Book Excerpt: 'A Simple Act of Murder: November 22, 1963' by Mark Fuhrman

Within days of its investiture, the Warren Commission was being urged by Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to issue a statement that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin. While they refused to make any public statement about the guilt or innocence of the only suspect, the commissioners apparently saw their task as presenting the evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald killed the President and dispelling rumors that Oswald might have been part of a larger conspiracy. Relying first on the investigative reports of the FBI, the Secret Service, and Texas law enforcement, the Warren Commission went on to conduct its own investigation. The Commissioners analyzed the information gathered by other agencies, called witnesses for hearings and depositions, and performed tests and reenactments to fill what they saw as holes in the evidentiary fabric. The Warren Commission was a political body, created by politicians, made up of politicians, with the responsibility, in the view of its members, of resolving a political problem: fears that the President of the United States might have been assassinated through some conspiracy or even as part of a coup d'├ętat. But the commissioners were all busy men. Most of them attended only a small fraction of the hearings, and their participation in those hearings was minimal. Supporting the commissioners was a staff of fifteen lawyers, led by J. Lee Rankin, the former solicitor general. The legal staff was divided into two groups, senior counsel and assistant counsel. Since the senior lawyers were busy with their own private law practices, almost all of the work was done by the seven assistants, bright young lawyers who had graduated at the tops of their classes at prestigious law schools but had little or no experience in criminal investigations. They worked under intense pressure

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