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"JFK: Destiny Betrayed" Misleads on JFK's Head Wound, Part Two

Oliver Stone's so-called documentary series, JFK: Destiny Betrayed, tries to make the case that because Parkland Hospital doctors saw cerebellum extruding from Kennedy's head wound, that it indicated an exit wound. Here is an excerpt from a transcript: (6:52 in episode three)


Whoopi Goldberg: In addition to this large avulsion of wound [sic; should be avulsive wound] in the rear of the skull, seven personnel at Parkland Hospital saw cerebellum at the bottom of the skull.


Dr. Cyril Wecht: The brain consists of two large cerebral hemispheres, and then lower down, posteriorly, are two hemispheres, the cerebellum. They differ in coloration, they differ in the topographical markings.

Oliver Stone: So seven doctors at Parkland Hospital claimed to have seen cerebellum?

Dr. Michael Chesser: In 1963, it was one of the top trauma centers in the country, and it is still one the top trauma centers. Dr. Robert McClelland saw a clump of the cerebellum, a large clump, fall out of the skull on to the emergency room bed.

Dr. McClelland: In my mind, as sure as you can ever be about any observation, there was cerebellum extruded out to the gurney while I was standing there looking at it.

Dr. Michael Chesser: Then we have Dr. Kemp Clark. He went into detail with the Warren Commission about the result of all this loss of cerebellar tissue, if President Kennedy had survived the wound. So there was no doubt that there was loss of cerebellar tissue.


Whoopi Goldberg: This reliable eyewitness testimony indicates that the wound in Kennedy's rear skull extended quite low. And also, there was severe damage to that sector of the brain. Yet in the autopsy report, written at Bethesda by James Humes, there is no mention of the cerebellum, and he did not testify about it to the Warren Commission.


Screen shot from JFK: Destiny Betrayed showing the cerebellum.


Dr. Cyril Wecht: So these guys, good old Texan, respected doctors, and they've seen hundreds and thousands of brains, especially the neurosurgeon, saw cerebellum having been damaged, significantly displaced, in the occipital area. The doctors who did the autopsy -- read the autopsy report from Humes and Boswell. The cerebellum is intact. Who do you believe? Do you believe these Texas doctors? Or do you believe the two career naval pathologists working under military control? Who do you believe as to whether or not the cerebellum was damaged?


There are two major reasons why JFK: Destiny Betrayed makes this claim. First, it is important to show that there was a massive blowout in the back of Kennedy's head which would be suggestive of a large exit wound. Secondly, the autopsy photographs of brain show the cerebellum to be intact. So this claim is further proof that either the brain was substituted or the photographs have been altered. See my blog posts on the weight of JFK's brain, Dr. Robert Kirschner's ARRB interview, and John Stringer's testimony.


JFK Exhibit F-302. This is a drawing of JFK's brain from a photograph which shows the cerebellum to be nearly intact.


One of the doctors who saw cerebellum was Dr. Charles Carrico:

Vincent Bugliosi asked Dr. Carrico in October 2000 if the Parkland doctors were "confused about the cerebellum being damaged." He replied: (page 405 of Reclaiming History)

Oh, absolutely. Looking at the shredded pieces of brain on the gurney, it looked like some of it had the characteristics of cerebellum, which kind of has a wavy surface. But because these brain pieces were shredded, this could easily have led to confusion as to whether it was all cerebrum -- which has broader bands across the surface -- or some cerebellum.

Another doctor who saw cerebellum was Dr. Marion Jenkins. Here is his account from November 22, 1963:

In 1988, Dr. Jenkins went to the National Archives to view the JFK autopsy x-rays and photographs:

I did say cerebellum in my first official report. And the cerebellum ordinarily is in a posterior part. And here I know very well that the wound was more anterior than that, but there was a portion of the brain that looked like it had a stalk, and is convoluted to look like what I thought was cerebellum.

Gerald Posner talked to Dr. Jenkins in 1992 who told him: (page 311 of Cased Closed)

The description of the cerebellum was my fault. When I read my report over, I realized there could not be any cerebellum. The autopsy photo, with the rear of the head intact and a protrusion in the parietal region, is the way I remember it. I never did say occipital.

Another Parkland doctor who saw cerebellum was Dr. Malcolm Perry:

Gerald Posner also talked to Dr. Perry in 1992: (page 312 in Cased Closed)

I did not really look at it that closely. But like everyone else, I saw it back there. It was in the occipital/parietal area. The occipital and parietal bone join each other, so we are only talking about a centimeter or so in difference. And you must remember the President had a lot of hair, and it was bloody and matted, and it was difficult to tell where the wound started or finished. I did not see any cerebellum.

The doctors at Parkland Hospital were frantically trying to save the life of President Kennedy. They were extremely busy and no one had the time to examine his wounds in detail. Dr. Michael Baden explained this to Gerald Posner: (page 309 in Cased Closed)

Parkland was not concerned with whether the bullet was going from front to back or vice versa, they were only treating the symptoms, not the wounds. Some of them could be good surgeons but lousy pathologists. A third of the time, an autopsy shows something was missed by the treating doctors at the hospital. In unnatural deaths, it is common for the treating physicians to mix up stab wounds and gun shots, and they are wrong about half the time about exit or entrance. The Parkland doctors did not clean Kennedy off -- there is just no way they could have hazarded a real guess about that wound, since it was covered with blood and tissue. If they say they saw cerebellum, they are just wrong because the cerebellum was perfect.

Dr. Paul Peters examined the autopsy x-rays and photographs in 1988:

I said that I thought perhaps part of the cerebellum was missing, and that shows how even a trained observer can make an error in moment of urgency.

There are two doctors who still maintain that they saw cerebellar tissue at Parkland -- Dr. Robert McClelland and Dr. Charles Crenshaw. Conspiracy theorist Pat Speer has significant issues with Dr. McClelland who claimed to have seen a gaping hole in the back of Kennedy's head.

The other Parkland doctors disagreed with Dr. McClelland. Here is what Dr. Marion Jenkins told Gerald Posner: (page 313 in Cased Closed)

Bob is an excellent surgeon. He knows anatomy. I hate to say Bob is mistaken, but that is clearly not right. In 1988, when I went to the National Archives, the photos showed the President's brain was crenelated from the trauma, and it resembled cerebellum, but it was not cerebellar tissue. I think it has thrown off a lot of people that saw it. I guess a last point is that Bob and Groden [co-author of High Treason] are such good friends. I believed it has changed his attitude.

A future blog post will be dedicated to Dr. Charles Crenshaw who is featured in episode two of JFK: Destiny Betrayed.


The fatal shot hit Kennedy just above the occipital protuberance. It just missed the cerebellum and slightly pushed it on its way through Kennedy's head. There was deflection of the bullet by the skull. Here is an excerpt from Pat Speer's website:

But there’s another factor to be considered. And that factor is the curvature of the skull. According to Spitz and Fisher’s Medicolegal Investigation of Death, “if the bullet strikes the head at a shallow angle or in an area of significant curvature, at least some deflection of the bullet’s trajectory may be expected.” According to Aarabi and Levy’s Missile Wounds to the Head and Neck, “if a bullet is fired at an angle or hits a curved portion of the skull, deflection will usually result.” According to Brogdon's Forensic Radiology: "The natural curvature of the ribs and the skull can cause bullets to change trajectory significantly."

Speer then quotes from Larry Sturdivan's The JFK Myths (page 209):

Though all the Biophysics Lab test shots were aimed so that the WC’s specified entry and exit locations would lie on a straight trajectory, none of the bullets penetrated the front of the skull at the “intended” exit location. One even punched out through the right orbit (eye socket) near the nose. Nor were the researchers surprised by the fact that all those fragmented bullets exited from an obviously curved path. All were quite familiar with the trajectories of bullets and bullet fragments through tissue simulant.
Like the Acoustic Panel and the Forensic Pathology Panel, Canning became a bit overzealous in his support of the case being made by the HSCA staff in his “reconstruction” of a backward trajectory from the head wound. Because of the indeterminate direction and extent of curvature of the trajectory of the deformed bullet, the entry and exit locations of the head wound are of no value in reconstructing a backward trajectory. What can be concluded is that the bullet approached from the rear. The true connection between that shot and the Oswald rifle is provided, to a high degree of statistical certainty, by the engraving on the recovered jacket fragments and the Neutron Activation Analysis, which connects the lead core in one of those recovered pieces to the lead fragments recovered from the President’s head.
Likewise, the wound locations have no value in reconstructing the exit trajectory of a yawed or deformed bullet or bullet fragments. Though it probably is not noticed by most, if the exit trajectory of the HSCA path shown in Figure 42 were correct, the bullet fragments would have gone into Governor Connally’s back or the back of the car seat in front of him, not up to the windshield, as they actually did. The President was no longer sitting nearly erect by frame 312 of Zapruder’s film.96 At the time of the final shot, he was leaning forward and to his left. Figure 54 shows a drawing of the President at frame 312 with an entry trajectory from the sixth-floor window of the Depository and an exit trajectory that leads to the known impact points on and just above the windshield.97 This curvature shown in this drawing is about the amount of curvature to be expected in the trajectory of a badly deformed or broken bullet. Because the amount and direction of the curvature is unpredictable, the only way to reconstruct the path of the bullet in a drawing such as this is to use independent facts to establish the approach and exit trajectories. Without this independent information, the only thing we know for sure is that the approach and exit trajectories cannot lie on a single straight line.

Here is how Larry Sturdivan sees the trajectory: (The JFK Myths: (page 210)


Don't miss Part One on how JFK: Destiny Betrayed Misleads on JFK's Head Wound.



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