Legal History

50 years after assassination of President Kennedy, experts debate exactly who was to blame


Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Daryl Lang /

Almost 50 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, as he was traveling through Dallas in an open car as part of a motorcade on Nov. 22, 1963, there is still disagreement about who was responsible for the crime that shocked the country.

The Warren Commission said Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. But others question how a single shooter could have caused the injuries to Kennedy and then-Texas Gov. John Connally, who was sitting in front of Kennedy in the same car. There is also debate about whether Jack Ruby, who shot Oswald to death when he was in custody, a few days later, acted alone.

However, a young lawyer working as a researcher for the Warren Commission, Richard Mosk, says he is confident they got it right and Oswald was the only shooter, Reuters reports.

“It’s natural that an event like this would cause skepticism and suspicions, especially in light of what has come out about our government,” says Mosk, who is now an associate justice on the California Court of Appeals.

Associated Press video

G. Robert Blakey was a federal prosecutor in a meeting with Kennedy’s brother, U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, on the day the president was assassinated. He later served as counsel to a U.S. House committee that probed the Warren Commission report. Initially, he agreed with Mosk. But further review of the evidence led him to question what he at first thought were valid conclusions by the Warren Commission.

In the end, the House Select Committee on Assassinations made determinations contrary to those of the Warren Commission and decided Kennedy probably had died as a result of a criminal conspiracy, Blakey tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“We came to the conclusion that there were two shooters in the plaza,” he said. “The Warren Commission said one. We thought there were four shots. The Warren Commission said two for sure, maybe three.”

In a recent episode, the CBS News program 48 Hours recaptures much of the fledgling television industry’s live coverage of the assassination and its aftermath and also looks into the evidence that was gathered. The program discusses a computer analysis of the footage of the shooting taken by motorcade bystander Abraham Zapruder on a home movie camera. It shows that one bullet could have done exactly the damage that was done to Kennedy and Connally, who was injured but survived, the program reports. And a doctor present at the hospital where a gravely injured Kennedy was taken after the shooting said he was wearing a corset-like brace that kept him upright after the shooting, which helped explain the bullet’s trajectory.

For those who want to review the Warren Commission’s 900-page report for themselves, the Government Printing Office has made it available as a PDF for download for the first time. Post-assassination audio tape recordings have also been made available.

See also:

ABC News: “9 People Who Witnessed JFK’s Assassination “

Slate: “Killing Conspiracy”

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.