Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vince Bugliosi: The Sins of Omission and Commission

I saw Vince Bugliosi, former Manson prosecutor and author of the five pound, 1600+ page, Reclaiming History being interviewed on FOX around the time his book was just out. He came off as an affable, sincere guy. Then when I got his book and started reading, I was surprised to see his Dr. Jeckel to Mr. Hyde conversion. In Reclaiming History, Bugliosi is a one man wrecking ball of conspiracy theory and Warren Commission critics. When facts and logic don’t prevail, sarcasm, ridicule, and insults will suffice. He says if you do not accept that Oswald was the lone gunman then you are stupid. Really, is all of this vitriol necessary? It is as if Bugliosi is not so much settling history as he is settling scores.

His arrogance knows no bounds. Nor does his hypocrisy when he charges James Tague, the third man wounded that day, of trying to make money off his experiences when Bugliosi is hawking a $50 book. What cheek!

Vince Bugliosi is so militantly anti-conspiratorial that it clouds his judgment. He has to have everything in order like a compulsive-excessive. There must be no doubts about anything. There can be no sub-conspiracies, such as Clay Shaw using the alias Clay Bertrand and that Shaw was a CIA operative. In Bugliosi‘s world everybody is honorable and forthright—even Hoover and Johnson. This leads him to make preposterous statements that make no sense for a man gifted with such a keen mind. In other places, he seems to have no knowledge of the material he writes about and makes statements that are contradictory in his narrative.

Bugliosi’s whole approach to the Kennedy assassination is virtually the same as that of the Commission he wishes to defend. If facts and research don’t bolster the lone gunman then debunk it or ignore it all together. The Warren Commission decided via a secret meeting in January of 1964, that for various political reasons (see my piece, The Investigation That Never Was) they would basically run with Lee H. Oswald as the sole assassin and no other conspirators. Bugliosi takes the same path, though his is not as political. He states in his first chapter that Oswald is “guilty as sin.” From here, no objective investigation is going to be conducted within these pages, despite Bugliosi’s claims otherwise (the WC did likewise). The evidence will be made to conform to the theory. If it doesn’t, it is debunked or disregarded. And Bugliosi turns a blind eye to a lot in Reclaiming History.

The Bugliosi Silent Treatment
One of the “silent treatments” Bugliosi hands out is his treatment of the Joseph Dolce ballistics wounds research. Dolce, chairman of the Army’s Wounds Ballistic Board with over 20 years experience studying ballistic wounds, was contacted by the WC to do tests to determine if bullets striking human bone would maintain their shape as the “pristine bullet” that was recovered at the Parkland Hospital. After hitting ten cadaver wrists with Oswald’s rifle, Dolce concluded all ten were “markedly deformed.” Not a single one resembled what is known as CE 399—the magic bullet.

Joseph Dolce was ignored. Since his research contradicted a major piece of evidence in the “official” scenario of assassination, he was never called to testify under oath nor was his investigation ever mentioned in the 26 volumes of evidence or hearings. Years later, Dolce would be ignored by the House Select Committee on Assassinations as well. Not until Dolce was interviewed in 1986 did information finally appear on his work what he uncovered that the Commission did not want to see or hear.

Bugliosi’s treatment of the Dolce affair is the same. In fact, no mention of the cadaver experiment is mention in his book, or for that matter, in the nearly 1,000 pages of End Notes that is on the accompanying disc. Bugliosi refers to Dolce as a consultant but never as the chairman of the Army’s Wounds Ballistic Board. Dolce’s work is a major contribution in the investigation Kennedy’s death and Bugliosi commits a major slight of said work to maintain the lone gunman premise.

No Hearts of Stone
It was uncovered by researchers that the Warren Commission’s transcript of their interview with the President’s widow was edited. In fact, the original has the notation: “Reference to wounds deleted.” But no reason was given for the deletion. Researchers finally got the full transcription in the early 70s and many were outraged by this suppression of witness testimony that never made its way to any of the investigations—WC or HSCA.

Here are Jackie Kennedy’s comments that were deleted: “I was trying to hold his hair on. From the front there was nothing—suppose there must have been. But from the back you could see, you know, you were trying to hold his hair on, and his skull on.

A very telling statement because Mrs. Kennedy is the first and closest witness to the President’s head wounds. And most importantly, she is saying he has a rear head wound that must be attended to. She places herself on the side of the Parkland doctor’s and their medical staff that witnessed a huge rear wound in the back of Kennedy’s head. The autopsy physicians (Humes, Boswell, Fink) claim in their official report and sworn testimony that the rear of the head had a small wound the diameter of the bullet Oswald alleged to have fired. Of course Kennedy’s head wounds are a major controversy that rages to this day with two sets of doctors in disagreement.

Unbelievably, Bugliosi states on page 29 of his End Notes,
Frankly, the only thing the critics have proved from this episode is that the Warren Commission members were not made of stone.

Frankly, the only thing Bugliosi proves from his remark is that he doesn’t give a damn what the truth is. If he were, he would be as incredulous as the critics are, but strangely, he is indifferent to this deception committed on the public by the Warren Commission.

The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald
Bugliosi goes on and on about his mock trial he did on TV, held in London of Oswald. Guess who wins? The prosecution led by Vincent Bugliosi, of course. He uses this as further evidence of Oswald’s guilt. Bugliosi had the nerve to state that his fake TV trial has “historical importance” because is more reliable than both the Warren Commission Report and the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

But it gets even more outlandish when he looks the jurors in the eye and tells them this is “one of the most important trials in the history of this country.” The jurors are all actors; the county is England where this charade took place. There is no defendant; he’s dead. The witnesses are under oath but not an oath that means anything as no one will go to jail for perjury. I stated earlier that Bugliosi’s arrogance has no bounds. Perhaps I understated it!

Mark Lane Gets a Sucker Punch
Attorney Mark Lane, one of the Warren Commission’s first critics and author of many best selling books on the Kennedy assassination comes under heavy fire from Bugliosi. The attacks start out mild and soon ramp up to the malicious. It looks pretty bad for Lane till you read his rebuttal at If Lane is to be believed, and I believe him to be truthful, Bugliosi blunders bad enough to be sued for slander. This would be nothing new for the former prosecutor who was sued for slander in the early 70s and settled to the tune of $15,000. Bugliosi accuses Lane of portraying himself as a Dallas police officer to arrange an interview with a witness. Lane says the transcript clearly shows him identifying himself by his real name “Mark Lane.” I do not know why Lane is not suing for such an outrageous statement.

What all of his demonstrates are severe flaws in Bugliosi character. He is so bound to discredit the critics that he resorts to imaginary tales. His fact checking takes a dive as well with many mistakes. It shows him to be a deceitful and strange personality and casts doubt on his aim to objectively find out what the truth is in this case.

The Invisible Man
Bugliosi likes to attack the more credible and accredited witnesses that don’t go along with the script. A case in point is the President’s personal physician Dr. George Burkley. Dr. Buckley is an interesting witness as he was in the motorcade when the shots were fired, was present at the Parkland Hospital trauma ward as the doctors there tried to resuscitate the dying President, signed the death certificate (with the throat injury described as an entry wound), accompanied the body back on Air Force One to Bethesda Naval for the autopsy.

Bugliosi attempts to discredit Dr. Burkley by attacking his positioning of the back wound, listed in the death certificate at being located at the third thoracic vertebrae. Bugliosi cites testimony from the HSCA claiming that x-rays showed that the first thoracic vertebrae at the point of entry on the back. That is way to high. Bugliosi is trying to pull a rabbit out of the hat for this one. First of all, an X-ray is not going to show the bullet wound since there is no bone damage. Secondly, there are no bullet fragments so no path of the bullet’s trajectory can be traced. Thirdly, no flesh wound would be visible on an X-ray. And lastly, Dr. Burkley did not make the call on the back wound position—that was determined by the Parkland physicians. Dr. Burkley was there as a witness and to sign the death certificate.

If Bugliosi were attempting a fair and honest investigation, he would be better served in examining why Dr. Burkley, a key witness, was never interviewed by the FBI, or the Secret Service, and never called to testify under oath to the Warren Commission. His name is never mentioned in the 912-page report, nor is the death certificate reprinted in the 26 volumes of complied evidence. Even the autopsy face sheet, which he signed as a witness, has his name erased (the original in the Nation Archives has his signature on it). Why is this man such a pariah? Possibly because he didn’t go along with the Government’s official story?

Dr. Burkley is the Warren Commission’s Invisible Man. He is Bugliosi’s Invisible Man as well.

The Limousine Blunder
Bugliosi’s rabid anti-conspiracy notions lead him down strange paths of denial that are easily debunked. A good example of this is cleaning of the Presidential limousine at Parkland Hospital by the Secret Service. Bugliosi can’t believe the Secret Service would do this before contacting the FBI to first investigate because, after all, the limo is a rolling crime scene. In Bugliosi’s own words: "But on the face of it, it appears highly unlikely that the Secret Service would wash away the "crime scene" before the FBI criminalists could examine the car, and there is no testimony or statement from anyone that this was done." (Page 33, End Notes, #54)

But first, Bugliosi misrepresents what happened. He claims that, on the word of unnamed “critics” the back seat of the limousine was washed out. Color photographs clearly shows there was plenty of gore left in that area. It was the rear trunk and bumper that was cleaned off. Never the less, this is destruction of material evidence at the crime scene and should not have been. The tissue and blood matter on the trunk would leave traces of the kill shot’s trajectory. In a few days the limousine would be hastily shipped off to Detroit for refurbishing, further destroying any further evidence.

Then Bugliosi implies there are no photographs taken of the event. They are—a simple Google search reveals them. A New York Times photographer was present at the scene of the cleaning and snapped the photos. In the photographs, SS agents and Dallas police officers can be seen plainly cleaning off the car with a bucket of water present near the car. Oddly, Bugliosi lists in his bibliography, Death in Dealey Plaza. This book has one of photos. By listing this book in his bibliography, that is tantamount to claiming he read the book for his research. Did he really? Or he just can’t handle the truth that things are out of place here?

Bugliosi, already in deep water, goes even further. He claims there were no witnesses to the event. In his own words: “…there is no testimony or statement from anyone that this was done." Wrong! Three print journalists were there as witnesses and all wrote articles that were published at that time. Most noted of the three was Tom Wicker of the New York Times. His account is easily found by a Google search. He clearly describes the incident complete with the bloody bucket of water situated by the car.

Mr. Bugliosi, do you think we don’t have Internet connections out here and can’t double-check what you write?

In Closing
This piece is not meant to be a complete recounting of Reclaiming History’s errors. A Google search will find a load of expert critiques of Bugliosi’s book. In the future I am sure someone will publish a more complete analysis of Bugliosi’s approach to the Kennedy assassination. Despite the flaws Reclaiming History is a great research volume for students of the assassination to study. However, Bugliosi fails in not conducting a fair investigation of the facts and letting his own personal animosity intrude.

Despite Vince Bugliosi being rabidly anti conspiracy he is on the record supporting a conspiracy in the death of the President’s brother Robert in 1968. Ironic that he gets one and not the other.

Sources: Reclaiming History, Reclaiming History End Notes (disc/PDF), Death in Dealey Plaza, Breach of Trust,, Google