert believes that both fragments came from the head, probably from the frontal sinus region." An HSCA Report on a 1-10-78 interview with his partner Frank O'Neill, moreover, confirmed that this fragment was recovered from just behind the eye, stating: "O'Neill believes the doctors recovered a piece of the missile from just behind an eye and another one from further back." On 11-8-78, O'Neill even put this in writing; his signed affidavit declares "I saw the doctors remove a piece of the missile from just behind an eye and another one from further back in the head." (P.S. It seems likely O'Neill thought the second fragment recovered was the second largest one noted on the x-rays. This is an understandable mistake. He noted two fragments in his report and the doctors recovered two fragments. Problem is they weren't the same two. The second fragment recovered by the doctors was found right next to the frontal fragment while the second largest fragment observed on the x-rays was, according to O'Neill's own report on the autopsy, observed "at the rear of the skull at the juncture of the skull bone.")

And Sibert and O'Neil weren't the only witnesses to this fragment. Roy Kellerman, the Secret Service agent in charge of Kennedy's detail in Dallas, also attended the autopsy, and was tasked with collecting the autopsy materials after its completion. In 1977, when discussing his role in the autopsy, he told HSCA investigators that the x-rays showed "...a whole mass of stars, the only large piece being behind the eye, which was given to the FBI agents when it was removed."

An Inconvenient Truth

So, why haven't researchers proposed that these men--perhaps the seven men most intimately involved with the taking of the skull x-rays and the collection of the bullet fragments from within the skull to comment on this issue--were correct? Well, unfortunately it appears that in this instance we're at a rare cognitive confluence of single-assassin theorists and conspiracy theorists, where they both want the same thing, and claim the same thing is true, for entirely different reasons. Single-assassin theorists want to believe Dr. Morgan and the HSCA radiologists' claim the fragment was on the back of the head because it feeds their hope that the medical evidence is a closed book, with no more surprises. Conspiracy theorists, on the other hand, believe the claim because Dr. Mantik, among others, has long noted that the large fragment visible on the A-P x-ray is not visible on the back of the head in the lateral x-ray, and this suggests to them that the fragment was added later...which to them proves a conspiracy... (Ironically, this amounts to them wanting to believe it is there because they can then claim it's not there. Hmmm...)

By way of example, Doug Horne, in his 2009 opus Inside the Assassination Records Review Board, presents the ARRB testimony of Humes, Boswell, Reed, and Custer on this fragment, and interjects after each one that they were wrong about the location, without noting that they were unanimous in their opinion. At one point, he explains: "Everyone I know of who is qualified to interpret the A-P x-ray--the Clark Panel, the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, and Dr. David Mantik--agrees that the large, bright, 6.5 mm wide semi-circular fragment corresponds in location (if not in density and corresponding brightness) with a very small metallic fragment on the exterior surface of the rear of the skull about 100 mm above the external occipital protuberance."

This is bizarre, to say the least. Horne can't claim Mantik, who insists the large fragment is not visible on the back of the head, as support for his supposition the Clark Panel and its colleagues on the HSCA Panel, which both claimed it was visible on the back of the head, were indisputably correct in their conclusions, and that therefore Humes, Boswell, Reed, and Custer are wrong. Or, rather, he can, but not without coming across as someone with a blind spot as wide as Manhattan is tall.

This blind spot is brought further into focus by studying the appendices to Horne's book. Appendix 43, 44, and 45 are reports written by Horne on behalf of the ARRB, summarizing the findings of three outside consultants hired by the board to help them understand the medical evidence. Intriguingly, the substance of these reports was largely unknown to the public before Horne's book was published, some 13 years after the fact. While Forensic Anthropologist Douglas Ubelaker, after being shown the autopsy evidence, noted that the large fragment he saw in the "vicinity of the orbit of the right eye" on the A-P x-ray could not be located "anywhere on the lateral x-rays of the head," and Forensic Pathologist Robert Kirschner speculated that the fragment "near the right eye" on the A-P x-ray "might possibly be a plug of bone forced forward into the skull", thereby acknowledging that it could be somewhere other than on the back of the head in the x-ray, these men, in Horne's eyes, might not be qualified to interpret x-rays.

The third consultant, Dr. John J. Fitzpatrick, a Forensic Radiologist, however, most certainly was so qualified. According to Horne's own notes on his meeting with Fitzpatrick:

No object directly or clearly corresponding to the bright 6.5 mm wide radio-opaque object in the A-P x-ray could be identified by the consultant on the lateral skull x-rays. Although there is a mere trace of some additional density near the fragment location at the vertex of the skull, the consultant did not feel this object was anywhere near the density/brightness required for it to correspond to the bright, radio-opaque density on the A-P x-ray. After briefly speculating that the small metallic density behind the right eye in the lateral x-rays might correspond to the bright radio-opaque density in the A-P x-ray, this idea was abandoned because neither the locations nor the density/brightness of the 2 objects are consistent.

Thus, contrary to Horne's assertion that "Everyone I know of who is qualified to interpret the A-P x-ray...agrees that the large, bright, 6.5 mm wide semi-circular fragment corresponds in location (if not in density and corresponding brightness) with a very small metallic fragment on the exterior surface of the rear of the skull", the fact is that not one of the three consultants hired by the ARRB said as much, and that Dr. Fitzpatrick, a Forensic Radiologist, instead looked for this fragment behind the right eye--where he found a fragment previously not discussed in the medical literature--before deciding it didn't match up.

(I hope to contact Dr. Fitzpatrick in the near future to see if the fragment he pointed out and rejected as the large fragment was the very fragment discussed on this slide.)

And that's not even the worst of it. Horne's blindness on this issue becomes crystal clear when one realizes that, within Volume 2 of his book, Horne uses these same three consultants to help debunk that there was a bullet hole visible high on the back of the head on the x-rays, and quotes them extensively. Well, one should ask, if these three consultants were "expert" enough for Horne to quote them when discussing if there was indeed a bullet hole high on the back of the head visible in the x-rays (and thereby use them to contradict the conclusions of the Clark Panel and HSCA Pathology Panel), why does Horne disregard their opinions completely when they fail to support that there is a fragment on the back of the head in this very same x-ray, and instead defer to the supposed expertise of the Clark Panel and HSCA Pathology Panel? The answer, most certainly, is that Horne couldn't care less what the Clark Panel and HSCA Pathology Panel had to say about anything, and was using their presumed expertise as a smokescreen to disguise that his belief there was a bullet fragment on the back of the head in the lateral x-ray stems solely from his trust in Dr. Mantik, and Mantik's near religious belief the fragment in the A-P x-ray has been added atop a much-smaller pre-existing fragment...

As stated, Horne needs it to be there, so he can say it isn't there...

As does the man he blindly trusts, Mantik... Despite Humes' repeated claims the bullet he removed was in the supra-orbital ridge behind the right eye, Mantik, in his articles discussing the fragment removed at autopsy, misrepresents the statements of those present at the autopsy, so that he can claim the fragment removed at autopsy was the fragment in the forehead. In Assassination Science, published 1998, he actually claims that the forehead fragment "can also be seen on the lateral view where it does indeed lie just above the right frontal sinus--exactly where the pathologists described it." Well, this simply isn't true. Having taken that route, however, Mantik follows it to the end. After misrepresenting what the doctors said, he correctly quotes the FBI report claiming the fragment was behind the right frontal sinus, but then interjects "It should have said above." He then uses his re-interpretation of the location of the fragment removed at autopsy as a broad description of this fragment, even reporting that when shown the A-P x-ray, Humes immediately "referred to the fragment above the right frontal sinus." This completely disguises that Humes' actual testimony was that it was "up by the eyebrow."

To be fair, it certainly seems possible Mantik's deception was not a deliberate ploy to mislead his readers, but was instead a byproduct of his unwarranted acceptance that the 7 x 2 mm fragment removed at the autopsy is the club-shaped fragment visible on the forehead in the x-rays. Apparently, it never occurred to him that a three dimensional disc-like object might be described by the length across the disc, 7mm--a rounding up from 6.5mm--by the width of the disc, 2mm. In this, he was far from alone. In fact, I may have been the first to make this observation...

But apparently it also never occurred to him to look for this fragment where the autopsists actually said it was: behind Kennedy's right eye...

This mistake is less understandable.


The Fragment Fragment

When one looks at CE 843, the fragments removed from Kennedy’s brain, in an attempt to prove that the largest fragment recovered by Humes from behind and above the eye is the one shown on the x-rays, however, one is in for a disappointment. It doesn’t look anything like it! Still, the fragment looks even less like the club-shaped fragment on the forehead mistakenly believed to be the one recovered by Humes.

According to Dr. David Mantik, who has inspected the evidence at the National Archives not once, not twice, but nine times, this second discrepancy is “One of the most shocking contradictions in the entire case.The shape of the larger piece of metal is nothing like the supposedly identical piece seen on the x-rays. No measurements taken on this piece can explain its bizarre transformation in shape. Most likely, it is not the piece taken from the skull…I saw only two, not three, at NARA. The largest, however, bears no resemblance to the corresponding image on the x-rays. The larger piece shown here is pancake shaped and was 107 mg. On the other hand the x-rays show a club shaped object—on both x-ray views. The studies done by the FBI on this object—spectrographic analysis and neutron activation analysis, required only a tiny amount at most, about 1 mg, according to one of the FBI experts…No one has offered an explanation for this flagrant discrepancy in shape of the largest piece. Sampling of the material is not an explanation. The possibility of substitution of fragments, an issue actually raised by the neutron activation expert (Dr. Vincent Guinn), remains wide open.”

While it might seem strange my quoting Mantik on this issue, seeing as I've just finished demonstrating that he's not completely reliable, it's not half as strange as Mantik's insisting the 7 by 2 fragment removed at autopsy is the fragment on the forehead on the x-rays, and then turning around and admitting that the fragment in the archives is not the fragment one sees on the forehead. Hmmm... I mean, shouldn't it have occurred to him that maybe, just maybe, the fragment removed at autopsy was not the fragment on the forehead, but was a fragment removed from somewhere else? Hmmm... Perhaps even from where the doctors claimed it had been removed, from behind the right eye? I don't know. Just a thought...

In any event, Mantik is correct to mention Guinn. Guinn testified that the fragment he tested was much smaller than the original fragment. While the fragment entered into evidence by the FBI was 107 mg, the one tested by Guinn 15 years later was only 41.9 mg. Robert Frazier, the FBI ballistics expert, described the fragments to the Warren Commission as follows: “These fragments consisted of two pieces of lead, one weighed 1.65 grains. (107 mg) The other weighed .15 grains. They were examined spectrographically so their present weight would be somewhat less since a very small amount would be needed for spectrographic analysis.”

HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey, however, followed up on Guinn’s comments and was able to find out that the size of the fragment used in the spectrographic tests was 32.045 mg, not as large as the original fragment, and not as large as the remaining fragment. This means the FBI broke up the fragment and destroyed or lost more than 60% of its mass! The reasons for this are not clear. Since these spectrographic tests were done before Frazier’s testimony, moreover, this means the photographs of CE 843 entered into evidence during his testimony showed only the remaining fragment. The rounded edge had been removed. Even so, when one reflects back on Mantik’s description of the fragment as “pancake-shaped”, and the size and shape of the fragment apparent in the lateral x-ray, it should be clear that the original-full-sized CE 843 is the one seen on the x-rays. Most probably Humes’ original measurement of this fragment as 7 mm by 2mm represented an irregular 7 mm pancake that was 2mm thick. Since the bullet “slice” is on Kennedy’s forehead, and not on the back of his head, it means that it was in reality 20% or so smaller than the 6.5 mm previously measured, or roughly 5.4 mm. This measurement approximates the width of the lead inside a 6.5 mm copper bullet. Perhaps the rounded edge of this fragment, then, represents the rounded edge of the lead missing from CE 569, the hollow base of a bullet found beside the front seat of the limousine.

One finds support for this possibility, in fact, in the most surprising of places. In Larry Sturdivan's 2005 book The JFK Myths, he recounts his 2004 visit to the Archives to view the Kennedy autopsy materials. When discussing the supposed 6.5 mm fragment on the x-rays, which Sturdivan believes is an artifact, he offers "The disk was not as nearly circular as it appears on the view printed in the HSCA report. The edges are irregular, with the 'bite' being merely the largest indentation in the irregular, jagged margin." This irregularity of the edges would appear to be more consistent with the edges being lead from the inside of the bullet, than of their being the outer margin of a smooth copper jacket.

And we can see this for ourselves. At the 2003 assassination conference put on by Dr.Cyril Wecht, researcher John Hunt displayed photos he’d recently uncovered at the National Archives, including photos taken by the FBI of the bullet fragments prior to testing. These photos revealed a much larger fragment than the one entered into evidence by Frazier, with a rounded edge on the far side of the fragment, and a bite out of the near side. Intriguingly, the shadow of this bite approximates the shape of the bite visible on the x-ray fragment. When one looks at this original photo, and compares it to the shape of the forehead fragment apparent on the A-P x-ray, it’s clear that the fragment on the photo is too thick and cylindrical to be the club-shaped fragment on the x-ray. As a result it seems quite likely that this fragment is indeed the large fragment on the x-rays, behind the right eye, only seen from a different angle.

Edited by Pat Speer
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Pat...a very interesting study. I am not qualified to interpret all of it.

However, I have never been satisfied with any explanation of the round 6.5 dense spot on the xray.

I particularly wondered how it could be on the back of the head, when that portion was missing, and

that it did not show in the lateral views. You may be onto something that it was to the FRONT of the


But my observations are not from an expert.

Thanks for the thoughtful study.


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Pat...a very interesting study. I am not qualified to interpret all of it.

However, I have never been satisfied with any explanation of the round 6.5 dense spot on the xray.

I particularly wondered how it could be on the back of the head, when that portion was missing, and

that it did not show in the lateral views. You may be onto something that it was to the FRONT of the


But my observations are not from an expert.

Thanks for the thoughtful study.


Your comments appreciated. As on the Baker thread, you've shown yourself to be your own man. For this, you have my respect.

Those assuming the fragment is on the back of the head and was added to make people think the bullet entered there overlook the possibility that the bullet fragment was where it was noted at autopsy and that it was the re-interpretation of the fragment location by the Clark Panel that was designed to mislead people.

They do so, in my opinion, for a combination of reasons. One is that there is a bias against the autopsists. Two is that most if not all the CTs to study the medical evidence have done so while influenced by Wecht, and Wecht's own bias against the autopsists and for the Clark Panel led him to initially claim the fragment was on the back of the head.


Wecht was wrong. He'd relied upon the expertise of Dr. Russell Morgan, the radiologist for the Clark Panel. I found a number of articles on Morgan that suggest to me he was not a disinterested doctor merely reporting what he saw, but a lone nut theorist, perhaps under the influence of Lattimer.

From chapter 13 at patspeer.com:

In any event, the Clark Panel's findings were written on February 26 and 27, 1968, but not made public until January 16 of the next year, just in time to throw a monkey wrench in Jim Garrison's trial of Clay Shaw. The print media’s ineptness and distaste for the whole matter is revealed in their headlines regarding the release of the panel's report, e.g. “JFK Autopsy Facts Bared; Findings Claimed Correct;” “Autopsy Report Backs JFK Data.” I have yet to find one newspaper article about the release of this report that mentioned the amazing migration of the head wound.

Incredibly, it was more than 3 years before this news was reported. This second series of articles was written as a response to an address by Dr. Russell Morgan, the Clark Panel's radiologist, to a conference of fellow radiologists, and indirectly confirm the role of Thompson's book in the formation and conclusions of the panel. The articles below were found in the August 18, 1972 Denver Post and the August 19, 1972 New Orleans States-Item, respectively. This was but a few days before Dr. Cyril Wecht was to become the first Warren Commission critic to view the autopsy materials. Perhaps Morgan wanted to lessen the impact should Wecht come out of the Archives and announce that the autopsy x-rays didn't show what the Clark Panel claimed, by putting on the record that they were over-developed and hard to read. Perhaps not. In a letter to researcher Harold Weisberg, Morgan claimed "I do not know why the press picked up my talk as a news item at this time. Apparently, they have nothing better to print."


A radiologist who examined the X-rays of President Kennedy's fatal head wound said in Denver Friday they prove conclusively that only one bullet--fired from the sixth floor of the School Book Depository building in Dallas--caused his death.

Dr. Russell H. Morgan, dean of the medical school at John Hopkins University, said the films--could they be released by the Kennedy family--would effectively remove all doubt and controversy that the assassination may have been the result of shots from more than one direction.

However, because the films haven't been released for publication and because a report on their examination wasn't included in the Warren Commission study, the controversy has continued, Dr. Morgan said.

The medical school dean made his remarks in an interview prior to speaking to some 300 physicians, attending the 34th annual mid-summer meeting of the Rocky Mountain Radiological Society in the Brown Palace Hotel. The meeting, which began Thursday, continues through Saturday.

Dr. Morgan was the only radiologist on a panel of four persons asked by then Attorney Gen. Ramsey Clark to review the X rays because of controversies surrounding the autopsy report.

But because the panel's report, released in April 1968, largely supported the conclusions of the Warren Report. Morgan said, it failed to receive much circulation. His talk here Friday on the subject was the first outside University organizations. The other members of the panel, all pathologists, have never spoken on the matter.


He said the X rays in conjunction with an analysis of the movie shot by amateur photographer Abraham Zapruder, show "rather conclusively" that the path of the fatal bullet--because the President's head was bowed and tilted to one side--was consistent with being fired from the sixth floor of the School Book Depository building.

Further, he said, the X rays show the path of the bullet was strewn with thousands of bone fragments and that no other bullets entered from either the right or left sides of the skull, as some critics of the Warren Report have maintained.

Had other bullets entered the right or left side of the skull, they would have left paths of bone fragments, and no such paths were indicated. In addition, the entrance of a bullet is small, the exit point much larger, the doctor added, and both the entrance and the exit of the fatal bullet are characterized by this fact.


Morgan said his study of the X rays and the movie film also disprove the theory that another shot struck Kennedy from an overpass under which the president's car was preparing to pass.

The Zapruder film shows Kennedy's body lurching forward from one shot and then lurching backward, as though from a second.

Morgan said the backward lurch was a reflex action of Kennedy's shattered brain, which caused the president's muscles to tense, and react in a spasm. It was this sudden straightening of the body which was interpreted as being the result of a second shot, he declared.

The fatal bullet killed Kennedy instantly, Morgan said, and the subsequent emergency action at Parkland Memorial Hospital was in response to purely reflex activity.


Morgan speculated that the reason the X rays weren't included in the Warren Commission Report is that when doctors first examined Kennedy, they thought the bullet entered lower in Kennedy's head.

Had their assumption been correct, the bullet would have to have been fired from below the level of the presidential limousine, he said.

Morgan said the X rays can now be studied with permission of the Kennedy family, though the photographs of the injury, which he described as "pretty gory," are still closed to examination. He said he feels publication of the X rays has been prohibited because the Kennedy family equates them with the photographs.


To date, he said, the X rays have been studied by only one person since being released for study last November, and that was by a urologist from Columbia University interested in the phenomenon of assassination.

Should the X rays ever be released for publication, he explained, great care and special techniques would be required before they would show the conclusive evidence, because they were produced in a hurry under extremely trying conditions and were over-exposed.


(AP) — A leading medical expert says a four-inch mistake by a pathologist who examined the body of John F. Kennedy after he was shot to death in Dallas produced a series of false speculations about the assassination.

Dr. Russell H. Morgan said the bullet actually entered the president's skull some four inches higher than initially reported, but the Warren Commission's detailed report on the assassination failed to clarify this point.

Morgan, dean of the medical school at Johns Hopkins University, is the only radiologist to examine the X-ray photographs of the slain president's skull.

The matter became an issue of great importance in New Orleans between 1967 and 1969 when Dist. Atty. Jim Garrison was attempting to prove that the slaying of Kennedy was plotted here.

Garrison contended that Kennedy was shot from the front, rather than from behind as the Warren Report concluded, and that the X-rays would prove it. He made many legal attempts to gain access to the X-rays examined by Dr. Morgan, but failed.

The D.A.'s probe died after Clay L. Shaw was acquitted March 1, 1969, of charges of conspiring to kill the president, though legal maneuvering continued long after that and only recently did the U.S. Supreme Court uphold an injunction prohibiting further prosecution of Shaw by Garrison.

In an address to the 34th midsummer conference of the Rocky Mountain Radiological Society here, he gave X-rays the credit for finally revealing the pathologist's error and disproving many of the more extreme speculations spawned by the mistake, which is included in the Warren Commission report.

Morgan's four-year investigation of the photographs and the Abraham Zapruder film of the assassination led him to several conclusions, he said.

The most important finding was that one of the pathologists who examined Kennedy's body in Washington the night of the assassination erred in saying the fatal bullet entered the "occipital protuberance," or the bulge at the lower section of the back of the skull.

This statement, which Morgan said later proved to be false, was included in the Warren report. Critics of the report immediately noted a major inconsistency between that alleged entry point and several features of the Zapruder film which showed a frame-by-frame sequence of the shooting. Critics said the film showed the president's head in a near vertical position when the bullet hit and also showed him lurching backward, leading to speculation the bullet came from the front.

The angle of the bullet became controversial. Some contended it couldn't have been fired from Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle in the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository and entered the skull where the pathologist said it did.

Morgan said Friday the Warren Commission, which named Oswald as the assassin, made no effort to explain the contradiction, allowing it to provide controversy for several years.

When he was given two days to examine the X-ray photographs, Morgan found them of poor quality, severely over-exposed. Of the 14, he said, only three were of the head wound. He said one had pencil marks on the negative itself showing "where somebody thought the bullet had gone."

(The remaining paragraphs were found in the version of the article published by the Galveston Daily News the next day.)

The penciled line corresponded to the mistaken pathologists' conclusion that the bullet entered the base of the skull and exited at an upward angle out of the right of the forehead. But Morgan said he found the actual entry wound was 120 millimeters away from the penciled line, more than four inches higher on the back of the head.

The lurching of the president's body backward, he said, was caused by body spasms after the massive wound was inflicted.

Morgan said the Zapruder film, the ballistics tests, the projected line of fire and the angle of entry of the fatal bullet all were consistent with the explanation that a single shot fired from above and behind killed the president.

"The Warren Commission's diagnosis was correct," he, said, "even though the evidence cited was inconsistent."

Edited by Pat Speer
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