Thursday, December 12, 2013

Audience questions Warren Commission

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published: December 11, 2013 12:00AM

Hudson -- Even after a discussion of the Warren Commission's investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and its findings that a lone shooter was responsible for his death, there were still those who believed in a conspiracy theory.
More than 100 people attended the Dec. 4 interview of attorney, author and historian Howard Willens by WCPN's Executive Editor David Molpus at the Hudson Library and Historical Society about Willens' latest book, "History will prove us right: An Insider Reveals the True Story of the Warren Commission Investigation of the JFK Assassination," published by Overlook Press.
Willens said the assassination of Kennedy is an important part of American history and teaches a lesson to acknowledge his weaknesses, speculate on his potential and honor Kennedy with the truth.
Willens said the Warren Commission did a broad investigation to tie down the facts -- Was Lee Harvey Oswald the murderer and if it was a conspiracy?
"The goals was to cast the nets wide," Willens said. "There were 152 witnesses and no credible evidence of a conspiracy in 1964."
Molpus said young people lack the understanding of the emotional effect the assassination of John F. Kennedy had on the public. He thought it was perhaps because of all the shared violence they have lived through and are more immune to violence. They are not as interested in conspiracy theories as older Americans. Molpus, like others, said he was open to new facts.
"For me personally, it is not so much what we know, but the what ifs we may never know," Molpus said. "What if it was linked to something bigger? Would that have been made public?"
Matt Grycan of Stow said he leaned both ways -- toward a conspiracy theory and a lone shooter, but the conspiracies attracted him.
"I watched JFK starring Kevin Costner and leaned toward the side for conspiracy," Grycan said. "I don't think the government or CIA investigated enough."
Dennis Plank of Hudson said he was totally convinced now that it was a single gunman.
"I had questions about the bullet, it is impact and going through both Kennedy and [Texas Governor John] Connally and looking the way it did," Plank said.
During the interview, Willens asked, "Where did the bullets go?" Willens said the Warren Commission focused on the physical evidence.
"There was no second shooter, and there was no fourth cartridge," Willens said.
Karen Zimny of Hudson was still leaning toward a conspiracy after the talk.
"There's not enough evidence proving it wasn't," Zimny said.
Donald Smith of Willoughby said he believed there was a lone shooter.
"The Warren Commission did their job," Smith said. "But people wanted a criminal trial."
Willens agreed the Warren Commission's finding in 1964 couldn't find a clear motive for Lee Harvey Oswald killing President Kennedy.
Chief Justice Warren was firmly of the opinion that all materials used by witnesses should be made part of the public record, so he did not want the autopsy photographs used, but mistakes were made during testimony, Willens said.
"Some of the diagrams were inaccurate," he added.
Someone testified Kennedy was shot in the back of the neck but it was the back of the upper shoulder, Willens told the audience.
Some of the conspiracies are fueled by movies or books. In one, the author said Connally, who was riding in the car in front of Kennedy, was the target and Kennedy was an "accidental victim" because the corset he wore kept him erect while Connally fell down in his seat, Willens said. Oswald's widow disputed that theory by saying Oswald voted for Connally.
Connally also added to the conspiracies by saying one bullet could not have shot Kennedy and him, Willens added.
"John Connally wanted his own bullet," Willens said. "He testified against one bullet."
Those in the audience were still asking questions by the end of the talk, not totally convinced while others seemed to accept that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone shooter Nov. 22, 1963.
But for many, they will never forget where they where when they heard the news that day.
Plank said he heard the announcement that Kennedy was shot while in French Class in High School. He was in the library when he heard the news that Kennedy was dead.
Smith said he and the other attorneys in his office just sat around after hearing the news.
The 60s were a very turbulent time and people were divided, Molpus said.
"Kennedy was such a different level of inspiration for young people, which I was at that time," Molpus said.
Zimny asked Willens to sign her copy of his book with "In memory of JFK. Always a fan."
Phone: 330-541-9434
Facebook: Laura Freeman, Record Publishing
Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP

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