Milicent Cranor responds to Joel Grant

(Received 14 November 1999)

I would like to respond to the significant parts of Joel Grant’s message.
    Some of the general information below may be controversial. Forensics pathologists, military surgeons, and others with expertise in terminal ballistics sometimes disagree on interpretation. All I can do is quote what appear to be good sources, and try to apply the information to this case. What I present on terminal ballistics is not the last word on the subject, but I hope it is at least interesting.
    In regard to the Kennedy case in particular, the objective information – as opposed to its interpretation – cannot be denied.


Joel Grant: “My bias begins and ends with the evidence and the expert analysis thereof.”

What do we know about the evidence? And what do we know about the people who do the telling? According to the head of the HSCA Medical Panel, Michael Baden, MD, not one of the autopsists – the men who actually examined the body – was capable of “expert analysis.” He claimed that Humes did not know the difference between an entrance and an exit wound. He also claimed that none of the autopsists had ever performed an autopsy on a gunshot victim before. From his book Unnatural Death (Random House, 1989):

Baden: “No forensic pathologist has ever examined the body of the President.” (p.9)

Fact: Colonel Pierre Finck was Board certified in Forensic Pathology in 1961.

Baden: “Colonel Finck, it turned out, had never done an autopsy involving a gunshot wound, either.”

Fact: Finck claimed that “From 1955 to 1958 I performed approximately 200 autopsies, many of them pertaining to trauma including missile wounds...” (2H378)
    Despite these false statements of Baden, we have good reason to believe the autopsy was poorly done. And what of the next group of experts? What did they have to work with?
    One aspect of the poorly done autopsy concerns the photographic documentation of wounds and x-rays. Both the photographs and the x-rays are of very poor quality. Worse yet, significant photographic proof concerning the nature of the wounds is missing: (a) one documenting the bruise on the lung, a “reference point” that Humes claimed linked the back and throat wounds; (b) one with the scalp moved out of the way to reveal the entrance wound into the skull; (c) one showing the entrance wound as it appears on the inside of the skull.
    The photos showing both sides of the entrance would document, among other things, the beveling pattern. Finck’s diagram of the beveling pattern is consistent with a bullet striking the skull at 90 degrees. A perpendicular hit. But, presumably, JFK was struck in the head at quite an angle. The reported “ovoid” wound is consistent with this.
    When a bullet strikes the skull at an angle, the entrance wound is outwardly beveled on one side, the side of the approaching bullet. This outward beveling resembles a little trough slanting into the bone.
    [As for the reported small size of this wound (6x15mm), this does not necessarily mean it was an entrance. A bullet exiting a skull that has already been opened will create a small exit wound. The large defect is not the actual exit wound. That hole is created by exploding brain. Experiments on empty skulls prove this. The wound created in empty skulls is only a little larger than the entrance because the exiting bullet is usually deformed. If Kennedy had already been shot in the head, a subsequent bullet could leave a small exit wound in the skull. Photos of victims shot more than once in the head show this is possible.]


And what of the x-rays? How could they be conclusive? Consider these variations concerning the neck and torso x-rays:

1963, Bethesda:         Metal fragments: NO. Bone fractures: NO
1968, Clark Panel:    
Metal fragments: YES. Bone fractures: NO
1977, HSCA:              Metal fragments: NO. Bone fractures: YES


Conclusions inconsistent with (a) Carcano bullet, and (b) reported damage to the body.
    A jacketed bullet does not leave fragments unless it is (a) squeezed after turning sideways and traveling that way for a while (the toothpaste effect); or (b) disrupted, i.e., broken open, which can only happen if it strikes bone or travels at very high speed through soft tissue. If the Carcano bullet had done either, the internal and external damage would have been conspicuously different.

Significant omissions:
    They did not report the same images (densities) in irrelevant places far from the alleged bullet track. The presence of these same images elsewhere lead the HSCA Medical Panel to conclude they were all artifact. (7 HSCA 98)
    They did not report how they “knew” the images in the neck were actually metal and not artifact. If any such image is metal, then Kennedy was shot in the pelvis as well!
    Unlike the HSCA, they did not report any bone fracture in the thorax (the back). Was this because they were under pressure to convince the public of a entrance into the back of the neck instead of the thorax?


From HSCA-consultant radiologist G.M. McDonnel, M.D., of the Hospital of the Good Samaritan, Los Angeles, 8/4/78 letter to Michael Goldsmith, HSCA.):

“There is an undisplaced fracture of the proximal portion of the right transverse process of T1 (or the region of the costovertebral junction).”

From HSCA-consultant radiologist Norman Chase, New York University Medical Center, as reported by Andy Purdy, dated February 27, 1978:

“In the neck X-ray, Chase noted the presence of a metal fragment or artifact in the area of the transverse process – definitely not a bone fragment… not bone because it was too small and too dense…

A “peculiar” break:

“Chase said that if a break occurred in T-1 it was peculiar and had no displacement.”

More Artifacts:

Dr. McDonnel continues:

“In the enhanced post autopsy of the same area, there appears to be fractures of the posterior aspects of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th ribs. These are artifacts.”

Dr. Chase continues:

“The first rib appeared to be separated from the sternum but he had trouble noting specific evidence of a missile passing through the first or second rib.”

John Kennedy’s body itself did not receive an “expert analysis.” The materials left behind (photos and x-rays) were incomplete, of poor quality, and subject to conflicting interpretation.



Joel Grant: “Not all GSW's have abrasion collars, but it is a rare abrasion collar that does not identify the wound as an entrance wound. Those rare occasions are 'shored' GSW's. A shored GSW is a wound (always an exit wound)…”

This is false. Example: a victim shot while tightly pressed against a door, trying to keep an intruder out. The intruder fires through the door, hits the victim, and creates a “shored entrance wound” that is “more irregular, gaping, and slightly larger than expected, and has a large irregular circumferential abrasion collar.” ( AN ATLAS OF FORENSIC PATHOLOGY, edited by Wetli, Mittleman, and Rao. ASCP Press, 1999.)
    Your description of shored EXIT wounds does not include their physical characteristics: From Wetli’s Atlas:

“Three features (if present) may help distinguish the supported exit wound from the indeterminate-range or distant [entrance] wound: (1) an irregular, eccentric abrasion without the smooth, ovoid contours of the eccentric abrasion created by a tangential gunshot wound; (2) small patches of epidermis remaining in the circumferential marginal abrasion; and (3) a surrounding bruise (the supporting structure disseminates the kinetic energy).”

The most detailed information I could find on this subject comes from forensic pathologist Josefino C. Aguilar, author of “Shored Gunshot Wound of Exit, a Phenomenon with Identity Crisis.” American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 1983;4(3):199-204.

      1.      Abrasion: round or oval, sharp and discrete, deep red
2.      Loss of skin. When the shoring material and victim are pulled apart, crushed skin (and sometimes hair) remains on the shoring material. (I have seen photos of such wounds, and the skin tags hanging out resemble a peeling sunburn.)
3.      Radiating lacerations on the edge. “Due to the undermining and the presence of multiple radiating lacerations of the skin edge, individual skin tags with sharply contoured or box-cut margins are seen.”
4.      Outward beveling. Most students of the medical evidence in this case are already aware of beveling patterns in the inner and outer tables of the skull bone. A similar relationship is seen between the dermis and epidermis of exit wounds in the skin.

An excellent photo revealing this beveling pattern can be found on page 77 of ATLAS OF FORENSIC PATHOLOGY by Nancy L. Jones. New York: Igaku-Shoin, 1996.
    The Parkland doctors absolutely ruled out any radiating lacerations, although some said the wound was slightly jagged, a known characteristic of entrance wounds.
    If the wound in the throat was an exit wound, it would seem that the bullet was traveling at a very low velocity.

Permanent Path

Joel Grant: “When a bullet penetrates to a depth greater than its length it creates a permanent wound track that is inevitably smaller than the diameter of the bullet unless the bullet fragments or tumbles.”

This is true of low velocity bullets, but what about medium and high velocity bullets? From page 134 of Beyer JC, ed. Wound Ballistics. Washington, DC: Office of the Surgeon General, Department of the Army, 1962:

"Experiment has demonstrated that for every foot pound of energy doing work in wound formation there will be a permanent cavity remaining with a volume of 2.547 x 10-3 cubic inches… [A Carcano bullet striking at 1900 fps would pack a wallop of almost 1300 ft lbs.]

“With the average military rifle bullet [150 grains] and resultant wound, this presages a permanent cavity slightly larger in average diameter than the bullet...
In the case of the slow low-energy missiles, the permanent cavity will be distinctly smaller in diameter than the missile which produced it."

Surrounding Destruction

Another relevant quote from this same page:

“On dissection of the wound track, the adjacent tissue is found to be quite sanguineous and, in the case of the average rifle-bullet wound, full of extravasated blood for an inch or more away from the track. In this region, histologic examination reveals a separation of muscle bundles with capillary hemorrhages into the interspaces.

In cross section of a wound track, this hemorrhagic area is found to be well defined.”
    This does not sound at all like Kennedy’s back wound.

Depth of Penetration

Joel Grant: “Bullets that have penetrated to a depth at least equal to their length do not fall out, even if pushed unless, for some reason, the wound is widely gaping. This is why doctors have to operate to remove bullets.”

From what Colonel Finck said under oath during the Shaw trial, the bullet did not seem to have penetrated 3cm.

Type of Bullet

Joel Grant: “We know the bullet was copper-jacketed because of the presence of copper in the bullet wipe on the back of the jacket….”

We only know this is what the FBI claimed.

Joel Grant: “Jacketed bullets were invented in order to increase the velocity of bullets to >1500 fps or so. Without the jacket the bullet could essentially disintegrate in its passage through the barrel of the gun. Therefore we know the initial muzzle velocity of the bullet which struck JFK in the back was at least 1500 fps.”

Your logic is reversed! The bullet needs to don a jacket to go 1500 fps or more – but many bullets don a jacket for slower occasions! Are you really unaware that many handguns require a jacket?

Joel Grant: “We know it was fired from somewhere in Dealey Plaza which means the distance between gun and back was less than 200 feet. The bullet had to have been traveling at greater than 1100 fps (bare minimum) when it impacted JFK's torso.”

We don’t “know” this. We do know the minimum impact velocity necessary to penetrate skin: less than 200 fps. Of course more would be required for the bullet to progress. But we have no proof of how far the bullet progressed.

Knowledge of bullet wound in throat during Autopsy

Joel Grant: Had they known the trach site was originally a bullet wound they would not have considered such an outlandish scenario. Had they been thinking more clearly they would not have considered this outcome—period.

J. Thornton Boswell, M.D., the second pathologist:

“Dr. Boswell said he remembered seeing part of the perimeter of a bullet wound in the anterior neck.” ( HSCA, August 17, 1977, p8)
“Did you reach the conclusion that there had been a transit wound through the neck during the course of the autopsy itself?”
“Oh, yes.” (ARRB Deposition, February 26, 1996, p. 34)

John H. Ebersole, M.D., Acting Chief of Radiology at the time:

“I must say these times are approximate but I would say in the range of ten to eleven p.m. Dr. Humes had determined that a procedure had been carried out in the anterior neck covering the wound of exit Subsequent to that the fragments arrived...”

“The taking of the X-rays again were stopped... once we had communication with Dallas and Dr. Humes had determined that there was a wound of exit in the lower neck anterior ... once that fact had been established.. my part in the proceedings was finished.” (HSCA, March 11, 1978, p20; 51-2)

John T. Stringer, Chief Photographer:

At any time during the autopsy, did any of the doctors attempt to determine whether there were any bullet fragments in the anterior neck wound?
What did they do?
Well, they checked on the X-rays. Did it by feel, or vision.
When you say ‘by feel,’ what do you mean?
By feeling, to see if there was anything sharp or –
So, the doctors fingers then would have been put into the tracheotomy wound, to attempt to determine whether any bullet fragments… (ARRB, 1/16/96, pp.191)

And why did they put their fingers in the throat looking for “anything sharp?” Because they knew about the bullet wound.

Humes knew

Commander James Humes also indicated in two different ways his awareness of the bullet wound in front: the 5 cm-hematoma on top of the lung.

“We were able to ascertain with absolute certainty that the bullet had passed by the apical portion of the right lung producing the injury which we mentioned.” (2WCH367)

Did he think the bullet got as far as the lung and then backed out as a result of the CPR? Nonsense. Did he think Parkland’s Malcolm Perry created that hematoma on top of the lung in the performance of a tracheotomy? Nonsense. And then there were the bruises in the strap muscles:

"When examining the wounds in the base of the President's neck, anteriorly, the region of the tracheotomy performed at Parkland Hospital, we noted and we noted in our record, some contusion and bruising of the muscles of the neck of the President. We noted that at the time of the postmortem examination..."

"Now, we also made note of the types of wounds... to be used by the doctors there to place chest tubes. They also made other wounds, one on the left arm, and a wound on the ankle...

"Those wounds showed no evidence of bruising or contusion or physical violence, which made us reach the conclusion that they were performed during the agonal moments of the late President, and when the circulation was, in essence, very seriously embarrassed, if not nonfunctional...

"So, therefore, we reached the conclusion that the damage to these muscles on the anterior neck just below this wound was received at approximately the same time that the wound here on the top of the pleural cavity was, while the President still lived and while his heart and lungs were operating in such a fashion to permit him to have a bruise in the vicinity, because he did have in these strap muscles in the neck, but he didn't have in the areas of the other incisions that were made at Parkland Hospital. So we feel that, had this missile not made its path in that fashion, the wound made by Doctor Perry in the neck would not have been able to produce, wouldn't have been able to produce these contusions of the musculature of the neck." (2WCH368)

(At this point, Allen Dulles changed the subject.)
    How is it that Joel Grant ignores all this evidence?

Additional Evidence

Please see my upcoming article in Probe Magazine which addresses the mystery of incision itself.

Back to Joel Grant's response