On March 1, 1967, New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison announced that he had solved the JFK assassination and arrested a prominent local citizen on charges of being part of the conspiracy. Garrison might have been something of a loose cannon, yet he seemed to be on to something. Lee Harvey Oswald had spent several months in 1963 in his native city of New Orleans, where he was engaged in pro-Castro political activities. There were several possible connections between Oswald and members of the anti-Castro movement, even the FBI and CIA. While Garrison made a long series of dramatic allegations in the press, the case he eventually presented in court was weaker than expected. After only forty-five minutes of deliberation, the jury acquitted the defendant, Clay Shaw. In later interviews, the jury members stated that they believed Garrison had made a compelling case for a conspiracy, even if he hadn't proved Shaw's involvement in the plot.
Meanwhile, questions concerning the medical evidence did not go away. In 1968 Attorney General Ramsey Clark (who had taken over the post when Bobby Kennedy decided to run for president) convened a panel of four doctors who had not participated in the autopsy or been connected to the Warren Commission to review the medical evidence. The Clark Panel examined photographs, X-ray films, documents, and other evidence to "evaluate their significance in relation to the medical conclusions recorded in the Autopsy Report." The panel confirmed the findings of the autopsy doctors and the Warren Commission and made an inventory and description of the evidence. As the years passed the controversy over the JFK assassination continued.
Growing up, I followed the case, listening to the criticism, reading the books, and asking some of the same questions myself. Was Oswald a good enough marksman to have made those shots with a cheap Italian army surplus rifle? Could he have fired three shots so quickly? Why were the government investigations shrouded in so much secrecy? What were they afraid of? Were they trying to hide something? The one question I kept coming back to was the single bullet theory and the "Magic Bullet," Commission exhibit 399. This 6.5-millimeter bullet, found on the stretcher used to transport Governor Connally into surgery, was supposed to have entered Kennedy's back, gone through his neck, entered Connally's back, shattered one of his ribs, entered his arm and shattered a wrist bone, then wounded his leg. Yet the bullet appeared undeformed. I didn't buy it. And I wasn't alone. By the 1970s, there was no escaping speculation that there had been some kind of conspiracy. In fact, it became almost socially ignorant to believe otherwise. I was a patriot. I never doubted the draft or Vietnam. I enlisted in the Marines, just like Oswald. Yet I never connected JFK's assassination with larger motives, like war, politics, or crime. I never thought about who could be responsible -- the CIA, the Mafia, Fidel Castro. I remained curious about the JFK assassination, not engaging in deep and serious study, like many of the independent researchers, but casually reading articles and books that crossed my path. Then I saw the Zapruder film.