Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, Gerald Posner, 1993 (with subsequent updates and a closing note written in 2013).
Never having done any serious reading about the JFK assassination, I chanced to view a two-hour video about reporter, syndicated columnist and TV personality (panelist on “What’s My Line”) Dorothy Kilgallen’s 1963-65 investigation of certain aspects of the case. Kilgallen was supposedly in hot pursuit of a “big story” re the JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald assassinations when she unexpectedly wound up dead at the age of 52. Suggested conclusions: (1) the “Oswald alone theory” didn’t make sense, i.e., this 24-year-old misfit must have received help or guidance from someone to go after the nation’s president; (2) Ruby’s appearance at a Dallas police station just in time to shoot Oswald was a little too convenient for whoever could have been behind the assassination, and (3) Kilgallen didn’t commit suicide as investigators concluded at the time, she was murdered to silence her.
Intrigued, I decided to purchase one of Mark Shaw’s books (Denial of Justice) about the Kilgallen theory, and also an acclaimed summation of the generally accepted version of events: Posner’s book.
Case Closed proved to be logical, informative, and very readable. Posner obviously researched the subject thoroughly before it was initially published (circa 1993), and has kept up with many of the theories and evidence that have surfaced since then. Oswald’s family background and upbringing – Marine Corps service – political leanings – sojourn in Russia, which didn’t turn out in accordance with his expectations – unhappy marriage – social relationships – acquisition of firearms – previous assassination attempt (General Edwin Walker of the John Birch Society) – chain of events that led up to his presence on the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository, prepared to shoot the president, when the JFK motorcade rounded the corner and drove by – the fatal shots, meticulously supported by a review of the forensic evidence – and Oswald’s subsequent movements, which ended with his arrest at a movie theater, interrogation, and death two days later.
A similar review is provided for Jack Ruby, whose timeline eventually intersected with Oswald’s at the police station on November 24, 1963. The Ruby back story seemed to cover most of the obvious questions, although it would have been helpful to know whether he usually carried a gun and had ever used it. Ruby was tried for the murder of Oswald, without taking the stand, and subsequently questioned by the Warren Commission in its investigation of the JFK assassination.
The lead defense attorney (Melvin Beli, “the king of torts”) in the criminal case put on an unsuccessful insanity defense. Ruby was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to death. A new trial was granted on appeal, but Ruby was still incarcerated when he died of cancer in early 1967. From Posner’s account, there was no suggestion that Ruby had done anything other than on his own volition, e.g., by killing Oswald to prevent facts from coming out that might have embarrassed some mob boss or public official.
Almost every chapter of the book includes voluminous notes (in smaller type) re various points and conjectures that have been raised by other researchers. I skimmed some of the notes, which were interesting but typically provided more detail than I wanted to get into.
Overall, this book is outstanding – it didn’t win a Pulitzer prize but was one of the finalists in the year’s competition – and should be particularly helpful for anyone planning to research the JFK assassination.
Despite its title, Case Closed doesn’t resolve all possible questions about the subject – as Posner himself has said, one can never be 100% certain of the explanations for historical events. Video (1:20), 5/3/17. The book does make clear, however, that Oswald was a resourceful and determined person, he was in position to fire the fatal shots, a second shooter wasn’t needed to explain the results of the shots fired, and there wasn’t any obvious evidence of a powerful figure behind the scenes who was orchestrating the action.
Suitably armed, I look forward to reading Mark Shaw’s book to see what he may have come up with.