A modern forensic science look at JFK's murder

If the forensic evidence from U.S. president John F. Kennedy's 1963 assassination were combined with modern forensic techniques, what would we learn about the bullet and the possibility of a second shooter? CBC science columnist Torah Kachur reports.

Today's techniques may have tackled unanswered questions, CBC's Torah Kachur finds

This series of June 13, 1967 photographs provided by the Warren Commission shows four sides of a bullet from Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle that may have come from Texas governor John Connally's or president John F. Kennedy's stretchers. Modern ballistic science may have been able to tell investigators much more than techniques used 50 years ago. (The Associated Press)

The assassination of U.S. president John Fitzgerald Kennedy is remembered today, 50 years after the deadly shooting, in part for the conspiracy theories surrounding it and the possibility of a second shooter in addition to Lee Harvey Oswald, who was charged with the murder.

CBC science columnist Torah Kachur

CBC science columnist Torah Kachur looked into how modern ballistic science and technology would have helped solve the mystery of who shot JFK and whether they could be applied to the forensic evidence that still exists. 

Today, techniques such as multi-detector computed tomography (MDCT) can help trace the path of the bullet to estimate the shooter's angle and distance from the victim, and to determine whether a wound was due to the exit or entry of the bullet. Other strategies such as using a "frangible ballistic head" to recreate crime scenes can also help find out "whodunnit."

But the JFK assassination didn't have these modern techniques and cannot benefit from them now with conclusive proof. Instead, Kachur found, scientists are left with lively and thorough debates in the literature about the metallurgy of the bullet casings, computer simulations of the path of the "magic bullet" and continual analysis of grainy video footage from that fateful day. 

The evidence doesn't point to Lee Harvey Oswald having a partner, Kachur discovered, nor does it conclusively prove he acted alone.  We may simply never know.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.