JFK Witness Deaths: Why Wikipedia, HSCA, Bugliosi and Posner got it Wrong
Jan. 26, 2014
Updated: April 19, 2014
Wikipedia is incomplete and erroneous on the topic of JFK Witness Deaths. This post will expose its errors of omission and commission. Note that I contacted Wikipedia about a year ago to have a summary of my JFK witness death probability analysis included in the Witness Deaths section. The moderator refused, claiming my analysis was not a published document. Well, they no longer can use that excuse. My work has been cited in “Hit List” by Richard Belzer and David Wayne and by Jim Marrs in his updated version of the classic “Crossfire”. Along with Jim Garrison’s “On the Trail of the Assassins”, “Crossfire” was the basis for Oliver Stone’s “JFK”.
Before discussing the witness deaths, consider this example of glaring misinformation in the Wikipedia section: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_House_Select_Committee_on_Assassinations#Criticisms_and_further_research:
“A majority of witnesses who testified on the source of the shots said they came from the direction of the Depository. However, many witnesses thought the shots came from the direction of the Knoll. Only five witnesses, from a total of over one hundred, thought the shots came from two directions simultaneously”.
On the contrary, the majority of witnesses said the shots came from the Grassy Knoll! If Wikipedia can get this wrong, why believe any of its sections on the JFK Assassination? It appears that Wikipedia’s editor has a bias, to put it mildly.
Researcher Harold Feldman wrote: http://spot.acorn.net/jfkplace/09/fp.back_issues/12th_Issue/51_wits.html.
What follows is the result of a survey of the 121 witnesses to the assassination of President Kennedy whose statements are registered in the twenty-six volumes appended to the Warren Report. On the question of where the shots that killed the President came from, 38 could give no clear opinion and 32 thought they came from the Texas School Book Depository Building (TSBDB). Fifty-one (51) held the shots sounded as if the came from west of the Depository, the area of the grassy knoll on Elm Street, the area directly on the right of the President’s car when the bullets struck.
Note: John McAdams’ survey is the one quoted by Wikipedia. It is the only one of four in which a majority (61%) of Dealey Plaza eyewitnesses claimed that the Texas School Book Depository was the source of the shots. The other surveys have just 39%, 44% and 29%, respectively. http://richardcharnin.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/jfk-dealey-plaza-witnesses-john-mcadams-strange-list/.
The JFK Calc spreadsheet has a detailed table of the four surveys. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AjAk1JUWDMyRdDFSU3NVd29xWWNyekd2X1ZJYllKTnc#gid=65
Wikipedia: Witness Deaths http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Kennedy_assassination_conspiracy_theories#Witness_deaths
Allegations of mysterious or suspicious deaths of witnesses connected with the Kennedy assassination originated with Penn Jones, Jr. and were brought to national attention by the 1973 film Executive Action. Jim Marrs later presented a list of 103 people he believed died “convenient deaths” under suspect circumstances. He noted that the deaths were grouped around investigations conducted by the Warren Commission, New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Marrs pointed out that “these deaths certainly would have been convenient for anyone not wishing the truth of the JFK assassination to become public.”
Vincent Bugliosi has described the death of journalist Dorothy Kilgallen—who claimed she was granted a private interview with Jack Ruby—as “perhaps the most prominent mysterious death” cited by assassination researchers. According to author Jerome Kroth, Mafia figures Sam Giancana, John Roselli, Carlos Prio, Jimmy Hoffa, Charles Nicoletti, Leo Moceri, Richard Cain,Salvatore Granello, and Dave Yaras were likely murdered to prevent them from revealing their knowledge. According to author Matthew Smith, others with some tie to the case who have died suspicious deaths include Lee Bowers, Gary Underhill, William Sullivan, David Ferrie, Clay Shaw, George de Mohrenschildt, four showgirls who worked for Jack Ruby, and Ruby himself.
The House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated another alleged “mysterious death”—that of Rose Cheramie. The Committee reported that Louisiana State Police Lieutenant Francis Fruge traveled to Eunice, Louisiana on November 20, 1963 – two days before the assassination — to pick up Rose Cherami, who had sustained minor injuries after she was hit by a car. Fruge drove Cherami to the hospital and said that on the way there, she “…related to [him] that she was coming from Florida to Dallas with two men who were Italians or resembled Italians.” Fruge asked her what she planned to do in Dallas, to which she replied: “…number one, pick up some money, pick up [my] baby, and … kill Kennedy”. Cherami was admitted and treated at State Hospital in Jackson, Louisiana for alcohol and heroin addiction. State Hospital physician, Dr. Victor Weiss later told a House Select Committee investigator that on November 25—three days after the assassination—one of his fellow physicians told him “…that the patient, Rose Cherami, stated before the assassination that President Kennedy was going to be killed.” Dr. Weiss further reported that Cherami told him after the assassination that she had worked for Jack Ruby and that her knowledge of the assassination originated from “word in the underworld.”After the assassination, Lt. Fruge contacted Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz regarding what he had learned from Cherami, but Captain Fritz told him he “wasn’t interested”. Cherami was found dead by a highway near Big Sandy, Texas on September 4, 1965; she had been run over by a car.
Another “suspicious death” cited by Jim Marrs was that of Joseph Milteer, director of the Dixie Klan of Georgia. Milteer was secretly tape-recorded thirteen days before the assassination telling Miami police informant William Somersett that the murder of Kennedy was “in the working.” Milteer died in 1974 when a heater exploded in his house. The House Select Committee on Assassinations reported in 1979 that Milteer’s information on the threat to the President “was furnished [to] the agents making the advance arrangements before the visit of the President” to Miami, but that “the Milteer threat was ignored by Secret Service personnel in planning the trip to Dallas.” Robert Bouck, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Secret Service’s Protective Research Section, “…testified to the committee that threat information was transmitted from one region of the country to another if there was specific evidence it was relevant to the receiving region.”
The House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated the allegation “that a statistically improbable number of individuals with some direct or peripheral association with the Kennedy assassination died as a result of that assassination, thereby raising the specter of conspiracy”. The committee’s chief of research testified: “Our final conclusion on the issue is that the available evidence does not establish anything about the nature of these deaths which would indicate that the deaths were in some manner, either direct or peripheral, caused by the assassination of President Kennedy or by any aspect of the subsequent investigation.”
Author Gerald Posner points out that Marrs’ list was taken from the group of about 10,000 people connected even in the most tenuous way to the assassination, one of the multiple official investigations, or the independent research of conspiracy theorists. He notes that it would be surprising if a hundred people out of ten thousand did not die in “unnatural ways” and points out over half of the people on Marrs’ list did not in fact die mysteriously, but of natural causes, such as Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman, who died of heart failure at age 69 in 1984, long after the Kennedy assassination, but is on Marrs’ list as someone whose cause of death is “unknown”. Posner also points out that many prominent witnesses and conspiracy researchers continue to live long lives and have not made it onto the mysterious death list.
Posner is wrong. Approximately 70% of the convenient deaths were unnatural (homicide, accident, suicide, unknown).
Seven top FBI officials died within a 6 month period just before their scheduled testimony at HSCA. Neither Posner, Bugliosi or the HSCA statistician mention that fact. Why not?
Where is Posner’s proof that Marrs’ 103 witnesses were based on a universe of 10,000? Even if there were 10,000, the probability of 50 homicides from 1964-78 is 1.3E-15 (1 in 750 billion). The probability of 100 homicides (more likely) is 5.4E-54 (less than 1 in a million trillion trillion trillion trillion).
Posner never calculated the probabilities. But he could have tried to contact the actuary engaged by the London Sunday Times who determined 100,000 trillion to one odds against 18 material witnesses dying within three years of the assassination. Unfortunately, Posner would have been out of luck; no one at the Times recalled the actuary’ name in response to the HSCA in 1977. If you believe that, there is a bridge in Brooklyn…
Neither the HSCA statistician, Posner or Bugliosi considered that the issue is not how many witnesses died.The relevant question is: how many died unnaturally among the finite group of witnesses who were called or sought to testify in four investigations? https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AjAk1JUWDMyRdDFSU3NVd29xWWNyekd2X1ZJYllKTnc#gid=55.
Approximately 1100 witnesses were called to testify in four investigations from 1964-78. Sixty-seven (67) are included among the 126 in the JFK Calc spreadsheet database. Of the 67, at leat 39 were unnatural deaths of which 28 homicides. The probability of 39 unnatural deaths is E-27 or 1 in 200 trillion trillion.
Approximately 1400+ material witnesses related to the JFK Assassination are referenced in “Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination” by Michael Benson. In JFK Calc, there are 120 JFK-related suspicious deaths. The best estimate is that 99 were unnatural (83 homicides, 8 accidents, 4 suicides and 4 unknown). Officially, 78 were unnatural. But the HSCA noted just 21 deaths. http://www.cassiopaea.org/cass/jfkdeaths.htm
The probability of at least 30 unnatural deaths is ZERO based on average (unweighted) U.S. mortality rates. For the JFK-witness group, the probability is ZERO of at least 12 deaths (due to the lower average mortality rate). But there were at least 97 unnatural deaths. The unweighted probability based on national unnatural mortality rates is E-40. The correct probability based on JFK-weighted rates is E-112.
Of the 552 witnesses who testified at the Warren Commission in 1964, 29 died suspiciously from 1964-78. Of the 29, at least 20 died unnaturally. The probability is E-18. Of the 20 unnatural deaths, 17 were homicides. Only 7 unnatural deaths would normally be expected in the 15 year period.
The average homicide rate for 1964-78 was 0.000084. The probability that in 1964-78 there would be 81 homicides among 1400 material witnesses is E-102.
Even if there were 25,000 FBI interviews, how many were material witnesses? Probably no more than 1500. The probability of 81 homicides among the inflated 25,000 from 1964-78 is 1 in 6 trillion. Only 31 homicides would normally be expected from that group over a 15 year period.
Convenient deaths spiked in 1964 (Warren Commission) and 1977 (House Select Committee).
This is my latest numerical and graphical analysis post: http://richardcharnin.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/jfk-witness-deaths-graphical-proof-of-a-conspiracy/
This is a comprehensive collection of research essays on the assassination from Michael T. Griffith: http://www.mtgriffith.com/web_documents/research.htm
Jack Duffy: http://www.srbroadcasting.com/songs/jdshow10312013.mp3
Jim Fetzer: http://nwopodcast.com/fetz/media/jim%20fetzer%20real%20deal-charnin%20barrett.mp3