State of the Evidence, The Evidence of the State (page
Edward Jay Epstein
Although the suspicion has been raised
that the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle was "framed" as the murder
weapon by a conspirator who planted the nearly-intact bullet
on a stretcher in Parkland Hospital, it lacks any reasonable
persuasiveness because i) the conspirator would have no certainty
that he could recover from the hospital, car, autopsy and
crime scene the "real" bullets that presumably would not match
the Mannlicher-Carcano; ii) the fragments found in the car
and Governor Connally's wrist match the Mannlicher-Carcano
ammunition; iii) it would be pointless to frame the Mannlicher-Carcano,
which the conspirators would have had to have in their possession
anyway to leave at the murder site, since it was a weapon
perfectly capable of hitting its target. So why not use it?
We thus know that the Mannlicher Carcano
found in the depository fired at least two of the shots at
the President's motorcade.
3. How many snipers fired at the President's
The best evidence of the sequence
of events remains the ten-second long film taken by Zapruder.
It fixes the earliest time Kennedy could have been first hit
in the back, the latest time Connally was wounded, and the
exact moment the President was shot in the head. From an analysis
of this film, the Warren Commission staff determined that
the interval between the time Kennedy and Connally were first
shot was not long enough for a single rifleman to have fired
two shots: therefore either both men were hit by the same
bullet, or there had to be two riflemen. This conclusion was
confirmed by the more sophisticated photographic analysis
of the House Select Committee's photographic evidence panel
and of independent researchers.
Despite the crucial implications of
this photographic evidence, the issue of whether Kennedy and
Connally were hit by the same or separate bullets has not
been satisfactorily resolved. The FBI concluded it was separate
shots, the Warren Commission begged the question as "not relevant"
and the House Select Committee, which went most thoroughly
into this evidence, was unable to reach a definitive conclusion
because members of its 9-doctor panel irreconcilably disagreed.
Eight doctors believed it was possible, though not necessarily
probable. that the bullet recovered had caused both Kennedy's
back wound and Connally's, multiple wounds; one doctor, however,
Cyril Wecht concluded from the photographic and medical evidence
that it was absolutely impossible for those wounds to have
been caused by a single bullet. Since Wecht marshals considerable
evidence to support his view (as will be recalled from Epilogue
I), we are left with two possible scenarios.
A. The Single Bullet Scenario
One rifleman fired three bullets from
the Mannlicher Carcano in the depository. The first bullet
missed the motorcade entirely and incidentally wounded a bystander,
James Teague. The second bullet hit Kennedy and Connally and
was recovered from Connally's stretcher. About three seconds
later, the rifleman fired a third bullet which killed Kennedy,
abandoned his rifle, and fled the depository.
B. The Separate Shot Scenario
One rifleman fired the first shot
that hit Kennedy in the back from an unidentified rifle. The
bullet exited the car and was not recovered. He then fired
a second shot that went astray and nicked bystander Teague.
About one second after the first rifleman fired, a second
rifleman, using the Mannlicher Carcano, hit Connally; and,
with his second shot, hit Kennedy in the head. While the first
rifleman left the depository with his rifle and shell casings,
the second rifleman left his behind.
Both scenarios are consistent with
the testimony of eyewitnesses-- one of whom saw a second person
near the sniper's windows-- and the fingerprints found on
the boxes arranged at the site. So we can conclude that either
one or two riflemen participated in the assassination and
that the one with the Mannlicher Carcano killed Kennedy.
4. Whose Mannlicher-Carcano was it?
The best evidence that identifies
the ownership of the murder weapon is the handwriting of the
person who ordered the rifle under the name "A. Hidell" from
a mail order house in Chicago in March 1963 and rented the
post office box in Dallas to which it was shipped.
It was Lee Harvey Oswald.
FBI and Treasury Department experts
determined in 1964 that Lee Harvey Oswald had signed the name
"A. Hidell" on both the purchase order for the rifle and the
post box application. A half dozen other documents found in
his possession, that Oswald used the alias "Hidell". The House
Select Committee panel of questioned document experts, after
re-examining the signatures, unequivocally agreed. So Oswald
had ordered the murder weapon-- and it had been shipped to
his post office box from Chicago on March 20,1963.
Marina Oswald confirmed that Oswald
had received the rifle in late March, and four other witnesses--George
De Mohrenschildt, Jeanne De Mohrenschildt, Alexander Taylor
and Gary Taylor-- saw that Oswald had a rifle in either late
March or Early April.
The best evidence of Oswald's actual
possession of the Mannlicher- Carcano, however, is the much
disputed photographs of Oswald holding the rifle in his hand
that Marina Oswald said she took on Sunday, March 31, 1963
in the backyard of their house in Dallas. Oswald claimed after
his arrest that the photograph had been faked by superimposing
his head on the rifleman's body but this theory is contradicted
by three pieces of evidence established by the House Select
Committee. First, De Mohrenschildt produced in 1976 an inscribed
copy of the backyard photograph which Oswald had given him
in April 1963. The Committee's questioned document panel authenticated
the signature-- which meant that Oswald had signed (and dated)
the photograph he later claimed was faked. Second, by examining
the negative with enhanced analytic techniques, the Committee'
panel of photographic experts found a unique random pattern
of wear on the rifle in the photograph which corresponded
exactly to one on the Mannlicher-Carcano Oswald had purchased.
Since the experts agreed this could not be faked, the rifle
in the photograph had to be Oswald's. Third, by microscopically
examining the scratch marks that Oswald's Imperial Reflex
camera distributed on all negatives pulled through it, which
are the equivalent of camera fingerprints, the panel established
unequivocally that the backyard photographs could only have
been taken by Oswald's camera, just as Marina had testified.
Moreover, using digital processing analysis and stereo optic
viewing techniques that did not exist in 1963, the panel concluded
there was no signs of having been faked. Even two experts
who had previously disputed the authenticity of the photographs
(using copies, rather than the original) now agreed that the
photograph was genuine. In light of this evidence, there can
be no serious doubt that Oswald possessed the murder weapon
at the end of March 1963.