JFK’s Murder a ‘Coup d’état in America’
Dr. Cyril Wecht, author and nationally acclaimed forensic pathologist, speaks at research conference in Dallas
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was gunned down in the streets of Dallas in broad daylight. According to the Warren Commission (1964), the government’s first official investigative panel into the president’s death, JFK was shot by lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald from the 6th floor window of the Texas School Book Depository Building with an Italian Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. The Commission concluded that Oswald fired three shots: one that missed (the Commission said it was inconclusive which of the shots missed), one that hit both Kennedy and Governor John Connally (the “magic bullet”), and the final shot that hit Kennedy in the head.
The “magic bullet” is so named because it followed what seems to be an extraordinary trajectory: It penetrated JFK’s back, exited the throat, then proceeded to hit Connally (who was sitting in front of Kennedy), passing through his back, hitting a rib, exiting his chest, hitting his right wrist, and finally hitting his left thigh, leaving behind a small fragment seven millimeters beneath the skin. What was presumably this same bullet was later found on a stretcher in nearly undamaged condition.
The later House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) contradicted the Warren Commission by concluding that JFK’s death was probably the result of a conspiracy involving two shooters. Today, however, most newsmedia and government figures publicly accept the findings of the Warren Commission, even though polling consistently shows that the vast majority of Americans have serious doubts about its conclusions.
Dr. Cyril Wecht, for two decades the elected coroner of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (including Pittsburgh), is a nationally acclaimed forensic pathologist, and holds both a medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh (1956), and a law degree from the University of Maryland (1962). Forensic pathologists specialize in medically determining how and why someone died. In criminal murder cases this function is absolutely vital in helping to determine the guilt or innocence of a suspect — in no case more so than in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Dr. Wecht, a very early critic of the Warren Commission, testified at the HSCA. At the annual JFK Lancer assassination research conference in Dallas, held in November, Dr. Wecht summarized the medical evidence against the lone-gunman hypothesis.
At the center of Dr. Wecht’s examination is what has become known as the “single-bullet theory” — or the “magic bullet,” as it is known to its detractors: the theory that one bullet can account for the multiple wounds (besides the headshot) of both JFK and Governor Connally. According to Dr. Wecht, the conclusions of the Warren Commission rest entirely on the single-bullet theory. If that theory fails, then there had to be more than one gunman. This, in turn, leads to questions about the history of the United States since 1963 that many people would rather not pursue.
With both passion and meticulous attention to detail, Wecht dissects the Warren Commission’s conclusions. Moving beyond the medical evidence, he then utters words unexpected from any former American elected official, and particularly powerful coming from a person with his credentials: “What we witnessed … my friends, in plain, plain English — was [a] coup d’état in America. The overthrow of the government. That’s what this case was all about.”
At a time when America again faces extraordinary political turbulence, what happened more than half a century ago takes on renewed significance.
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Originally published at whowhatwhy.org on February 16, 2017.