50 years later, Wecht continues to poke holes in report on JFK assassination
By David Conti
Published: Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, 10:09 p.m.
Updated 2 hours ago
They were born a year apart to Jewish immigrants in rural towns as the Great Depression took hold.
Both served in the Air Force during the Cold War, studied law, went into politics. They nearly served together in the Senate. They wrote books and fought public battles.
Yet 3 centimeters of copper-jacketed lead forever separated Dr. Cyril Wecht of Squirrel Hill and the late Sen. Arlen Specter of Philadelphia.
When gunfire in Dallas 50 years ago this Friday ended the life of President John F. Kennedy, Wecht and Specter were on different professional trajectories.
“What I've done and who I am, in Pittsburgh, for better or worse, I don't think you can link to JFK,” said Wecht, 82, a forensic pathologist who was elected Allegheny County coroner and county commissioner around a decades-long medical-legal consultant business.
Exhibit 399 — the single bullet — made Wecht and Specter national names.
As a junior attorney for the Warren Commission, Specter developed the single-bullet theory of the assassination. He concluded the 161-grain slug fired by Lee Harvey Oswald entered and exited the bodies of Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally a combined seven times as the president's convertible rolled through Dealey Plaza.
“It began as a theory, but when a theory is established by the facts, it deserves to be called a conclusion,” Specter wrote in his 2000 book, “Passion for Truth.”
Wecht poked holes in the commission's findings during a 1965 meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He has spent 48 years explaining how Specter's “conclusion” fails, and with it the commission's finding that Oswald acted alone in Dallas.
“It was an American conspiracy,” Wecht said. “It was a coup d'etat.”
‘Impossible to explain'
Fifty years later, the debate has not abated.
Last month, about 500 people gathered at Duquesne University for a JFK symposium sponsored by the university's Institute of Forensic Science and Law, which is named for Wecht. Appearances by Stone and a doctor who tended to Kennedy brought national attention.
People sneered when they mentioned Specter's name or the single-bullet theory.
Across the state, the Single Bullet exhibit opened on Oct. 21. It's the first exhibition in Philadelphia University's Arlen Specter Center for Public Policy. Willens, the former Kennedy aide, delivered a speech.
The center's coordinator, Karen Albert, said he was looking forward to defending his conclusion on the 50th anniversary.
Wecht said he endorsed Specter for Senate in 2004, the only time he supported a Republican.
They joined for a few public debates on the bullet and the commission. But Wecht said they never discussed their differences in private.
“I wasn't going to convince him,” Wecht said. “He wasn't going to convince me.”
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