Saturday, 12 March 2022 20:22

JFK: Case Not Closed

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Jim DiEugenio reviews the recently released collaboration between Dave O’Brien and KennedysAndKing contributor Johnny Cairns entitled JFK Case NOT Closed: Key Evidence Dismissed, Ignored, Altered or Suppressed to Frame Lee Harvey Oswald as the 'Lone' Assassin! and recommends it as a worthwhile read despite some areas of disagreement.

Dave O’Brien wrote a book in 2017 entitled Through the Oswald Window. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I missed that book and have not read it, but O’Brien brings up some of the points that he likely made in that book in his new effort entitled JFK: Case Not Closed. Four chapters of his new book were written by Johnny Cairns, who I consider one of the best of the new generation of JFK researchers.

Early in this book, O’Brien brings up one of the points he likely made in his earlier book—and it’s a cogent one. Dave was once allowed access to the infamous “sniper’s window” at the Texas School Book Depository. Reflecting back on that visit, he asks two questions. If Oswald had really been at that window, why did he not shoot Kennedy as the president came down Houston Street? (p. 21) That was an unobstructed shot with the target right below him.

He then goes onto a second issue. That particular window is at the southeast corner of the sixth floor. If we are to believe that Oswald was the lone assassin, was on that floor, and committed a premeditated murder, then there is another question that should be asked by anyone was has been on that floor. Why didn’t Oswald use the southwest window, at the opposite end. This would have solved more than one problem for the alleged killer:

  1. The oak tree would be removed as an obstruction.
  2. Kennedy would have been right below him.
  3. He would have had clear access to the target the whole time.
  4. He had a more direct and quicker escape from that floor.

If one buys into the Warren Report, the alleged murderer had days to plan his crime. But he never figured on any of these circumstances? In spite of all these mitigating factors, as O’Brien writes:

Yet, he chose the southeast corner window and allowed the left-hand turn onto Elm Street knowing that the fully-blossomed Oak Tree protected his target for valuable seconds, and that once clear of the foliage, his target was mere seconds from safety under the bridge just yards away. Why? (p. 21)

As O’Brien writes, it is inexplicable that the Warren Commission never even considered this as part of their inquiry into Kennedy’s assassination. But any new formal inquiry should do so. Because it strongly indicates that Oswald was not what the Warren Report said he was. The idea of a reopening of the Kennedy case is a strong theme featured in the book. (p. 22)


From here, O’Brien notes another oddity. At Zapruder frame 312, right before the fatal headshot, JFK’s head is right next to Jackie’s. In fact, in the photo he shows on page 42, she is leaning so far over to his side of the seat that their heads are almost touching. But as the author notes, in the next split second, three things will happen that seriously undermine the official story which says Oswald shot Kennedy from behind. First, Kennedy’s head and body go backward, crashing off the back seat. Second, Jackie Kennedy reaches onto the trunk of the car attempting to retrieve a part of her husband’s skull, which is visible there. Third, motorcycle officer Billy Hargis, riding to the left and behind Kennedy’s limousine, is splattered with blood and tissue—and with such force that he momentarily thought he was hit. (pp. 42–45; 187–93). How could all three of these events occur in that short of an interval if the official story was correct? Do they not all betray a shot from the front? (And in arguing for a front shot, O’Brien mounts one more telling argument against the so-called neuromuscular reaction, see p. 46)

Chapters 4–7 of the book were composed by Johnny Cairns. As anyone who has been exposed to his writing will automatically understand, they are first-class. They strike the Warren Report at the points where it is supposed to be strongest: the physical evidence against Oswald.

In taking up the case of Oswald ordering the rifle, Johnny asks: if the FBI was monitoring the publications Oswald was getting through the post office—and they were—how could they not know he was also in receipt of a rifle and handgun? (pp. 60–66) Also, how could Oswald have sent a money order to Chicago on March 12th by 10:30am when his timecards from his place of employment say he was at work? And he did not have a lunch break until almost two hours later. (p. 67) He also brings up this point: if Oswald knew he was going to order a murder weapon delivered to a post office box, why utilize a box which he had signed for? Why not take out a box in the name of the alias he used to order the rifle, namely Hidell? (pp. 72–73)

Johnny then goes through all the mechanical problems that the authorities had with the particular rifle found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. They had to fit the weapon with two shims, since the sighting was off both in elevation and azimuth. Then there was a difficulty in opening the bolt, plus the trigger was a two stage operation: at first it was easy, then it required more an exertion of pressure to pull. (p. 76) Any of these, of course, would have pretty much eliminated that rifle as the murder weapon. What makes it worse is that the men who worked with the rifle once the Warren Commission got it were far more skilled with weapons than Oswald. These were FBI agents and master marksmen from the military. Johnny bases this evidence on the testimony of FBI expert Robert Frazier and weapons evaluation expert Ronald Simmons of the army. In addition, Frazier admitted that the actual scope mechanism was off. As they fired consecutive shots, the impact point got further and further away from the target. (p. 77; see also Michael Benson, Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination, p. 420; Mark Lane, Rush to Judgment, p. 127)

From here, Cairns goes on to the question of assembling the rifle. As most of us know, even if we grant the Commission’s thesis that Oswald carried the rifle to work that day in a bag, that particular bag was too short to accommodate a fully assembled Mannlicher Carcano 6.5 mm rifle. There was no screwdriver found on the sixth floor of the depository. The FBI said that they could assemble the rifle with a coin in six minutes. The late British police inspector Ian Griggs said this was poppycock. He said, in a hopeless endeavor, he ended up with blood blisters and a cut on his right thumb before he gave up. In his opinion, one had to use a screwdriver and with that it would take about two minutes. A screwdriver was needed for the simple reason that there are 16 parts to the rifle and the Warren Commission tried to conceal this with their pictorial Commission Exhibit 1304. (Click here for how)

All this leaves this important question: When and where did Oswald assemble the rifle?

Cairns asks the logical questions about the ammunition: Why could the FBI find no evidence that Oswald purchased it? (p. 87) Also, using as his authority Henry Hurt, Cairns shows that Oswald’s Marine buddies thought he was a joke as a marksman. And Hurt talked to fifty servicemen who knew Oswald. (pp. 93–94) Further, using sniper Craig Roberts as his correspondent, the great Carlos Hathcock said that his SWAT team—replicating the true conditions in Dealey Plaza—could not duplicate what Oswald did, and they tried more than once. To this reviewer that, in and of itself, would eliminate Oswald as a suspect, because Hathcock was the greatest American sniper of the Vietnam War. (p. 96) And contrary to what some Commission zealots say, to this day, Roberts stands by what he wrote about Hathcock.

In this same rigorous and systematic manner, Cairns then proceeds through the fingerprint evidence, the case that the alleged bag Oswald carried was fabricated after the assassination, the dubious police line ups Oswald was picked out of, the horrendous chain of custody for the shells found on the sixth floor—including the evidence that one of them could not have been fired that day—and probably the biggest liability in the entire Warren Report, namely the sorry, sorry case of Commission Exhibit 399, the infamous Magic Bullet. Cairns does a convincing and praiseworthy job on all of these topics and more, for example the PSE examination done on Oswald by author George O’Toole in his valuable book The Assassination Tapes.


Like Josiah Thompson in Last Second in Dallas, O’Brien writes that the pathologists did not know about Kennedy’s anterior neck wound the night of the autopsy. (p. 202) As the film JFK Revisited shows through nurse Audrey Bell, this is not accurate. But due to some nice detective work by Rob Couteau, we know this is false from Dr. Malcolm Perry himself. (Click here for details)

O’Brien is on more solid ground when he writes that Dr. Jim Humes burned his notes (he could have added the first draft of his autopsy report also). And this perhaps allowed him to move up the posterior back wound, which at autopsy was determined to come in about six inches below the collar and not exited. Now, through some manufactured evidence, the Warren Report made it negotiable with what was depicted as an exit wound through the throat. (p. 203) But that was not all. As forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht notes in JFK Revisited, by the spring of 1964, attorney Arlen Specter had now enlivened that wound track to include five wounds in Governor John Connally also.

O’Brien notes that medical illustrator Harold Rydberg was the artist who illustrated Commission Exhibit 385. Rydberg was essentially snookered by Humes and Dr. Boswell into drawing a trajectory through Kennedy’s body that would fit this alteration. (p. 208) And here, the book brings in a telling piece of testimony. Secret Service agent Clint Hill did not just see the rear skull wound in Kennedy. He also testified to Commissioner Hale Boggs, “I saw an opening in the back about six inches below the neckline to the right hand side of the spinal column.” (p. 209) Hill’s testimony corresponded with the holes in Kennedy’s shirt and jacket. As Vince Palamara shows with pictures from the front of Kennedy’s suit jacket, the jacket was likely not bunched up, since the bullet exit inside the back of the jacket matches up with the bullet entrance on the outside. (Palamara, Honest Answers, p. 21) This evidence corresponds to what was the likely first conclusion by the pathologists: the back wound did not transit Kennedy’s body.

O’Brien makes another controversial statement in Chapter 11. He says that if the Altgens photo is located at Zapruder film 225–230, then Kennedy could not have been hit by that time. He did an experiment which showed that the projectile would have had to have been fired through the branches of the oak tree. (O’Brien, p. 220) This may or may not be true. But it would seem to disagree with the pictures in the Warren Report which show the line of sight through the tree and how it is completely clear of the branches by frame 225. (WR, p. 103) This issue is also touched upon by Josiah Thompson in his first book on the Kennedy case, Six Seconds in Dallas. (p. 35) I wish O’Brien had made reference to these seemingly contradictory views and attempted to reconcile them.

In Chapters 12–14, O’Brien returns to the subject of Kennedy’s autopsy. He again notes that Humes did not call Parkland during the night. (p. 234) And he also notes how the Sibert/O’Neill report differs from the official autopsy report. For instance, the FBI report does not have the back wound transiting the body. (p. 239)

He next deals with the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) medical report which covered up the evidence for a baseball sized hole in the back of Kennedy’s head. He further notes that this evidence—largely from the witnesses at Bethesda, but matching many of the witnesses from Parkland—appears to have been concealed from the experts on the HSCA medical panel, for example Cyril Wecht and Michael Baden. Those two men both denied looking at such reports when confronted with this declassified evidence by Dr. Gary Aguilar. (p. 258) This evidence matches what the earliest witnesses, like Clint Hill, said he saw about the hole in the rear of Kennedy’s skull. (p. 263)


O’Brien makes a telling observation about Harold Rydberg and Ida Dox. Dox was the professional illustrator for the HSCA. She was largely guided by Dr. Michael Baden in what she was drawing, which roughly parallels what Humes and Boswell did with Rydberg. (p. 271) Consequently, the Dox drawings fail to show the blow out to the back of the skull that over 40 witnesses saw in Dallas and at Bethesda. But not only that, Dox was told by Baden to exaggerate the cratering effect at the cowlick area of Kennedy’s skull in order to make it look more like a wound of entry. This partly allowed the HSCA to raise the fatal head wound form low to high in the rear skull. Baden actually left declassified notes about this which were discovered by Dr. Randy Robertson. (pp. 274–75). There will be much more about this illicit relationship between Dox and Baden in Tim Smith’s upcoming book about the HSCA.

O’Brien closes out the book by pointing out some of the familiar problems with the Commission’s chief witness to Oswald being on the sixth floor, namely Howard Brennan. And he opposes that sighting with witnesses like Carolyn Arnold who said she saw Oswald on the first floor mere minutes before the assassination. (p. 281) Twenty-one police officers heard shots from in front of the limousine. Several saw smoke arising from the knoll area. He then notes how the FBI and the Commission cajoled witnesses they considered helpful to their case and argued with those they considered problematic to their verdict. Carolyn Walther and Ruby Henderson were two witnesses who said they saw two men on one of the upper floors of the Depository, and one of them was armed. (p. 285) Neither of these witnesses testified before the Commission. In fact, Walther said:

The FBI tried to make me think that what I saw were boxes. They were going to set out to prove me a liar and I had no intention of arguing with them and being harassed. (p. 285)

The book ends with the hope for how new technology can open up areas of the Kennedy case that have been closed before. O’Brien discusses the optical densitometry readings of Dr. David Mantik and their use in showing the problems with Kennedy’s x-rays. He also suggests full body CT scans. (p. 315) He concludes with the long awaited 3D imaging attempts of John Orr and Larry Schnapf, which I understand are finally getting close to fruition. (pp. 318–19)

The last part of the book includes an appendix in which well respected writers on the case suggest ways that it could be reinvestigated, for example Robert Kennedy Jr., Pat Speer, and Cyril Wecht. Some methods brought forth are by using a special prosecutor or a large panel of forensic experts or an ARRB type panel except with investigative powers.

I could point out other areas of disagreement—as with Geraldine Reid—but all in all, Doug and Johnny have written a creditable book that is worth reading.

Last modified on Sunday, 13 March 2022 19:51
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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