The book, Best Evidence: Disguise and Deception in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, would be a tedious read to a person less familiar with the JFK assassination, but offers many important revelations to those who have read other books on the subject. The author, David Lifton, gives an insightful and highly researched look into one of the most tragic events in our nation’s history. Lifton brings into question the sincerity of the Warren Commission’s investigation of President Kennedy’s assassination, as well as the use of false evidence and autopsy reports.
The first faulty evidence described by Lifton is the Zapruder film. The Zapruder film is the only animated evidence available to help study the assassination. Lifton brings up an observation I had never noticed, in that the Zapruder film did not have the background clarity to track the president’s limousine position. I was shocked to learn that the sign in the film had been removed, and later reinstalled — perhaps at a new position. I was also surprised to read descriptions of four different versions of the film. Lifton proposes that the official locations of the bullet hits were modified twice: once to accommodate only three bullets, and the other to accommodate two bullets hitting (plus a miss). The Zapruder film was then modified to match that scenario. Lifton proposes this modification was done by removing original frames and substituting them with touched-up frames. Lifton backs up his theory by discussing Zapruder film artifacts that point to special effects modifications. The main points are jiggle blurring of highlights that are incompatible between the limousine and the background of many frames.
Next, Lifton discusses the fraudulent autopsy photos and X-rays. He proposes an elaborate theory, in which the presidents body was modified before the official autopsy was performed at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington DC. According to Lifton, the President’s body did not arrive at Bethesda in its original coffin. Therefore, he believes that Kennedy’s body was altered, before the autopsy, in a way that supported the authorities’ claim of the President being shot from behind. But by using photographical evidence taken while the president was at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. These photos illustrate a clear difference between the president’s body at Parkland, and later at Bethesda. Lifton continues supporting his theory that the body was altered before the autopsy. He uses eyewitness accounts of people noticing the flaps of the president’s coffin close up. The witnesses stated that the flaps were “popped open or worked loose during shipping.” (256) I particularly liked Lifton’s theory that the neck bullet and head fragments were fished out of the upper chest cavity in a pre-autopsy. Again, Lifton uses photographs taken at Parkland Memorial and Bethesda to help support this new theory. The body definitely appears to have been modified, just as Lifton had professed.
In his most convincing theory, Lifton exposes the weaknesses of the Warren Commission’s investigation, as well as its conclusions in the Warren Report. He states noticeable differences in what actual witnesses of the assassination say they saw, and what the Warren Report says happened. The Warren Report is singled in on Lee Harvey Oswald as being the lone assassin. However, eyewitness statements as well as the Zapruder film show that Kennedy’s fatal shot came from the direction of the grassy knoll directly to the front right of the president. Oswald, however, was allegedly situated behind the president in the Texas Schoolbook Depository. Lifton continues using photographical evidence that appears to show smoke coming from the direction of the grassy knoll area. Lifton states that: “The Warren Commission had direct access to every piece of evidence that I did, but still neglected to report the apparent facts of the assassination” (124) Lifton eventually comes to the conclusion that the Warren Commission was simply used as a method of cover-up for the government’s involvement in the assassination. Lifton’s evidence definitely supports this conclusion.
Best Evidence has many strong points, as well as many weaknesses. First, the book has very little name-calling and attacks on other researchers. Many times, I have come across a book whose author is very critical of another book’s research. Instead of bashing other authors, Lifton focuses on supporting his own thesis by using hard evidence, instead of contradicting with another researcher. Despite this strong point, the book appears to be lacking editing. Throughout my reading, I noticed many typographical errors in the body of the book. It is possible that Best Evidence was rushed to publication to get important material out in a timely fashion, or to get the jump on other writers. The reading is very worthwhile if you can make it through the many footnotes of references. The book does succeed very well in exposing the Zapruder film and the autopsy photos and X-rays as fakes.
Although Lifton had completed massive research on the subject of Kennedy’s assassination, most of his statements were still very theoretical. There is no possible way for any person to know the exact events that took place, unless they lived through each one on them. The truth to what happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963 may never truly be known. David Lifton’s book gives notice to only one of a possible million scenarios, which took place on that November day in Dallas. In the year 2017, the final pieces to the Kennedy assassination puzzle are to be released from the National Archives, and I guarantee you I’ll be there to find out the truth. Until then, we can only speculate as to who really assassinated President Kennedy.