"JFK: Case Not Closed" Producer Interview

Producers Peter Russo (left) and Clay Rawson with former President Ford.
It’s been forty years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and still questions remain. FOX News Channel producers Clay Rawson and Peter Russo have spent the last eight months digging into the assassination and the ensuing investigation. They sat down with FOX Fan Central to give us a preview of the special JFK: Case Not Closed, which airs Saturday, November 22 at midnight Eastern Time.

FOX Fan Central: What is your show focusing on?

Peter: We focus on the medical and forensic evidence.

Clay: ...and the mistakes, misstatements and the omissions that give rise to not only the conspiracy theories, but the doubt by the American public in the findings of the government’s investigation.

FOX Fan Central: What surprised you during the course of your investigation?

Clay: The things that surprised us most were the mistakes that were made. And that’s what we ended up really putting into our show. When we went and talked to some modern day crime scene investigators we found out that forensic science has really evolved in forty years. It really is a science today — back forty years ago it probably wasn’t a science.

FOX Fan Central: So, was it ignorance that led to the mistakes?

Peter: Well if you look at it from the surface you would say, “you couldn’t write a script like this.” The incompetence, the ignorance, the mistakes – mistake after mistake. They were consistently bad.

Clay: Dr. Michael Baden said, “As far as the forensic evidence goes, it wasn’t a conspiracy of evil people, it was a conspiracy of ignorance.”  They didn’t know to contain the crime scene in the way that they do now. One of the big things is DNA — they didn’t have DNA, they didn’t know about DNA…

Peter: Potential footprints…

Clay: …footprints.

FOX Fan Central: They didn’t preserve the crime scene well enough to gather the evidence?

Peter: Perfectly said. The next day one of the ER doctors claims he was in Dealey Plaza and he picked up part of Kennedy’s skull and brought it back to the hospital.

FOX Fan Central: You’d think they would sweep the whole area.

Peter: They didn’t. You have to look at it from the 2003 standard versus the 1963 standard. Some of the things they did then they would never get away with today — especially with the news cycles today. Again, we’re horrified by some of the techniques they used. They had autopsy doctors who can’t take proper measurements, who can’t see wounds on top of a wound.

Clay: There were other mistakes, like at the Bethesda Naval Hospital where the autopsy was done, Jackie Kennedy choose it because Kennedy was a Navy man. Rather than go to Walter Reed, the Army hospital, they went to Bethesda. Now, within the radius of Bethesda there were lots of experienced forensic pathologists, or they could have flown anyone in from New York, or wherever — they didn’t use any of those. They went to people that they thought had good credentials, who were hospital pathologists…

Peter: ...administrators, really.

Clay: …and they had done lots of autopsies and they knew death and dying, but they didn’t know gun shot wounds. That’s one of the things that everybody is horrified by — the autopsy. It was the influence of the Kennedy family.  Originally they said, “only look at the head.” And then, because they couldn’t find some bullets, they said, “okay take x-rays of the chest.” But they were still trying to keep a lot of the investigation – not just the autopsy – trying to limit it considerably. One of the reasons they wanted it limited was because Kennedy had a lot of medical problems.

Peter: He had Addison’s disease. They didn’t touch the adrenal glands; if they had, the story would have come out. Why is that a big deal? Because it was denied during the campaign. It was a big campaign issue. He wasn’t a healthy man. How does that affect a dead man? It doesn’t, but it affects the family and a brother who then had eyes on the White House. So, they had a vested interest in keeping a lid on his heath.

Clay: Everyone thought he was so tan. It wasn’t always him out in the sun; it was this medicine he was taking for the Addison’s. Our effort was to go specifically to the forensic science and reveal one mistake after another — they feed the American public. The FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll that was done [recently] confirmed what polls have shown for forty years — 66% of the American public never believed Oswald was a lone gunman. Why don’t people believe it? I think it’s a lot of these mistakes, and the single bullet theory, which was fairly contrived.  You know, if you look into it closely you don’t believe it.

[Click over to the complete poll results.]

Peter: When we went to visit Cyril Wecht in Pittsburgh, we joked about the single bullet theory — the way it’s produced during JFK the movie. I came up with the crazy idea to put two skeletons back to back with red glow rods going through them to illustrate, in a three-dimensional way, how the magic bullet would look if we didn’t have skin. Cyril worked with prop masters to set it up. That illustration is powerful.

Clay: And that is new. No one has ever done a demonstration like that.

FOX Fan Central: What makes the JFK assassination investigation different from what would happen in your average murder investigation?

Clay: In no other murder case ever has the victim’s family been given the evidence. The government actually took all the evidence in the JFK case and gave it to Mrs. Kennedy. Then, she deeds it back to the National Archives with restrictions. That’s why they did it. They wanted to restrict access to the material. Sometimes it’s said that they didn’t want just anyone going to the National Archives and looking at the bloody shirt or anything…

Peter: Because as a citizen you would be entitled to see them…

Clay: …but they wanted to protect that and also they didn’t want there to be access to this stuff.

FOX Fan Central: Okay — you know we had to ask — who do you think killed Kennedy?

Clay: I don’t think Oswald was completely all alone. I think there were too many things about him and about how he maneuvered around the country to Russia and back.

Peter: He had a great passport for a guy with a high school education. He spoke very well, supposedly four languages.

FOX Fan Central: It just seems incongruent?

Clay: Yes

Peter: Yeah…based on what I’ve seen, heard, and observed, I think Oswald could not have done this by himself. Whether it was one helper, two helpers, three…I don’t know. I don’t see how he could be that lucky. The one thing you wonder: the rifle clip has the capability to hold six shells. Three were fired – the casings found on the floor – one bullet was found in the chamber. So, you wonder what happened to the other two shots.

Clay: Yeah…why didn’t he go with a whole clip?

Peter: Did he know he was going to do it in three or four shots?

FOX Fan Central: Arlen Specter was the author of the single bullet theory, and you spoke to him in the special. Does he still stand by that?

Clay: Greta (Van Susteren) did the interview for us. She asked him, “What level of certainty do you have that there were three shots fired from the sixth floor?” Because that’s what the Warren Commission said, three shots, only three shots. Specter said, “Reasonably certain.” Greta: “Is that 100%?” Specter: “I wouldn’t characterize anything as 100%.”

Peter: After 40 years of reflection he’s now rethinking it?