Josiah Thompson: The Untrue Fact

Josiah Thompson has a new video titled Josiah Thompson: The Untrue Fact about the JFK Assassination.

If the character of man is evident in his ability to admit a mistake, we should all aspire to be like Thompson. The introduction states there are 3 questions to be answered in a homicide investigation:
•   What Happened?
•   Who did it?
•   Why did they do it?

Thompson states in order to determine what happened in a homicide investigation, investigators organize known facts to develop a picture, much like a puzzle. The Kennedy assassination is the largest homicide investigation in history. Yet, we still do not know what happened due in part to contradictions in evidence or facts. He states raw facts, like pieces of a puzzle, should fit together. However, if a piece is not from that particular puzzle it will never fit. We have some pieces that do not belong to this puzzle. Thompson states he misled the investigative effort in 1967 by introducing a pivotal fact that has been accepted by everyone. However, he contends that fact does not belong to the Kennedy homicide investigation puzzle.

Thompson reports he had access to the Life copy of the Zapruder film in 1967. By measuring Kennedy’s head position in frames 312 and 313, he determined Kennedy’s head moved forward more than 2 inches in just 1/18th of a second prior to a back and leftward snap. He goes on to show ITEK Corporation confirmed that measurement in the May 1976 report completed for CBS. Thompson displays page 78 of the report, which indicates Kennedy’s head moved forward 2.26 inches and his shoulders moved forward 1.1 inches between frames 312 and 313.

Thompson then states his 1967 conclusions, which were included in his book, Six Seconds in Dallas, “The only possible conclusion, if his head goes forward 2 inches in 1/18th of a second is that something happened to the back of his head to push it forward 2 inches”. This is wrong. German researcher Bernd Karger published Forensic Ballistics in 2008, which states targets move into the force and against the line of fire prior to moving with the force of the bullet. In Wound Ballistic: Basics and Applications (2011) Robert Coupland used ultra-high-speed photography to document the same findings. In fact, the Harold E. Edgerton’s Death of a Light Bulb photograph, taken in 1936, shows the bulb distortion with bulging into the line of fire (

Thompson then addresses the blood spatter in the film by saying in 1967 he believed the blood in Zapruder film 313 was the result of the “exit of a bullet out the front”. Thompson now believes Zapruder’s movement in response to hearing a gunshot blurred 313 frame, meaning the apparent movement doesn’t exist. As a result, he has revised his assessment of the blood spatter. He first indicates a bone fragment was expelled and found 25 feet to the left of the limo. He highlights a segment of the spatter visible in frame 313 and states it travels up and backward to the left. He then highlights a second segment of the spatter indicating it travels down and backwards and forward and backwards. Thompson is incomplete in his description of the visible spatter, but is correct in stating the spatter was created as the result of an entry wound. He continues by stating that front impact resulted in the rear movement seen in subsequent frames.

Thompson then introduces the 1978 HSCA acoustical evidence with a diagram that indicates a shot was fired from the Grassy Knoll coinciding with frame 313 of the Zapruder film. [The HSCA acoustics analysis suggests the possibility of four shots: the first, second, and fourth originating from the Texas School Book Depository and the third having been fired from the grassy knoll. The HSCA report also documented the timing between the shots to the nearest one-tenth second. Between shots one and two, 1.6 seconds elapsed; between shots two and three, 6.0 seconds elapsed, and between shots three and four, 0.7 seconds elapsed.]

Thompson then returns to the subject of blood spatter by showing the Altgen’s photograph taken 3 seconds before the fatal shot. He states blood and brain debris was blown to the left over Hill, Hargis, and Martin. Thompson then erroneously states no blood was deposited on Chaney, who was riding to the right rear of the limousine. This indicates Thompson has limited knowledge of the characteristics of blood spatter patterns and an erroneous perception or of how exiting blood is distributed. ABC news reporter Bill Lord interviewed Chaney on camera and stated, “This patrolman was so close to the President, that following the three shots, his uniform was spattered with blood” (

18 minutes and 52 seconds into the film Thompson makes a third serious mistake, he gestures with an extended arm indicating the direction of the grassy knoll shooter in relation to Kennedy’s head. He is pointing forward at what appears to be about a 30-degree angle (or less) to his right. Kennedy’s line of sight is the direction he would be facing if he raised his head and looked forward relative to his body and head position. Unfortunately, Kennedy was not facing a direction that places the grassy knoll at a 30-degree angle to his head; it is much closer to a 90-degree angle or more. The HSCA report indicates Thomas Canning determined the distance between Kennedy and Zapruder was about seventy feet, with a line of sight of ten degrees downward. Kennedy’s head was turned away from Zapruder approximately twenty-five degrees past profile, tilted to his left and away from Zapruder about fifteen degrees, and was nodding forward about eleven degrees (HSCA 6:36-38; HSCA 6:34-40). 

This twenty-five degrees past profile turn from Zapruder is confirmed by Dale Myers (Myers, 1995) and the Z-Axis Corporation. In 2003, ABC News hired independent experts from Z-Axis Corporation, one of the nation’s leading forensic animation companies, to assess Myers’ computations. Axis Corporation produces c o m p u t e r – g e n e r a t e d animations of events, including recreations for major litigations in the United States and Europe. Established in 1983, Z-Axis Corporation has participated in most major air crash litigations in the U.S. over the past fifteen years including the crash of Delta Flight 191 in Dallas, the crash of USAir 427 in Pittsburgh, the crash of American 965 in Cali, Colombia and the crash of Korean Air 801 in Guam. They also performed work for the prosecution in the Oklahoma City bombing trials of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Axis Corporation determined Myers did “an excellent job” and provided opportunity for the assassination sequence examination “from any point of view with absolute geometric integrity” (Treibitz, 2003).

I maintain there are two pieces of the puzzle that can be perfectly placed together. One is determining the direction of travel for the projectile: front, side, or rear relative to Kennedy. The next step is to determine exactly where front, side, or rear is within the plaza itself. First, let us determine the direction the bullet was traveling relative to Kennedy’s head. Beveling, fracture sequencing, and projectile fragmentation, target movement, and blood spatter in gunshot wounds to the head are current methods of assessing a projectile’s direction of travel.

Bullets traveling through bone create marginal conical shaped fractures adjacent to the entry or exit site. The conical beveling characteristically appears as a symmetrical chipping out of bone forming an indentation surrounding the entry or exit point on the opposite side of impact. The small end of the cone touches the interior or exterior bone table from which the bullet entered. Tangential gunshot wounds to the head create elliptically shaped defects containing both internal and external beveling (Levy, 2012).  Some wounds present both internal and external beveling. Researchers attribute this pseudo-beveling in high velocity distance shots to the transference of kinetic energy to the skull as dislodged chips flaking off entry wound edges, producing the effect of beveling. Without careful examination, misinterpretation of an entrance wound as an exit wound is possible in all types of entries (Quatrehomme, 1998, Coe, 1981; Prahlow, 2010; Adams, 2010). Based upon current forensic research, it appears beveling cannot provide conclusive evidence of projectile direction. Incorrect assessment of direction can occur with tangential entries or exits, mistaken orientation, insufficient beveling, or the failure to recognize external beveling on entry wounds.

When a projectile strikes the skull, radial fractures are created which extend outward from the wound. Internal pressure from temporary cavitation produces concentric fractures create that are perpendicular to the radial fractures. Research addressing the sequencing of radial and concentric of skull fractures in gunshot injuries indicates the radial fractures stem from the point of entry (Viel, 2009; Karger, 2008; Smith, 1987; Leestma, 2009). The Clark Panel observed extensive fracturing in the autopsy X-rays. The panel report specified there was extensive fragmentation “of the bony structures from the midline of the frontal bone anteriorly to the vicinity of the posterior margin of the parietal bone behind”. The report goes on the state, “throughout this region, many of the bony pieces have been displaced outward; several pieces are missing”. The Clark Panel report indicates the majority of the fracturing and displaced bones fragments are closer to the location they described as the exit wound; this is in direct conflict with scientific research concerning skull fractures resulting from gunshot injuries.  The Kennedy autopsy report stated multiple fracture lines radiated from both the large defect and the smaller defect at the occiput, the longest measuring approximately 19 centimeters. This same fracturing pattern was discussed in the Assassinations Records Review Board deposition of Jerrol Francis Custer, the X-ray technician on call at Bethesda Hospital the night of the Kennedy autopsy. Custer testified the trauma to the head began at the front and moved towards the back of the head (CE 387 16H978; ARRB MD 59:10).  Kennedy’s autopsy X-rays have distinct radial fractures propagating from the front of the head, with the preponderance of concentric fractures located at the front of the head. Current research indicates fracturing patterns of this nature correspond with an entry wound located in the front of Kennedy’s head.

When examining the Zapruder film frame by frame, it is readily apparent the President Kennedy’s head moves forward slightly for one frame before his head and shoulders move backward in response to the gunshot wound to the head. German wound ballistic researcher Bernd Karger, states initial transfer of energy causes the target to move minutely into the force and against the line of fire, prior to target movement with the force of the moving bullet. Karger found greater the transferred energy, the more pronounced the forward movement (Karger, 2008). Wound ballistic researcher Robin Coupland used high-speed photography to confirm and document the forward movement into the line of fire referenced by Karger (Coupland, 2011). Researchers Karger and Coupland noted the force in a moving bullet is energy of motion, or kinetic energy. Upon impact, the bullet pushes against the head, and initially, as the weight of the head is greater than the weight of the bullet, the head moves against the line of fire. As the projectile slows, more kinetic energy transfers to the target. A overcoming the weight of the head with a sufficient transfer of energy causes the target to move with the continued direction of force of the moving bullet. Application of contemporary wound ballistics research to the movement observed in the Zapruder film indicates a minute forward motion followed by more pronounced rearward movement—consistent with a single shot from the front.

The distribution of bullet fragments begins near the point of entry and continues in the direction of the bullet trajectory in an ever-widening path as it moves away from the entry wound. A lateral view of the same pattern will reveal a conical shape to the fragment distribution. The apex of the pattern is closest to the entry wound and the wider portion of the fragment cone is closest to the exit wound (Rushing, 2008; Fung, 2008; DiMaio, 1998). The House Select Committee on Assassinations heard testimony concerning the characteristics of bullet fragment patterns when Larry Sturdivan testified the majority of metallic fragments are typically deposited nearest the entry wound (HSCA 1: 402). Clark Panel Report also stated the majority of fragments were located in the front and top of Kennedy’s head (ARRB MD59:10-11). Multiple forensic publications indicate X-rays fragment patterns display the majority of fragments near the entry wound. Kennedy’s autopsy X-rays depict the majority of bullet fragments in the front and top of the head, which indicates a frontal shot.

Back spatter is blood ejected from the entry wound and travels against the line of fire, back towards the shooter. Although forward and back spatter pattern display some common features, there are also dissimilarities. Studying forward and back spatter patterns created during a singular incident identifies those differences. By differentiating between forward and back spatter in shooting incidents, the identification of the direction of the origin of force is possible (James, 2005).
Scientific journals, books, and research published since the late 1980s indicate the blood observed in the Zapruder film displays the pattern shape of back spatter. It also extends from the wound area a distance characteristic of back spatter, particularly when correlated to blood documented elsewhere on the scene. The timing for the pattern creation and the dissipation rate identifies it as back spatter. In fact, all available information concerning the blood spatter pattern in the Zapruder film corresponds in every measurable manner with back spatter replicated in forensic laboratories and described in peer-reviewed publications since the late 1980s. Consequently, the only possible conclusion is the back spatter in the Zapruder film is genuine. Identifying the blood in the Zapruder film as back spatter signifies a shot from the front of President Kennedy.

Contemporary forensic research indicates of the five methods to determine the direction of travel of the projectile fatally wounding President Kennedy, four indicate a shot from the front. Importantly, they do so while meeting the evidentiary standard required to support a criminal conviction in today’s courtroom. If we eliminate the forward movement, and eliminate beveling, we still have conclusive proof of a front shot.

So, if we know the shot came from the front, where is front? If you superimpose a protractor over a map of Dealey Plaza with the apex at the point where Kennedy received the head shot,  at a ninety-degree angle to Zapruder’s location, and draw a line representative of the 115-degree turn relative to Zapruder, it becomes obvious “front” of Kennedy is not the Grassy Knoll. Front, for Kennedy, was the south end of the triple overpass and the adjacent parking lot on the opposite side of Dealey Plaza. While the exact steps of trajectory analysis is meticulously detailed in Enemy of the Truth: Myths, Forensics, and the Kennedy Assassination, a graphic indicating possible locations for the shooter is demonstrated here:

We all make decisions based on the information to which we have been exposed. The latest in contemporary forensic research, essential to our decades long struggle to interpret aspects of this horrendous event, has important information to tell us about what we thought we knew. All researchers do the best they can and no one blames anyone for mistaking the various stations and stages along the way as ultimate destinations. Our views change as we obtain new and better information. However, CSI has finally caught up with the nightmare of Dallas.

The late Peter Drucker stated: We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.


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