WHAT GERALD POSNER DECIDED TO TELL READERS--AND KEEP FROM THEM--IN THE TESTIMONY OF RICHARD WORRELL, AMOS EUINS, AND HOWARD BRENNAN
1. In his pursuit of the truth about the Kennedy assassination, Gerald Posner is said to have been the most meticulous of researchers. According to both his Random House publishers and the fawning account by Gerald Parshall in U. S. News & World Report's, promotional article for Case Closed, Posner left no stone unturned. The lawyer had to fully reappraise a massive evidentiary record.... reindexed all 26 volumes of Warren Commission testimony and the 1979 report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations and cross-referenced material in hundreds of books and articles. Then, to fill gaps not bridged by his labyrinth of 3-by-5 cards, he did more than 200 interviews of his own. (U.S. News & World Report, August 30, 1993, pp. 63-64)
2. It is reasonable to assume, then, that Posner claims to know this case. (That is certainly the impression his publisher has attempted to create; and, if one can judge from Posner's appearances on recent documentaries dealing with the case, from PBS' Frontline to "JFK: The Final Chapter? on CBS, the media establishment has designated him the ranking authority on this case.)
3. It follows that when Gerald Posner distorts the testimony of eyewitnesses to the assassination by selecting from their sworn testimony only those portions which suit his own conclusions while ignoring their other statements--often made at the same time and recorded on the same pages--he must have been aware both of the whole record of the witness and of the fact that he was abusing that record by borrowing from it what he needed and failing to report that which he most definitely did not need.
4. Posner himself laid down impressive ground rules for assessing the worth of eyewitness testimony. On page 235 of Case Closed he wrote, "Testimony closer to the event must be given greater weight than changes or additions made years later, when the witness's own memory is often muddled or influenced by television programs, films, books, and discussions with others." He then repeatedly violated his own standard. When confronted with two very different and unequal records: contemporaneous reports and/or sworn statements on the one hand, compared with recollections taken informally by himself or others some twenty to thirty years after the fact, Mr. Posner, when it suited his purposes, chose to cite the latter while ignoring the former, and to blur--for the reader-- the distinction between the two. It must be concluded that this man (as an expert) was aware of what he was doing, and have had his own motives in skewing the evidence.
5. In writing of the eyewitnesses to the actual shooting in Dealey Plaza, Posner reported on the accounts given by. Richard Worrell, Amos Euins and Howard Brennan. In Posner's version of the information provided by these three people, found on pages 247-250 of Case Closed, he employed both techniques mentioned above: selective use of the record and substitution of later, informal accounts for contemporaneous and sworn testimony.
2. According to the Official Record
A. Posner correctly places Worrell in front of the Texas School Book Depository, almost directly beneath the sixth floor window at the time of the shots, drawing from Worrell's Warren Commission testimony, found in Volume III, pages 190-201.
B. He accurately relates that Worrell thought the first shot came from over his head, looked up and saw the rifle protruding from a high window.
C. Worrell described the rifle as having about 4 inches of the barrel showing beyond the two inches of wooden stock which was visible. The remainder of the weapon was hidden by the window.
D. Worrell was able to actually see the gun fire, emitting a flash of light and a small quantity of smoke.
E. Posner then gives us his version of the importance of witness Richard Worrell to this case: "His description of a long wooden stock with only four inches of barrel exposed at the end of the rifle, exactly describes Oswald's Carcano."
F. With that comment, Posner puts Worrell aside, having used him for his purposes.
A. Posner does not see fit to mention two other items which Worrell gave to the Warren Commission and which the Commission memorialized on the same pages Posner cited: Worrell heard four shots (not Posner and Officialdom's three) and Worrell saw a man run out the back of the School Book Depository and rush south on Houston Street just after the shots were fired.
B. Worrell's statement that he heard four shots occurs first on page 193 of Volume II, the very page from which Posner chose to selectively quote. Worrell repeated his recollection of four shots twice more during his testimony.
C. After hearing (and apparently seeing) the shots fired, as well as seeing President Kennedy slump in the limousine on Elm Street, Worrell panicked and ran, turning north on Houston Street and headed out of Dealey Plaza. He stopped to get his breath and saw a "w/m, 5'8" to 5' 10", dark hair, average weight for height, dark shirt or jacket open down front, no hat, didn't have anything in hands, come out of the building and run in the opposite direction from me." This statement was part of an affidavit sworn by Worrell to the Dallas authorities on the morning after the assassination. In this same affidavit, Worrell told of hearing four shots and of seeing the rifle protruding from the window and firing. He had returned to his home in nearby Farmers' Branch then contacted the local police when he heard that Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry was asking that anyone who was an eyewitness to the shooting come forward.
D. In the Warren Commission testimony so selectively ignored by Posner, Worrell said the man was in his twenties or early thirties, wore a dark jacket and light pants, and was last seen headed south into Dealey Plaza. Commission Exhibit 361, labeled by Worrell during his testimony, placed the fleeing man at the south curb of Houston, just past Elm, headed in a southerly direction. In Worrell's words, "He went on further." (2 H 196)
E. Worrell certainly fits the profile of an important witness: present during the event, advantageous viewpoint, came forward immediately, no important contradictions in his accounts. Yet Posner shows no interest in the assertions about the fleeing man, only in the claims that some of the shots came from the TSBD and that the rifle looked like Oswald's Carcano.
F. Incidentally, his detailed description of the rifle's stock and barrel is not a part of Worrell's original statement given on the 23rd. When he was shown his affidavits, Worrell offered several corrections. One involved the rifle:
SPECTER. Is there any other respect in which your current recollection differs from the affidavit?
WORRELL. Well, I left out on the barrel of the rifle, I left out part of the stock. I didn't recollect that at that time. (2 H 199--emphasis added)
So that part of Worrell's testimony which Posner finds to be footnote-worthy is something which he did not include in his contemporaneous statements but recalled later.
G. What Posner lacks in methodology he makes up for in audacity. His final mention of Richard Worrell comes in a chapter attempting to debunk the "mysterious deaths." It is very "lawyerly" :James Worrell (car accident) was a Dealey Plaza witness who testified in detail about the Carcano rifle he saw fire the shots from the southeast corner of the sixth floor of the Book Depository. His testimony supports the Warren Commission conclusion about the location of the assassin." (Case Closed, p. 495--emphases added)
H. Worrell never once gave even the slightest indication that he saw a Carcano rifle, only that he the gun he saw had four inches of metal barrel showing beyond the stock. Posner simply performs another of his frequent permutations of "might have been" into "fact." Notice the careful phrasing of how Worrell "supports the Warren Commission." Only in terms of the location of some of the shots (Worrell never claimed to have seen the fourth shot fired from above his head.) Worrell's evidence is decidedly at odds with the Commission (and Posner) in terms of the number of shots fired, so that small item is not mentioned. And, of course, there is no reference at all to Worrell's having seen a man hurrying from the rear of the Book Depository.
2. According to the Official Record
A. On the same page Posner gave the world what he thought it should know about what Richard Worrell saw and heard, he offered a similarly-modified account by Amos Euins, a fifteen-year-old boy who was sitting on a pedestal near the reflecting pool, just across Elm Street from the Depository:"I could see everything," he says. "I saw what I thought was a pipe," Euins told the author. I saw it ahead of time. It looked like a dark metal pipe hanging from the window, and it was an old building, so I figured, 'Hey, it's got a pipe hanging off it.' I never realized it was a gun until the shooting started." (Case Closed, p. 247)
B. These statements come from an interview with Posner on January 19, 1992, twenty-nine years after the event. Euins' Warren Commission testimony and statements made the authorities just after the event--obviously of much greater probative value-- are given short shrift: in one reference, Posner quotes Euins' statement that he could see a hand on the gun with a finger on the trigger.
C. Posner dismisses Euins from the case with these words:"While he [Euins] could not describe the shooter, he ran to a policeman and told him what he saw." (Case Closed, p. 247)
A. Once again, the actual sworn and contemporaneous records contain bad news for Posner and his theories--and, once again, these are ignored, even though they must have been seen by such a meticulous researcher.B. After Euins "ran to a policeman and told him what he saw," he was carried to the police station, where he made a statement. Amos Euins is reported to have said following: *He saw a white man whom he had never seen before fire two shots from a rifle. *The man then stepped back behind some boxes. *He could see the trigger housing and the barrel of the rifle. * From the rapidity of the shots, he thought it "sounded like an automatic rifle." (CE 2003, p. 22, 24 H 207)
C. Posner's statement that Euins "could not describe the shooter" is incorrect. Euins offered a very significant observation about the man in the window when he testified before the Warren Commission on March 10, 1964 (just after Richard Worrell's appearance). It is also clear that this observation is one which he had made soon after the shooting, perhaps within minutes.
D. According to Euins, the man had a bald spot on his head, description which does not fit Lee Harvey Oswald:EUINS. I could see a bald spot on the man's head trying to look out the window. He had a bald spot on his head. I was looking at the bald spot. ( 2 H 204)
and again later:EUINS. All I got to see was the man with a spot on his head, because he had his head something like this. SPECTER. Indicating his face down, looking down the rifle? EUINS. Yes, sir; and I could see the spot on his head. (2 H 207)
E. Euins' attempt to describe the bald spot on the man's head was the apparent source of the police report which said that Euins described the shooter as a white man:SPECTER. In your statement you say here that he was a white man. EUINS. No, sir; I told the men I could see a white spot on his head, but I didn't actually say he was a white man. I couldn't tell. But I saw a white spot on his head.(2 H 208)
F. But there was evidence that Euins originally stated that the man with the rifle was a colored man. The Warren Commission knew of the allegation and seems to have made no effort to resolve the apparent contradiction. As we shall see, Gerald Posner must have known of the allegation also. But he, too, chose not to mention it.
G. James Robert Underwood, assistant news director at Dallas station KRLD-TV, was in the motorcade, passing just in front of the School Book Depository when the shots rang out. He thought at least two of the three shots came from the building and left the open news car to grab a camera from a colleague. After going to the grassy knoll and the railroad yards, Underwood moved to the front of the School Book Depository where he overheard Amos Euins being interviewed. Three weeks after Euins testified, Underwood appeared before Warren Commission counsel Joe Ball in Dallas:UNDERWOOD. He was telling a motorcycle officer he had seen a colored man lean out of the window upstairs and he had a rifle .... I went over and asked the boy if he had seen someone with a rifle and he said, "Yes, sir." I said, "Were they white or black?" He said, "It was a colored man. I said, "Are you sure it was a colored man?" He said, "Yes, sir," and I asked him his name and the only thing I could understand was what I thought his name was Eunice." 6 H 170)
H. Posner must have been aware of Underwood's account to the Commission. He cited Underwood's testimony from page 169 of Volume VI--just one page from the news director's account of his questioning of Euins.
I. It is difficult to know what to make of the Underwood/ Euins statements. If Underwood is correct, Euins told him the man with the rifle was a "colored man." Euins then signed a statement saying he was a white man, but then later recanted and said the statement was incorrect, and that he did not know if the man was black or white. Whether black men have white bald spots on their heads, or whether Euins may have confused the rifleman with one of the three black men just below the sixth floor window are matters which both the Commission and Posner might profitably have pursued. Neither did.
J. Nor did Posner see fit to relate another of Euins' sworn statements:SPECTER. How many shots did you hear altogether? EUINS. I believe there were four, to be exact. (2 H 204--emphasis added)
2. According to Gerald Posner (Case Closed, pp. 247-250)
A. Howard Brennan was a steamfitter who observed the sixth floor window just before and during the shooting. Brennan told the Sheriff's Department and later the Warren Commission that he saw a white male, in his early thirties, slender and of medium height, standing or sitting in the corner window during a period beginning 6- 8 minutes before Kennedy's motorcade passed.
B. Brennan heard two shots as the Presidential limousine moved down Elm Street. The first he thought to be a backfire, then he looked up at the window to see the same man aiming a rifle. Brennan saw the man squeeze off a shot, look down Elm Street and then move away from the window. Brennan then ducked behind the concrete wall on which he was sitting. (CE 2003, 24 H 203)
C. Brennan stated that he then ran across the street to a policeman, alerting him to what he had seen. Subsequently he would talk to Inspector Sawyers and to Secret Service agent Sorrels (apparently confusing the two men with similar names) and would make a sworn statement to authorities.
D. At about six o'clock that night, a Secret Service agent picked Brennan up at his home and drove him to view a police lineup. In the meantime, Brennan had twice seen Lee Harvey Oswald's picture on local television.
E. At the lineup, Brennan selected Oswald as the person who most closely resembled the man he had seen in the window with the rifle, but he failed to make a positive identification.
F. Later, Brennan told police he could have made a positive identification but was afraid for the safety of himself and his family. Then, when an FBI agent spoke with him a few weeks later, Brennan seemed to revert to being unable to positively identify Oswald. When he appeared before the Warren Commission, Brennan stated that he could have made the identification.
G. The Warren Commission dealt with the dilemma of Brennan's uncertainty in this manner: "The Commission ... does not base its conclusions concerning the identity of the assassin on Brennan's subsequent certain identification of Lee Harvey Oswald as the man he saw fire the rifle.,, (WR, p. 146) The Commission went on to state its belief that Brennan saw someone who closely resembled Oswald and that Brennan believed the man was Oswald. In the HSCA's investigation, Brennan is not even mentioned.
H. Over the years, critics of the Warren Commission have pointed out many inconsistencies in Brennan's statements. The Zapruder film shows Brennan still looking at the motorcade on Elm Street--and not at the TSBD-as late as frame 207, some time after most feel a shot was fired. Brennan was confused as to whether the man he had seen was standing or sitting, and, as we shall see, his description of the clothing worn by the man in the window is inconsistent with the outfit Oswald apparently wore at that time.
I. In spite of these contradictions, a fair evaluation of the evidence indicates that Brennan did see someone with a rifle in the window. His failure to make a positive identification of Oswald, as well as the issue of the gunman's clothing, make it impossible to fairly cite Brennan as proof that Lee Harvey Oswald was on the sixth floor, a fact which even the Warren Commission recognized.
J. In 1987, twenty-four years after the assassination, Mr. Brennan joined with a Baptist minister named Edward Cherryholmes to write a book about his observations. In the book, Brennan added many details, some of them contradictory to his sworn statements of 1963-64.
A. The waffling which troubled the Warren Commission did not trouble Gerald Posner. Posner calls Brennan "the person who saw more in Dealey Plaza that day than any other witness" (p. 247) and says that because "Brennan is so specific in his identification, the critics go to extensive efforts to discredit him." (p. 249) Three pages of Case Closed are devoted to Brennan's statements, including many long passages of direct quotations.
B. In relating Brennan's account to his readers, Posner had available three sources:
* Brennan's statement to the Sheriff's Department, made just after the event;
*Brennan's Warren Commission testimony, 24 pages in length, given under oath on March 24, 1964;
*the Brennan-Cherryholmes book, Eyewitness to History: The Kennedy Assassination As Seen by Howard Brennan, written twenty four years after the event, and, of course, not sworn to.
These three sources obviously have vastly different probative values. Here's how Posner chose to use the three:*He cited very little from Brennan's actual sworn statements. FORTY-SEVEN words of Brennan's testimony are quoted, with nothing at all from his initial statement to the Sheriff's Department.C. A few examples are instructive here:
*He quoted voluminously from the emotionally- charged Brennan-Cherryholmes book, including several long passages from this narrative written long after the fact. In three pages of text, Posner quoted THREE HUNDRED AND FIVE words directly from its lurid prose. Thus, 86% of the quoted words of Howard Brennan come not from his sworn testimony but from words written a quarter of a century later. Nowhere in the text does Posner tell the reader that he has actually substituted words written much later for Brennan's more relevant sworn statements. (It is here that the reader may wish to reflect on Posner's stated rule: "Testimony closer to the event must be given greater weight than changes or additions made much later...... )
*Worse, he mixed statements from Brennan's sworn record with those from the book, often citing both sources in the same footnote. Even the most careful reader would be hard-pressed to separate the two sources.
*Finally he chose to ignore Brennan's descriptions of the clothing worn by the man in the window.*These passages are all derived from the Brennan- Cherryholmes book. They are printed here in all capital letters to distinguish them from Brennan's sworn Warren Commission testimony (a distinction Mr. Posner was careful not to make).
- AS I LOOKED AT THE MAN, IT STRUCK ME HOW UNSMILING AND CALM HE WAS. HE DIDN'T SEEM TO FEEL ONE BIT OF EXCITEMENT. HIS FACE WAS ALMOST EXPRESSIONLESS .... HE SEEMED PREOCCUPIED.
- I LOOKED UP THEN AT THE TEXAS SCHOOL BOOK DEPOSITORY BUILDING. WHAT I SAW MADE MY BLOOD RUN COLD. POISED IN THE CORNER WINDOW OF THE SIXTH FLOOR WAS THE SAME YOUNG MAN I HAD NOTICED SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE THE MOTORCADE ARRIVED. THERE WAS ONE DIFFERENCE: THIS TIME HE HELD A RIFLE IN HIS HANDS, POINTING TOWARD THE PRESIDENTIAL CAR. HE STEADIED THE RIFLE AGAINST THE CORNICE AND WHILE HE MOVED QUICKLY, HE DIDN'T SEEM TO BE IN ANY KIND OF PANIC .... THEN CAME THE SICKENING SOUND OF A SECOND SHOT.... I WANTED TO CRY. I WANTED TO SCREAM, BUT I COULDN'T UTTER A SOUND.
- HE WAS AIMING AGAIN AND I WANTED TO PRAY, TO BEG GOD TO SOMEHOW MAKE HIM MISS THE TARGET.... WHAT I WAS SEEING, THE SIGHT BECAME SO FIXED IN MY MIND THAT I'LL NEVER FORGET IT FOR AS LONG AS I LIVE ....
- TO MY AMAZEMENT THE MAN STILL STOOD THERE IN THE WINDOW. HE DIDN'T APPEAR TO BE RUSHED. THERE WAS NO PARTICULAR EMOTION VISIBLE ON HIS FACE EXCEPT FOR A SLIGHT SMIRK. IT WAS A LOOK OF SATISFACTION, AS IF HE HAD ACCOMPLISHED WHAT HE SET OUT TO DO....
* Not surprisingly, one finds no mention of an unsmiling, calm young man," going methodically about his deadly business in Brennan's sworn statements Nor did he tell the Commission how his blood ran cold, how he wanted to scream, how he prayed. Contrast this melodramatic garbage with Brennan's earliest statement, made to authorities just after the shooting: "I did not notice anything unusual about the man.... There was nothing unusual About him at all in his appearance." (CE 2003, 24 H 203) By choosing his sources carefully (and unethically) Posner transforms the steamfitter who refused to make a positive identification--and who didn't know if the man he saw was standing or sitting-into a witness who could read a smirk from across the street and six stories above him. (Recall: "Testimony closer to the event must be given greater weight than changes or additions made years later."--Gerald Posner)
*Sometimes, Posner employs a "mix-and-match" method to confuse the reader about sources and shore up his case that the person Brennan saw in the window was Oswald. Early in his Brennan account, we are given this quote:When he arrived at that corner, he checked his watch and it was 12:18. The first time he noticed a man in the southeast corner of the sixth floor was several minutes later. He guessed he was five feet eight to five feet ten inches tall, white, slender, with dark brown hair, and BETWEEN TWENTY-FIVE AND THIRTY FIVE YEARS OF AGE.113The references cited for footnote 113 are: "Howard Brennan and J. Edward Cherryholmes, Eyewitness to History: The Kennedy Assassination As Seen by Howard Brennan (Waco, Texas: Texian Press, 1987, p. 7; testimony of Howard Brennan, AWC Vol. III, p. 243."
The implication here is that this description comes from Brennan's sworn Warren Commission testimony. In fact, the crucial age estimate comes from the belated book and not from any sworn testimony. It is actually at odds with what Brennan told the police just after the shooting: that the person in the window was a "white man in his early thirties..." (CE 2003, 24 H 203) In this instance, Posner uses Mr. Brennan's revised age estimate-- one that comes much closer to Lee Harvey Oswald's age-as a substitute for Brennan's contemporaneous estimate, without bothering to inform of the reader of the substitution, of course. (In his March 24 testimony before the Warren Commission, Brennan repeated that the gunman was in his "early thirties." The man in the window apparently did not undergo his convenient age regression until Brennan wrote his book.)
D. Posner buys completely into Brennan's explanation that he failed to identify Oswald out of fear that he was the only eyewitness and, as such, might be silenced or killed. Posner cites the fact that Brennan considered moving his family and that the FBI posted guards at his house for three weeks. This picture of a scared and reluctant witness has some cracks in it, however:*According to Secret Service agent Forrest Sorrels, Brennan knew that he was not the only eyewitness. When Sorrels spoke with Brennan at the TSBD about half an hour after the assassination, Brennan himself pointed out young Amos Euins as one who had seen the gunman. (7 H 349)3. Brennan's Extraordinary Eyesight
*In both his Sheriff's Department statement and his comments to Sorrels, Brennan indicated a willingness to identify the man in the window "if I ever saw him again." The most reasonable explanation for Brennan's failure to ever make a positive identification of the man is that he never saw him again--at the lineup or elsewhere.
*It was not Brennan but a "Secret Service man from Houston" who first suggested "security reasons" as an excuse to the reluctant witness: "You said you couldn't make a positive identification. Did you do that for security reasons personally or couldn't you?" is how Brennan quoted the agent. (3 H 148)
* Brennan's subsequent actions belie his claim that he feared being harmed because of what he had seen and so took steps to avoid public exposure. In August, 1964, before the release of the Warren Report, Brennan spoke on camera with CBS News, for their nationwide broadcast, "CBS News Extra: November 22, 1963 and the Warren Report," aired on September 27, 1964. Interviews were done, according to narrator Walter Cronkite, a month before the telecast and the release of the Warren Report. Brennan also posed for a photograph which appeared in the October 2, 1964 issue of Life magazine. If Brennan was taking steps to avoid public exposure, they were certainly extraordinary steps. (In the CBS program, Brennan blatantly contradicted his sworn Warren Commission testimony when, having blown his cover, he told the nation that "The President's head just exploded." Brennan had told the Commission that he was looking at the gunman--not Kennedy--when the last shot was fired and that he had stopped looking at the Presidential car after the first shot. (3 H 143-144)
A. According to Gerald Posner, those who would defend Lee Harvey Oswald have distorted the record in trying to show that Howard Brennan had bad eyesight and could not have seen the things he claims to have seen. In a classic case of pots and kettles, Posner attacks Mark Lane, Jim Marrs and Robert Sam Anson for claiming that Brennan had bad eyes. He then "sets the record straight":"But anyone who read Brennan's testimony to the Warren Commission would have discovered that he was in fact farsighted." (p. 250)
B. Au contraire. Anyone who read Brennan's testimony would have discovered that he said he was farsighted. Brennan offered no proof of this. The Commission made no effort to contact his optometrist, Dr. Bonar, to determine the condition of Brennan's eyes before November 22. In fact, when Brennan appeared before the Commission, he was wearing eyeglasses and reported that his present doctor "....says it [his eyesight] is not good." Brennan said this was due to a sandblasting incident which occurred two months after the assassination and left him blinded for six hours. Dr. Black, who had allegedly treated the steamfitter, was not asked to verify Brennan's story. In the final analysis, the "fact" that Howard Brennan was farsighted is based entirely on the assertions of Howard Brennan.
C. In his Eyewitness to History, Brennan added more detail about his remarkable eyesight, modesty having apparently kept him from sharing it with the Commission. As Posner unashamedly reports, ,on that day my vision was perfect.' [quoting from Eyewitness to History] Brennan said his eyesight for anything at a distance was 'extraordinary,' allowing him when in a car to read license plates of other cars from a couple of hundred feet." (One wonders how those eagle eyes could have missed the "MADE ITALY" label on the Carcano.)
D. With a straight face Posner then writes, "He fervently believed God had placed him in the position to witness the assassination 'because of my gift of super-eyesight."' If Brennan indeed believed that his Maker placed him in Dealey Plaza as an instrument of divine providence, surely the Deity must have been dismayed at Brennan's lack of zeal in cooperating. Given such celestial backing, would Brennan not have strode into the Dallas police station and fulfilled his ordained mandate by pointing out the man in the window? How could he have failed his mission by refusing to identify the man destiny had brought into the crosshairs of his "super-eyesight"? (One wonders if Brennan ever considered that the alleged sandblasting of his eyes may have been God's wrath upon him for failing to accept his providential role.)
4.Brennan's Clothing Description: A Small Matter OverlookedA. In three pages of accounts of blood running cold and screams dying in Brennan's mouth, Posner never got around to passing on to the reader his key witness' description of what the man in the TSBD window was wearing. It is not included in even the meager 14% of Brennan's words which are taken from sworn testimony.
B. Just after the shooting, Brennan told authorities the man he saw in the window wore "light colored clothing, definitely not a suit." (CE 2003 24 H 203)
C. On March 24, 1964, Brennan testified that the man wore "light-colored clothing, more of a khaki color." He doubted that the shirt was white: "If it was a white shirt, it was a little on the dingy side." (3 H 145)
D. When he was shown CE 150, the rust-brown shirt Oswald wore when he was arrested, Brennan could not relate it to the shirt he had seen in the window: "I would have expected it to be a little lighter--a shade or so lighter." (3 H 161)
E.Then Brennan injected a comment which could not have been welcomed by Commission counsel David Belin. The following exchange occurred:BRENNAN. ....and that was another thing I called their attention to at the lineup. BELIN. What do you mean by that? BRENNAN. That he was not dressed in the same clothing as the man in the window. BELIN. You mean with reference to the trousers or the shirt? BRENNAN. Well, not particularly either. In other words, he just didn't have the same clothes on. BELIN. All right. BRENNAN. I don't know whether you have that in the record or not. I'm sure you do. (3 H 161)The Commission had that in the record, well enough, but it was never mentioned in its Report. Neither did Mr. Posner see fit to make reference to this aspect of his star witness, visual acuity. After these remarks by Howard Brennan, the Commission had no further questions of him, and he was dismissed. When he was called back twice during that same day for additional questioning, the issue of the gunman's clothing was never reintroduced.
F. There is much corroboration for Brennan's observation that the man in the window wore a light colored shirt. Ronald Fischer and Bob Edwards watched the motorcade from the corner of Houston and Elm, just in front of the Book Depository. Each recalled seeing a man in the sixth floor corner window just seconds before shots were fired. Each recalled that the man had on a light colored shirt. Edwards stated just hours after the shots that it was a "sport shirt, yellow or white-like color." (CE 2003, 24 H 207) He told the Warren Commission it was a light colored shirt, short sleeved with an open neck. (6 H 203). Fischer's CE 2003 report (an affidavit signed the afternoon of the shooting) reveals that he stated the man was "light-headed" and that he "had on an open-neck shirt." (24 H 208). In his testimony, Fischer described it as "light in color--probably white," adding that it could have been open-necked or a T-shirt. (6 H 194) Arnold Rowland saw two men on the sixth floor--one carrying a gun with a scope-about 15 minutes before the motorcade was fired upon. In the statement he made to the Sheriff's Department, he did not mention the second person, but described the man he saw as wearing a "light-colored shirt, open at the neck." (CE 2003, 24 H 224) When he testified before the Commission, Rowland said it was a "light shirt, a very light-colored shirt, white or a light blue or a color such as that." It was open at the collar, unbuttoned at the collar, with a white T- shirt underneath. Rowland said the man had on dark pants or jeans. (2 H 176) Carolyn Walthers also observed two persons on the upper floors of the building about ten minutes before the assassination, one holding a strange type of gun. In an FBI interview on December 5, Mrs. Walthers said one of the men wore a dark brown suit, the other, the one with the gun, was "wearing a white shirt, and had blond or light brown hair." (CE 2086, 24 H 522)
G. Every person who claims to have seen this man in the window and offered any description of his clothing stated that he was wearing a very light colored shirt--Brennan, Walthers, Fischer, Edwards, and Rowland. How does Posner deal with this problem? With a typical Posnerian "solution," one which--at first glance--offers an explanation, then collapses upon closer examination.
H. He begins by falsely claiming that Oswald was "wearing a white T-shirt under a light-colored shirt," then offers this remarkable footnote on the same page: When Oswald was arrested, he had on a white T-shirt under a rust-brown shirt. But he admitted to the police that he had changed his shirt when he returned to his rooming house after the assassination. (Case Closed, p. 232)
I. The facts are these: Neither Oswald nor anyone else ever claimed that he wore a "light colored shirt" on November 22. Oswald apparently told Agent Bookhout of the FBI that he had on a "reddish-colored, long sleeved" shirt and gray trousers, but changed clothes when he got to his Beckley Street roominghouse, leaving the clothing behind. (Report, p. 622) A brown long-sleeved shirt and a pair of gray trousers were found by Dallas police in Oswald's room. (21 H 679) But the testimony of Mary Bledsoe, if accurate, makes Oswald's claim that he changed clothes untruthful, and rules out any possibility that Oswald changed his clothing at the roominghouse. Ms Bledsoe, whose testimony is much prized by those who think Oswald to have been the assassin, said she encountered Oswald on a city bus just minutes after the assassination and before he reached his roominghouse. As coincidence would have it, Ms Bledsoe, who had rented a room to Oswald a month earlier (and had asked him to leave), was one of five passengers on the bus. In her Warren Commission testimony, Ms Bledsoe said Oswald "looked like a maniac," with a "distorted face." (6 H 409) She also said Oswald had on the reddish-brown shirt he was wearing when he was arrested an hour later. She identified CE 150 as the shirt he wore on the bus, and described a tear in the shirt she had observed when Oswald got on. It will be recalled that the visually-gifted Mr. Brennan had insisted this shirt (CE 150) was not the shirt worn by the man he saw in the TSBD window with a gun in his hand. Posner must have seen Mary Bledsoe's shirt identification, the one which destroys his absurd footnote: it occurs on the same page of her testimony cited by him in Case Closed to prove that Oswald took the bus!
J. If it is Posner's position that Oswald changed shirts at his roominghouse, he must believe the alleged Presidential assassin had the forethought to remove a bus transfer from the pocket of the brown (reddish?) shirt and place it in the pocket of the shirt he was wearing when he was arrested, for that is where the ticket driver Cecil McWatters gave him was allegedly found. How might he explain the presence, on the butt plate of the rifle found in the Book Depository, of three fibers which were very similar to some of the fibers of CE 150, the reddish-brown shirt? If Mr. Posner contends that Oswald was not wearing CE 150 when he was (according to Posner) in the TSBD window, how did these fresh fibers come to be on the rifle? These problems seem never to have occurred to the man chosen by Frontline and CBS as the ranking expert on this case.
K. The scenario implied by Posner's "explanation" for the man in the window wearing a light-colored shirt is patently absurd:* Oswald wore a reddish-colored shirt to work, but brought the rust-brown one with him.
* He took off the reddish-colored shirt and appeared in the window in his white T-shirt.
*He then put on the rust-brown shirt, rubbed the butt of the rifle against it, wore it to the bus encounter with Ms Bledsoe, put his bus transfer into the pocket, somehow concealing the other shirt on his person all the while.
*He left the reddish-shirt in his roominghouse and wore the rust-brown shirt until he was arrested.
Richard Worrell, Amos Euins and Howard Brennan were present near the Book Depository when the shots were fired. Their testimony is crucial in this case, and each created a record of sworn statements to the authorities. Posner purports to relate their accounts, one after the other, in three pages of his book. The manner in which he uses their observations reveals much about Gerald Posner's agenda: * He tells us that Worrell saw a rifle firing from the sixth floor window and that the rifle barrel resembled a Mannlicher.
* He then falsely tell us that Worell saw a Carcano in the window. * He does not tell us that Worrell heard four shots and saw a man run out the back of the Depository just after the shots. * He tells us that Amos Euins saw the gun in the window. * He elects to use statements from a 1992 interview with Euins, while ignoring Euins sworn testimony. * He falsely tells us that "Euins could not describe the shooter." * He choose not to tell us that Euins said the man with the rifle had a bald spot on his head. * He chooses not to tell us that Euins apparently told a reporter that the man with the gun was black. * He chooses not to tell us that Euins heard four shots. * He ignores most of Howard Brennan's sworn testimony in favor of a narrative written twenty- four years after the fact (in a style that would make a pulp-fiction writer blush). * He quotes Brennan's vivid description of the man with the rifle, describing his preoccupied look, his unsmiling manner, even his smirk, while ignoring Brennan's sworn statement, made within hours of seeing the man: "I did not notice anything unusual about the man.... There was nothing unusual about him at all in his appearance.,' * He devotes two long paragraphs to Brennan's problems with identifying Oswald as the man in the window without telling the reader the simple truth: that Brennan told authorities he could identify the man if he ever saw him again, but refused to make a positive identification of Oswald--ever.
* He fails to tell the reader that the man Brennan saw in the window was not wearing the clothes Oswald wore in the police lineup.
Some Thoughts on the Posner Book
Why did those of us who believe in conspiracy become so exercised when Case Closed appeared, in contrast to our placid, even condescending, reactions to previous books arguing that Oswald acted alone, such as those by David Belin, Jean Davison, and Jim Moore? One reason is that we felt we had the field to ourselves. Books arguing the case for conspiracy had been rolling off presses with regularity. The TV networks say Oswald was the lone assassin, books say there was a conspiracy; it was a pattern with which we had become comfortable. Jim Moore's Conspiracy of One was a lonely (and easily ignored) dissent.
Posner's book is different. It could not be ignored. Jim Moore never became a regular on the TV talk show circuit; Gerald Posner did. Dick Cavett never told Jim Moore that anyone who didn't believe in the single-bullet theory after reading his book was simply not an intelligent person. He said that to Posner. One wonders made the decisions that led U. S. News & World Report to run a special "double issue" containing 27 pages excerpted from Posner's book. One wonders what the cost of this venture was--and who paid it. One wonders, also, how a man who had been researching the case for just three years found so many doorways, at so many radio and TV studios, opening to him, why so many more people praised the book than read it. I am of the opinion that Case Closed was hyped by the national media for the same reason that it was written in the first place: it offered a timely (and, on the surface, effective) antidote to the renewed interest in the case stimulated by Oliver Stone's JFK and culminating in the release of the assassination files just as the thirtieth anniversary approached. Case Closed said, "What's the excitement. It's been solved. It was solved all along." On the last page of his book, Posner wrote, "Chasing shadows on the grassy knoll will never substitute for real history." In the view of Posner and those who supported him, he had brought us "real history," had brought clarity to the chaos. Finally there was form to the face of the void. Time to move along.
In his many television appearances which came in the wake of publication, Posner tended to treat the conspiracy buffs like children who had misbehaved. How dare them mislead the public for so many years! And for something so base as money, to boot! Oh, well, at this late date, nothing left to do but have Uncle Gerald set the record straight, put this unfortunate event behind us, and send everyone to bed happy.
Case Closed is a dishonest book. It is a well-packaged, well-promoted, well-reviewed and impressive looking dishonest book. There is less there meets the eye. As we have seen, it is not so much a retelling of the record as it is a retelling--and twisting-of that part of the record which Gerald Posner wants the reader to know. John Newman has said the book should not be called Case Closed; it should be called The Prosecution Rests. The point is well-made. The book is a brief for the prosecution. But it is actually a bit less than that. It is a brief for the prosecution to be offered to Judges who know little about the case, and, therefore, would not know that the purported "real history" is filled with the same kinds of distortions, omissions, and misrepresentation Uncle Gerald repeatedly chastises the wayward children of conspiracy about.
There is some indication that the publisher, Random House, was aware that Case Closed had its shortcomings, and fell far short of living up to the billing its title implies (even though, according to Posner, the title was suggested by Random House, over his objections). The book jacket is covered with worshipful excerpts from no fewer than five reviews. Nearly all the earliest reviews, coming from people who had been given the book in advance, found the book praiseworthy. These early reviewers had two things in common: they were well-known literary figures and they had no expertise in the Kennedy assassination. William Styron ("Case Closed has helped to lay to rest one of the great cultural and political scandals of our time."), Stephen Ambrose ("This is a model of historical research."), and Tom Wicker ("After his book, the case of JFK is indeed closed.") have written many books, but none on the Kennedy assassination. Where are the opinions of Robert Blakey, chief counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, of David Belin, counsel for the Warren Commission and the author of two books arguing that Oswald acted alone, or of Michael Baden, forensic pathologist and head of the HSCA's medical panel? These three men-- and others--would qualify as experts on the Kennedy case, and all believe--as does Posner--that Oswald killed the President. The failure to ask anyone who knew the factual record of the case to review the book suggests a fear that the reviewer would recognize the shoddy scholarship and the shameless distortion of that record, would point out that Case Closed is best read from an evidentiary distance. It is a book for the telescope, not the microscope.