Sherlock Holmes and the JFK Assassination

By Cory Franklin

February 18, 2022

 

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

                                                                      Sherlock Holmes

Words to remember if you read the new book by forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht on the JFK assassination. Now 90 years old, Wecht has been a prominent player in the assassination drama since the 1960’s. His medical expertise and outspoken approach have made him one of the most notorious critics of the Warren Commission conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin (a role he shares with film director Oliver Stone, who wrote the foreword for Wecht’s book).

Wecht recently said in an interview to the New York Post, “Young people are still being taught that the 35th president was murdered by a lone gunman, and that is simply bulls–t.”   Wecht is demonstrably wrong.

Before listening to Cyril Wecht, young people, and in fact anyone still interested in America’s most heinous crime of the second half of the 20th century, would do well to pay heed to Sherlock Holmes.

Wecht’s main thesis is that there were two gunmen, hence a conspiracy, based on Kennedy’s wounds. He is conversant on the many inconsistencies and discrepancies in the evidence. But what neither he – nor anyone else – has ever advanced is a theory of how, where and when two gunmen fired that is consistent with the known evidence.  Quite simply, he can’t because there is no way to.

First, the head shot that actually killed JFK. Wecht claims that in addition to a shot from behind, another gunman “fired from the front, behind the picket fence on the grassy knoll…If they had dissected the brain, they would’ve seen there were two bullets that hit Kennedy in the brain, one from the rear, and one from the front.”

Could two gunmen have fired at exactly the same time?  It’s either an incredible coincidence or act of coordination (not quite impossible, but about as close as you can get).  How about a high velocity missile fired from the grassy knoll hitting Kennedy on the right side of his head.  Wouldn’t it cause massive exit damage to the left side? But the left side of Kennedy’s head and brain showed nothing at autopsy or on x-ray -everything confined to the right half.   Such a shot might have even hit Jackie as it exited but there was no exit wound on the left. How could that happen? Impossible.

Next the second shot, the infamous magic bullet. Wecht has scoffed at the official conclusion about the path of the bullet that hit Kennedy in the back and exited his throat. He claims it could not have been caused by a shot from above and behind as the Warren Commission claimed.  The Warren Commission was correct, but the key is something that, incredibly, the Commission did not do: work backward and solve the problem by tracing the path of John Connally’s wounds.

The doctors who treated Connally published a detailed description of his wounds beginning with an entrance wound in the back near the shoulder blade and exiting in the front in the right chest. The same bullet then entered his right wrist, shattered the radial bone, exited at a  slow velocity, and settled in his left thigh as a superficial wound. The doctors all believed one bullet caused all three wounds (chest, wrist, and thigh) and five separate holes – back entrance, chest exit, wrist entrance and exit, and thigh.

Work backward. Where could that bullet have been fired from? No trajectory is possible from anywhere but the back, and it must have come through Kennedy, only three feet behind and above Connally (the president was sitting higher and slightly to the right -not directly behind). John Kennedy was hit in the back, the bullet went through his throat and caused John Connally’s wounds – any other trajectory from any other location that can explain Connally’s wounds is impossible. Impossible.

Combine that with the timing of when the two men were hit. The Zapruder film indicates one intervening second – the time it would take for the bullet to pass through Kennedy.  Add the sophisticated computer recreations, which now support that trajectory. No magic necessary; Connally and Kennedy had to be hit by the same bullet. Common sense, simply by excluding the impossible.

Could either shot have come from directly in front of the limousine (not at an angle like the grassy knoll) as some Dallas doctors speculated? (Working with trauma doctors for years, I learned they cannot always divine the path  of bullets by studying wounds.) A shot from a distance and directly in front (with no witnesses or physical evidence of a shooter) would have to shatter the passenger side windshield (there was no bullet hole). It would then have to miss the Secret Service agent in the passenger seat, and avoid Connally before hitting JFK.  No serious gunman would even attempt such a shot. An impossible shot.

If Cyril Wecht or Oliver Stone read this, they would disagree and fulminate about botched investigations, missing evidence and nefarious relationships – a feature of nearly every major crime, as any defense attorney will readily attest.

Let them. Because one thing Wecht and Stone won’t do is provide a credible, sensible alternative explanation of how JFK was actually killed. Because it is impossible. It happened the way the Warren Commission said, despite the limitations and weaknesses of the report.

 A final thing that young people should know: by eliminating the impossible, wise men like Sherlock Holmes discover what is true, rather than looking around for what is false.

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Cory Franklin is a doctor who was director of medical intensive care at Cook County Hospital in Chicago for over 25 years. An editorial board contributor to the Chicago Tribune op-ed page, he writes freelance medical and non-medical articles. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, Jerusalem Post, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Post, Guardian, Washington Post and has been excerpted in the New York Review of Books. Cory was also Harrison Ford’s technical adviser and one of the role models for the character Ford played in the 1993 movie, “The Fugitive.” His YouTube podcast Rememberingthepassed has received 900,000 hits to date. He published Chicago Flashbulbs in 2013, Cook County ICU: 30 Years Of Unforgettable Patients And Odd Cases in 2015, and most recently coauthored, A Guide to Writing College Admission Essays: Practical Advice for Students and Parents in 2021.