Monday, 31 July 1995 13:27

Wecht Responds to Boswell: 1995 to 1969

Written by

In response to a slur concerning his professional reputation in a memorandum from 1969.

From the July-August, 1995 issue (Vol. 2 No. 5) of Probe

The following document recently surfaced:


Subj: Call received from Dr. Boswell (Suburban Hospital, tele: 530-6066) re problem concerning trial going on in New Orleans by Mr. Garrison re Mr. Shaw

A member of the Justice Department has been in contact with Doctor Boswell and has questions re custody of patient records. Specifically, Doctor Boswell needs to talk with you sometime today (ASAP) re rules and regulations within the Navy Department relative to who has responsibility of custody of President Kennedy's records - autopsy report, x-rays and photographs. There is a question of some material which no one seems to know where it is or where it can be obtained (Doctor Boswell suspects it may be held by Kennedy Family but is not certain). Doctor Boswell said Justice is not trying to retrieve the material but they need to know what the rules and regulations re custody are. A member of that Department will question Dr. Boswell later today. A forensic pathologist, Dr. Weckt, who is not considered too reputable will testify at the trial. Dr. Boswell needs to discuss this and the custody matter with you.

Very respectfully,




Wecht responds:

July 31, 1995

J. Thornton Boswell, M.D.
11134 Stephalee Lane
Rockville, Maryland 20852

Dear Dr. Boswell:

Enclosed is a copy of a memorandum typed by your secretary on February 3, 1969. It was recently obtained from the JFK files by one of the researchers.

Inasmuch as your secretary, Betty, and I have never met, and presumably, she was not a physician, attorney, forensic scientist, or active politician, I must infer that her statement that "A forensic pathologist, Dr. Weckt (sic), who is not considered too reputable will testify at the trial" emanated from you. Certainly, I have always assumed ultimate and full responsibility for actions and statements made by my personal secretary. One need not be a lawyer to appreciate the universal logic of respondeat superior and vicarious responsibility. I would be interested in learning how you had ascertained as of February, 1969, that I was not reputable. Inasmuch as the memorandum related to the JFK autopsy materials, I assume that this characterization referred to me in my capacity as a physician and forensic pathologist.

From whom had you received such information, and from whom had you elicited opinions regarding my competence, integrity, and honesty?

Had you submitted an inquiry to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, which organization was to elect me as President-Elect later that same month at their Annual Meeting at the Drake Hotel in Chicago?

Had you made an inquiry of government and political officials in Allegheny Country, where I was endorsed by the Democratic Party later that month for the position of Allegheny County Coroner, and then nominated in the Primary and elected to that job in November, 1969?

Had you made an inquiry of Dr. Thomas Noguchi, Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner of Los Angeles County, who had officially consulted me in the Robert F. Kennedy and Sharon Tate-LaBianca murders?

Had you submitted inquiries to the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University, where I had been appointed to the faculties of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Duquesne University Schools of Law and Pharmacy?

Had you read the transcript of my testimony before Federal Judge Charles Halleck, Jr., in Washington, D.C., in August, 1968, regarding the need to examine all the JFK autopsy materials as a consultant to District Attorney Jim Garrison in the Clay Shaw trial? (Judge Halleck was apparently sufficiently impressed and granted the DA's motion immediately from the bench. Of course, as expected, the government attorneys protested vehemently and appealed his decision. I had to wait another four years before I had the opportunity to review these materials at the National Archives and see the results of your skilled handiwork.)

By what God-given right did you have to malign and defame me in this fashion when you obviously knew nothing whatsoever about me? (Of course, it is certainly possible that somebody had made negative comments about me. If so, you should have had the decency to have named those individuals and discussed with some specificity in your memorandum what the basis was for such negative comments.)

It is a matter of record that the FBI and other governmental agencies embarked upon a special campaign to undermine, ridicule, embarrass, defame, and vilify anybody who had the audacity to challenge the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report. Their actions were utterly despicable and morally reprehensible. Evidently, as a career military person, you felt that you had the same right to follow a similar tack, and you believed that you also enjoyed legal immunity in making defamatory comments.

Without getting into a discussion or review of the JFK assassination and whether the WCR's conclusions vis-a-vis Oswald are correct, one fact is unequivocally clear and universally acceptable among all forensic pathologists, including the other eight members of the House Select Committee on Assassinations Forensic Pathology Panel who disagreed with me on a few key points, namely, that you and Dr. Humes had no business whatsoever in performing the autopsy on President Kennedy. Neither of you had ever done one official medical-legal autopsy, nor had you ever spent one day in a forensic pathology training program or seminar. Your incompetence and inexperience set into motion a horrible chain of events that has continued for 32 years, and which has cost this country and thousands of people immeasurable amounts of time, effort, money, and emotional anguish.

Tell me, Dr. Boswell, do you think you were a "reputable" person in undertaking this post-mortem examination? In what way did you make a contribution to law and justice? Or were you, like Adolf Eichman and other militarists in the past, simply "following orders"?

Although more than three decades have passed since your abysmal performance, and despite the fact that your defamatory statement about me is no longer legally actionable, I would very much welcome the opportunity to debate the JFK assassination with you anywhere at any time. I feel confident that we could charge a substantial amount for audience tickets, and all the money could be donated to a charity of your choice. Why don't you come out of your self-imposed obscurity and quasi-seclusion and contend with the real world? You and your colleagues created this incredible mess with one of the most tragically botched medical-legal autopsies I have ever encountered. Do you not feel that you owe enough to yourself, your family, your profession, and your country to mandate participation in a public forum pertaining to the JFK assassination?

Or do you believe that you fulfilled all your moral and ethical obligations by simply meeting privately with your old military pathologist comrade-in-arms, Dr. George Lundberg, and enjoying the intellectual luxury of telling the same old story from your perspective without being challenged or criticized by anyone? You have been whitewashed in JAMA, and you have managed to escape grueling interrogation by a skilled adversarial attorney in an open court of law. Such immunity and protection are usually available only to absolute monarchs and governmental dictators. However, there are other assessments in life that are meaningful. I would be absolutely mortified and horribly humiliated if 85 to 90% of my countrymen consistently and repeatedly rejected my professional conclusion in the most significant endeavor I had ever engaged in during my lifetime. That is some legacy to leave your children and grandchildren.

Very truly yours,

Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D.

cc: James J. Humes
     Pierre Finck, M.D.
     George D. Lundberg, M.D.

Last modified on Sunday, 16 October 2016 20:12
Cyril Wecht

Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D., is a forensic pathologist, attorney and medical-legal consultant.  Among his many achievements in the field figure consultations on numerous high-profile cases.  He is best known for his criticism of the Warren Commission's medical findings and his dissenting opinion on the HSCA forensic pathology panel.  He also consulted with Thomas Noguchi on the RFK autopsy.  Read more about his career here.

Find Us On ...


Please publish modules in offcanvas position.