NOVEMBER 22, 1963:
YOU ARE THE JURY
AUTHOR: DAVID W. BELIN
READ THIS BOOK RIGHT AFTER READING THE 888-PAGE WARREN COMMISSION REPORT. TOGETHER, THEY ARE BOOKENDS OF RATIONAL THINKING AND ACTUAL EVIDENCE SURROUNDING THE EVENTS OF NOVEMBER 22, 1963.
"November 22, 1963: You Are The Jury" by David W. Belin is a fantastic source of information regarding the facts and the evidence surrounding President John F. Kennedy's assassination, which, as the title indicates, occurred on that grim and never-to-be-forgotten November date in '63.
Belin, an Iowa lawyer, served as a member of the Warren Commission's Assistant Counsel during the Commission's 1964 investigation into JFK's murder (plus the slayings of Police Officer J.D. Tippit and the President's accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald).
Belin, who passed away in January 1999, did a vast amount of work for the Warren Commission [WC], including handling the questioning of many of the primary witnesses connected with the Kennedy case. He is, therefore, eminently qualified to write a book of this nature.
"You Are The Jury" was published in 1973, ten years after the somber events in Dallas, and these 520-plus pages provide a superb "inside" look at how David Belin and the Warren Commission operated during the Commission's nearly 10-month probe into JFK's assassination.
This book could almost be referred to as a "Warren Report Sequel" (of sorts), as Mr. Belin lays out the evidence in massive doses, complete with huge chunks of actual witness testimony, with the reader serving as "the jury", as the title suggests.
After reading these 500+ pages of raw evidence and witness accounts (which are combined with a whole lot of common sense being exhibited by the author as well), a reasonable reader can be left with no doubt whatsoever as to the identity of the real killer of President Kennedy and Officer Tippit.
With respect to the Tippit crime, allow me to quote a passage from page 112 of this book:
"[Fellow WC lawyer] Joe Ball put it succinctly: 'In all of my courtroom experience, I have never seen a more open-and-shut case'."
I couldn't turn these pages fast enough, in wanting to see what Mr. Belin would next offer on the next page in terms of evidence, actual WC witness testimony, and reasoned thinking. And Belin never disappointed this reader at any stage. He verbally KOs Warren Commission critic and assassination buff Mark Lane on numerous occasions, including the complete annihilation of Lane's crazy assertion that Helen Markham, a key witness to the Tippit murder, said that Tippit's killer was "stocky with bushy hair". Markham never said such a thing to Mr. Lane, and Belin (rightly so) hammers Lane hard on this crucial matter.
Another excerpt from the book:
"Our Warren Commission Report will stand the test of the final verdict of the jury of world opinion because it is basically accurate and because there are more than 6,500 footnotes in our 888-page Report, which are grounded in the 26 volumes of testimony and exhibits.
"When you examine every one of these footnotes you will find that there is none of the misrepresentation and distortion of the type [Mark] Lane uses when he alleges that [Howard] Brennan could not identify the two Negro men that he saw in the fifth floor window who came out of the building after the assassination.
"Nor will you find any distortion of the type used by Lane when he fragments the testimony and omits [Bonnie Ray] Williams' forthright statement about why he did not go to the sixth floor [on 11/22/63, after having heard gunshots from there], 'Maybe it was just because we were frightened'." -- David Belin; Page 159
Mr. Belin's attack on Mark Lane reaches its spectacular zenith late in this publication, as Belin tells his readers of Mr. Lane's July 1966 letter to Belin, affording Belin an on-camera opportunity to rebut the anti-Warren Commission claims made in Lane's soon-to-be-released film, "Rush To Judgment".
Lane tried to ignore Belin's correspondence accepting this unique offer, but Mr. Belin persisted, writing a total of ten letters saying he was willing to take Lane up on his offer to rebut the film on camera.
To get the full (outstanding) effect of this "Lane vs. Belin" episode from 1966, you must read pages 470 to 473 of this book. It's fabulous stuff, with Belin calling Lane's bluff and exposing Lane for the fraud he has proven to be.
After calling Belin a "bit player" in the grand scheme of the Warren Commission and its associated counsel members, here's a portion of what Belin wrote back to Lane:
"True to form, you tried to hide from the person who could best demolish your fabricated case. .... Once again I challenge you, Mark Lane, to thirty minutes on film -- that is all I need to demolish your manufactured case." -- David Belin; 12/23/66
I love it! A tip of my cap goes to David Belin for the above salvo dished up toward Mr. Lane. I was so thrilled with pages 470 through 473, I've already re-read those pages multiple times. :)
"You Are The Jury" also thoroughly trashes virtually every conspiracy theory that had been postulated by the JFK conspiracy theorists up to the time of Belin's publishing date for this volume (late 1973).
I find it very interesting that Mr. Belin, after a brief "Overview" chapter, begins the book by discussing the murder of Officer Tippit (instead of starting with details of the President's killing).
I, like Belin, feel that the Tippit murder is an extremely important part of the overall JFK case, because it is a killing that is tied so closely to the Kennedy murder, which occurred just 45 minutes earlier.
Belin gushes fact after fact regarding the Tippit crime, leaving little to no doubt as to who was responsible for the murder -- with that person being Lee Harvey Oswald (alone), a man who just happened to work in a building (the Texas School Book Depository on Elm Street) from where gunshots came just 45 minutes earlier as the President was driving by that building and as he was being shot in the head and killed.
The raw physical and circumstantial evidence that ties Oswald (and only Oswald) to both the Kennedy and Tippit murders is overwhelming in mass and scope, as David Belin adeptly brings forth in this excellent volume.
Backtracking for a moment to the "Overview" section of this book -- That opening section of "You Are The Jury" is a dandy section too, with Belin systematically demolishing the oft-uttered theory by the conspiracy kooks that the paraffin test given to Lee Oswald on 11/22/63 is virtual proof of his innocence in the JFK murder.
As Belin thoroughly explains, the paraffin test given to Oswald by the Dallas Police is a completely unreliable way to determine whether or not a person has recently fired a gun....in that the nitrates that can show up via such a test can also be present on a person's hands (or elsewhere on the body) if the person has recently come into contact with other substances, like tobacco or ordinary household cleaning products (like Clorox for instance).
Plus (and this is the kicker, which destroys the "Paraffin Tests Are Reliable" claims of many conspiracists) -- Belin points out that a test was done with Oswald's own rifle, where an FBI agent fired LHO's gun and, to quote the text directly from page 18 of this book:
"There were negative reactions on both hands and on the cheek of the FBI agent who fired the assassination weapon. Thus, we had the other side of the coin: A negative reaction from the paraffin test did not prove that a person had not fired a rifle."
Given the above results done by the FBI, how can anyone then continue to tout the paraffin procedure as being at all a convincing test, either in a pro or con manner?
Belin's section concerning the controversial "Single-Bullet Theory" is also very convincing, forthright, and to the point (with heaps of witness testimony being provided, testimony that leaves little to no doubt that the "SBT" is easily the most reasonable and accurate conclusion to explain the wounding of JFK and Texas Governor John Connally).
A question is brought up by Belin on page 329 that goes right to the heart of the matter -- "If a bullet entered the front of President Kennedy's neck, where did that bullet go?"
That is a perfectly legitimate question, of course....and is a question that conspiracy buffs simply cannot answer in a reasonable and believable manner (and without inserting the words "cover-up" or "conspiracy" or "they've doctored the real evidence", etc.).
And, by the same token, Mr. Belin (on the very next page) asks the next logical follow-up question -- "If a bullet exited from President Kennedy's neck at a relatively high velocity, where did it go?" (Page 330)
Belin then goes on to explain that such an exiting missile would have to do one of two things: either hit the interior of the limousine without striking a human being....or hit the man sitting almost directly in line to be hit by such a bullet, Governor Connally.
Since the automobile was NOT hit by this missile, the only place for the bullet TO go was into the back of Mr. Connally....just at the point where he WAS wounded by gunfire on November 22nd, 1963.
No "magic" involved at all. It's all too obvious where that bullet HAD to go (seeing as how no bullets were found inside the President and no damage was done to the car's interior that can be attributed to such a bullet travelling at approximately 1,775 feet per second after exiting JFK's neck).
So, anyone who researches this murder case has little choice here re. the "SBT" question -- they can either believe that a massive cover-up operation was underway on November 22nd in order to eliminate a bunch of evidence that would expose a conspiracy in the murder of a U.S. President....or they accept the evidence that's on the table in this case with respect to the SBT and admit that the single-bullet conclusion fits nearly every last scrap of evidence connected with it -- not the least of which is the perfect number of bullets (1) needed to fit the evidence with respect to this one-bullet conclusion.
Whereas, realistically, any anti-SBT scenario that could be substituted for the SBT requires at least THREE separate bullets to do the job of CE399....with ALL THREE of these "other bullets" magically disappearing from view before they could be seen by a single person not connected with the devious "plot".*
* = This "Three Vanishing Missiles" theory pre-supposes that the theorist purporting it believes in the widely-accepted hunk of extraordinarily-unnecessary nonsense that has Bullet CE399 being a "planted" bullet which never hit anyone in the limousine on November 22nd. Virtually all conspiracists I've encountered over the years do, indeed, think that CE399 was planted in Parkland Hospital by some unknown henchman.
Let's have a gander at a few more of Mr. Belin's comments regarding the "SBT" (comments that brim over with common sense and logical thinking):
"The single-bullet theory is the only possibility consistent with all the facts. .... There was simply no other way for it to have happened, based on the overwhelming weight of the evidence."
Page 347 of this book contains another very impressive segment of Belin text, in the form of these very forthright (and spot-on accurate) comments when discussing the necessity for determining which bullet hit John Connally:
"The plain fact is that it is absolutely necessary to the findings of the Commission to determine whether the same bullet that pierced the President's throat also caused Governor Connally's wounds. Otherwise, where did that first bullet go? .... Governor Connally was simply wrong in his testimony, just as President Johnson was wrong in some of his observations, and just as almost every witness to a sudden and startling event is incapable of being completely accurate."
The above paragraph from David Belin deserves five stars (at least). In this book, Belin is certainly not shy about dishing up criticism aimed at the Commission on which he served (and also occasionally aimed at certain witnesses and Government officials as well), if he feels such criticism is warranted (such as the comments shown above).
This book has proven to my satisfaction that David W. Belin was certainly no boot-licking WC lapdog. If he WAS that type of person when he wrote this book, then he must be a pretty doggone good actor, as well as being a darn good lawyer. But, in my opinion, the text within these pages is no "act".
Another excellent and candid Belin passage, displaying his displeasure with some of the decisions made by people in high places, can be found on page 361:
"My inherent skepticism of governmental authority, be it civilian or military, was intensified as an outgrowth of my service with the Warren Commission. The autopsy physicians were very capable -- but by no means perfect. The FBI and Secret Service were very capable -- but by no means perfect. And although, by and large, Chief Justice Warren and his fellow Commissioners did a creditable job in conducting a fair and impartial investigation, surely errors were made, such as the failure to allow the attorneys conducting the work of the Commission to see the autopsy photographs and X-rays."
I completely agree with Belin regarding the autopsy materials. It was totally ridiculous why the Commission assigned to investigate the President's murder was prohibited from examining some of THE most critical items of evidence in the whole case (the autopsy pictures and X-rays). Absolutely crazy, in fact.
I, too, can understand the Kennedy family's wishes to not have those items published for mass consumption -- but I've always been stumped as to why some kind of compromise couldn't have been reached between the Kennedy family and the Warren Commission.
For example, why on Earth couldn't the Commission have viewed the autopsy materials and then merely agreed to NOT actually print any of the gory photos within its final published report? And a forthright explanation concerning the matter of the photos could have been added to the text of the WC Report for all Americans to read....something like this:
The Warren Commission was given full access to all of the JFK autopsy photographs and X-rays, and the Commission has examined these materials thoroughly. However, out of deference to the Kennedy family, it was deemed appropriate that the autopsy pictures not be published within the completed Warren Report or within any of the Commission's 26 supporting volumes of testimony and exhibits.
Why wouldn't the above stipulation have been a suitable compromise? In my view, such an agreement would have been a perfect compromise. And I can't for the life of me understand why such a proposal wasn't considered by anyone in charge of the investigation back in 1964. ~big shrug~
Here are some additional selected passages of interest taken from "November 22, 1963: You Are The Jury":
"We scheduled the testimony of [assassination eyewitness] Harold Norman on March 24, 1964. Before he testified, we wanted to interview him on the fifth floor of the TSBD Building and check whether these sounds [of the rifle shells hitting the floor above and of the rifle's bolt being worked by the gunman] could be heard.
"We had with us the equipment necessary to make the test. A Secret Service agent with the bolt action rifle stood with Joe Ball in the southeast corner window on the sixth floor of the TSBD Building. I stayed with Harold Norman on the fifth floor directly below.
"Before giving the signal to conduct the experiment, I waited until a train passed on the nearby railroad overpass so there would be plenty of street noise. In addition, at that time, several large trucks were moving down Elm Street. I then yelled to have the test begin.
"I smiled, for I really did not expect to hear anything. Then, with remarkable clarity, I could hear the thump as a cartridge case hit the floor. There were two more thumps as the two other cartridge cases hit the floor above me.
"The Secret Service agent then worked the bolt of the rifle back and forth, and this too could be heard with clarity.
"When we re-assembled after the re-enactment, I said to my colleague, 'Joe, if I had not heard it myself, I would never have believed it'." -- David Belin; Pages 139-140
DVP -- Harold Norman's testimony of hearing THREE bullet shells hitting the floor above him is compelling evidence (all by itself) with which to satisfactorily dismantle the claims of conspiracy buffs (like Robert J. Groden to name but one) who think that NO SHOTS at all likely came from the Sniper's Nest window on the 6th Floor of the Book Depository.
And the March 1964 re-creation described by Mr. Belin via the above-mentioned text of this book only further buttresses Norman's testimony of him hearing just exactly what he said he heard on 11/22/63 during the shooting of JFK.
So, as I see it, there are three choices for resolving this particular matter:
1.) Either Harold Norman was a very clever liar.
2.) One or more "conspirators" were on the 6th Floor of the TSBD on November 22....and, in an attempt to fool any witnesses who might be nearby, were working the bolt of a rifle back and forth and dropping bullet shells or other metal objects to the floor in "REAL TIME" (i.e., with the shell-dropping corresponding perfectly with the EXACT moment in time when John Kennedy was being shot on Elm Street). And this explanation still fails to reconcile Norman's testimony about actually hearing the sound of the rifle blasts/shots themselves.
3.) Harold Norman was telling the truth and indeed heard a person firing three shots from a bolt-action rifle directly above him on 11/22/63, and also heard three bullet cartridge cases hitting the floorboards of the Sniper's Nest.
Would a reasonable person looking at the evidence in this case choose #1 or #2? No, they wouldn't.
"The incompleteness of FBI investigations and the inaccuracies of some of the FBI reports have been exploited by assassination sensationalists.** The technique is simple: When the FBI was right, as it generally was, sensationalists ignore the reports. When the FBI was wrong, the sensationalists say, 'Look what the FBI said'. Thus, they seek to have it both ways." -- David Belin; Page 271
** = Belin uses the phrase "assassination sensationalists" many times throughout this volume to describe people like Mark Lane and other hard-boiled conspiracy theorists.
While this somewhat low-key term utilized by Belin does indeed have a nice ring to it (and is certainly an accurate description to be sure), I, myself, think the term "conspiracy kooks" is a more fitting (albeit less flattering) description for the type of assassination buffs who NEED a "conspiracy" to exist in the JFK murder case at all costs.
Because, without some kind of conspiracy theory to cling to, they'd be akin to a ship without water. And I salute Mr. Belin's repeated efforts in this book to call a spade a spade....or to call an "assassination sensationalist" the same.
"On Jan. 5, 1972, I wrote a letter to Senator Edward Kennedy urging that he 'undertake whatever steps are necessary to make available to the general public the autopsy photographs and X-rays which were taken following the assassination of President Kennedy'.
"In the letter I said that although I understand the desire of the family 'to avoid publication of matters of this kind', I nevertheless believed 'that where the death of a President is involved the citizens of the country do have an overriding right to know all of the facts'. Senator Kennedy did not reply to my letter." -- David Belin; Page 362
Regarding Mr. Belin's insistence that Jack Ruby take a lie detector test:
"The story behind the polygraph examination of Jack Ruby is further evidence of the fact that we lawyers performed our work with a 'total dedication to the determination of the truth'. This is what we wrote in the foreword to our [Warren] Report. And this is what we did." -- David Belin; Page 443
In examining the events surrounding the assassination from the standpoint of "Pure Happenstance vs. Pre-Planned Conspiracy", the following very illuminating passage can be found near the end of this volume (which involves the topic of Jack Ruby killing Lee Oswald after Ruby had sent a money order to one of his nightclub strippers at 11:17 AM on 11/24/63, a mere four minutes before Oswald was killed):
"Suppose there had been another customer or two waiting in line at the downtown Western Union office. This in itself could have caused sufficient delay so that Ruby could not have descended the ramp into the basement of the Dallas Police Station in time to kill Oswald. Circumstances of this nature are strong proof of the fact there was no conspiracy." -- David Belin; Page 461
Along the same "happenstance" lines as the above quote from page #461, there's also this interesting observation made by Mr. Belin:
"Although Marina Oswald rebuffed the pleas of her husband [Lee had wanted to make up with Marina on 11/21/63 after a quarrel, but Marina refused], there was one other person who could have almost single-handedly prevented the assassination. His name was Arnold Rowland, an 18-year-old resident of Dallas, who was in the vicinity of the TSBD Building at least 15 minutes before the motorcade arrived.
"Rowland said that he had looked up at the TSBD Building and noticed a man ["holding a rifle"] back away from a window on the southwest corner of the sixth floor.
This is one of the many ironic twists of fate that we discovered during our investigation. .... What would have happened had Arnold and Barbara Rowland called to that policeman 12 feet away and said, 'What's that man doing with a rifle in that building?'?
"[Warren Commission member] Senator Cooper asked Rowland that question, [and] Rowland burst into tears, and the Chief Justice called for a recess. Then Earl Warren walked to Rowland, put his arm over the young man's shoulder and sought to comfort him.
"It was an unforgettable experience to see the Chief Justice of the United States seeking to console an 18-year-old youth who had obviously confronted himself with the possibility that he might have prevented the assassination." -- David Belin; Pages 453-454
A Final Comment.....
Among the large assortment of books that have been published about the John F. Kennedy assassination up through the date of this review in November 2006, David W. Belin's sterling and immensely-convincing effort titled "NOVEMBER 22, 1963: YOU ARE THE JURY" is, in my opinion, one of the very best and most satisfying resources on the Kennedy case I have ever read.
David Von Pein
November 22, 2006