Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Mystery of Tippit’s Clipboard


On the UK’s Education Forum newsgroup, where conspiracy theorists from both sides of the pond congregate these days, questions are being raised about the “mystery” surrounding information contained in and on the clipboard mounted in Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit’s squad car.

Several members of the UK forum, who have been posting their research into the Kennedy and Tippit shootings since 2004 (representing a combined total of over 14 years of research and more than 8,300 announcements) are chatting it up over one member’s question about a crime scene photograph that depicts the dashboard of Tippit’s squad car, a “clipboard” mounted to it, and what appears to be “a photograph pinned to it.”

A number of “super” and “advanced” members (a classification apparently based on the number of postings each has made since joining the forum), have already drawn conspiratorial inferences from this supposedly new find:

“Fascinating photo! Stupid question: Is that Tippit's car? The image on the clipboard certainly looks like a photo of a person, perhaps a mugshot?...”

“Great find. New to me, as well. I'd bet [were I a betting man] the photo was who Tippit was trying to make contact with earlier and did - to his fatality. I'd love to know what happened to the clipboard and photo [no doubt physical description too] - likely down that very wide DPD rabbit-hole. May well explain how he knew who to stop on the street. Likely a trap for Tippit. For some reason he needed to be sacrificed…”

“…the clipboard and its contents (again, to my knowledge) seems to have vanished into thin air…it should be possible for someone to get an original print from the negative, or at least a near-generation copy, such that they'd perhaps be able to magnify the area in question to gain some hint of what's there. If the former, it is possible that a similar item can be obtained through the Dallas City Secretary's office.”

All of these posters seem to be completely ignorant of the fact that the question of what was on Tippit’s clipboard was answered ten years ago in the book “With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit,” (Oak Cliff Press, 1998) the only book ever written on the Tippit case.

It’s certainly no surprise that these educators of the Internet conspiracy crowd know little of what’s between the cover boards of “With Malice” given the fact that they regularly trash the author of the book – yours truly – calling him a charlatan, liar, and worse.

Had they looked on page 63 of this decade old publication they would have seen an enlargement of the pertinent portion of a Dallas police crime lab photograph which depicts the dashboard of Tippit’s squad car. (See Figure 1 below)

Figure 1. Detail from a Dallas crime scene photograph (#91-001/016) depicting Tippit's dash-mounted clipboard (left) and a closeup of the metal, spring clip clutching an open spiral notebook (right).

Allegations had been made for years that the Dallas crime scene photograph seemed to show a mugshot pinned to the clipboard, all of these claims based on multi-generational copies of the photograph. To answer the questions, I went to the source – the Dallas Municipal Archives and Records Center in Dallas, Texas – where I viewed original 1963 prints of the image and obtained new prints pulled from the original 1963 prints as well as new prints from the original negative.

These images clearly show that what appears to be a mugshot in the multi-generational photographs available from other sources is actually a metal, spring clip clutching an open spiral notebook. I published the results of my inquiry into this and many other questions about the Tippit murder in “With Malice.”

And just for the record, while crime lab Sergeant W.E. “Willie” Barnes testified to the Warren Commission that “We never read his clipboard,” former homicide Detective James R. Leavelle, who led the investigation into Tippit’s death, told me in 1983 that he looked at Tippit’s clipboard and there was nothing there to indicate why Tippit stopped Oswald. End of mystery.

While it may be forgivable that the so-called “super and advanced” researchers on the UK’s Educational Forum would be unaware of what was in a book they had chosen to shun, how did they miss this, posted on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page at, and just a Google click away:

Did police ever read what was on the dash-mounted clipboard in Tippit's squad car?

Yes. Conspiracy theorists have bitterly complained about the apparent lack of interest that the Dallas police had in Tippit's dash-mounted clipboard, citing Dallas police crime lab sergeant W.E. "Pete" Barnes' comment to the Warren Commission in 1964, "We never read his clipboard." (7H274). Traditionally, the clipboard held a spiral notebook which officers could use to write notes on. Theorists speculated that Tippit wrote something on that clipboard that police didn't want the public to know, or perhaps something that contradicted the Warren Commission's conclusion about the murder.

But, in 1983, former homicide detective Jim Leavelle, who led the investigation into the Tippit shooting, told me that he did check Tippit's spiral notebook.

"I looked at some of the stuff that Tippit had in the car but, to my knowledge, there was nothing ever found - that was written - in regards to the man he stopped," Leavelle told me. "There was no reference as to why he stopped to talk to him. From my own experience, I doubt very seriously that he would have written anything on the clipboard about the man he was stopping. From the way the witnesses described it, Tippit was very nonchalant. It wasn't as though he was expecting anything. He probably figured he'd do a routine check, talk to him, look at his identification, and send him on his way. I know, from my own experience, that I have done that thousands of times - talked to people, maybe look at their identification, and then, send them on their way, and never think another thing about it. I'm sure that's what he had in mind."

The Warren Commission was also curious about one crime scene photograph taken of Tippit's car that seemed to show the photograph of a man mounted on Tippit's clipboard. An enlargement of the crime photo referred to by the Commission, however, reveals that the "photograph of a man" is actually the spring, metal clip clutching Tippit's open spiral notebook.

I’ve often said that no one will ever learn anything of importance reading the voluminous chatter from the presumed experts on the Kennedy assassination newsgroups. This latest UK Education Forum posting only reaffirms my opinion.

Monday, May 12, 2008

J.D. Tippit's Widow Sees His Name On Officers' Memorial For First Time

By TODD J. GILLMAN / The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON — More than four decades have passed since Marie Tippit lost her husband to John F. Kennedy’s assassin on that fateful November day in Dallas, and on Monday, she got to see J.D. Tippit’s name on a national police memorial, alongside those of thousands of other fallen officers.

The rain was falling steadily as the 79-year-old widow made her first visit to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. She rubbed her thumb gently across the marble, pursing her lips. A tear spilled down her cheek as her son patted her back.

For Mrs. Tippit, J.D. was more than a footnote to history, or a key piece of evidence to the Warren Commission’s investigation.

“He was a good police officer and he was a good husband and father,” she said.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Tippit will sit on the dais at a candlelight vigil expected to draw 20,000 to the memorial, a few blocks from the Capitol.

“This means a lot to us,” said Craig Floyd, chairman and CEO of the fund that built the memorial in 1991, personally playing tour guide.

He showed Mrs. Tippit the marble panel with her husband’s name. Just to the right, the name “John Kennedy” — a New York City police officer killed in 1922, placed there to remind visitors of Officer Tippit’s place in history.

He showed Mrs. Tippit the marble panel with her husband’s name. Just to the right, the name “John Kennedy” — a New York City police officer killed in 1922, placed there to remind visitors of Officer Tippit’s place in history.

“He represents — even though he was killed by the man who killed a president, because of that he just kind of represents a lot of the other officers that were killed in the line of duty, just out there doing their jobs every day,” Mrs. Tippit said.

She has long since remarried but often uses the name of her first husband. Life goes on, she said. But just as the world hasn’t forgotten the Kennedy assassination, she thinks often of her first husband. He was 39. That day, Nov. 22, 1963, he stopped home for lunch — not something he often did. She whipped up some tuna and fried potatoes and he rushed back to work.

Officer Tippit spotted Lee Harvey Oswald wearing a zipped-up jacket. It was 68 degrees, and the jacket looked out of place. He stopped his patrol car and got out. Oswald pulled a handgun and shot at point-blank range. It was 1:15 p.m., just 45 after the president had been shot.

Eyewitnesses called police. Oswald was cornered at the Texas Theater.

Mrs. Tippit comes from a law enforcement family. Her father was a police captain in Greenville at the time, and two brothers were officers there. The son who accompanied her to Washington this week, Curtis Tippit, a home contractor who lives in east Dallas, has a son who is considering a police career.

“His personality if one of a protector, a take the bull-by-the-horns kind of person. It may have something to do with his grandfather, too,” said Mr. Tippit, who was just shy of his 5th birthday when his father died.

“As a lot of the other widows will tell you, you have to do it one day at a time. It’s just not an easy thing,” his mom said. “You have to take it one day at a time, because you’ve got kids to raise. You’ve got to keep his memory alive for them.”

Dallas police officers pitched in to send the Tippits to Washington.

They arrived Saturday night and got a VIP tour of the White House on Sunday. They were on hand to see Marine One deliver the Bushes after their daughter’s wedding in Crawford. Monday was set aside for the memorial visit. On Tuesday, they’ll visit the Capitol.

“He was doing his job,” said Dallas police Sr. Cpl. Rick Janich, who escorted the Tippits. [END]

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Con Job: Debunking the Debunkers


It’s been thirteen years since I released my preliminary computer-generated JFK assassination reconstruction and five years since an updated version was broadcast world-wide, although you’d never know it given the frequency with which the History and Discovery Channels re-broadcast the two programs my work appeared in.

And consequently it’s no wonder that conspiracy theorists continue to hammer at my work in the hopes of convincing mainstream America that my computer reconstruction is nothing more than a carefully constructed sham designed to further a supposed cover-up in the murder of President Kennedy.

The newest crop of debunkers push their warped ideas about my work with graphic illustrations and self-produced YouTube videos which purport to show the “obvious” lies and distortions these theorists have supposedly discovered among sequences of my work aired by the History and Discovery Channels.

One of the more vocal and equally off-base debunkers is Patrick J. Speer, a self-acknowledged wanna-be poet, turned wanna-be-musician, turned record buyer for the music industry who eventually became “obsessed with recent American history.”

Mr. Speer’s graphic intensive website promises “a new perspective on the Kennedy assassination” and while some newcomers to the subject may be impressed with the eye-candy, there’s nothing really there that rises above the same old, tired arguments and misinformation kicked around by conspiracy theorists for better than four decades.

It’s the same old shoe with new laces.

There are plenty of identical websites that offer up the same kind of misinformation for those who don’t know any better and if visitors to these kinds of websites are willing to get their facts about American history from wanna-be poets and the like, who am I to spoil the party?

In fact, I’ve largely avoided confronting this army of wackiness, outside of addressing a few of their more frequent allegations, because doing so proves time and again to represent a colossal waste of time.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that one could waste a lifetime attempting to hammer a little common sense into these people who for one obsessive reason or another find it their calling to opine about something they know very little about, or in the case of Mr. Speer, know absolutely nothing about.

I’m referring of course to the multitude of vile and reckless charges concerning my computer reconstruction of the Kennedy assassination which are featured as part of Mr. Speer’s “new perspective” on the case.

Utilizing screen grabs lifted from the two television programs I participated in, Mr. Speer pretends to debunk my work using graphic overlays that break every rule of photogrammetry accompanied by childish headlines like Dale Myers’ House of Mirrors; Murder by Cartoon; and Cutting the Crap.

I pointed out Mr. Speer’s photographic follies on my FAQ page over three years ago (without using his name in order to save him embarrassment), yet Speer continues to use the same deceptive photographic techniques to – get this – claim that he has evidence of my deception.

For instance, Speer uses overlays of images taken from two different angles and claims that because they don’t align I am being deceptive; or, Speer draws lines of trajectory on a two-dimensional image of a three-dimensional scene and claims that because the two-dimensional line doesn’t line up with the three-dimensional scene (an impossibility due to the basic rules of photogrammetry) that I am being deceptive.

Forget about convincing Mr. Speer that one cannot draw a rational conclusion from an irrational premise; I’ve tried. Suffice it to say that Mr. Speer prefers to live in a land of illusion where physical realities don’t hold a candle to obsessive conspiracy theories.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time here pointing out the ridiculous nature of each and every one of Mr. Speer’s goofy assertions. But here are just two to make the point, as well as the truth of the matter:

Charge: Myers shrunk the model of Governor Connally and his jumpseat 25% in order to get the single bullet theory to work.

Truth: Mr. Speer used a frame grab from the Discovery Channel’s “Beyond the Magic Bullet” to make his point, but failed to note that the image he used was taken from a portion of the program in which my computer work was being displayed on a computer monitor which was at a significant angle to the camera – the effect being that the computer images of Kennedy and Connally were compressed horizontally and consequently the Connally image appeared smaller than the actual model.

When Mr. Speer was informed that wide-angle sequences from the Discovery program showed the relationship of the computer monitor to the program camera (and therefore the fallacy of his argument), he wrote on his website, “I must admit I did not realize this footage was shot at an angle. I mean, why would they do that?” Believe it or not, Mr. Speer than proceeded to claim that the producers of the program and I conspired to deceive viewers (and presumably the hapless Mr. Speer) about the true alignment of the single bullet theory by purposely shooting the monitor on an angle!

In a recent post on the UK’s Education Forum, Mr. Speer writes, “No one to my knowledge, including Myers, until this response, had ever suggested the images were distorted because the animation – the animation shown round the world to convince people the single-bullet trajectories worked, mind you – was shot at an angle from a computer monitor.”

Mr. Speer doesn’t seem to understand that in the real world there is no need to acknowledge something that is self evident – namely, that Discovery Channel viewers were watching a presentation being given from a vantage point that was not perpendicular to the presentation screen. This is obvious from the Discovery program sequences that show a wide-angle view of the studio in which the presentation was being given. Mr. Speer failed to note that fact and now claims that the Discovery Channel and yours truly conspired to deceive everyone about the single bullet theory.

Can it get any sillier? I’m afraid it can.

According to Mr. Speer, “By admitting the images used in the program were distorted, Myers is as much as admitting that his whole presentation in 2004's Beyond the Magic Bullet was irrelevant. No, it's actually much worse. Since the program's creators added a trajectory angle onto Myers' distorted figures that lined up perfectly with their wounds, Myers is as much as admitting that the single-bullet theory--which he set out to prove some years ago--and which he calls the 'single-bullet fact,' does not work on undistorted figures.”

The so-called distortions Mr. Speer refers to are of course the unintended result of the Discovery Channel photographing the presentation monitor at an angle and have nothing to do with the alignments depicted in the actual images appearing on the monitor. And the trajectory path superimposed over the videotaped sequence by Discovery editors after the fact has no more relevance or accuracy to the images below it (other than to illustrate, in very broad terms, the path of the bullet) than Mr. Speer’s own attempts to project two-dimensional lines into three-dimensional space.

It’s unfathomable to me that anyone could swallow Mr. Speer’s illogical rationale for dismissing the breadth of my work on the single bullet theory, but in the world of conspiracy theorists bent on embracing anyone and anything critical of the single bullet theory, such idiocy is common place. (The UK’s Education Forum’s administrator, John Simikin, applauded Speer writing, “Congratulations. I am sure all members have been very impressed with your work in this area.”)

Charge: Myers misplaces Connally’s jumpseat in order to ensure the alignment of the single bullet theory.

Truth: The location of the jumpseat has no bearing on the alignment of any trajectory plotted in my computer reconstruction. The figures of JFK and JBC were matched to the Zapruder film perspective, not to the location of the jumpseat. Frankly, you could eliminate the entire limousine from the reconstruction and the alignments of JFK and JBC would still be valid since their position in space is based on Zapruder's view of the scene and the relationship of JFK to JBC, and their combined relationship to the TSBD and the surrounding buildings. In short, the position and size of the jumpseat has no bearing on the single bullet theory.

All of this means little to Mr. Speers who now writes, “As he is now asserting that the limousine model had nothing to do with his positioning of Connally, only measurements taken from the Zapruder film, I decided to put the seat in the correct location on Myers' undistorted over-view, and see how it matched up with Connally….”

Does it matter that Mr. Speer cannot really move the jumpseat to the “correct” location within my computer rendering (i.e., move a two-dimensional image in three-dimensional space)? Apparently not, because Mr. Speer then proceeds to once again break the Cardinal Rule of photogrammetry (i.e., draw two-dimensional lines on a three-dimensional image) to “demonstrate” that Connally doesn’t align with the single bullet trajectory, concluding, “Myers undoubtedly knows this. Which fuels my suspicion that the distorted animation used in ‘Beyond the Magic Bullet’ was no ‘mistake’.”

Mr. Speer further complains that the animated sequence I produced in which Connally is shown sitting inboard of Kennedy by six inches is equally deceptively because it shows Connally and the jumpseat moving in unison. I explained in a recent email that Connally and the jumpseat were moved as one for clarity.

According to Mr. Speer, “This is as good as a confession that Myers knew the jumpseat was not 6 inches in from the door when he created animation showing it to be 6 inches from the door… I wonder how many [millions of viewers] would feel deceived to find out that Connally's sitting comfortably in the middle of his seat was merely a Myers invention designed to ‘clarify’ things for them? Some might call this an out-and-out fraud perpetrated on the public.”

I don’t know how many ways to say it, but Connally was situated six inches inboard of Kennedy at the time they were both hit. Connally’s jumpseat, however, was fixed to a track in the floor of the limousine, the outside edge of the jumpseat cushion measured at 2.5 inches from the inside door panel, according to body drafts produced by Hess & Eisenhardt Company.

To demonstrate the difference between a rather common (and inaccurate) drawing purporting to show Connally seated directly in front of Kennedy at the time of the single bullet shot and their actual positions as deduced from the Zapruder film and other photographs, the models of Connally and the jumpseat were moved as a single unit during presentations for ABC News and the Discovery Channel.

The relationship between Connally and the jumpseat are identical in both positions. Moving Connally and the jumpseat in unison was simply easier than moving the two separately given the television time available – especially given the fact that the position of the jumpseat had absolutely no bearing on the single bullet theory.

But for Mr. Speer, focusing on inconsequential minutia is better than acknowledging his own obvious mistakes in photographic analysis and logic. It also allows him to play the marytyr for his fellow conspiracy theorists and pretend he has actually proven something, writing, “While I've given Myers a hard time, and have received a substantial amount of abuse in return, I believe Myers' acknowledgment of the failure of his animation to demonstrate the single-bullet theory, was probably worth it. Now we can all stop pretending the alignment of Kennedy and Connally, and thus the likelihood of the single-bullet theory, has been ‘proven’.”

One can only feel sorry for Mr. Speer after reading such nonsense. The only one being conned by such addled thinking is Mr. Speer himself who despite all efforts is determined to prove just how thick-headed conspiracy theorists can truly be.

Anyone who wants to pretend my reconstruction work is false or doesn't matter is free to do so. As I’ve said before, in the final analysis, the truth doesn't require anyone's belief.

I don't respond to posts on the many Internet newsgroups because of the sophomoric nature of the vast majority of the postings (and I know many respected experts on the assassination who feel the same way). It is the insipid name-calling and disrespect for honest research and work that I (and others) find the most appalling. It is worse than a kindergarten sandbox.

Too bad. The Internet promised to bring people of common interests together. Instead, it gives a global soap box and a megaphone to those who have the least amount to say.

On occasion, I feel the need to defend my work against these childish armchair detectives if only to plant a little sanity in a field of nonsense. Unfortunately, whenever I speak up, it only seems to bring more nuts out of the woodwork for yet another round.

It's a never ending cycle of lunacy; one ridiculous argument after another to see who can be the top fool.

Congratulations, Mr. Speer! You’re tops with me.