Autopsy Photos and X-Rays
Enhanced anterior-posterior X-ray from Kennedy autopsy.
See HSCA Medical Panel Report, p.111.
If the autopsy report is inadequate, and medical witness accounts contradictory, then what about the "hard" evidence - autopsy photographs and X-rays? Shouldn't they provide clear evidence of how many bullets there were and from what direction they came?
Unfortunately it is not that simple. The extant photographs and X-rays are limited and poor-quality, and have been subject to varying interpretation. There is for instance no photo clearly showing the fatal entrance wound, though there is testimony that one was taken. Other photos, including one of the chest and one or more with a probe through Kennedy's body illustrating a bullet path, were testified to but are not present in the collection.
The release of the House Select Committee on Assassinations' files in the 1990s, and new interviews with autopsy participants, have added to concerns that the photographic and X-ray record of the autopsy has been tampered with. Saundra Kay Spencer, the woman who processed autopsy photos after the assassination, told the Review Board under oath that the pictures in existence are not from the set she developed. Photographer John Stringer similarly disavowed the existing brain photos which he is supposed to have taken.
The HSCA did authenticate the X-rays as genuine using stereo viewing (which would detect tampering among pairs of photographs of the same subject), and verified via anthropomorphic analysis that it is indeed Kennedy in the photos. But HSCA files reveal that the photographs failed another key authenticity test, and this failure was buried and subsequently misrepresented in an HSCA report. The X-rays are similarly the subject of authenticity disputes.
When autopsy photographer John Stringer was shown the Archives' brain photos in a 1996 deposition, he was asked "whether the photographs in front of you now are consistent with the brain, as you remember it from 1963?" Stringer replied, ""Well, it has to be, if that's Mr. Kennedy." To which Review Board Counsel Jeremy Gunn responded: "Well, that's the question."
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