By Adam Reinherz
In the 58 years since President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Dr. Cyril Wecht has grown even more convinced that the Warren Commission, and its finding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, is grossly incorrect.
Wecht said his theories have been reinforced by radiological studies, pathological exams and acoustic inspections conducted by others, as well as his own research, document reviews and visits to the National Archives — where he discovered that not only was Kennedy’s brain never examined, but that it was missing.
“More and more evidence that has been examined by highly qualified experts shows clearly that the single-bullet theory is an absurdity and that there had to have been two shooters, and one of the shots was fired from the front, behind the picket fence on the grassy knoll,” Wecht said.
For decades, Wecht, a forensic pathologist, attorney and medical legal consultant, has shared his findings on national television, within the pages of The New York Times, in articles and books, and at conferences.
Having presented his views on the JFK assassination almost 1,000 times, and reaching myriad listeners, Wecht, 90, is now reiterating his position to a new audience.
In November, Exposit Books published “The JFK Assassination Detected: An Analysis by Forensic Pathologist Cyril Wecht.” The 307-page work, co-authored by Dawna Kaufmann, describes everything from Kennedy’s autopsy and the eventual disappearance of the president’s brain to Wecht’s experiences having lunch with Marina Oswald (the late wife of Lee Harvey Oswald) and consulting on Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning 1991 film “JFK.”
Wecht said he spent almost six years writing the text and considers the book the most important work he’s authored, followed closely by his autobiography, “The Life and Deaths of Cyril Wecht: Memoirs of America’s Most Controversial Forensic Pathologist,” which was published in September, also by Exposit Books.
Functioning as both a report on the president’s assassination and a catalog of Wecht’s travels throughout the decades, “The JFK Assassination Detected” shares insights into the mind of one of the United States’ leading forensic pathologists.
Having received his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a law degree from the University of Maryland, Wecht served as county commissioner and Allegheny County coroner and medical examiner, as well as president of the American College of Legal Medicine, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, chairman of the board of trustees of the American Board of Legal Medicine and the American College of Legal Medicine Foundation.
During almost a half-century of work, Wecht performed more than 21,000 autopsies and “reviewed, consulted on and signed off on another 41,000 death cases,” including those of Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis Presley, JonBenét Ramsey and Kurt Cobain. He has held academic appointments at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine and Graduate School of Public Health, and the Duquesne University School of Law, School of Pharmacy and School of Health Sciences.
Wecht said he remains vexed by those who subscribe to the Warren Commission findings.
“More and more with each passing year, my frustration and my anger grow because of the fact that the government continues to get away with this,” Wecht said.
There was a brief moment of hope that the government might change course, Wecht said.
In April 1992, following the release of Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” the filmmaker addressed the House Government Operations Subcommittee on Legislation and National Affairs regarding classified files relating to JFK’s assassination. Wecht said Stone’s efforts were instrumental in Congress passing the “President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.”
According to the act, “all Government records concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy should carry a presumption of immediate disclosure, and all records should be eventually disclosed to enable the public to become fully informed about the history surrounding the assassination.”
Despite the legislation, however, the government still has not released all of the relevant materials, Wecht said.
President Donald Trump seemed poised to release the documents when he tweeted on Oct. 21, 2017: “Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.” Nevertheless, Trump reversed course, citing national security concerns.
On Dec. 15, a trove of almost 1,500 documents was released by the National Archives. Researchers, however, described the materials as “underwhelming,” according to CNN.
Wecht likewise called the documents “utterly worthless.”
President Joe Biden said the more-than-10,000 unreleased or partially redacted documents could be declassified as early as December, but Wecht isn’t holding his breath.
“They’ll still play the same game,” he said. “I don’t think that they’re going to disclose everything that is there.”
In his quest to refute the Warren Commission’s findings, Wecht has been called a conspiracy theorist and regarded as a rejecter of government truths — in his new book he includes a related chapter on debating the late Sen. Arlen Specter, who, after serving as assistant counsel for the Warren Commission, continuously promoted the “single-bullet theory.”
Wecht doesn’t mind being described as a conspiracy theorist. Apart from the scientific evidence supporting his beliefs about the JFK assassination, he said that Americans have come to learn much about the government’s clandestine affairs, including those during World War II, Vietnam and the Korean War.
It’s no longer inconceivable that elected representatives are capable of acting nefariously, Wecht said. “Government officials can get away with things.”
“I want people to lose their naivete, their belief that these kinds of things can never happen in America, to be aware of this,” he said.
Adam Reinherz is a staff writer for the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, an affiliated publication of the Jewish Exponent.