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Dr. Charles Petty and the throat wound


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In the spirit of the re-opening of this forum, I thought I'd share something that others might find of interest.

Among the many questionable aspects of the HSCA's investigation, the appearance of Dr. Charles Petty on its pathology panel stands out.

It was admitted in the HSCA's report that Dr. Petty was the Chief Medical Examiner for Dallas. That is pretty fishy right there. I mean, what had Dallas done in the 14 years since Kennedy's assassination to rate a member on the panel? The panel already featured Earl Rose, the former medical examiner for Dallas. Well, his appearance on the panel was almost like an apology, as he was supposed to have performed Kennedy's autopsy. But why have Petty on the panel, giving Dallas, in effect, two representatives on the nine-member panel?

Well, several years back I'd discovered that, in the months prior to the Petty's selection on the HSCA's panel, he'd been editing a handbook, Forensic Pathology, co-edited by Dr. Russell Fisher, the predominant force on the Clark Panel convened to study the medical evidence in 1968. The Clark Panel had, of course, decided upon a new entrance location for the bullet exploding Kennedy's skull. They'd, in effect, moved it four inches. A major part of any re-investigation, then, was to determine if Fisher had been correct in moving this wound, or whether the doctors who'd actually observed Kennedy's body were more reliable on this point. Petty's appearance on the HSCA's panel, then, was highly questionable, a total joke really. This joke was made even worse, moreover, by the fact three other members of the panel had written chapters for the book edited by Petty with Fisher, and even worse, yes even worse, by the fact the creation of this book had been funded by the Justice Department. Yes, the Justice Department, the very entity behind the creation of the Clark Panel, and thus, the entity ultimately responsible for Fisher's movement of the head wound by four inches...

And that's where it stood until a few months back. I then realized that, in his HSCA testimony, Dr. Petty had been somewhat vague about his background. It was almost like he hadn't existed before he came to Dallas. I started googling and googling, and was surprised at what I found.

1. He got his start in the New Orleans coroners' office, working under Dr. Nicholas Chetta. Well, Chetta performed the controversial autopsy on David Ferrie, and was the man who ruled Ferrie's incredibly suspicious death to have been from natural causes. Yikes. Yet another reason Petty should not have been on the HSCA's panel.

2. Petty then moved to Baltimore, where he worked as Dr. Fisher's assistant for almost a decade. Well, holy smokes, Dr. Werner Spitz, another of Fisher's assistants, who'd co-edited a prominent textbook with Fisher, was also on the panel. Now, how is it Fisher's two closest associates ended up on a nine-member panel reviewing his findings? And how is it NO ONE, outside Dr. Cyril Wecht, who complained about the make-up of the panel without naming names, seemed to notice?

I then realized that Petty had edited a textbook of his own, which was published shortly after the HSCA's investigation...and that this textbook included a chapter on gunshot wounds. Well, I scrounged up a copy of the book...and hit paydirt.

Now, most of what was said was the same ole, same ole. I then came to its section on shored wounds of exit.

From patspeer.com, chapter 11:

Modern Legal Medicine, Psychiatry, and Forensic Science (1980), presents two photos to support its discussion of shored wounds of exit. The caption to these photos reads "Figure 16-69, Shored outshoot wound. On the right is a shored outshoot wound. On the left is the inshoot wound made by the same bullet. The outshoot wound of shored type is larger than the inshoot wound." Yes, read that again. The outshoot wound is larger. The wound in the photos, moreover, is 2-3 times larger. The autopsy report recorded Kennedy's back wound as 7 x 4 mm. The HSCA panel, after studying the back wound photos, claimed the inshoot wound on Kennedy's back was 9 x 9 mm. Dr. Perry's earliest estimate for the size of the throat wound was 3-5 mm. He told the HSCA it could have been 6-7 mm. It seems likely then that the writer of Modern Legal Medicine's chapter on gunshot wounds knew the small size of the throat wound was inconsistent with its being a shored wound of exit, and would have told the members of the HSCA's pathology panel of this problem, should he have been consulted.

Well, he was. Modern Legal Medicine was edited by three doctors, one of whom was Dr. Charles Petty, one of the most outspoken members of the HSCA Pathology Panel. In fact, surprise, surprise, Dr. Charles Petty was the writer of Modern Legal Medicine's chapter on gunshot wounds. Modern Legal Medicine is a 1300 page textbook, with 52 contributors. It must have taken years to prepare. It follows then that Dr. Petty was signing off on the HSCA panel's report in which a 9 x 9 mm wound on the back was presented as the inshoot for a shored wound of exit measuring, at best, 6-7 mm, while simultaneously claiming that shored-type inshoots are smaller than shored-type outshoots in a textbook sure to be studied by thousands of his colleagues. It seems certain then that Petty knew by Dr. Perry's description of Kennedy's throat wound that it was not a shored wound of exit...and decided to either keep this to himself...or go along with his colleagues on the pathology panel, who wanted to keep this quiet.

Edited by Pat Speer
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Thank you Patrick, very interesting and enlightening. Good to see the forum back

and yourself back in ass-kicking mode.

I do take issue with you on this:

He got his start in the New Orleans coroners' office, working under Dr. Nicholas Chetta. Well, Chetta performed the controversial autopsy on David Ferrie, and was the man who ruled Ferrie's incredibly suspicious death to have been from natural causes. Yikes. Yet another reason Petty should not have been on the HSCA's panel.

I don't see anything "incredibly suspicious" about David Ferrie's death or his autopsy. I admit I have never spent much time on this since I have no doubt Ferrie is completely innocent of any involvement in the assassination, and that Jim Garrison was delusional. But Ferrie died of a brain aneurysm, as I recall, and I just don't see anything suspicious about that.

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Thank you Patrick, very interesting and enlightening. Good to see the forum back

and yourself back in ass-kicking mode.

I do take issue with you on this:

He got his start in the New Orleans coroners' office, working under Dr. Nicholas Chetta. Well, Chetta performed the controversial autopsy on David Ferrie, and was the man who ruled Ferrie's incredibly suspicious death to have been from natural causes. Yikes. Yet another reason Petty should not have been on the HSCA's panel.

I don't see anything "incredibly suspicious" about David Ferrie's death or his autopsy. I admit I have never spent much time on this since I have no doubt Ferrie is completely innocent of any involvement in the assassination, and that Jim Garrison was delusional. But Ferrie died of a brain aneurysm, as I recall, and I just don't see anything suspicious about that.

Admittedly, I haven't spent much time studying Ferrie's death. It is possible he died of natural causes, I suppose. But his death is still suspicious, to my mind, due to its timing. He died a few days after his identity as Garrison's prime suspect became common knowledge. And he was purported to have left a suicide note. (Well, who leaves a suicide note before dying of natural causes?)

More to the point, however, is this: in a recorded phone call, Ramsey Clark told Lyndon Johnson that from what he could gather Ferrie had implicated him (Johnson) into the plot that killed Kennedy. Then POOF! Ferrie dies. If that's not suspicious, and worth a moment's ponder, I don't know what is....

Edited by Pat Speer
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Two great posts, Pat. I had no idea about the suspicious makeup of the HSCA panel . Didn't know that tidbit from Ramsey Clark either. Many thanks.

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He died a few days after his identity as Garrison's prime suspect became common knowledge.

Since Garrison's case against Ferrie was (rightfully) laughed out of court, this proves nothing.

And he was purported to have left a suicide note. (Well, who leaves a suicide note before dying of natural causes?)

Don't know much about suicide notes, but here is an article from the McAdams site

http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/death10.htm

More to the point, however, is this: in a recorded phone call, Ramsey Clark told Lyndon Johnson that from what he could gather Ferrie had implicated him (Johnson) into the plot that killed Kennedy. Then POOF! Ferrie dies. If that's not suspicious, and worth a moment's ponder, I don't know what is....

Ramsay Clark couldn't tie his own shoelaces, so I wouldn't put much faith in " what he could gather."

As far as I know, there is no credible evidence that Ferrie had anything to do with the assassination and there is no evidence that Clark's statement to LBJ had any basis in fact.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Admittedly, I haven't spent much time studying Ferrie's death. It is possible he died of natural causes, I suppose.

On this topic, and on Garrison generally, I recommend James Phelan's classic SCANDALS SCAMPS AND SCOUNDRELS

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