Bugliosi on the Kennedy Assasination:
I have admired Vincent Bugliosi ever since reading Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, describing his prosecution of Charles Manson. Although other some prosecutors carped at the time that he took credit for the accomplishments of others, claims which I have no way of assessing, I thought the book admirably described a model of how a prosecutor ought to prepare for a case. I highly recommend it to law students interested in practicing criminal law. Plus, it's a great read.

I am also a big fan of Bugliosi's book Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got Away With Murder, describing the catastrophic failure of the prosecutors in the O.J. Simpson case to competently do their job. It fit perfectly with my reaction to watching on TV their pathetic attempts at presenting evidence and argument, but provided much unreported background information on just how bad they were. No one should blame the jury about the outcome of that case without first reading this book. [Aside: on Sunday night I saw Norm McDonald at the Improv. MacDonald is memorable for his line as anchor for Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update. With a picture of a smiling OJ over his shoulder, McDonald announced: "Well, it's official: Murder is now legal in the State of California."]

Now Bugliosi has a massive new book debunking conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination. I am not sure when I will have the chance to read it, but found this interview with him discussing the assassination to be most interestimng.

Perhaps he should have titled it, "Case Really Closed".
6.27.2007 1:13pm
If Johnnie Cochrane had defended Charles Manson, Manson would be spinning the White Album backward in Florida right now.
6.27.2007 1:29pm
Random Lawyer:
I recommend this book to all law students, not just those interested in criminal law.
6.27.2007 2:08pm
alkali (mail) (www):
I thought [Helter Skelter] admirably described a model of how a prosecutor ought to prepare for a case.

Outrage shares the focus on case preparation, and I recommend it to people for that reason. It is also useful to civil litigators.
6.27.2007 2:09pm
William Eric Wolff (mail):
I read a little about this Kennedy assassination book in Time magazine. Apparently, some of his arguments are (1) no one would have hired Oswald, (2) the specific route was selected only four days before the assassination, (3) there's a lot of evidence against Oswald and no evidence (motives, perhaps, but not evidence) against anyone else, (4) "Three people can keep a secret but only if two are dead."

From Bugliosi: "Oswald was not an expert shot and owned only a $12 mail-order rifle—both of which automatically disqualify him as a hit man." (This is an odd comment from someone who argues that Oswald was the lone assassin.)

(1) is similar reasoning to such things as Holocaust denial. Given his knowledge, it doesn't make sense. So, he infers the same knowledge and sensibility to everyone else.

(2) sort of an "assumes the conclusion" error. Clearly, if the people who chose the route were conspirators, then ...

(3) and (4) This combination probably is the most serious problem with all of the various conspiracy theories. But it doesn't disprove them. Ever do a jigsaw puzzle? The pieces are all there. Doesn't mean you can see how they all fit together. His statement should be, we don't recognize any evidence as such. And we don't have any confessions from conspirators.

Despite their claims to the contrary, writers of conspiracy and anti-conspiracy books, who have been, and continue to be, many over the past 40 years, have uncovered nothing that is both new and relevant.

The best thing I've seen is an animated video someone created using various original footage plus time lines of known events. Also incorporated are the location of Oswald, the movement of the Kennedy limo, the positions of the occupants of the limo, and locations and angles of wounds to the occupants. The video supports the Oswald-as-single-shooter theory. However, it says nothing (it can't) about Oswald's possible involvement in a conspiracy.

What is most surprising to me is that, in 40 years, no one seems to have thought of any alternatives besides consipiracy to assassinate JFK and lone gunman kills JFK.

First, there were other people in the limo. And, second, even if we accept that Oswald was a lone gunman who assassinated JFK, that doesn't negate a conspiracy--one that didn't include Oswald. That would be a coincidence. But truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
6.27.2007 4:26pm
Roundhead (mail) (www):
actually Mr. Wolff...

During the 1980s, an author did posit that Oswald had intended to kill John Connally (sp), the Texas governor who was also wounded (and who, until the end of his life, denied that he and Kennedy were hit with the same "magic" bullet)… apparently, correspondence uncovered in the recent past had shown that Oswald had pleaded with the governor to have his dishonourable discharge for the u.s. marines reversed (his discharge had been downgraded after Oswald's defection to Russia), but to no avail.

Also, Norman Mailer, in his 1995 book, Oswald, suggested that two different individuals (ie. Oswald and the "mystery shooter" at the picket fence) did not necessarily have to be in conspiracy to have been there at the same time…

But that seems unlikely.

The truth will never be known decisively (and when is it ever?), but there is every reason to believe that Oswald did it, acted alone, and that he was killed due to misplaced outrage by Jack Ruby…

It is, however, entirely less than satisfying that a personality such as Oswald could have shot such a towering figure as John F. Kennedy, but there you have it….
6.27.2007 5:01pm
Roundhead (mail) (www):
ps - Mr. Barnett, I'm surprised you liked `Helter Skelter'.

It is, without a doubt, one of the worst books I have ever read in my life. Several passages do not make sense - literally, you cannot make sense of them no matter what you do.

And the `helter skelter' theory, bugliosi must have been a major-league legal genius to get that piece of cr*p theory sucessfully across to a jury...

6.27.2007 5:03pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Did Prof. Barnett also read Bugliosi's book on Jones v. Clinton, I wonder?
6.27.2007 5:06pm
Hattio (mail):
Basically off topic
But, the best line from the OJ Simpson trial belongs to Bill Mahr. The LAPD, so incompetent they couldn't fram a guilty man.
6.27.2007 5:14pm
Brent A (mail):
I received "Reclaiming History" as an early Father's Day gift and took it along over the Memorial Day holiday as my wife and I went traveled to visit family.

I couldn't out it down. It reads, at least in the opening 4 chapters, like a fascinating true life mystery.

Bugliosi has done the country a tremendous service with this tome.

My favorite part - and the reason for the book - Bugliosi was a keynote speaker at a legal conference, on matters unrelated to the assassination, in 1992. During the question and answer period, the assassination came up. Bugliosi asked how many of the 600 lawyers present believed in some sort of conclusion other than Oswald, acting alone, killing JFK. 95% of the audience raised their hands. Bugliosi then asked "What if could show you in less than one minute that you are intelligent people who are not thinking intelligently about the Kennedy assassination?" Despite cries of "you can't", Bugliosi asked that the time clock start, and asked first how many had read an article or book detailing a conspiracy theory - almost all of the same hands.

Then, saying that there are 2 sides to every issue, and wise people look at both before making a decision (after all, no matter how thin the pancake, there's always 2 sides), Bugliosi asked "And how many have read the Warren Commission Report"? You guessed it. No one.
6.28.2007 1:31am