Talk:Mortal Error

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Settlement[edit]

Have the terms of Hickey's 1998 settlement with the publishers been disclosed? Any information at all? Andrewa 12:06, 30 November 2006 (UTC)

Not as far as I can tell. The last thing I heard was that the guy who came up with the theory died a few years ago. - Thanks, Hoshie 13:38, 30 November 2006 (UTC)
It would be interesting to know... not that it would prove anything other than that some lawyers played some of their games. http://www.assassinationresearch.com/v1n1/griffith1.html confirms Donahue's death, but gives no details and contains some surprising statements. eg For one thing, it fails to explain many indications that President Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy. Meninger goes to great pains to point out that Donahue offers no opinion either way as to conspiracy theories, his theory is just about the ballistics evidence. eg Second, Donahue relied heavily on the SBT, which was the only way Donahue could explain Connally's wounds. That's not what the book says at all. IMO this widely-quoted critique would have little credibility with anyone who had actually read the book. Andrewa 19:53, 30 November 2006 (UTC)

Current article reads In 1998, Hickey settled with the publishers of Mortal Error, which to me sounds as if the publishers paid Hickey. But in fact we don't know whether any money changed hands, and if so in which direction... it could have been the publisher recovering their costs.

IANAL, but ISTM that there's no evidence that Hickey ever intended the claims in the book, including the claim that he fired the head shot, to be tested in court. His lawyers and other advisers (particularly the Secret Service) should have known that the claim was being filed late. Now they can say "we did sue, but it was dismissed on a technicality", which sounds like they had a case... but did they? Andrewa 13:18, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

Your question "which sounds like they had a case... but did they?", whether you intend it or not, seems to imply that they didn't have a case, but this seems unlikely to me given that the claim raises obvious questions as to why nobody had claimed to see him shoot the President in the previous 29 years despite there presumably being a large number of witnesses in the area at the time. You may well be right that the Secret Service didn't want the evidence tested in court but this need not mean they had no case. They may simply have wished to avoid unfavourable publicity. Or they and/or some of their superiors may not have wanted the theory debunked in court if they regard conspiracy theories as damaging to American society and/or its political institutions, because this book is essentially an anti-conspiracy theory that says 'even if you don't believe in the so-called Magic Bullet, the extra shot may still have been an innocent cock-up rather than a conspiracy'. Meanwhile this article would IMHO be improved if it described how, if at all, the book tries to answer 'obvious criticisms' such as the one I mentioned above (I don't have access to the book, so I can't put that into the article myself, but maybe somebody else can). I'd also be intrigued to read how reliable is the claim that JFK was already mortally wounded, but the link currently offered requires me to give out private info and then pay money to find out (so I suspect the link should be removed, but perhaps I'll leave that to somebody who can find another link instead). Tlhslobus (talk) 05:49, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
As an afterthought, and for the sake of completeness, I should perhaps have added that if the Fatal Error theory does make sense, then the superiors of the Secret Service might not have wanted to publicize a theory that undermines conspiracy theories, because some of them regard conspiracy theories as useful, especially since Watergate brought Nixon, seemingly for a mere cover-up (I tend to suspect he may actually have been brought down by destroying his power base through the 1972 'Christmas bombing' of Vietnam, but even supposing that were true, and quite likely it isn't, what matters for us here is the perception that he was brought down for a cover-up). If lots of people had been claiming that Nixon was doing something monstrously wicked, the debate would then have become 'No he wasn't, he was just covering up for his friends after their minor misdeeds' and he would have survived, just as 9/11 conspiracy theories mean that any evidence of a cover-up now gets seen as 'No Bush wasn't covering up his wicked and treasonable mass-murders, he and his minions were merely covering up their inevitable occasional incompetence and other such minor misdeeds', and as a result Bush, unlike Nixon, was not harmed, let alone destroyed, by allegations of cover-ups and minor misdeeds. As such many of America's rulers may well believe conspiracy theories should be encouraged, and may even protect democracy by preventing media and/or congressional and/or judicial 'witch-hunts' overthrowing democratically-elected presidents on (arguably) inadequate grounds, etc. However I doubt if that would actually apply in this case, because I doubt if the Fatal Error anti-conspiracy theory really makes sense, because of such problems as seemingly nobody seeing agent Hickey firing the shot, etc (Please feel free to delete this paragraph, since, unlike the previous one, it doesn't have much to do with improving the article) Tlhslobus (talk) 06:34, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for the reply. I don't want to assert that they had no case, rather that we don't know either way, and it's speculation either way. As you say, there are many things to consider. But in particular, we have no evidence that they wanted to test their evidence in court. Rather, they could be confident that the case would not be tried.
Yes, the Donahue/Menninger book is very anti-conspiracy-theory, in a way. But in another way it advances yet another conspiracy theory. The difference is, there's a fascinating piece of evidence that I have seen nowhere else, the claim that no ballistics experts were involved in any of the enquiries. That is Donahue's smoking gun. It's fascinating that not only did the first enquiry omit this, but subsequent enquiries didn't even note this failure. No other conspiracy theory has the same sort of springboard as that.
That's one impressive thing about the book. The other is the modesty of the conclusions it draws from this and other evidence, which is again in contrast to conspiracy theories in general.
The main problems, as you say, are that it's a stretch to believe that such a conspiracy could be maintained, even by the Secret Service, and that it's improbable that nobody (apart from the Secret Service presumably) even realised that one of the Secret Service had fired a shot. But that is the theory.
The claim that Kennedy was already a vegetable at best before the head shot is documented by X-rays reproduced in the book, of which I have a copy. These are sourced and would be verifiable. I think it's reasonable to think that they haven't been retouched or otherwise falsified, but that's obviously a judgement on my part. Andrewa (talk) 07:13, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
Thanks. Your info has allowed me to change 'wounding' to 'mortally wounding' in the paragraph about rhe book in Kennedy Conspiracies article. I wasn't sure that I could because I'd have had to pay to read the link beside 'mortal wounding' here. Should that link simply be deleted?
Meanwhile, what, if anything, does the book have to say about what we agree is the main problem? As you say,
'The main problems, as you say, are that it's a stretch to believe that such a conspiracy could be maintained, even by the Secret Service, and that it's improbable that nobody (apart from the Secret Service presumably) even realised that one of the Secret Service had fired a shot. But that is the theory.
If the book does address the issue, it seems to me that a brief summary of how it deals with it should appear in the article. If it just ignores it, then we should either mention this, or look for a Reliable Source that mentions this if one can be found (if none can be found, then I favour a brief factual statement along the lines of 'The book offers no explanation for the absence of any witnesses claiming to have seen a shot being fired by agent Hickey', on the basis that this would not seem to violate the rule that 'Controversial statements which are likely to be challenged must be backed by reliable sources' . But I certainly can't put that in unless you tell me that the book offers no such explanation. Tlhslobus (talk) 07:54, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
Oops - on re-reading what you wrote, is it correct to describe 'at best a vegetable' as 'mortal wounding', both in this article and in the JFK Conspiracies article? Being a vegetable is not the same as being dead even now, still less back in 1963 quite likely before the needs of transplant surgery had forced the law to start thinking in terms of brain death, etc... Tlhslobus (talk) 07:54, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
Also I'm not clear how one can confidently state that bullets that missed his head might not kill him but would definitely leave him a vegetable (this sounds like something one would say about a bullet that hit his head). However that's probably an irrelevant medical question - for us, all that matters is to repeat what the book claims, so if it claims he was mortally wounded we can say so, if it claims he was an inevitable vegetable we can say so, and so on. So what precise wording does the book use? Tlhslobus (talk) 08:12, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
Very good points and questions. Unfortunately I'm in the process of moving and the book is in one of the 45 boxes that contain my library, so it will be a couple of days at least before I can answer them, possibly longer. But feel free to give me another heads-up on my talk page if you get impatient. Andrewa (talk) 16:56, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
See #Autopsy X ray below. Andrewa (talk) 01:38, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

I've added on undisclosed terms to the sentence in question... I think that's important to note. Andrewa 00:08, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

One could argue that if Hickey did fire that shot by accident, it was still a crime and he could not profit from a book about his crime. I watched that docu 'The Smoking Gun' last night and believe the Hickey theory to be probably the best one. Ever since I saw the late General Alexander Haigh (later NATO Secretary, in 1963 in some security office in/near the White House) say on camera: "President Johnson came in and said that the American people are never to believe anything else than a rogue gunman killed the President", I thought it was clear that we had been presented with some kind of lie. Recently it came out that Jack Ruby had been on a Washington payroll some years before, which looks like Hickey's colleagues could well have had some hold over Jack Ruby. 144.136.192.18 (talk) 02:38, 4 November 2013 (UTC)
Menninger's original book is even more impressive than McLaren's docu. I can't speak of McLaren's book as I haven't seen it... still tossing up whether to buy it. There's not a lot in the docu that was new, the medium made it a lot more confronting in places, the re-enactment of the removal of Kennedy's body for example I found rivetting. There is some new material but not a lot, mainly it's a shift in perspective towards a more sensational approach. And perhaps that's even appropriate. This material has been in the public record since 1992. Donahue's daughter is interviewed in the docu and says her father was surprised that there wasn't more interest in his work and conclusions. I share his disappointment.
I now have the Kindle version of McLaren's book. See http://alderspace.pbworks.com/w/page/71574533/JFK%3A%20The%20Smoking%20Gun for what I saw as the most interesting quotes. Andrewa (talk) 07:05, 4 June 2014 (UTC)
Of course it's not Wikipedia's job to promote Donahue's POV or mine, but it is our job to make all encyclopedic information available (at least that's the ideal). I hope this article will be expanded and perhaps even a few others split off it in time.
Donahue and Menninger do not try to sort out who was behind the killing or why, or even who was behind the cover-up or why, or even whether one was attempted although I don't think there is any doubt as to their opinions on that. That's one impressive thing about the book. All they set out to do is to document who shot who and where. That's Donahue's field of expertise, and he does it very well indeed, and we need to report his conclusions. Andrewa (talk) 09:24, 4 November 2013 (UTC)

More misinformation[edit]

http://web.archive.org/web/20021218033643/people.fix.no/pudding/burton/kennedy/friendly.html reads in part JFK did not die from an assassin�s bullet, but as the result of an accident when a Secret Service agent�s gun went off by mistake and shattered the president�s skull, killing the respected Kennedy outright. Oops!

That's a sensational claim, but it's one that Mortal Error is very careful not to make. Rather, Meninger reports Donahue's conclusion that the other shots (whether fired by Oswald or not) had already mortally wounded Kennedy before the head shot. Andrewa 09:46, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

Yep, it seems you are correct here. Your memory jives with the book. When I found this article, I can see why Hickey sued. It made him look really bad. - Thanks, Hoshie 12:37, 2 December 2006 (UTC)
But that's just the point... Hickey didn't sue the people who did imply he killed Kennedy. Hickey sued the publisher of a book that (despite the title) explicitly says that he didn't. His action, which, unlike the settlement, has been published, makes interesting reading too. Andrewa 23:55, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

See also #Autopsy X ray below. Andrewa (talk) 09:03, 4 November 2013 (UTC)

Removed text[edit]

This link requires account creation and login, albeit for free, but you are required to provide an email address at least. I counsel against having such links on principle. Andrewa 13:05, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

I agree. I found the link via archive.org; by passing the wall. 24.25.42.125 21:22, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
Great stuff! Great link. Andrewa 06:38, 13 December 2006 (UTC)

PROD[edit]

I think this should go to AfD at least. Merge and redirect to John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories#Alternative gunmen is a possibility, or it may even may scrape into Wikipedia:Notability (books) and if not perhaps it should. The Kennedy assassination and the speculation surrounding it both continue to be the subject of an enormous amount of serious research.

Having said that, I do note that neither Donahue's theory nor this book describing it have attracted a great deal of support or even attention, and while I'm surprised at this, perhaps there is a case for deletion in view of it. Andrewa (talk) 16:29, 4 August 2012 (UTC)

Participate:

Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Log/2012_August_4#Mortal_Error:_The_Shot_That_Killed_JFK --Opus88888 (talk) 19:19, 4 August 2012 (UTC)

Result was keep. Andrewa (talk) 18:37, 21 August 2012 (UTC)

Recent[edit]

There has been a recent revival of this theory. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 86.157.15.178 (talk) 14:37, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

Could you provide evidence of this?
But I'm not surprised. It's a very impressive book. And nobody else has yet explained the strange circumstance that was the initial reason for Donahue's interest... the failure of any of the official enquiries to call evidence from any ballistics expert, despite the obvious relevance of such evidence. Andrewa (talk) 01:32, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
I guess this might have referred to #The Smoking Gun, see below, Andrewa (talk) 19:46, 3 November 2013 (UTC)

Autopsy X ray[edit]

(in reply to #More misinformation above Andrewa (talk) 20:42, 8 November 2013 (UTC))

The autopsy X ray is in the photo section of the book, plate 31.

The caption reads 31. Autopsy X-ray shows massive destruction from Oswald's second bullet to right transverse process of first thoracic vertabra. This wound would have severely damaged spinal cord and very likely proved fatal.

This conclusion is discussed in the text as well, but I have not yet located the passage. Andrewa (talk) 01:51, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

Here is the relevant passage from the text (the ellipsis ... in the middle shows where I have omitted some text): ...the bullet that struck Kennedy's neck had cracked one of his vertabrae... if Kennedy would have survived the trauma at all - something Lattimer doubted - it probably would have been only as a vegetable quadraplegic. (p. 199) Andrewa (talk) 18:42, 1 December 2013 (UTC)

The Smoking Gun[edit]

Excellent program that provides some new material, I watched it earlier tonight.

I was disappointed that McLaren didn't ask the question of whether Kennedy might have survived the shots Oswald fired, But apparently he does in the book. Also disappointed that he didn't include a quote from LBJ to the effect that he was more scared of being shot by the Secret Service "like last time" than by another assassin, that quote is in Menninger's book somewhere.

See also

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/did-a-hungover-secret-service-agent-accidentally-shoot-jfk/article15198269/

http://www.calgaryherald.com/entertainment/television/documentary+suggests+secret+service+killed/9114547/story.html

and there will undoubtedly be more. Andrewa (talk) 13:04, 3 November 2013 (UTC)

It will be interesting to see how the page views of this article go now, and what other sources become available to support the notability of the topic... especially considering the article was twice nominated for deletion not all that long ago.

Perhaps, in time we might even think of creating separate articles on Bonar Menninger and Howard Donahue? Both currently redirect to this one. Andrewa (talk) 19:51, 3 November 2013 (UTC)

New material[edit]

The main differences between McLaren's approach and Donahue's is that McLaren is an investigator, while Donahue is an expert witness in a particular field. So for example, McLaren pursues the question of the eleven witnesses (seven of them Secret Service) who testified to smelling gunpowder fumes, and the impossibility that these were from Oswald's shots. Donahue does not pursue this line of enquiry, as it's not ballistics related. McLaren's work could also be described as a conspiracy theory in that he strongly suggests a Secret Service cover-up, while one of the refreshing things about Donahue's work is that he doesn't speculate on this, although it's hard to escape that conclusion from his evidence. Rather, he sticks to his topic.

McLaren on the other hand omits from the documentary Donahue's work on the chemical composition of the bullet that struck Kennedy in the head, which showed that it was not Oswald's ammunition but was again consistent with AR15 ammunition. This may be in McLaren's book, I suspect it would be, and was only omitted from the documentary because of time restrictions.

None of that is a criticism of McLaren's work. He is an expert in his field too. It's just that his field is broader in scope than Donahue's. Andrewa (talk) 18:38, 5 November 2013 (UTC)

Unsourced material[edit]

There's a possible edit war looming over some accurate but unsourced material, which has now been added and removed several times. [1] I think it's timely (in fact probably overdue) to have some discussion of this material on the article talk page rather than just on the talk pages of the contributors.

The material is both accurate and informative as far as I can see, but unsourced. It's been suggested that it's original research, and that's possible, and the onus of proof is on the contributors to show by references that it's not. And I'll add that it's also possibly POV, I'm very sensitive to this because it very much supports and perhaps even reflects my own views. I bought the first paperback edition of Mortal Error and still find it most impressive and convincing, and like Donahue himself have always been perplexed that it has received so little attention.

In the previous deletion discussion we all found it very hard (but eventually not impossible) to find any sources at all, but hopefully this will change since the publication of The Smoking Gun. In fact it's already changing I think. We will see. Andrewa (talk) 19:23, 6 November 2013 (UTC)

You are not a reliable source because we can't source you but you are otherwise correct; that is original research and possibly opinionated and I would go as far to say that it is a WP:BLP violation.--Launchballer 20:13, 6 November 2013 (UTC)
Agree I'm not a reliable source on this topic, at least not as Wikipedia uses this term. Nor AFAIK are you. But that only becomes relevant if we try to cite ourselves in the article, which I have no intention of doing.
I thought it helpful to disclose my POV on this talk page. That doesn't mean I intend to promote it in the article, it means the very opposite. It invites scrutiny to see that I don't.
Fascinated by the WP:BLP claim. Very important if true. Which living person or persons do you mean?
I haven't seen McLaren's book, only the documentary, but the book would be a secondary source concerning Donahue's claims, so I might see whether I can beg, borrow or buy a copy. Actually so would the documentary, but the book is easier to verify and probably contains more material. Andrewa (talk) 02:10, 7 November 2013 (UTC)
The Secret Service agent etcetera. If the book is a secondary source then why not source it?--Launchballer 07:49, 7 November 2013 (UTC)
Just to repeat, I haven't seen the book, only the documentary. But yes, it would be a very good idea to cite it. That was the point.
Are you going to elaborate on your BLP concern? Andrewa (talk) 10:17, 7 November 2013 (UTC)
http://www.lindastratmann.com/articles/mortal-error.aspx is a detailed review by Linda Stratmann, and another secondary source. Andrewa (talk) 10:51, 7 November 2013 (UTC)
I put the Secret Service agent for a start. I am amazed that WP:BLP does not discover murders because we are dealing with people's lives; what if we put some information down and a law court takes it to be true? We really need to be careful. I cannot read that review on my computer because it is a school computer and it's been blocked for some reason, but I am willing to assume good faith on that. I think it will be fine sourced.--Launchballer 10:56, 7 November 2013 (UTC)
(You've made a mess of my intended stringing by ignoring the deliberate unindent, fixed as best I could [2], hope it's OK with you.)
Assuming you mean agent George Hickey, he died in 2011 (as the article says, the reference it cites says, and the documentary says). Agree we really need to be careful.
So, what are your other BLP concerns? I hope they'll be as easily solved.
Glad you've decided to assume good faith and strongly suggest you do so consistently, especially in edit summaries. Andrewa (talk) 19:53, 8 November 2013 (UTC)

Date of Hickey's death[edit]

I've reverted some probable vandalism by an anon with no other contributions [3] and added a second and better ref supporting the date. [4] Andrewa (talk) 17:43, 16 November 2013 (UTC)

Unfortunately some sources say Hickey died in 2005, other sources say 2011. Which is correct? Muzilon (talk) 05:59, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

Very good catch!
The source you give is datelined Nov. 15, 2013 @ 11:33 PM. That's at Sanford, North Carolina I guess, so add five hours and it's 04:33, November 16 (UTC), and our article read 2005 from 17:45, 14 November 2013 until 17:35, 16 November 2013 [5] (UTC). So it's entirely possible that the journalist responsible relied on Wikipedia and didn't check the article history. Bad mistake of course if so, and if so, now that the error is in the press it will assume a sort of immortality. Probably score ten points for the vandal I'm afraid!
Or, are there older sources that also give the 2005 date? Very important either way. But for now I'm siding with the older sources. Andrewa (talk) 06:53, 18 November 2013 (UTC)
But I agree with your {{dubious}} tag. [6] As you say above, we have "reliable" sources for both dates. Andrewa (talk) 11:43, 18 November 2013 (UTC)
Note also WP:NEWSORG says in part Some news organizations have used Wikipedia articles as a source for their work. Editors should therefore beware of circular sourcing. I think this may be an excellent example. See also Wikipedia:Reliable_sources#cite_note-8. Andrewa (talk) 02:35, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

I have added another source diff which confirms the 2011 date. Can we remove the {{dubious|date=November 2013}} tag? Andrewa (talk) 10:51, 24 November 2013 (UTC)

Here is another recent source that says 2005 [7] dated 10/29/13 02:19 PM and possibly not the most reliable. Obviously it's also dated after the suspected Wikipedia vandalism.

And there seem to have been at least three people named George Hickey who did die in 2005, none of them the one we want here. These include a George T. Hickey (b. 1927) [8], a George W. Hickey (a priest), and a George Ray Hickey (also b. 1927) [9]. Andrewa (talk) 01:41, 25 November 2013 (UTC)

This is a sufficiently interesting case of possible circular referencing that I've posted a heads-up at Wikipedia talk:Identifying reliable sources#A relevant case. Andrewa (talk) 15:37, 25 November 2013 (UTC)

There has been no response at Wikipedia talk:Identifying reliable sources nor here. On reflection and in view of this, I have removed the dubious tag, it adds nothing to the article. Instead we now have a note on the page citing the two newspaper stories and pointing out their dates of publication and the correlation to the vandalism at Wikipedia diff. This is important information, both for future editors of this article and for other readers, as the 2005 date may now appear in many other sources that themselves rely on articles derived from the original vandalism. Andrewa (talk) 18:02, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

I think the case that this edit was in fact vandalism is strong enough. The edit cited no source, and ignored the one already cited at the time which clearly said 2011. True, the one source then cited wasn't the best one, but better than nothing and would at least have been removed by any good faith edit. Better sources for the 2011 date have since been added as noted above.

The alternative explanation is that it was a simple mistake, based on one of the several 2005 obituaries for other people named George Hickey available online, and made by a person so inexperienced in Wikipedia that they didn't bother checking the cited source. The person involved does have no other known contributions. I think that's a bit of a stretch, and unfortunately, the consequences of such a mistake are identical to those of vandalism. Andrewa (talk) 18:08, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

http://www.thecultden.com/2013/11/jfksecret-killer-evidence-review-steve.html also gives the date as 2005. Note that its dateline is FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2013, after the vandalism here. Andrewa (talk) 10:14, 8 December 2013 (UTC)

Not a conspiracy theory[edit]

I think it's important to distinguish this theory from the various conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy's death. A conspiracy is exactly what Donahue and Menninger do not claim, or even discuss.

And there are several reliable sources that point this out. No time to find them right now, but watch this space.

The article used to point this out, but those paragraphs have been removed [10]. The same edit also added some inappropriate wikification which I have reverted [11] [12].

But one of those circular wikilinks [13] has now been reinstated [14]. It's pointless adding a wikilink that just redirects to the top of the page. Andrewa (talk) 02:31, 19 November 2013 (UTC)

If anyone else has time to find sources that substantiate the claim that it's not a conspiracy theory at all (or that it is, for that matter), feel free to add them. Andrewa (talk) 18:35, 17 November 2013 (UTC)

Menninger made this point in a recent interview. His view seems to me to be sourced and encyclopedic, so I've added it [15]. Andrewa (talk) 06:42, 25 November 2013 (UTC)

The programme's conspiracy theory is not in the actual assassination, as Andrewa seems to think, but in the aftermath - the Secret Service covering up their alleged negligence. The programme is really pointing towards an after-the-fact cover-up. CharlieChutney (talk) 11:55, 26 November 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Charlie Chutney (talkcontribs)

I've only seen the program once, my interest is primarily in Donhue's work not McLaren's. But where does McLaren say that there was a conspiracy?
The other thing, of course, is that in the context of the Kennedy assassination, conspiracy theory means one that disputes the Warren Commission's finding that Oswald acted alone. Donahue doesn't dispute this. Perhaps we need another term.
Agree there was a cover-up, but I also think that to use the term conspiracy theory to describe Donahue's ballistic analysis is highly POV, and should therefore only be included if it can be sourced. And the sources we have so far all say that it's not a conspiracy theory. Andrewa (talk) 13:59, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

To my knowledge, I never used the term "conspiracy theory" anywhere in this article. My preferred term, as written, is "accidental shot theory". But in McLaren's doc, he does suggest because of the previous night's drinking session by some Secret Service agents and the way one Parkland Hospital official was "threatened" with a holstered pistol as Kennedy's body was being taken away without permission, this pointed to some kind of post-assassination conspiracy (or cover-up) of not wanting the truth known about Hickey's supposed head-shot. I don't think McLaren ever used the word "conspiracy", the reason I didn't use it, but he's definitely angling towards that ballpark. Maybe "cover-up" is more suitable in this case Charlie Chutney (talk) 19:21, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

Yes, McLaren definitely hints at a cover-up. I'm not sure whether he uses the term, but it's a much better one than conspiracy in this context, because of the very negative connotation of conspiracy theory and also the association of it with rejection of the Warren Report's central finding, that Oswald acted alone.
But again we need to source this. And the Smoking Gun documentary is a secondary source regarding Donahue's work, but so far as McLaren's work goes, it's a primary source. It can get quite complicated... the topic of this article is Donahue's work, rather than McLaren's.
Menninger has commented that this theory is a third alternative, being neither a conspiracy theory in this sense, nor one that accepts the single shooter conclusion of the Warren Commission, and we do have a source for this. Don't you think this is important? Andrewa (talk) 20:24, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

See #Conspiracy theorists again below. Andrewa (talk) 19:54, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

rem dubious synopsis[edit]

Removed text:

To back up its accidental shot theory, the programme showed a photograph of Agent George Hickey holding up an [[AR-15]] while stood inside a [[Secret Service]] follow-up car, speeding behind the [[Presidential limousine]] as [[Clint Hill|Secret Service Agent Clint Hill]] holds onto its rear.<ref>http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Shooting_holes_in_theory_that_a_Secret_Service_agent_killed_President_Kennedy.html retrieved 17 November 2013.</ref> The programme also stated that bullet fragments found inside President Kennedy's skull, resulting from the catastrophic head-shot, proved this third bullet disintegrated on impact, contrary to the ballistics evidence of Oswald's second shot, which travelled straight through the President and into [[John Connally|Governor Connally]]. Other circumstantial evidence put forward by the programme stated how an agitated Secret Service chief [[James Rowley]] admitted, at the [[Warren Commission]], that AR-15s were no longer used by his organisation inside protection vehicles since the assassination; and also that classified Secret Service documents on the assassination were destroyed just one week prior to being handed over to the [[Assassination Records Review Board]] in 1995. However, no evidence was put forward by the programme as to why no witnesses in [[Dealey Plaza]] ever testified or publicly stated they heard or saw a gunshot coming from the Presidential [[motorcade]] immediately in front of them.

The main problem with this is just that it's so badly written. (It's also slightly POV... eg that last statement should be sourced.) eg bullet fragments found inside President Kennedy's skull, resulting from the catastrophic head-shot, proved this third bullet disintegrated on impact, contrary to the ballistics evidence of Oswald's second shot... no, the fragments aren't the only or even best evidence of this that is presented, and that's terribly phrased. Other circumstantial evidence... no, this is ambiguous, the evidence isn't all circumstantial.

There is some good material here, but it needs a rewrite, and also shouldn't be put before the paragraph on the ballistic reconstruction, which is the main point of Donahue's work and the focus of the documentary. The photo, for example, is from the cover of the original book, and is important but not as important as the ballistic reconstruction. Andrewa (talk) 02:50, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

And it has been reinstated [16] by the original contributor, without comment here or even in the edit summary. I try to stick to a personal one revert rule, so I'll try something else, leaving the dodgy material there and just fronting the good stuff. [17]
I guess the part that most concerns me about this second try is still the paragraph (which I've broken out) No explanation was put forward by the programme as to why no witnesses in Dealey Plaza ever testified or publicly stated they heard or saw a gunshot coming from the Presidential motorcade immediately in front of them. That's true, but as it stands it's also exactly the sort of statement that someone wanting to discredit the theory would make. It needs sourcing and/or rephrasing, at the very least. Andrewa (talk) 01:21, 19 November 2013 (UTC)

Badly written?? Seems to me Andrewa is bitter someone removed one of his previous edits and is looking for some payback on that user. That's the feeling I've had from Day 1 since I deleted his ill-informed 'non-conspiracy' line. Nothing wrong with my paragraph (compared with some of the dross on Wikipedia), and if there was something wrong with it, why was it allowed back? And as for the discreditary accusation, I felt it was important the Mortal Error page was not seen to be endorsing Donahue's/Menninger's/McLaren's theory as undisputed fact by pointing out an arguably crucial hole that no eyewitnesses exist to back up their theory. Not trying to discredit someone's work, just looking for balance. Charlie Chutney (talk) 11:20, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

Thank you for discussing the matter here. Agree that the page should not be endorsing the theory. It should describe it and the reactions to it accurately. That's my aim. I do have a POV, but Wikipedia is not the place to promote it.
So I'm looking for balance too.
Your POV is that it's a conspiracy theory, and mine is that it isn't. But neither of our POVs should be in the article.
There are several references that say definitely that it is not a conspiracy theory. These do belong in the article, along with any that say it is. I have yet to find them, but if you can that's fine. They belong there too.
In terms of the Kennedy assassination, conspiracy theory normally means one that rejects the central Warren Commission finding, that Oswald acted alone. Donahue doesn't dispute this finding, in fact his theory seems to support it.
And no other conspiracy is even implied by Donahue's work, which is the subject of the article. I don't want to wikispam my own web pages here, but Google alderspace JFK and you'll probably get my POV and OR in all its glory. I'm not trying to hide it, nor to promote it through this article either. But I do object to other POVs being expressed there, and particularly the POV that seeks to dismiss this as just another conspiracy theory. That's good politics but makes no other sense.
The observation that there's an arguably crucial hole that no eyewitnesses exist to back up their theory is OR unless you can source it. If you can, then by all means include it. If not, then it doesn't belong here, any more than my explanation of how such a cover-up could work with no conspiracy required does. Similarly, the observation that no evidence was put forward by the programme as to why no witnesses in Dealey Plaza ever testified or publicly stated they heard or saw a gunshot coming from the Presidential motorcade immediately in front of them seems to be OR promoting a particular POV to me. Not to you? Andrewa (talk) 13:20, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

I can't agree that my "no evidence was put forward..." entry is either original research or POV. All I'm doing is pointing out an important omission from the doc (I'm not drawing a personal conclusion). I can agree it looks almost hyperbolic, so I've re-edited it. Charlie Chutney (talk) 20:48, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

The statement is of course true. But why should these witnesses be expected to come forward? That's what makes it OR supportive of a particular POV. There are arguments both ways, but here is not the place for them. We should not promote either side, we should just report what other reliable sources say, on both sides. And it's not easy.
I'm not sure the latest revision helps. There are several issues. Watch this space. Andrewa (talk) 00:49, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

Circular wikilinks[edit]

I have again removed a circular wikilink [18] and have now also posted a heads-up on the user page of the editor in question [19].

The edit summary on the restoration was re-estab wikilink for Hickey [20]. Please discuss here! Andrewa (talk) 16:10, 25 November 2013 (UTC)

You have again removed Hickey's only wikilink on this page. Why? George Hickey has his own wiki page. Putting his name in bold at the top of this page doesn't count as a link. Why stop there? Why not remove Oswald's link too? Or all the others? CharlieChutney (talk) 12:02, 26 November 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Charlie Chutney (talkcontribs)

Wrong, and that's the point exactly... George Hickey does not currently have his own wiki page. What you are linking to is currently [21] a redirect back to this page, and always has been. Andrewa (talk) 12:50, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

Well, that's interesting, because when I first started editing this, I distinctly remember checking a link to a Hickey wikipage. Has it been deleted? Strange. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Charlie Chutney (talkcontribs) 12:59, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

There are no deleted edits in the page history. I also checked before I removed the wikilink (twice now). How did you check? Did you follow the wikilinks you created? Andrewa (talk) 14:43, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

If the Hickey page was never there (was just a quick glance to check its existence), then I must have either been looking at another agent's page or someone else called Hickey. Maybe also the fact his wikilink didn't highlight in red, I assumed that proved his page existed. An honest mistake. Charlie Chutney (talk) 19:00, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

Agree that to put the wikilink there without checking that it lead somewhere sensible is an honest mistake. The way to avoid these is, use show preview and then right-click (or whatever your particular browser and operating system supports) on the new wikilink in the preview to open a new tag or window or whatever without saving or losing your proposed change. This then checks where the wikilink goes without saving anything. It checks your spelling, the existence of the target page, too many things to mention.
I recommend doing this whenever you wikify, but at the very least, if someone challenges your edit, it's plain courtesy and also policy to then check whether the challenge may have been valid rather than just reapplying your change. And you can do this even more easily, by going to the page history and opening your last version, and just following the wikilink you created there.
And even if you still decide to re-apply the change, it's also good to make some comment on the talk page rather than relying on the edit summary. WP:BRD is even better, and starts the discussion that much earlier. Andrewa (talk) 20:00, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

Phrasing and balance[edit]

The article is now [22] more than 50% dedicated to the derivative McLaren work rather than the original book by Menninger and Donahue.

That may reflect the recent interest, but the topic of this article is the original book, and so to have the discussion of the McLaren documentary longer than the synopsis of the Menninger book seems wrong to me.

More serious, that discussion confuses the two works, and discusses the merits of the McLaren documentary without citing any source for these views. This paragraph for example: In trying to prove there were two different calibres of bullets involved, and therefore two weapons, the programme showed that bullet fragments found inside President Kennedy's skull, resulting from the catastrophic head-shot, thereby proving it disintegrated on impact, lay contrary to the ballistics evidence of Oswald's second shot, a bullet which travelled straight through the President and into Governor Connally. Donahue also demonstrated, using a drill and an artificial skull, how the entry wound of the third and final shot was too small to allow a 6.5mm bullet from a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, but was a perfect fit for a 5.56mm bullet of an AR-15.

The phrase trying to prove worries me for a start. Doesn't this at least weakly imply that the attempt is a failure? This may be true, but it's a POV and should be sourced. Andrewa (talk) 18:23, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

Reword "trying to prove" then. My point was it neither proved nor disproved anything. No POV at all. Just a simple description of what the programme-makers DID on-screen. I fear the previous entrant is becoming too pedantic. As for the 50%, why not just give the McLaren doc its own page then, linked from the broadcast info para on the Mortal Error page? Charlie Chutney (talk) 19:16, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

Disagree that making a point that it neither proved nor disproved anything is No POV at all. Just the opposite, to say there is doubt is as much a POV as to say that there is no doubt.
Disagree that this is pedantic. NPOV is one of the pillars of Wikipedia. It's fine to report a notable POV, but at the same time we must try very hard not to express our own, which is often a subtle and difficult call but important. We report other people's POVs, and we cite the people concerned.
I would not oppose a split, but considering the considerable opposition that emerged before to having even one article on Donahue's theory, having two is not to be taken lightly. Andrewa (talk) 20:23, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

Corrected "Finding this photograph was crucial to Donahue's decision to publish his work and was used on the front cover of his book". It was Menninger's book. Also, was it Donahue or Menninger who discovered Hickey/AR-15 photo? Donahue's original article was in a newspaper, not a book. Also modified entry that states it was Donahue who demonstrated ballistics evidence with drill & skull - it was McLaren. Donahue is dead.

Yes, it was Donahue's magazine articles that came first, but the copyright on Mortal Error (hence ME) is 1992 by Bonar Menninger and Howard Donahue (my emphasis). So pedantry (your term) on this matter is misguided IMO, as it's his book too, and the sentence you have corrected was already correct, but the change is harmless so far as I can see. It was Donahue's discovery, and it did influence Donahue to publish his work, which he did in both the Sun and the book. And so Chapter 9 The Discovery ends with a 'phone call to the Sun: Howard here. You're not going to believe this, and God help me if I'm wrong, but I think we can do the story. I found the gun. (p. 108).
And that's really nothing to do with the McLaren documentary, is it? Does mention of this photo even belong in the Reception section? Surely it would be better in the Synopsis? Its importance is the topic of a whole chapter of the book, and it does appear on the front cover.

I admire how you throw the pedantics thing back at me concerning a book that neither recognises Howard Donahue as author or co-author. It is officially Bonar Menninger's book and any mention of it being Donahue's book is incorrect and open to confusion. It is Donahue's original research written up by Menninger. Can you prove the copyright for M.E. is held by both Menninger AND Donahue? Also, you keep saying Donahue "publish(ed) his work". Did he? Was he a self-publisher? Did the Baltimore Sun not publish it? Or St. Martin's Press for the book? Is that pedantics on my part or misleading on your part?

As for the photo, there was no mention of it anywhere on the M.E. page before making my first entry. It is a crucial image and for someone (you) who's been editing this page for some time, I'm surprised you hadn't included it yourself, whether through weblink or direct jpeg. I agree, as it derives from the book, its mention probably should be in the synopsis and I wouldn't have any objection to it being moved there. But you have to understand, this is a new theory for me. The TV doc was the first I'd heard of it, so all my knowledge is coming from that. Charlie Chutney (talk) 11:57, 28 November 2013 (UTC)

Tried to resolve argument over POV by rewording "ballistics" para and to lesser extent "no eyewitnesses" para. Charlie Chutney (talk) 23:17, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

Generally this is all progress. Much more needed IMO. Andrewa (talk) 00:17, 28 November 2013 (UTC)

Replying to this edit above...

Could you possibly use indenting? It's normal to do so on talk pages, and it makes the stringing a lot easier to follow.

I'm afraid that I think that some of those comments don't deserve a reply. The purpose of this page is to help to improve the article. And in practice there's a little bit of leeway in helping to improve other articles as well. I hope that the replies I do make below are helpful.

I'm a bit taken aback by your question as to whether I can prove the copyright of the book. I've quoted its own copyright notice above. What other proof do you require?

A book was part of Donahue's project from quite early in his investigations. Menninger was at least the third potential author Donahue approached and hoped would write it. Mortal Error is that book, so in that sense too, it's Donahue's book as well as Menninger's. I will in time include this information in the article, and meantime, it's all in the book, but obviously not in McLaren's documentary.

Yes, the book cover is available on the internet. I'm not sure what you mean by weblink or direct jpeg, but Wikipedia policy on use of unfree images is quite strict and for this and other reasons I felt it was far better to scan it myself, although using one of them would have been possible with care and any other editor yourself included could have done so. So, including it had to wait until I had the opportunity to scan it. The reasons for the delay in doing this are already in earlier sections of this talk page, but don't seem particularly relevant anyway.

Have a look at wikt:publish, particularly meaning 3. Do you really think it's incorrect to say Donahue published his results? How better would you express his involvement in both the book and the articles?

Wikipedia is all about collaboration. I'm sorry ours seems to be off to a rather poor start, but as I said above, glad that you're now discussing things. But we need to focus the discussion a bit IMO. Andrewa (talk) 17:39, 29 November 2013 (UTC)

I'm genuinely flabbergasted you continue to refer to the book as Donahue's. The copyright notice visible through Amazon's Look Inside! feature clearly shows it as either Menninger's or Menninger's with Hunter's Moon. Even the M.E. wikipage omits Donahue as author. Can you prove Donahue was ever acknowledged in any copyright notice? If not, it could be argued it's POV on your part, suggesting M.E. is Donahue's book because you feel he deserves acknowledgement.
And I'm flabbergasted that you ignore the evidence I have presented.
I have in my hand a book. It is the same physical copy whose cover I recently scanned to create the one image now in the article. I have owned it since I bought it, new, in a discount bookshop in the Sydney CBD sometime in the early 1990s (presumably 1992 at the earliest). On the back of the second physical page is the following notice: "Copyright 1992 by Bonnar Menninger and Howard Donahue". I have quoted this page before [23]. I repeat [24], What other proof do you require?
If you say you possess a copy of the book that says copyright held by Menninger AND Donahue, then I accept that. I just cannot find anywhere on the internet to back that claim up. But I still think it's a misleading statement when only Menninger's name appears on the cover. Donahue doesn't even get a contribution credit on the cover. I just find it strange that (I presume) the 1992 edition gives him copyright credit, but later editions don't. Is that because of his death? Anyway, matter resolved, far as I'm concerned.
Would you expect to find it anywhere on the Internet? But I find it strange too. There's a story there I'm sure.
But I only raised the copyright thing because I (wrongly) thought it would settle any argument about Donahue having a major involvement with the book. As I hope is now clear, the text of the book makes it very clear that Howard was thinking seriously of a book as early as 1977 at least, and had his hopes dashed on several occasions. That's part of the story that the book tells. And this book would appear to be the realisation of that hope. That's why I was so comfortable about calling it his book, despite the author line. I think Katie Donahue actually calls it his book too somewhere in the text, but I could be wrong and haven't located the quote in any case. And there's the Acknowledgements section too, I'd forgotten that. I'll add it to the article. Andrewa (talk) 02:05, 2 December 2013 (UTC)
And do you similarly discount the claim, to which you have not replied, that Menninger was at least the third author that Donahue had approached to write such a book?
I can't discount a point I don't quite understand. If I want someone to write my work into book form, I'm either relinquishing ownership to them or paying them as a ghost-writer, to which I'll keep authorship as part of the deal. The latter clearly didn't happen.
I think it may be a bit more complicated than that. Andrewa (talk) 02:05, 2 December 2013 (UTC)
Ralph Reppert of the Sun was the first of these. His involvement starts much earlier, in fact he was instrumental in the project right from the start. But let's skip to Chapter 14 because I think it makes the point most clearly: In theory, at least, there was still the prospect of the book in collaboration with Reppert. In those heady days following the publication of the Sun article, both men had been in full, excited agreement that a book would be the next logical step. (p. 188, my emphasis)
Following Reppert's death, Donahue contacted John Davis. In Chapter 15, Katie Donahue, recovering from a stroke, tells Howard He might be worth trying to get hold of to write a book on your theory. Further down the page it says Much to Howard's delight, Davis said he was very interested in the theory and the possibility of doing a book. (p. 211)
Yes, I do believe that acknowledgement of Donahue's involvement in the book belongs in the Wikipedia article. It's accurate, verifiable and important. But you seem to want to avoid it. Why?
The point you make about Menninger being credited as sole author is well made. I don't know why this was done, but no doubt there were reasons. The style is of Menninger telling the story, and quoting Donahue extensively, so in that sense it's logical to credit him as sole author. Nor do I know why these other copyright notices differ from the one on the copy I have (I am quite willing to believe you on this point, although you have given no links, and you seem unwilling to believe me). Possibly it relates to the various laws in the various countries in which the book has been printed, or possibly to changing laws, or perhaps it's because of Donahue's death. Ask the lawyers.
As Menninger himself describes Donahue's involvement in considerable detail, it seems wrong for Wikipedia to avoid it. Is that really a POV on my part?
Or do you perhaps think that Menninger invented this part of the story? Why? Andrewa (talk) 17:34, 1 December 2013 (UTC)
I think this whole thing can be resolved if you were to simply reword M.E's opening paragraph by explaining more about Donahue's involvement. In retrospect, this is the crux of my argument. By stating M.E. "...is a 1992 non-fiction book by Bonar Menninger describing a theory by sharpshooter, gunsmith and ballistics expert Howard Donahue...", then having the sidebox emphasise Menninger as sole author doesn't help. There's no clue in that opening para that Donahue was even physically involved with the book - just reference to his theory. Why not reword it, giving Donahue more credit as to his input? It would both strengthen your position and remove the later ambiguity. Charlie Chutney (talk) 18:53, 1 December 2013 (UTC)
Thanks, I've had a go [25].
I do value your input. As I said before, Wikipedia is about collaboration. You, having not read the book, see things very differently than I do. Both viewpoints are valuable. If you say you found the article confusing, then that is important and needs to be corrected. Most of those most interested in the article won't have read the book either.
On the other hand, we want the article to look equally good to people who have read the book. Otherwise we'd have to suspect that it was misleading at best, and probably inaccurate. Andrewa (talk) 01:49, 2 December 2013 (UTC)
As for the "publishing" thing, yes, Meaning 3 does appear to back you up, but I still think it's misleading. Maybe "had his work published" would read better, but I'm going to drop it as we'll be arguing over commas and full stops next. Charlie Chutney (talk) 13:08, 1 December 2013 (UTC)
Your opinion noted. Yes, let's drop it for now. I'll try to avoid using the word publish in that sense, but if it makes the phrasing too awkward I make no promises. Had his work published seems unnecessarily vague and wordy to me, but it's acceptable. Andrewa (talk) 17:34, 1 December 2013 (UTC)

Detailed synopsis[edit]

Here's a first cut presented here for comment:

Chapter 1, A Chance Telephone call, describes the events that led to Donahue's interest in the assassination, and a brief biography up until that point.

As a result, Donahue was approached later that summer... would Howard be interested in writing an article for the magazine supporting the Warren Commissions conclusions? Donahue agreed... but he told the editor he needed to do a little research first. "I just want to be sure they're right," he said. (p. 10)

Chapters 2 and 3, The Warren Report and The Critics, then give the context and summary of the report, and a detailed summary of the critics as of 1968.

While less inclined to believe the Warren Report, he nonetheless found most of the critics work to be worthless from a ballistics standpoint. Consequently, he decided to focus solely on the ballistics and forensic aspects of the assassination. (p. 28)

Chapter 4, The Single Bullet Theory presents Donahue's analysis of the shot which, according to the Warren Commission, struck both Kennedy and Connally, and suggests that the "magic bullet" trajectory is only necessary because the estimated position of the Governor was wrong. One of Oswald's shots could therefore have caused both men's injuries as claimed, but there remain other unanswered questions.

Chapter 5, The Head Shot describes Donahue's analysis of the shot that hit Kennedy in the head, using the Warren Commission evidence (particularly the official autopsy report), stills from the Zapruder film and other photos, and holes drilled in a plaster skull. Numerous questions arise surrounding the completeness and even accuracy of the autopsy report.

Donahue was stunned. In one afternoon, his confidence in the Warren Report was effectively destroyed. (p. 47)

...two crippling problems with the government's claim that Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shot that hit Kennedy in the head: 1) the apparent trajectory of the bullet did not seem to match the location of Oswald's sniper's nest, and 2) the type of bullet fired was totally at odds with the rounds that Oswald was known to have used. (p. 56)

Chapter 6, A Fortuitous Encounter, first describes Donahue's first correspondence with the Secret Service.

He then by chance meets Dr. Russell Fisher, head of a medical panel which reviewed the autopsy in 1968, who provides a copy of its report and many insights into details of the autopsy report and problems with the material provided to the panel. The suspicion of an accidental discharge by a Secret Service agent grows.

"Well, you know more about guns than do," he said. "But that would certainly explain the strange antics of the government." (p. 65, quoting Fisher)

Chapter 7, Kennedy's Unknown Wound, describes Donahue's conclusion that Kennedy suffered a scalp wound from a ricochet fragment from Oswald;s first shot, using the material provided by Fisher. This resolves some problems with the timing of the reactions of Kennedy and Connally.

Chapter 8, Murphy's Law, resumes the story of Donahue's career as his expertise and reputation as an expert witness grows.

Chapter 9, The Discovery, describes more of Donahue's career, and his discovery of a photo showing a Secret Service agent holding a weapon that could have produced the kind of wound Kennedy suffered. This revives his interest in publishing an article on his findings.

If you are involved with firearms long enough,it is not if you will or will not have an accidental discharge. It is when. (p. 97)

Howard here. You're not going to believe this, and God help me if I'm wrong, but I think we can do the story. I found the gun. (p. 108)

Chapter 10, Breaking News, describes the first publication of Donahue's conclusions, and attempts to contact Hickey. Questions are asked regarding the nature of the cover-up, and particularly whether Robert Kennedy was involved in it.

Chapters 11 to 13 describe the Donahues' experiences with the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations.

Now, Mrs. Donahue, can you tell me who manufactures the Pristine bullets? (One of the Select Committee members as recalled by Katie, p. 140)

Of course, Donahue's understanding of the fatal shot in no way precluded the possibility that Oswald was involved in some kind of conspiracy;... (p. 146)

Obviously, they had no intention of examining the evidence Howard had assembled. (p. 157)

Rose informed Donahue that he'd travelled extensively around the country to interview a number of Secret Service agents and police officers about what happened in Dallas. "So, did you interview Hickey?" Donahue asked. "He was right there in Washington." "No, I did not," Rose replied. "Why not?" Donahue asked. "I really don't know," Rose said finally. (Interview from 1983, pp. 186-187)

Chapter 14, The AR-15, describes the ill health and death of Ralph Reppert, the original proposed author of a book on Donahue's theory. The story of the AR-15 is told, with comparisons to the M-1, AK-47, M-14 and M-16, and unflattering assessments of army procurement.

Do you know what killed most of us? Our own rifles... (p. 196)

Chapter 15, The Final Breakthough, presents more ballistics, especially estimating the size of the head shot entry wound and its relevance. John Davis, another possible author for the book is contacted. Howard gives up his Masters studies in forensics but becomes increasingly employed as an expert witness despite this.

...the bullet that struck Kennedy's neck had cracked one of his vertabrae... if Kennedy would have survived the trauma at all - something Lattimer doubted - it probably would have been only as a vegetable quadraplegic. (p. 199)

Chapter 16, Hope Dies Hard, gives a brief history of the Secret Service, their nightmare assignment guarding Kennedy, and their reaction to the shooting. There follows Hickey's involvement in the Warren Commission and statements by him and other agents. Donahue's conversation with one notable conspiracy theorist is also described.

Chapter 17, Today, is a recap as of spring 1991, describing reactions from Secret Service agents and others to the theory, and more attempts to contact Hickey.

If anything, I was trying to prove the Warren Commission right. And after I made my discovery, I tried very hard to prove it wrong... I do not believe that George Hickey is to blame for what happened. He was a brave man trying to do his job. (p. 237)

An afterword headed Note from the Publisher describes more attempts to contact Hickey, and to discuss the theory with the Secret Service and others, and why the book was published.

For the first time, we began to understand Donahue's reaction over the years as he tried to get a hearing and found himself dismissed on the basis of palpable nonfacts. (p. 252)

There are several appendices:

  • Appendix A: Testimony and Written Statements by Secret Service Agents Regarding Events of November 22, 1963
  • Appendix B: 1968 Panel Review of Photographs, X-Ray Films, Documents, and Other Evidence Pertaining to the Fatal Wounding of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas
  • Appendix C: Excerpts from Interviews Conducted by the House Select Committee on Assassinations with Drs. Humes, Petty, Angel, Baden, Boxwell, and Loquvam
  • Appendix D: Trajectory Analysis from the House Select Committee on Assassinations Hearings

Comments? It's not a final version by any means. But it at least identifies the material that is in the book. I think the conversation above shows that the McLaren documentary didn't make it clear what work was McLaren's, what was Donahue's and what was Menninger's, and I fear that the current article is rather misleading as a result of having been written by people who have only seen the Smoking Gun program and have not read either Menninger's or McLaren's book (and I admit I haven't read McLaren's book either). And these people are always likely to be in a majority.

The article as it stands is supposed to be about the book Mortal Error, which I have read, obviously. Andrewa (talk) 19:51, 1 December 2013 (UTC)

I've put some of these quotations into Wikiquote, see q:Mortal Error, and linked to that page. Andrewa (talk) 09:59, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

In that nobody has objected, I've put the draft synopsis into the article, minus most of the quotes (many of which are now in Wikiquote anyway). Andrewa (talk) 10:21, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

I see no problem with this at all. You clearly know the book and the M.E. page is now correctly biased towards it (content-wise). The Smoking Gun section now becomes a minor addition, but still an important one due to its wider audience. For the record, I find Donahue's theory intriguing but still hard to believe. Though freak occurences do happen in life, for me, it's too implausible Hickey's accidental shot just happened to finish the job that Oswald was at that moment trying to do. But my mind remains open. The only thing I am convinced of, is that Oswald was a lone gunman with an inferiority complex, looking for some kind of notoriety. And, boy, did he get that. Charlie Chutney (talk) 11:47, 2 December 2013 (UTC)
This isn't the place to put our personal opinions about whether the theory is correct or not, but one of your contributions did mention (correctly) that some evidence in McLaren's documentary is circumstantial. Interestingly, the evidence against Donahue's theory seems to be purely circumstantial. Donahue's theory (which is just who shot who and when, not why) is on the other hand based on science. Andrewa (talk) 03:03, 5 December 2013 (UTC)
I'll say what I like, wherever I like. And since when is a theory scientific fact? As you've now put your own hat in the ring by hypocritically defending the theory, the evidence against it is not simply circumstantial. Donahue's entire theory rests on his proposed angle of trajection being 100% accurate. If it isn't, his whole argument falls like a house of cards. Using Donahue's research, McLaren couldn't prove Kennedy's head was in the exact position the theory says it was. Also, the photograph... not circumstantial? Where is the stress in the faces of the agents in the follow-up car? Their colleague just shot the president! They look very calm and guilt-free to me. Also, where's the proof the third shell casing was definitely NOT fired from Oswald's rifle? Did the book or the programme prove it impossible that it couldn't have landed in the position it was found? Does the science of physics prove beyond doubt that shell could never have bounced at an awkward angle and landed in a completely different position than the other two? Did the evidence prove it was just a plug? Or did Donahue just base it on probability? Sounds more circumstantial to me, rather than scientific fact. Nothing proven. Case far from closed. Charlie Chutney (talk) 13:33, 8 December 2013 (UTC)
No, Donahue's argument doesn't collapse like a house of cards even if the projection isn't accepted. McLaren's might, but as neither of us has read his book we can't either of us say.
The projection was one of the two things that first suggested that the head shot didn't come from Oswald (p. 56), but there are many other things then considered once this possibility has arisen. The smoke. The composition of the bullet casing and filling. The thickness of the casing. There's lots and lots in Menninger's book that didn't fit into McLaren's documentary. Obviously.
And I have never concealed my POV on this, just the opposite, I've been careful to disclose it. And I didn't say scientific fact. To quote Professor Julius Sumner Miller, we never prove anything (classroom session, St Ives High School, 1969 or 1970). That is science, and so is Donahue's theory.
Agree that the case is far from closed. Donahue says that too... We should have put the Kennedy assassination to rest a long time ago... It's up to the American people to decide who is right and who is wrong. I've done all that I can. (p. 237, ... indicates some omitted text) Andrewa (talk) 20:21, 8 December 2013 (UTC)
Of course it collapses. If the bullet trajection can't be traced back to exactly where Hickey was, then all three investigators wasted their time and all other evidence becomes circumstantial. Ah! I see you conveniently ignored my photo and shell casing comments. Charlie Chutney (talk) 10:46, 9 December 2013 (UTC)
I'm not even going to answer this, other than to say that I disagree but that our personal theories on this aren't relevant anyway. Andrewa (talk) 11:59, 9 December 2013 (UTC)

The Smoking Gun again[edit]

I think in view of the material now in Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK#Synopsis, much of the material in Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK#JFK: The Smoking Gun could be expressed far more briefly. I'll probably have a go shortly. Andrewa (talk) 03:03, 5 December 2013 (UTC)

Just be careful. Only duplication should be removed. The Smoking Gun entry is already brief by comparison to the new lengthy synopsis. Don't forget, it isn't your page. Charlie Chutney (talk) 14:51, 8 December 2013 (UTC)
Anything that is misleading should be rephrased or removed. It isn't your page either, but it is a page on a book that by your own admission you have not read. Most of the people who read this page will be in that position too. It's important that it shouldn't be the blind leading the blind.
And this is particularly tricky in view of the appallingly poor standard of reporting on the subject in the news media and elsewhere on the web currently.
http://22november1963.org.uk/did-a-secret-service-agent-kill-jfk-by-accident is a particularly blatant example. It's a good looking website and the writer has gone to a lot of trouble to make it so. To read it, you'd assume that they've at least read the book and watched the two documentaries they mention. But there aren't two documentaries, the British one is just a cut down edition of the Canadian/Australian one, and it's obvious that the reviewer doesn't even realise this. And worse, they criticise Donahue because he accepted without question... that Oswald had fired three shots.... Wrong. Donahue did a great deal of questioning of the number of shots that Oswald fired, decided that he'd only fired two, and was most emphatic on this.
Donahue did demonstrate for the 1967 CBS News study that it was possible to fire three shots accurately in the time that the Warren Report claimed that Oswald had done (p.7 of the book... and provided that you were the very best marksman that CBS could find, which Oswald was not, and that the shots were evenly spaced, which the ones that struck Kennedy were not). But that was before he began his own study. This is probably what has misled this particular reviewer.
To anyone who has read the book, the mistake is very obvious. But anyone else could easily take it to be true. Andrewa (talk) 19:43, 8 December 2013 (UTC)
Don't give me that it isn't your page either nonsense. You seem to have done more on this page than anyone, just don't start thinking you can remove other people's work to suit an agenda you may have. Modification is fine, but the documentary is more prevalent in people's minds of recent than the book is. The Smoking Gun section is an acceptable minor addition to the page as it is, and I'll be watching it for the foreseeable future. Charlie Chutney (talk) 10:37, 9 December 2013 (UTC)
I don't think it's nonsense, obviously.
I'm sorry I seem to have offended you again.
Feel free to revert any contributions you feel promote my POV. But please also discuss them here. Andrewa (talk) 12:01, 9 December 2013 (UTC)

Smoking Gun entry been re-edited more accurately with dialogue taken verbatim from the documentary. Any material here which originates in the book could always be moved to the synopsis - I've no problem with that. Either way, left or moved, it shouldn't be deleted. Wikipedia shouldn't be used as a teaser for someone's book. This is an intriguing theory which IMO is 'underexplained' here. If some believe Smoking Gun entry is impeding Mortal Error by replicating too much from the book, then maybe more information concerning Donahue's theory should be included in the synopsis. One solution is to give Smoking Gun its own page, but I'd prefer transferring any replication into the synopsis. Maybe it's time to develop the M.E. page further, while leaving the Smoking Gun section with just its broadcast info, McLaren's own conclusions and the ARRB disclosures which came after Menninger's book. Charlie Chutney (talk) 17:36, 11 December 2013 (UTC)

See #The smoking gun still again below.
Agree totally that Wikipedia shouldn't be used as a teaser for someone's book. But it can and should be used to make encyclopedic information (and only that) available, and to the extent that some works are more scholarly than others, that will tend to favour the more scholarly works.
You seem to feel that the Smoking Gun documentary is equally authoritative to the book Mortal Error. You're entitled to that view, but promoting it here isn't any more appropriate than using this article as a teaser.
Yes, I am confident that if accurate and verifiable information regarding Donahue's theory (and only that) is presented here, then that will increase interest in the theory, and even lead to its wider acceptance. And that is valid, in my opinion.
But I'm also confident that this will only be achieved to the extent that we succeed in being truly encyclopedic in our approach. Your contributions are valuable in keeping me honest in this. Andrewa (talk) 14:51, 12 December 2013 (UTC)

Conspiracy theorists again[edit]

I've had another go [26] at contrasting this theory to what is normally called a conspiracy theory. See also #Not a conspiracy theory above. Comments welcome. Andrewa (talk) 19:52, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

Is this accurate[edit]

Article currently [27] reads in part with the documentary noting the direction of a breeze that day made it possible the gunpowder had originated from the vicinity of the motorcade. I think what the documentary actually says is far stronger, it says that it's not possible that these fumes came from Oswald's shots, owing to the breeze. Andrewa (talk) 11:18, 3 December 2013 (UTC)

The smoking gun still again[edit]

The documentary has obviously stirred up some interest.

But I'm still concerned that the section on the documentary currently reads rather strangely to anyone who has read the book which is the topic of this article. In view of the discussion above, I'm going to put an annotated copy below, to show the problems I see clearly and allow others to comment on it and on my comments. Please use normal talk page indenting to indicate stringing of any annotation or discussion.

This is taken from this version of the section. Andrewa (talk) 05:57, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

Some but certainly not all of the work below is wasted following this subsequent edit, which unfortunately now gives us the choice of throwing away either that edit or my proposed new version below. Was it not possible to discuss the issues raised before doing this?
Especially as several of these issues are not yet addressed. But solutions can of course be merged into your new version, and that's what I now intend to do in time. Andrewa (talk) 14:36, 12 December 2013 (UTC)
A new section on the McLaren's book has priority however, see #The Smoking Gun - Kindle version. These faults in the section on the documentary still need fixing IMO, but I don't know when I'll get around to it. Andrewa (talk) 01:37, 14 December 2013 (UTC)

Copy for annotation[edit]

Australian investigator Colin McLaren created a 90-minute documentary and book[1] based on and supporting Donahue's theory, both titled JFK: The Smoking Gun. The documentary aired on Australian and American television on November 3, 2013.[2][3][4] The documentary features re-enactments, archival footage, and new interviews with Menninger, with Donahue's daughter, and with witnesses to the shooting. A one-hour abridged version of this documentary aired in the UK on November 13, 2013, entitled JFK's Secret Killer: The Evidence.[5]

McLaren reconstructs Donahue's ballistics tests as described in Mortal Error, placing the second gunman exactly where Agent Hickey was positioned.

No, McLaren reconstructs some of them. From memory he uses only one plaster skull, for example. Donahue used two, and this is all clearly described in the book. There's a great deal in the book that isn't in the documentary, obviously. Andrewa (talk) 06:16, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

To back up the accidental shot theory, the documentary showed a photograph of Agent Hickey holding up an AR-15 while standing inside a Secret Service follow-up car as it speeds behind the Presidential limousine with Secret Service Agent Clint Hill on its rear.[6]

Finding this photograph was crucial to Donahue's decision to publish his work and was used on the front cover of Menninger's book.

That probably belongs in the synopsis section rather than here. (Yes, I think I put it there! Changed my mind if so.) Andrewa (talk) 06:16, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

The documentary demonstrated the possibility of there being two different bullet calibres involved, and therefore two weapons, by stating bullet fragments found inside Kennedy's skull, from the catastrophic head shot, proved it disintegrated on impact, which lay contrary to the ballistics evidence of Oswald's second shot, a bullet which travelled straight through the President and into Governor Connally.

Clumsy phrasing and not correct. The type of ammunition (high-velocity frangible vs medium velocity full jacket) and the two different calibres are two separate issues. These are two different pieces of evidence that two different weapons are involved. Andrewa (talk) 06:16, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

Using Donahue's original research, McLaren demonstrated, with a drill and artificial skull, how the entry wound of the third and final shot was too small to allow a 6.5mm bullet from a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, but was a perfect fit for a 5.56mm bullet from an AR-15.

No, that completely misinterprets the use of the skull. The skull was used for a trajectory analysis. That's a third issue, separate from the calibre and type of ammunition. Andrewa (talk) 06:16, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

Circumstantial evidence put forward by the documentary stated how an agitated Secret Service chief James Rowley admitted, at the Warren Commission, that AR-15s were no longer used by his organisation inside protection vehicles since the assassination; and also that classified Secret Service documents on the assassination were destroyed just one week prior to being handed over to the Assassination Records Review Board in 1995.

I'm beginning to think we should avoid the use of the phrase circumstantial evidence altogether. I'm only just discovering what this phrase means to a lawyer, and suspect that the average reader has no better idea than I did. Andrewa (talk) 06:16, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

Though it highlighted eyewitness testimony concerning the origin of the gunshots (some saying the Texas School Book Depository, some saying the Grassy Knoll, some saying both), the documentary did not make mention of any eyewitnesses who saw a gunshot coming from the Presidential motorcade. Reference was, however, made to several bystanders in Dealey Plaza who did recall the smell of gunpowder immediately after the shooting, with the documentary noting the direction of a breeze that day made it possible the gunpowder had originated from the vicinity of the motorcade.

True, but needs a ref. As it stands it's WP:OR. The point that witnesses did claim that gunshots came from the grassy knoll and none claimed that any came from the follow-up car is important. Mind you, one agent did say that he saw Hickey with the AR-15 and first thought that he had fired at someone. Andrewa (talk) 06:16, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

Donahue died in 1999.[7][8] In the documentary, his daughter Colleen says he was always surprised that his work received so little attention. At the time of his death he was working on another book on the same topic.

Signing just to keep the bots happy. Andrewa (talk) 05:57, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

In that nobody speaks above, I've had a go at a new version below. It doesn't address all the issues but it's a start. Comments? Again, please use indenting, and sign them. Andrewa (talk) 14:32, 11 December 2013 (UTC)
Which turns out to have been a waste of time, [28] unfortunately. Andrewa (talk) 19:58, 13 December 2013 (UTC)

New version[edit]

Australian investigator Colin McLaren created a 90-minute documentary and book[9] based on and supporting Donahue's theory, both titled JFK: The Smoking Gun. The documentary aired on Australian and American television on November 3, 2013.[10][11][12] The documentary features re-enactments, archival footage, and new interviews with Menninger, with Donahue's daughter, and with witnesses to the shooting. A one-hour abridged version of this documentary aired in the UK on November 13, 2013, entitled JFK's Secret Killer: The Evidence.[13]

McLaren reconstructs some of Donahue's ballistics tests as described in Mortal Error, reproducing one of his plaster skull tests, and also other evidence that the head shot was fired by Hickey rather than by Oswald. He displays the photograph of Agent Hickey holding up an AR-15 while standing inside a Secret Service follow-up car as it speeds behind the Presidential limousine with Secret Service Agent Clint Hill on its rear, which was crucial to Donahue's decision to have his work published [14] and appears on the front cover of Mortal Error. [15]

The apparent inconsitency in calibre between the round that struck Kennedy in the head and Oswald's rifle, the composition of the bullet fragments left in Kennedy's skull, and the difference between the behaviour of the round that struck Kennedy in the head with that of Oswald's second shot, which travelled straight through the President and into Governor Connally, are also mentioned.

Circumstantial evidence put forward by the documentary stated how an agitated Secret Service chief James Rowley admitted, at the Warren Commission, that AR-15s were no longer used by his organisation inside protection vehicles since the assassination, and that classified Secret Service documents on the assassination were destroyed just one week prior to being handed over to the Assassination Records Review Board in 1995.

Though it highlights eyewitness testimony concerning the origin of the gunshots (some saying the Texas School Book Depository, some saying the Grassy Knoll, some saying both), the documentary did not make mention of any eyewitnesses who saw a gunshot coming from the Presidential motorcade. Reference was, however, made to several bystanders in Dealey Plaza who did recall the smell of gunpowder immediately after the shooting, with the documentary noting the direction of a breeze that day made it impossible the gunpowder fumes had originated from Oswald's shots.

Donahue died in 1999.[16][17] In the documentary, his daughter Colleen says he was always surprised that his work received so little attention. At the time of his death he was working on another book on the same topic.

And again signing mainly just to keep the bots happy. Andrewa (talk) 14:55, 11 December 2013 (UTC)

This subsection turns out to have been a waste of time, [29] unfortunately. Andrewa (talk) 19:56, 13 December 2013 (UTC)

Reflist[edit]

This section mainly to keep the <ref> tags happy.

  1. ^ McLaren, Colin. JFK: The Smoking Gun, ISBN 978-0733630446
  2. ^ "‘JFK: The Smoking Gun,’ TV review: Australian detective concludes that Kennedy died from friendly fire". Daily News. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  3. ^ "JFK: The Smoking Gun". Amazon. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  4. ^ "JFK: The Smoking Gun – Get the Books". reelz.com. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  5. ^ "JFK'S Secret Killer: The Evidence". Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  6. ^ Mucha, Peter (November 13, 2013). "Shooting holes in theory that a Secret Service agent killed President Kennedy". philly.com. Interstate General Media. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  7. ^ Gay, Verne (October 31, 2013). "'JFK, The Smoking Gun' review: Conspiracy theory documentary feels recycled". Newsday. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  8. ^ Rasmussen, Frederick N. (December 21, 1999). "Howard C. H. Donahue, 77, ballistics expert, studied Kennedy's death". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  9. ^ McLaren, Colin. JFK: The Smoking Gun, ISBN 978-0733630446
  10. ^ "‘JFK: The Smoking Gun,’ TV review: Australian detective concludes that Kennedy died from friendly fire". Daily News. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  11. ^ "JFK: The Smoking Gun". Amazon. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  12. ^ "JFK: The Smoking Gun – Get the Books". reelz.com. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  13. ^ "JFK'S Secret Killer: The Evidence". Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  14. ^ Mortal Error p.108
  15. ^ Mucha, Peter (November 13, 2013). "Shooting holes in theory that a Secret Service agent killed President Kennedy". philly.com. Interstate General Media. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  16. ^ Gay, Verne (October 31, 2013). "'JFK, The Smoking Gun' review: Conspiracy theory documentary feels recycled". Newsday. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 
  17. ^ Rasmussen, Frederick N. (December 21, 1999). "Howard C. H. Donahue, 77, ballistics expert, studied Kennedy's death". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 30, 2013. 

And again signing just to keep the bots happy. Andrewa (talk) 05:57, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

The Smoking Gun - Kindle version[edit]

I've now waded through JFK: The Smoking Gun Kindle Edition, ISBN 978 0 7336 3044 6 (TSGK from here on). Interesting stuff, and gives a very different perspective to the documentary. A much better source than the documentary IMO.

But the contrast with Mortal Error (ME from here on) is enormous. TSGK gives no bibliography or endnotes, for example, while ME dedicates pp. 335-350 to detailed endnotes, chapter by chapter, with full bibliographic details. We are left to guess where most of the material in TSGK came from. TSGK itself describes ME as the too technical, yet wonderfully detailed paperback about Donahue, an unassuming expert (Kindle Locations 3860-3861 of 4447). One (very unsympathetic) reviewer [30] has even claimed that there's no index in TSG, let alone endnotes or a bibliography, so I can only guess that they're reviewing the print version, as the Kindle version does have an index (from location 3942 of 4447 - and of course a Kindle version doesn't really need an index anyway as the text is searchable, which is even stranger, and this index is by page numbers, which the Kindle version doesn't have, so the index is no use at all there, which is strangest still - this index must surely have also been published somewhere where it was of some use).

There's a lot of new material in TSGK, but most of it it would be difficult to verify, again in stark contrast to ME. Some sources are named in the text of TSGK, but not very specifically, and there are no bibliographic details of them at all.

Having said that, TSG is probably the most reliable secondary source we have on ME, and certainly the most comprehensive yet. The dedication reads To Howard Donohue, a man who epitomised the very reason we demand dedicated and precise forensic science at the forefront of unravelling complex crime. Despite his arduous 25-year study he was snubbed and ultimately silenced by official suits and lawsuits. His ballistic expertise, his astute opinions and his skill live on through my story. (Kindle Locations 18-20 of 4447)

Whether ME itself is a secondary or a primary source regarding Donahue's work is another interesting question. Andrewa (talk) 23:48, 13 December 2013 (UTC)

And now started to put some of the information from McLaren's book into the article. [31]. Andrewa (talk) 01:40, 14 December 2013 (UTC)

JFK: The Smoking Gun (documentary)[edit]

While not wanting to have yet another confrontation with User:Charlie Chutney, who has written most of this section and is rather protective of it (see above), I'm afraid I still think that the section falls significantly below the standard of the rest of the article. The following comments are based on this version (there are two differences with the current version,[32] but they don't affect any of the comments).

Australian investigator Colin McLaren created a 90-minute documentary and book based on and supporting Donahue's theory, both titled JFK: The Smoking Gun. The documentary aired on Australian and American television on November 3, 2013.[27][28][29] The documentary features re-enactments, archival footage, and new interviews with Menninger, with Donahue's daughter, and with witnesses to the shooting. A one-hour abridged version of this documentary aired in the UK on November 13, 2013, entitled JFK's Secret Killer: The Evidence.[30]

That's OK.

McLaren reconstructs Donahue's ballistics tests as described in Mortal Error, placing the second gunman exactly where Agent Hickey was positioned.

Misleading to the point of being inaccurate. At best McLaren reconstructs one of the tests, using one plaster skull (Donahue used two). But isn't there a better way of saying this? Reconstruct is ambiguous, as it could also mean reperform, which is not what McLaren does at all, he just demonstrates the principles and conclusion for the camera.

Fixed. [33] Andrewa (talk) 05:37, 16 December 2013 (UTC)
He demonstrates the possibility of there being two bullet calibres involved, and so two weapons,

Misleading, perhaps just because it's poorly phrased. What does demonstrate the possibility mean? Logically, it should mean that the evidence against such a theory is examined and found inconclusive, leaving open the possibility that the theory is true (or not). But this is exactly what McLaren does not do here. The evidence presented is for the theory being true, leaving open no other possibility. (This particular form of logical error is very prevalent in discussion about everything, everywhere.)

Fixed [34]. Andrewa (talk) 07:32, 16 December 2013 (UTC)
by stating 30-40 bullet fragments found inside Kennedy's skull, from the head shot, go contrary to the ballistics evidence of Oswald's second shot,

No, these fragments have nothing to do with the bullet calibres. That's confusing the behavior of the bullet (typical of a high-velocity frangible round and inconsistent with a medium velocity full metal jacket round) with its calibre, which is a separate but also relevant issue. There's never been any suggestion that Oswald hollowed out the point of one of his rounds or possessed the necessary skills to do it (I don't even know whether it works with these rounds, but it's done to other ammunition by the criminal element in other parts of the world where dum-dums are harder to buy), or that he used two different types of ammunition. But his rifle was capable of firing dum-dums had he possessed appropriate ones from whatever source, while it wasn't capable of firing a bullet smaller than 6mm.

Fixed [35]. Andrewa (talk) 07:32, 16 December 2013 (UTC)
a bullet which travelled straight through the President and into Governor Connally. He also supports Donahue's original tests by showing how the 6mm entry wound of the head shot was too small to allow a 6.5mm bullet from a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, but was able to fit a 5.56mm bullet from an AR-15.

Again, poorly phrased at best, and misleading. McLaren reports and supports Donahue's conclusions regarding the calibre of the head shot, but Donahue did not do any tests that demonstrated this point, and McLaren does not say he did, although he could easily be misunderstood to do so.

On this particular point, Donahue relied on the information given to him by experts in the field.

Fixed [36]. Andrewa (talk) 07:32, 16 December 2013 (UTC)
McLaren reproduces a photograph of Agent Hickey holding up an AR-15 while standing inside a Secret Service follow-up car as it speeds behind the Presidential limousine with Secret Service Agent Clint Hill on its rear.[31] Finding this photograph was crucial to Donahue's decision to publish his work and was used on the front cover of Menninger's book.

No great problem here, but not the greatest phrasing... is reproduces really what McLaren does? And in my opinion this is a little misleading as to the emphasis that McLaren puts on the photo. It's an important part of Donahue's story, but McLaren is far more interested in other evidence for the presence of the AR-15 in Hickey's hands.

Fixed anyway [37]. Andrewa (talk) 07:40, 16 December 2013 (UTC)]
McLaren discusses the pressure the Secret Service agents were under at the time of Kennedy's Texas trip, stating they "...had been working double-shifts" and "...the previous three days (to the assassination) had been brutal with no end in sight". He adds that several Secret Service agents spent the early hours of November 22nd drinking until 5am, suggesting this would have made them "...hungover from the alcohol and not at their best performance" and probably why Hickey, who hadn't been out drinking, an agent of only four months service at the time and normally just a driver, was given the job of commanding the AR-15, "a role foreign to him", McLaren comments.

Good. A ref would be even better, but it's obvious where these quotes come from, and I assume they're accurate (I've only seen the documentary once). If we could find a transcript of the documentary, that would be even better.

In the documentary, reconstructions portray eyewitnesses giving statements to the Dallas police, with one saying he saw "a flash of pink" from the Presidential motorcade, and how another, Jean Hill, saw "...the president grab his chest", then "...a few men in plain clothes shooting back". McLaren suggests the pink flash could have been "a muzzle blast or the gunpowder itself" and asks why Hill's testimony wasn't followed up. Further reference is made to ten witnesses in Dealey Plaza who smelled gunpowder, with a 15mph breeze from the south-west, heading towards Oswald, making it unlikely the gunpowder had originated from the Texas School Book Depository.

OK. Again, refs would be better, and the phrasing isn't great, but there's nothing really misleading here.

Other evidence put forward by McLaren states how an evasive Secret Service chief James Rowley admitted, at the Warren Commission, that AR-15s were no longer used by his organisation inside protection vehicles since the assassination, and also that classified Secret Service documents on the assassination were destroyed just one week prior to being handed over to the Assassination Records Review Board in 1995.

Evidence of what? We've suddenly shifted topic from the events of the day to the cover-up afterwards.

McLaren suggests the chaos of the aftermath of the assassination, including threatening and interfering behaviour by Secret Service agents towards Parkland Memorial Hospital staff, involving the removal of Kennedy's body without an autopsy having taken place, was "...evidence they knew one of their agents had shot JFK" and pointed to a cover-up. He further suggests that Kennedy's eventual autopsy with its "...overcrowding in the room, the Secret Service's constant interference, the pressure cooker autopsy, lost photographs, falsified x-rays...all point to conspiracy".

OK. This should perhaps be explored more, as it's a major point of McLaren's, and the reconstruction of the illegal removal of the body is in many ways the climax of the whole documentary in its longer form, and this section is about the documentary. (The other high point is probably the demonstration of the use of the plaster skull, which underlines why we should be careful in our description of exactly what McLaren does and what it shows.)

But unlike the ballistics, it's something that Donahue and Menninger don't emphasise. The scene reconstructed is from yet another book, I don't think the documentary actually cites the source but McLaren's book does: As Dr Charles Crenshaw recalled in his memoir, ‘… a phalanx of guards poured into Trauma Room 1 just as the coffin was being rolled out. They looked like a swarm of locusts descending upon a cornfield. Without any discussion, they encircled the casket and began escorting the President’s body down the hall towards the emergency exit. A man in a suit, leading the group, holding a submachine gun, left little doubt in my mind who was in charge … Dr Earl Rose, chief of forensic pathology, confronted the men in suits. Roy Kellerman, the man leading the group, looked sternly at Dr Rose and continued, “My friend, this is the body of the President of the United States and we are going to take it back to Washington.” Dr Rose said with equal poignancy, “The body stays.” The Secret Service managers and White House staffers offered no logic or rationale with their demands. McLaren, Colin (2013-10-23). JFK: The Smoking Gun (Kindle Locations 2234-2240). Hachette Australia. Kindle Edition.

Progress. [38] Still not sure that the section really does the documentary justice. It's probably still a bit long, and just doesn't read well to me. But certainly progress IMO. Andrewa (talk) 17:37, 16 December 2013 (UTC)
In reflection I've now used the first indent level to show more clearly what are quotes from the article, so I suggest use the second level for immediate replies, and then take it normally from there. TIA. Andrewa (talk) 20:33, 15 December 2013 (UTC)
Actually, in that the italics should make things clear, probably first level for replies is fine. Andrewa (talk) 05:37, 16 December 2013 (UTC)

Comments welcome of course, and I hope this is helpful (of course). Andrewa (talk) 19:42, 15 December 2013 (UTC)

The problems I attempted to address in this section and previously in #The smoking gun still again above are now largely resolved. [39] Andrewa (talk) 17:52, 16 December 2013 (UTC)

Endnotes[edit]

The Smoking Gun has been rightly criticised for providing very sketchy information as to its sources... no footnotes or endnotes, no bibliography, a few in-text references but not many, and no bibliographic details even there.

I thought it important in view of all of that to point out [40] that Mortal Error is relatively scholarly in that sense at least, although otherwise that might well have been omitted from the synopsis and was at first. Andrewa (talk) 19:15, 17 December 2013 (UTC)

Date of Hickey's death (part 2)[edit]

I do not think it is imperative that the article even mention when George W. Hickey died, however, I think the issue needs to be revisited if we include it. The previous discussion included much speculation on which sources were "better" with the assumption that certain sources obtained their facts from what was further speculated to be an error in this article. I have found five sources, most previously mentioned and currently noted in the article, that would normally be consider reliable for the purposes of Wikipedia information:

  1. Rule, Andrew (October 25, 2013). "Aussie out to show Secret Service blunder was to blame". Herald Sun. Melbourne. Retrieved June 18, 2014. Hickey died in 2011, which makes it easier to tell the story without the fear of a lawsuit. 
  2. Bark, Ed (October 29, 2013). "Look out, it's only just begun: ReelzChannel weighs in early with JFK: The Smoking Gun". unclebarky.com. Retrieved June 18, 2014. Hickey, who died in 2005, refused to talk to Menninger or Donahue for the purposes of their book. 
  3. Doyle, John (November 4, 2013). "Did a hungover Secret Service agent accidentally shoot JFK?". The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ontario. Retrieved June 18, 2014. Hickey died two years ago [i.e. 2011] and isn’t around to answer the charge. 
  4. "TAKE 5: Author: Accidental shot killed JFK". Sanford Herald. Sanford, North Carolina. November 15, 2013. Retrieved June 18, 2014. George Hickey died in 2005, but not before taking legal action in response to “Mortal Error.” 
  5. Arkin, Daniel (November 21, 2013). "Accidental assassin: JFK theory alleges Secret Service agent fumbled gun". NBC News. Retrieved June 18, 2014. Hickey, who died in 2011, filed a libel suit against Menninger, Donahue and St. Martin's Press, the publisher of Menninger's book, in 1995. 

The article previously contained a reference to the Spartacus Educational article on George Hickey which is not a reliable source of information per various discussions in WP:RSN. That article states that Hickey died in 2011, and was born in 1923. There are at least three reliable sources, two from The Baltimore Sun, that indicate Hickey was born circa 1923:

  1. Higham, Scott (August 22, 1996). "Libel suit filed over JFK shooting theory Former agent assails book's claim that he fired the fatal shot". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved June 18, 2014. "We're trying to stop this now while Hickey's still alive," said Mark S. Zaid, an attorney for former agent George W. Hickey Jr., now 73. 
  2. "Ex-u.s. Agent Sues Over Book's Claim That He Killed Jfk". Chicago Tribune. August 23, 1996. Retrieved June 18, 2014. Hickey, 73, of Cecil County, Md., demanded unspecified damages and an apology. 
  3. James, Michael (February 3, 1998). "Lawsuit is settled in favor of former Secret Service agent Book claimed man accidentally fired bullet that killed Kennedy". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved June 18, 2014. On the day of the assassination [i.e. November 22, 1963], Hickey was a 40-year-old Secret Service agent assigned to Kennedy's Dallas motorcade. 

A search of "George W Hickey" in the death records at www.death-records.findthebest.com/ (which in turn cites the Social Security Death Master File NTIS.gov, U.S. Department of Commerce) reveals 15 hits. The only one of those 15 born in 1923 was the only one who died in 2005 and he was from Maryland; none of those 15 were born in 1922 or 1924 or died in 2011. A second search of "George Hickey" + "Maryland" reveals 3 hits: a George F Hickey (1906-1995), a George W Hickey (1919-2009), and a George W Hickey (1923-2005)... the guy above. A third search of "George Hickey" + born "1923" + died "2011" reveals one hit: a George F Hickey from Massachusetts.

My belief on the available information is that Special Agent George W Hickey Jr died in 2005, but I cannot say that for 100% certainty. What is certain is that at least some of the sources did not fact check what they put out for public consumption. The lack of definitive sourcing means that the article should state: "Sources state that Hickey died in either 2005[1][2] or 2011.[3][4][5]" I have made the change. -Location (talk) 04:40, 19 June 2014 (UTC)

Well, I'd have to disagree. We do know that prior to the vandalism of Wikipedia, all sources state that it's 2005. We also know that none of the subsequent sources that say it's 2011 (the date given in the vandalised Wikipedia article) cite any source that predates the vandalism. We also know that there are many people out there who want (for whatever reason) to discredit Mortal Error, and others who want to discredit Wikipedia.
Ideally, we'd have a sister site that allowed WP:OR and was sufficiently well reviewed to be considered a reliable secondary source. Perhaps in time there may be a section of Wikiversity that provides this. Meantime, I'd consider it reasonable to simply discount the later sources. That's not WP:OR, IMO. But it's possibly a line call and of course I'll abide by consensus. Andrewa (talk) 12:08, 13 January 2016 (UTC)