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A Single Photograph Disproves Oliver Stone’s Conspiracy Claim


The Unfounded Attack on CE 399’s Chain of Custody



By Steve Roe



    Some people, when they are responsible for creating a disaster, apologize and slink away. Others attempt to make amends. A few double down.

    Oliver Stone’s new pseudo-documentary, JFK: Destiny Betrayed, proves the nothing-if-not indefatigable director belongs firmly to the double-down school. He first unveiled his conspiratorial take on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy in JFK, a 1991 feature film. At that time he proclaimed the film ought to be accorded as much weight as the Warren Report. Now Stone declares that his “conspiracy theories are now conspiracy facts.”[1]

    One of the outlandish claims in JFK: Destiny Betrayed concerns a most important piece of ballistic evidence. This artifact is Warren Commission Exhibit (CE) 399, the spent bullet fired from Lee Harvey Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano rifle to the exclusion of all other weapons. This bullet, after penetrating the president’s upper back and exiting his throat, traversed Texas Governor John Connally’s torso and wrist before lodging itself superficially in his left thigh. During the chaos at Parkland Hospital, the bullet fell out onto the stretcher cart being used to transport Connally to the operating room. Within an hour or so a Parkland employee noticed the bullet on the stretcher, and it was eventually handed over to a Secret Service agent before finally reaching the FBI Lab on the evening of November 22nd.

Above: A frame from the Zapruder film shows President Kennedy and Governor Connally an instant after they were struck by the second bullet fired.                                         
Below: CE 399, the second bullet fired by Lee Harvey Oswald.                                                                                                                .                                                                                              

    Stone and James DiEugenio, who wrote the screenplay, would have everyone believe, however, that CE 399’s provenance can be impeached, and that unnamed conspirators planted a key piece of evidence that was the focus of every federal investigation. As Stone asserted during a March interview with an all-too-credulous Boston Herald reporter, “Nothing matches. There’s no chain of custody—of a bullet [CE 399] or a rifle or fingerprints. Nothing was done right. It was a completely botched investigation . . . .[2]

    In point of fact, there is no chain of custody issue. The Warren Commission worked hard in 1964 to establish how CE 399 got from Parkland to the FBI Lab on the night of November 22nd. The House Select Committee on Assassinations corroborated the accuracy of the commission’s findings in the late 1970s. The Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) reaffirmed these findings in 1996. And most recently, the National Archives (NARA), which preserves all assassination artifacts, acted in concert with the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to employ state-of-art imaging that enables researchers to examine CE 399 as never before.

    The issue comes down to whom do you believe: Oliver Stone? Or your own eyes?

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11 March 2017

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