David R. Wrone
This review appeared in the Journal of Southern History 6 (February 1995), pp. 186-188
Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK. By Gerald Posner. (New York: Random House, 1993. Pp. xvi, 607. $25.00, ISBN 0-679-41825-3.)
Gerald Posner argues that the Warren Commission properly investigated the assassination of JFK. He claims to have refuted the critics, purports to show what actually occurred, and asserts simple factual answers to explain complex problems that have plagued the subject for years. In the process he condemns all who do not agree with the official conclusions as theories driven by conjectures. At the same time his book is so theory driven, so rife with speculation, and so frequently unable to conform his text with the factual content in his sources that it stands as one of the stellar instances of irresponsible publishing on the subject.
Massive numbers of factual errors suffuse the book, which make it a veritable minefield. Random samples are the following: Pontchartrain is a lake not a river. The wounded James Tague stood twenty feet east, not under the triple underpass. There were three Philip Geracis, not one; he confuses the second and the third. A tiny fragment, not a bullet, entered Connally's thigh. The Army did the testing that he refers to the FBI. None, not three, commissioners heard at least half the hearings. The Warren Commission did not have any investigators. Captain Donovan is John, not Charles, and a lieutenant. The critics of the official findings are not leftists but include conservatives such as Cardinal Cushing, William Loeb, and former commissioner, Richard Russell.
Posner often presents the opposite of what the evidence says. In the presentation of a corrupt picture of Oswald's background, for example, he states that, under the name of Osborne, Oswald picked up leaflets he distributed from the Jones Printing Company and that the "receptionist" identified him. She in fact said that Oswald did not pick up the leaflets as the source that Posner cites indicates.
No credible evidence connects Oswald to the murder. All the data that Posner presents to do so is either shorn of context, corrupted, the opposite of what the sources actually say, or nonsourced. For example, 100 percent of the witness testimony and physical evidence exclude Oswald from carrying the rifle to work that day disguised as curtain rods. Posner manipulates with words to concoct a case against Oswald as with Linnie Mae Randle, who swore the package, as Oswald allegedly carried it, was twenty-eight inches long, far too short to have carried a rifle. He grasped its end, and it hung from his swinging arm to almost touch the ground. Posner converts this to "tucked under his armpit, and the other end did not quite touch the ground"(p. 225). The rifle was heavily oiled, but the paper sack discovered on the sixth floor had not a trace of oil. Posner excludes this vital fact.
To refute criticism that the first of three shots (the magic bullet) inflicted seven nonfatal wounds on two bodies in impossible physical and time constraints, he invents a second magic bullet. He asserts that Oswald fired the first bullet near frame 160 of the Zapruder film, fifty frames earlier than officially held, and missed. The bullet hit a twig or a branch or a tree, as he varies it, then separated into its copper sheath and lead composite core. The core did a right angle to fly west more than 200 feet to hit a curbstone and wound Tague while the sheath decided to disappear. The curb in fact had been damaged. He omits that analysis of the curb showed the bullet came from the west, which means the bullet would have had to have taken another sui generis turn of 135 degrees to get back west with sufficient force to smash concrete, which he pretends was not marred.
He asserts proof of a core hit because FBI analysis revealed "traces of [sic per reviewer] lead with a trace of antimony" (p. 325) in the damage. What he omits destroys his theory. He does not explain that a bullet core has several other metallic elements in its composition, not two, rendering his conclusion false. He further neglects to inform the reader that by May 1964 the damage had been covertly patched with a concrete paste and that in August, not July, 1964, the FBI tested the scrapings of the paste, not the damage, which gave the two metal results.
He says the second shot transited JFK's neck and caused the nonfatal wounds striking Connally at Zapruder film frame 224 where Connally is seen turned to his right, allegedly lining his body up with JFK's neck, thus sustaining the single bullet explanation. He finds proof that a bullet hit then in Connally's lapel that was flapping in that one frame as it passed through. But he does not conform to fact. Wind gusting to twenty miles per hour that day ruffled clothing. And, there is no bullet hole in the lapel but in the jacket body beneath the right nipple area.
Posner crowns his theory with the certainty of science by using one side of the computer-enhanced studies by Failure Analysis Associates of Menlo Park that his text implies he commissioned. The firm, however, lambastes his use as a distortion of the technology that it had developed for the American Bar Association's mock trial of Oswald where both sides used it.
Posner fails. I believe that irrefutable evidence shows conspirators, none of them Oswald, killed JFK. A mentally ill Jack Ruby, alone and unaided, shot Oswald. The federal inquiry knowingly collapsed and theorized a political solution. Its corruption spawned theorists who tout solutions rather than define the facts that are locked in the massively muddied evidentiary base and released only by hard work.
University of WisconsinDavid R. Wrone