Thu, May 17, 2007 - Page 9 News List

Former prosecutor seeks to quash Kennedy conspiracy theories

By Edward Wyatt  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , LOS ANGELES

The prosecutor who put Charles Manson behind bars now wants to solve another crime -- a really simple one, he insists. So simple that it takes only 1,612 pages to prove his case.

Vincent Bugliosi, whose prosecution of Charles Manson in 1970 led him to write one of the best-selling true-crime books of all time, Helter Skelter, has now turned his attention to the assassination of US president John F. Kennedy.

And that is his full attention: 20 years of research, more than 1 million words, hundreds of interviews, thousands of documents and more than 10,000 citations. The result, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. His conclusion: Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy, and acted alone.

Why would such a simple conclusion require so much argument?

"Because of the unceasing and fanatical obsession of thousands of researchers over the last 43 years, from around the world but mostly in the United States," Bugliosi said in an interview at the cafe of the Sportsmen's Lodge Hotel in Studio City, California.

"Examining under a high-powered microscope every comma, every period, every detail on every conceivable issue, and making hundreds and hundreds of allegations, they have transformed this simple case into its present form," he said.

Bugliosi likes to tell a story illustrating why he believes this book is necessary. In 1992, less than a year after the debut of Oliver Stone's conspiracy-minded film JFK, Bugliosi was addressing a group of trial lawyers when a member of the audience asked him about the assassination.

Bugliosi asked for a show of hands of how many people did not accept the findings of the Warren Commission, which had investigated the assassination and concluded that Oswald was the killer. Close to 90 percent of the 600 lawyers raised their hands, he recalled. Then he asked how many had seen JFK or read an account that argued in favor of a conspiracy; a similar number raised their hands.

Warren report

Finally, he asked how many had read the Warren Commission report. Only a smattering of hands went up.

"The first national poll that came out shortly after the assassination showed the majority of Americans accepted the Warren Commission," he said. "But all people have seen throughout the years is one book after another propounding the conspiracy theory. It has penetrated the consciousness of the American people and convinced them that the Warren Commission's a big joke, and that Oswald was either innocent or just some patsy who was framed by some exotic group of conspirators, ranging from anti-Catholic Cuban exiles to organized crime working in league with US intelligence. And the majority of Americans now, 75 percent, believe there was a conspiracy."

Prominent proponents of alternative assassination theories are already prepared to dispute Bugliosi's conclusions. Stone, for example, said that most Americans believed the assassination was more than the work of Oswald alone "from the very beginning."

"President [Lyndon] Johnson didn't believe the Warren Commission; nor did Senator Robert Kennedy, as David Talbot's new book Brothers shows," Stone said in an e-mail message.

"In 1979, the House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations determined that President Kennedy `was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy.' The Warren Commission, deservedly, has not stood the test of time," Stone wrote.

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