Executive Action: JFK Witness Deaths and the London Times Actuary
Richard Charnin
Feb. 25, 2013
Updated: June 11, 2014
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The 1973 film Executive Action depicted a conspiracy to assassinate JFK. Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan, who played CIA operatives involved in the plot, were resisted in their efforts to have the film made by mainstream Hollywood producers. The movie reveals how Kennedy’s progressive agenda and peace initiatives were a threat to the establishment. He refused to invade Cuba, was seeking detente with the Soviet Union, planned to pull all troops out of Viet Nam by 1965, break up the CIA, eliminate the Federal Reserve and promoted the civil rights movement. Congress passed the Test Ban Treaty a few months before the assassination. In other words, he was doing his job.
At the end of the film, it was revealed that an actuary engaged by the London Sunday Times calculated the odds of 18 material witnesses dying within three years of the JFK assassination. as 1 in 100,000 TRILLION.
“In the three-year period which followed the murder of President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, 18 material witnesses died – six by gunfire, three in motor accidents, two by suicide, one from a cut throat, one from a karate chop to the neck, three from heart attacks and two from natural causes”.
Assuming the data and calculation methodology were essentially correct, then it was clear proof of a conspiracy and refuted the Warren Commission conclusion that Oswald was the lone assassin.
The London Sunday Times
There has been much controversy about the actuary’s calculation. Apparently, no one at the Sunday Times even recalls the actuary’s name. And even more strange, the Times legal manager did not provide the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) the actuary’s calculation assumptions or methodology. He claimed that the problem was not clearly defined. The HSCA compounded the obfuscation when their statistician claimed that the witness universe was unknowable and therefore the calculation was not valid.
In a response to a letter from the HSCA in 1977, London Sunday Times Legal Manager Anthony Whitaker wrote: Our piece about the odds against the deaths of the Kennedy witnesses was, I regret to say, based on a careless journalistic mistake and should not have been published. This was realized by The Sunday Times editorial staff after the first edition – the one which goes to the United States – had gone out, and later editions were amended.
There was no question of our actuary having got his answer wrong: it was simply that we asked him the wrong question. He was asked what were the odds against 15 named people out of the population of the United States dying within a short period of time to which he replied -correctly – that they were very high. However, if one asks what are the odds against 15 of those included in the Warren Commission Index dying within a given period, the answer is, of course, that they are much lower.
Our mistake was to treat the reply to the former question as if it dealt with the latter – hence the fundamental error in our first edition report, for which we apologize. None of the editorial staff involved in the story can remember the name of the actuary we consulted, but in view of what happened, you will, I imagine, agree that his identity is hardly material.
The actuary’s identity was hardly material? It was and still is very material. No one on the editorial staff remembered his name? Really? And we are supposed to believe that? Only the actuary could explain his interpretation of the problem and method of calculation. Those statements made no sense; nothing else the Times legal manager said should have been taken at face value.
In fact, Whitaker misrepresented what is essentially a simple mathematical problem: to determine the probability of a given number of unnatural deaths over relevant time interval within a given population group.
His first error was to provide an incomplete and misleading statement of the problem. The U.S. population is not relevant; the number of JFK-related witnesses is. The “short period of time” is not specific. He misrepresented the essential goal of the probability analysis by not considering the frequency of unnatural deaths.
His second error was one of omission. Unnatural death mortality statistics and probability calculations used by the actuary were not provided to the HSCA. Was it because they would show that the calculation was plausible and essentially correct?
Whitaker claimed that he asked the actuary to calculate the probability that 15 names included in the Warren Commission Index would die within a “short” period. One must assume that the actuary assumed unnatural deaths and utilized corresponding unnatural mortality rate(s) in his calculation. Even if the Times editor did not specify unnatural deaths, it does not follow that the actuary was oblivious to the distinction.
In fact, the actuary’s calculation was confirmed assuming 552 witnesses, the number who testified at the Warren Commission. Is it just a coincidence that at least 30 Warren Commission witnesses (listed in the JFK Calc database with links to their testimony) died unnaturally and/or suspiciously or that scores of others died mysteriously at convenient times just before they were due to give testimony at the Garrison/Shaw trial, Church hearings and HSCA?
It is important to re-emphasize that Whitaker said not a word about unnatural deaths. In any case, his response settled the matter. The HSCA’s designated “statistical expert” just added to Whitaker’s obfuscation.
HSCA Obfuscation
In her HSCA testimony, statistical expert Jacqueline Hess dismissed the actuary’s odds as being invalid, claiming that it was “unsolvable”. Hess said she consulted with actuarial experts who told her “you cannot establish any kind of universe” of material witnesses. This was pure disinformation. http://jfkassassination.net/russ/jfkinfo2/jfk4/hess.htm.
The claim that the odds were impossible to calculate was a ruse, just like the Single Bullet Theory (SBT).
The 552 Warren Commission witnesses is a KNOWN UNIVERSE. At least 30 died suspiciously from 1964-78. Fourteen (14) deaths were RULED unnatural: 4 homicides, 6 accidents and 4 suicides. Just one or two would normally have been expected based on UNNATURAL MORTALITY RATES.. The probability of 14 RULED UNNATURAL deaths is 7E-07 (1 in 1.4 MILLION). But the 10 “suicides” and “accidents” were LIKELY homicides. The probability of 14 HOMICIDES is 3.9E-14 (1 in 25 TRILLION).
The 552 Warren Commission witnesses IS a subset of the approximately 1400 JFK-related witnesses named in the reference Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination.
The probability analysis is straightforward; it is not a theoretical exercise. It is mathematical proof of conspiracy based on factual data: 552 Warren Commission witnesses, at least 20 unnatural deaths, published mortality rates and use of the Poisson probability function. The numbers and probabilities speak for themselves. This is a sensitivity analysis of unnatural witness deaths.
Hess conveniently left out scores of mysterious, unnatural deaths in her list of 21 witnesses. She noted five that were questionable. But even the “natural” deaths were suspicious. For example, Jack Ruby died just before his second trial, 29 days after being diagnosed with cancer. He claimed that he was injected with a virus. Thomas Howard, Ruby’s lawyer, died of a heart attack at age 53 in March 1965. There was no autopsy. Howard met with two reporters, Jim Koethe and Bill Hunter, in Ruby’s apartment on Nov. 24, 1963. The reporters were murdered. All three died within 16 months of the meeting.
Hess did not include David Ferrie and Eladio del Valle. David Ferrie supposedly had a brain aneurysm that was ruled a suicide – the day after his release from protective custody. He had just been named as a witness by New Orleans D.A. Garrison in the Clay Shaw trial. Ferrie associate del Valle was also sought by Garrison. He was murdered on Feb. 21, the same day as Ferrie.
Hess neglected every one of the 20 deaths of prospective HSCA witnesses! She gave a convoluted excuse in response to a question as to why she did not include George De Morenschildt, Oswald’s close friend (and intelligence operative) who allegedly shot himself the day he was notified that he was to be interviewed by HSCA. Nor did she mention the seven (7) high level FBI officials who died within a six-month period in 1977 – just before they were due to testify at HSCA. The probability is ZERO. Apparently, HSCA-related deaths were immaterial. But as mentioned above, even her list of 21 witnesses in the 1964-1967 period did not include at least 25 others.
Hess claimed that the actuary concluded that on 11/22/63 the odds of 15 witnesses being dead in three years was 1 in 10 to the 29th power (1 in 10,000 TRILLION TRILLION). That is obviously an incorrect statement. The actuary calculated the odds as 1 in 100,000 trillion (1 in 10 to the 17th power). He presumably used the Poisson probability function of rare events – the perfect mathematical tool for the problem (see below). One in 100,000 trillion is E-17, or 0.0000000000000001. Hess appears to have been anything but a “statistical expert” otherwise she would have done the calculations herself.
In spite of their efforts, the HSCA was forced in a “limited hangout” to conclude that both the JFK and Martin Luther King murders were conspiracies. Acoustic evidence indicated a 96% probability that at least four shots were fired. At least one came from the grassy knoll, indicating at least two shooters. That should have closed the book on the Warren Commission’s physically impossible, irrational Magic Bullet Theory. But the 50-year old myth is still presented as gospel by the mainstream media and overwhelming scientific ballistic, acoustic, video, medical, eyewitness and mathematical evidence of suspicious deaths is ignored.
The HSCA noted just 21 witness deaths. http://www.cassiopaea.org/cass/jfkdeaths.htm
These tables and graphs prove a conspiracy beyond any doubt: https://richardcharnin.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/jfk-witness-deaths-graphical-proof-of-a-conspiracy/
Bugliosi’s Calculation
Famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi tried to refute the actuary in his book Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He cited Robert M. Musen, vice president and senior actuary at Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Musen calculated the odds of 15 people out of 2,479 in the Warren Commission Index dying within a three-year period, assuming a median age of 40, to be 98.16%.
But there are two major problems with Musen’s calculation.
1- The index includes names of individuals who had no connection whatsoever to the assassination, such as George Washington and many others. Only 552 witnesses testified in person or by deposition.
2- Musen did not consider unnatural deaths. Even assuming an inflated 2479 witnesses, approximately 7 unnatural deaths would be expected over a three year period.
So how did the actuary calculate the probability? If he/she assumed 459 witnesses, then given 18 deaths (8 homicides, 3 accidents, 2 suicides, 3 heart attacks, 2 natural causes) and the 0.000207 total weighted mortality rate, the probability is 9.96E-18 or 1 in 100,000 trillion.
In fact, there were at least 47 suspicious deaths in the three years following the assassination. The actuary did not include Oswald and Ruby – and at least 20 others. The JFK witness spreadsheet database shows that at least 42 of the 47 deaths were unnatural (homicide, accident, suicide, unknown).
Using the .000831 unweighted unnatural death rate, the odds that at least 47 would die unnaturally within 3 years is E-25 or 1 in 10 trillion trillion.
The JFK Calc spreadsheet database consists of 122 material witnesses who died unnaturally or suspiciously from 1964-78. Researchers claim there were many more. Of the 122, 78 were officially ruled unnatural (34 homicides, 24 accidents, 16 suicides, 4 unknown). The other deaths were a combination of suspicious heart attacks, sudden cancers and unknown causes.
But a statistical analysis of expected deaths for various causes indicates there were actually close to 90 homicides (the number of officially ruled deaths by accident, suicide and heart attack far exceeded the expectation).
The probability of 34 OFFICIAL RULED HOMICIDES among 1400 JFK-related individuals from 1964-78 is 1.57E-31 =1 in 6 million trillion trillion using the average 0.000084 homicide rate.
The probability of 78 OFFICIAL RULED UNNATURAL DEATHS is ZERO:
P= E-62= 1/trillion^5 = ZERO using the JFK-weighted average unnatural rate.
P= E-27= 1/trillion^2 = ZERO using the unweighted national average unnatural rate.
Another way of looking at it is to ask how many unnatural deaths were required in the 15 year period (assuming 1400 material witnesses) to obtain a probability of less than 1% (beyond a reasonable doubt). The answer is 30. As the number of deaths increase, the probability rapidly approaches ZERO. But there were over 80.
In 1964-78, there were at least 67 deaths of approximately 1100 material witnesses who were called to testify at the Warren Commission, Clay Shaw trial, Church Senate Committee and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). Given that 28 deaths were homicides, the probability is 2.3E-26 (1 in 40 TRILLION TRILLION).
Warren Commission apologists have suggested that there were 25,000 witnesses interviewed without providing a list. How many were material? Only about 1400. But even assuming 25,000, the probability of at least 26 homicides in three years is 1 in 490 BILLION. So much for the bogus 25,000 witnesses argument.
This is a challenge to those who still claim that the deaths do not prove a conspiracy: To substantiate that claim, they must refute the data (i.e., the Warren Commission witness list), the unnatural mortality rates and the use of the Poisson formula.
Source: U.S. National Center for Health Statistics
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005124.html
This graph shows the long-term trend in U.S. homicide rate. Note that in 1963 the rate was approximately 6 per 100,000 (0.000062 is used in the homicide probability calculation).
There were different categories of witnesses: 1) 121 eyewitnesses who gave depositions to the FBI (51 said the shots came from the area of the Grassy Knoll, 32 from the Texas Book Depository, 38 were unsure), 2) witnesses called by the 1964 Warren Commission, 3) Jim Garrison/Clay Shaw trial, 4) Senate Intelligence (Church) Committee, 5) House Select Committee (HSCA) and 6) 1400+ JFK-related witnesses.
The timings of the deaths make it all the more suspicious. At least 22 died within one year of the assassination (Warren Commission). At least 16 died in 1977 (including SEVEN FBI officials) just before they were due to testify at HSCA. Using this information, we can calculate probabilities of these unnatural, suspicious deaths for each witness category.
Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation Into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination is a comprehensive study of 50 deaths by Richard Belzer and David Wayne (published April 2013).
The mathematical analysis of the scores of suspicious, unnatural deaths related to the assassination is further proof of a conspiracy – beyond any doubt. This is a comprehensive spreadsheet database of suspicious unnatural witness deaths, probability calculations, Warren Commission, Garrison/Shaw trial and HSCA witnesses. A plausible universe of 1400+ JFK-related witnesses is presented in the Who’s Who in the Kennedy Assassination reference.
Mark Lane debunked the Warren Commission in his book and film: Rush to Judgment.
The Poisson Probability Distribution
The expected number N of unnatural deaths in time period T is approximated by a simple formula: N = R * W * T, where R is the unnatural mortality rate, W the number of witnesses and T the number of years in the study.
The Poisson function is useful for calculating the probability that a certain number of rare events will occur over a specified period of time. For instance, the probability that 10 customers will walk into a store from 10-11 am, given an average arrival rate of 5 per hour for that time period. Or that 2 accidents will occur at a busy intersection next month, given an average of 1 per month.
In the JFK analysis, the Poisson function is used to calculate the probability that a number of witnesses would die unnaturally (suicide, murder, accident, unknown cause, etc.) over various time periods. Historical mortality statistical tables show that the average 1964-78 unnatural death rate R is approximately 0.000822.
The Poisson probability function is:
P(n) = a^n * exp(-a)/n!
where a = the expected number of unnatural deaths = R*N*T
Key witness categories
1 Unnatural deaths vs. suspicious natural deaths 1964-78
2 Investigation witnesses sought: Warren, Garrison, Church, HSCA (1100 est)
3 Investigation witnesses who died in 1964-78 (67)
4 Approximate number of JFK-related witnesses (1400+)
5 Eyewitnesses (121)
– The unnatural death rate is used in the analysis.
– ZERO probability of unnatural deaths in all categories.
– 51 Warren Commission eyewitnesses claimed that the shots came from the Grassy Knoll, 32 from the Texas Schoolbook Depository and 38 had no opinion: http://spot.acorn.net/jfkplace/09/fp.back_issues/12th_Issue/51_wits.html
Their recollections were dismissed by the Warren Commission as simply being “mistaken”. Parkland Hospital doctors initially reported entrance wounds to the neck and head which were confirmed years later in the Zapruder film.
Ruby’s Visitors
Ruby shot Oswald on Nov. 24, 1963. But how many know that three people who met in Ruby’s apartment that day died within one year, two unnaturally and one naturally.
– Bill Hunter, a reporter, shot by a policeman in April 1964 – ruled an accident.
– Tim Koethe, another reporter, was killed in Sept. 1964 by a blow to the neck.
– Tom Howard, Ruby’s first lawyer, died from a heart attack in March 1965.
The probability of the three deaths in one year: 1 in 300 million!
7 Mysterious FBI Witness Deaths
In 1977, seven top FBI officials died in a six month period just before they were scheduled to testify at the House Select Committee on Assassinations(HSCA).
. William Sullivan- Head of counter/espionage. Predicted death. Hunting accident.
. James Cadigan- Document expert; previously testified to WC. Accidental fall.
. Regis Kennedy- Heart attack the day he was to testify.
. Louis Nichols- Former #3, worked on JFK investigation. Heart attack
. Alan Belmont- Liaison to Warren Commission; Long illness.
. Donald Kaylor Fingerprint expert. Heart attack.
. J.M. English- Head of Forensic Sciences Lab. Heart attack.
Suspicious Timing of Other Witness Deaths
Jack Ruby died in Jan, 1967, just 28 days after being diagnosed with cancer in prison. He claimed that he was injected with cancer cells. In this press conference, Ruby claimed a government conspiracy to murder JFK.
Ruby: “Everything pertaining to what’s happening has never come to the surface. The world will never know the true facts, of what occurred, my motives. The people had- that had so much to gain and had such an ulterior motive for putting me in the position I’m in, will never let the true facts come above board to the world.”
Reporter: “Are these people in very high positions Jack?”
Ruby: “Yes.”
In Feb. 1967, David Ferrie was found dead in his apartment shortly after he was named as a defendant by New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison in the Clay Shaw trial. Ferrie was an associate of Oswald, Shaw, Guy Banister and anti-Castro Cubans. Ferrie left two suicide notes. He was held in protective custody until Feb. 21, 1967 and was found dead in his apartment the next day.
Ferrie associate Eladio del Valle was also sought by Garrison. He was murdered on Feb. 21 by gunshot and struck in the head by an axe.
Guy Banister, an ex-FBI agent with ties to Ferrie and Oswald, died in 1964, supposedly from a heart attack.
Maurice Gatlin was also sought by Garrison. He was a pilot who worked for Guy Banister, an ex-FBI agent in New Orleans connected to Ferrie, CIA, Carlos Marcello and Oswald. Gatlin died in a fall from the 6th floor after suffering a “heart attack”. The death was ruled an accident.
Clay Shaw denied he was CIA and was acquitted. He died a few years later from sudden cancer. There was no autopsy. CIA Director Richard Helms later admitted under oath that Shaw was a CIA contractor.
The following individuals were sought by the HSCA. All died unnaturally. Once again, the probability is ZERO…
– Charles Nicoletti, mob hit man and possible JFK shooter, was found dead from gunshots the day before he was scheduled to be contacted.
– John Paisley, Deputy Director of the CIA, was “about to blow the whistle” (shotgun ruled suicide).
– George DeMohrenschildt, a friend of Oswald with CIA contacts, had previously testified at the Warren Commission. He was found dead the day before he was scheduled to be contacted (shotgun ruled a suicide).
– Johnny Roselli, a powerful Mafia figure, was found in a drum off the coast of Miami. He told investigative reporter Jack Anderson that Ruby was ordered to silence Oswald and testified before the Senate.
Data Sources
The reference Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination by Michael Benson, presents vital information on each of more than 1,400 individuals (from suspects to witnesses to investigators) related in any way to the murder of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Based on years of research, it uses a wealth of data sources and a detailed analysis of the Warren Commission’s twenty-six volumes. The volume includes entries on virtually all suspects, victims, witnesses, law enforcement officials and investigators involved in the assassination.
In Crossfire assassination researcher Jim Marrs lists 103 individuals related to the assassination who died mysteriously from 1963-1978. Lee Harvey Oswald is not on the list but should be.
Warren Commission apologists who troll the online forums jump through illogical hoops in their attempts to debunk the probability calculations. But their arguments just prove the case for conspiracy. They agree that the math is correct, but argue that the data is invalid. They claim that the 1400+ witnesses and scores of unlikely deaths were self-selected and not a random group. Of course it is not a random group – by definition. That is precisely the point.
Witnesses who were called to testify before the 1964 Warren Commission, the 1969 Clay Shaw trial and the 1977 HSCA investigation were obviously not self-selected. Neither were the 1400 in the “Who’s Who” reference; they were all related in some way to the JFK assassination – suspects, victims, witnesses, law enforcement officials and investigators. It is not just a coincidence that an impossible number of them died unnaturally. There are only a few dozen that were missed in the “Who’s Who”, but even some of these died unnaturally. The only rational conclusion is that the JFK-related witnesses had information that would lead to the perpetrators.
There were at least 122 suspicious deaths among an estimated 1400 JFK material witnesses. At least 78 were ruled unnatural: 34 homicides, 24 accidents, 16 suicides, 4 unknown. Given the 1964-1978 national average unnatural mortality rate, 17 unnatural deaths would be expected. The probability of 78 unnatural deaths is ZERO But how many “accidents”, “suicides” and suspicious “natural” deaths were actually homicides? The probabilities would be lower still.
The reference Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination describes approximately 1400 individuals who were related in any way to the assassination; 95 are included in JFK Calc But the other witnesses that are not included in Who’s Who are very relevant.
It is important to note that the 1964-78 average homicide rate (1 in 12,000) was much lower than accidental deaths (1 in 1,600) and suicides (1 in 7,700). An analysis comparing unnatural JFK witness deaths to the expected number is not nearly as dramatic as comparing homicides. Nationally, homicides comprised 10% of unnatural deaths. But there were 34 ruled homicides among the 78 unnatural deaths (44%). If the analysis was restricted to homicides, the mathematical proof would be simpler and more powerful.
Unnatural Official Deaths; National Average Rates (1964-78)
Homicide (34): 0.000084 (1 in 12,000)
Accident (24): 0.000594 (1 in 1,600)
Suicide (16): 0.000130 (1 in 7,700)
Unknown (4): 0.000014 (1 in 100,000)
Natural Death Rates
Heart Disease (25): 0.004913 (1 in 200)
Cancer: (6) 0.001991 (1 in 500)
Other: (13) 0.004461 (1 in 1000)
Total (44): 0.010197 (1 in 100)