- WASHINGTON (AP) --The latest batch of John F. Kennedy assassination documents
raises new questions about an examination of the president's brain and
lays out unresolved discrepancies in other medical evidence.
- The more than 400,000 pages of records
being made public at the National Archives today were compiled in the past
four years by the Assassination Records Review Board, an independent panel
that Congress set up to collect and release material related to Kennedy's
death in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
- Congress did not direct the review board
to reinvestigate the assassination, and the panel issued no formal opinions
on any aspect of the controversial murder. But in the board's effort to
expand and clarify the record, details surfaced that:
- " Suggest two different brain exams
may have been conducted at the Bethesda, Md., Naval Medical Center, raising
questions about the authenticity of the brain examined.
- " Fail to resolve discrepancies
between how physicians at Parkland Hospital in Dallas described Kennedy's
head injury immediately following the shooting and how it was subsequently
described by pathologists at Bethesda.
- Although the Warren Commission concluded
that Kennedy was shot from behind by a single gunman, how Kennedy was assassinated
and from what direction he was shot have nonetheless been hotly debated
for 35 years. The review board studied old testimony and medical evidence
and re-interviewed witnesses, but still was unable to resolve certain issues.
- "There are questions about the supplemental
brain exam and the photos that were taken. There are inconsistencies in
the testimony of the autopsy doctors about when that exam took place,"
said Jeremy Gunn, executive director and general counsel of the board,
which closed out its work in September. "These are serious issues.
The records are now out there for the public to evaluate."
- Three military pathologists agree they
conducted an autopsy of Kennedy's entire body at Bethesda immediately after
it was flown back from Dallas. But the doctors offer conflicting recollections
about the timing of a subsequent brain exam.
- Two doctors, J. Thornton Boswell and
James Humes, told the review board that the brain exam occurred two or
three days after Kennedy's death. Initially, Humes told the Warren Commission
that he, Boswell and a third pathologist, Dr. Pierre Finck, were present
when the brain was examined. But when he testified to the review board
in 1996, Humes did not list Finck among those present. Boswell maintains
Finck was not there.
- On the other hand, Finck says the brain
exam did not occur until much later. In a memo he wrote to his commanding
officer 14 months after Kennedy was assassinated, Finck said Humes did
not call him until Nov. 29, 1963 " seven days after Kennedy's death
" to say it was time to examine the brain. In the memo, Finck said
all three pathologists examined the brain together and that "color
and black-and-white photographs are taken by the U.S. Navy photographer."
- The conflicting testimony caused Douglas
Horne, chief analyst for military records, to conclude in a 32-page memo
that two separate brain exams may have been conducted, "contrary to
the official record as it has been presented to the American people."
- "If true, Dr. Finck's account of
a brain exam separate and distinct from the first one would mean that Drs.
Humes and Boswell were present at two different brain exams," he writes.
- Humes was ill and could not be interviewed.
In a telephone interview, Boswell reiterated that the brain was examined
at the initial autopsy of the body and only once more at a separate brain
exam a few day later.
- "I doubt very much that we would
have called him (Finck) back over for that," Boswell said.
- Boswell added that the only photos of
the brain were taken at the autopsy.
- This conflicts with testimony the board
obtained from Navy photographer John Stringer, who said he took pictures
of the brain two or three days after the autopsy. Stringer also testified
that official photos of the brain preserved at the archives do not match
those he remembers taking. He cites discrepancies in the angles from which
they were shot and the type of film used.
- In addition, former FBI Agent Francis
O'Neill Jr., who watched doctors remove Kennedy's brain the night he died,
told the review board that the archives' photos do not resemble what he
saw. "I did not recall it (the brain) being that large," O'Neill
- Throughout the years, doctors who treated
Kennedy in Dallas said his head wound was about the size of a large egg
at the back of the head, behind his right ear. The Dallas doctors told
reporters then that they believed Kennedy was shot from the front "
a belief that conflicted with the Warren Commission's later conclusion
of a single shooter firing from behind.
- Humes, chief pathologist for the autopsy
at Bethesda, agreed there was a wound to the right rear of Kennedy's head,
but he told the board that it was a small entry wound, not an egg-sized
exit wound. In contrast to observations in Dallas, Humes said there also
was massive damage to the top of Kennedy's skull and right side forward
of the ear.