Published in The Athens Observer, p. 8A (November 25, 1987).
Author: Donald E. Wilkes, Jr., Professor of Law, University of Georgia School of Law.
With the 24th anniversary of the murder of President John F. Kennedy this month, it is abundantly clear that the Warren Commission erred when it concluded that JFK was killed by a single assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone.
Whether or not Oswald was involved, it is not undeniable that the president's death was the work of a conspiracy. Shots were fired at the president from an open window of the sixth floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository, from the famous grass knoll in Dealey Plaza, and perhaps from other locations. In 1979 the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U. S. House of Representatives found in its official report that JFK was killed by a conspiracy, and the best recent studies of the JFK assassination (e.g, Anthony Summers, Conspiracy (1980), Henry Hurt, Reasonable Doubt (1985)) agree that the assassination was not carried out by any one person, regardless of whether Oswald was one of those persons.
That JFK was assassinated by a conspiracy was also the view of Georgia's illustrious Sen. Richard Russell. Russell was a member of the Warren Commission.
The evidence that Oswald was involved in assassinating President Kennedy is weak and circumstantial. There are no photographs of the assassination showing any person identifiable as Oswald in the Texas Schoolbook Depository, Dealey Plaza, or anywhere else. If there were photographs clearly showing Oswald shooting or assisting in the shooting of the president, the fierce disputes about Oswald's culpability would have disappeared long ago, and the proponents of Oswald's guilt would have proved to all that they have an open and shut case, although the question would still remain whether Oswald had accomplices.
Photographs of JFK's Assassins
Taken in Vicinity of Dealey Square
If there are no photographs of a person involved in the assassination and identifiable as Oswald, are there nonetheless photographs taken at the time of the assassination which show anyone who appears to be participating in the assassination? The answer to this question is yes.
There are in fact several photographs, taken in or near Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 1963, which depict at least three of President Kennedy's assassins. One of the photographs shows an assassin on the grassy knoll. The other photographs show two assassins on the sixth floor of the book depository. The actual name or identity of the assassins in the photographs remains unknown to this day, although one of the sixth floor assassins may, of course have been Lee Harvey Oswald, who worked in the depository.
The Assassin on the Grassy Knoll
The photograph of the grassy knoll assassin was taken by a spectator named Phil Willis at about the time the first shot was fired at JFK's limousine. The Willis photograph, in color, was taken from a position on Elm Street (where the assassination occurred), slight behind and to the left of the presidential limousine. The photograph is reproduced in black and white on page 122 of volume seven of the volumes published by the House Assassinations Committee, containing the report of the committee's panel of photographic experts.
The Willis photograph depicts in the right background the retaining wall in the grassy knoll, to the president's right when he was shot. In the photograph there is what appears to be a dark humanlike form bending or leaning forward behind the retaining wall at its apex. The form is clearly visible in a blownup, enhanced section of the black and white photograph, also published in the report of the panel of photographic experts.
After examination and analysis of the color version, the panel of experts concluded that the dark form in the Willis photograph "was most probably an adult person behind the wall." The "general shape and structure" and the "flesh tones" of the formed were deemed to be "consistent with that of an adult of average height;" "a very straight-line feature (resembling a weapon) was found to be "[v]isible near the region of the hands" of the form, although the panel refused to conclude that the feature was a weapon; and, finally, other photographs showed that the mysterious figure had disappeared from sight shortly after the shooting, and as the panel put it, "[t]he mobility of [the form] greatly increases the likelihood of its being a person."
The dark form in the Willis photograph was one of President Kennedy's assassins. Who else could he possibly be? Indeed, he is probably the one who fired the rifle shot to the head that killed the president.
The Two Assassins on the Sixth Floor
That one or more shots were fired at JFK from the open window on the sixth floor of the depository is one of the few almost undisputed facts concerning the assassination. According to the Warren Commission, the sixth floor was a classic sniper's perch because no one was present at the time except the assassin who did the shooting. However, photographs taken by two different persons show not one but two individuals on the sixth floor when the assassination took place.
Seconds before the shots began to ring out, a spectator named Robert Hughes took 8 mm motion pictures of the presidential motorcade as it proceeding along Houston Street and then turned onto Elm Street, with the schoolbook depository in the left background. Frames from the Hughes film are reproduced in Josiah Thompson's Six Seconds in Dallas (1967) and in several other books on the Kennedy assassination. The frames show to unknown individuals on the sixth floor-one apparently kneeling or bending at the first, open window (near the corner of the building), the other standing behind the closed window which is the third window from the corner. That these mysterious figures are two of the assassins--whether or not Oswald is one of them--can hardly be doubted. Who but assassins were present on the sixth floor at the time of the assassination?
Since few doubt the presence of an assassin at the open window, the most intriguing feature of the Hughes frames is not their depiction of someone at the open window, but their depiction of the second figure at the closed window. The figure's human head is plainly visible above the window's second lintel. Furthermore, photographs taken by others immediately after the assassination prove that the figure has not disappeared and that the boxes stacked behind the window do not reach above the level of the second lintel.
Although the House Assassinations Committee found "no visible evidence of anyone at the closed window adjacent to the open sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository," the Hughes film proves the Committee was wrong in drawing this conclusion. Further proof that the Committee was wrong is another photograph taken by a spectator named Jack Weaver and published for the first time in Josiah Thompson's book. Weaver took his photograph at about the same time and from about the same place as Robert Hughes, and the depository is visible in the left background. As Thompson quite correctly notes, the Weaver photograph "depicts the same figure [as in the Hughes film] on the sixth floor in the [third] window from the corner."
Photographic evidence therefore provides proof of at least three assassins involved in the JFK assassination. However, there is no way to be sure who these assassins were. If one of them was Lee Harvey Oswald, then at least two of them, together with any possible additional assassins, not photographed, may still be alive and walking the streets today. If they are, their gloating thoughts are not difficult to imagine: "We bumped off the President of the United States and got away with it!"