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Coverup theories on JFK assassination explored at Duquesne University

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 11:46 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Dr. Cyril Wecht speaks to an audience at Heinz History Center before a panel discussion as part of the Wecht Institute Symposium on the 50th Anniversary of JFK's assassination.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Director Oliver Stone (left) and other experts participate in a panel discussion on Thursday, October 17, 2013, as part of the Wecht Institute Symposium in the Heinz History Center on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination.
The limousine carrying mortally wounded President John F. Kennedy races toward the hospital seconds after he was shot in Dallas, Tx., Nov. 22, 1963. With secret service agent Clinton Hill riding on the back of the car, Mrs. John Connally, wife of the Texas governor, bends over her wounded husband, and Mrs. Kennedy leans over the president.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Director Oliver Stone sits on a panel discussion as part of the Wecht Institute Symposium on the 50th Anniversary of JFK's assassination at the Heinz History Center on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Dr. Cyril Wecht waits to speak to an audience at Heinz History Center before a panel discussion as part of the Wecht Institute Symposium on the 50th Anniversary of JFK's assassination on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013.

Five decades have done nothing to blunt the debate over who pulled the trigger — or triggers — in Dealey Plaza.

A month before the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, about 450 academics, students and history buffs gathered in Pittsburgh on Thursday to start three days of discussion on what they say is wrong with the government's official explanation.

Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, whose namesake institute at Duquesne University is hosting the “Passing the Torch” symposium, said he still expects the government to “throw in the towel” and admit the Warren Commission and other official investigations covered up a conspiracy.

“Those here under 40 will see that day,” said Wecht, a forensic pathologist and former Allegheny County coroner who was among the first to openly question the commission's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. “I used to think it would be in my lifetime.”

He and others cited recent polls showing that up to 85 percent of people think Oswald was not the lone gunman.

Dr. Robert N. McClelland, in a videoconference feed from Texas, described a scene at Parkland Hospital that conflicts with the government account.

As a senior attending physician, McClelland treated Kennedy and described seeing a large exit wound from the back of the president's head. He said he later saw an autopsy photo in which Kennedy's head appeared to be patched up.

“I was 18 inches above the back of the president's head,” he said. “I paid a lot of attention to that.”

Attendees heard and saw photographic and acoustic evidence, both enhanced by new technology, that presenters say buttresses their case that multiple shooters fired on Kennedy from several angles.

“A half century later, independent researchers are coming up with new proof,” said Robert J. Groden. In 1975, he was the first person to publicly air the Zapruder film of the assassination and, like Wecht, he worked with the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

He was one of many who sneered at the single-bullet theory that the late Sen. Arlen Specter put forth as a lawyer for the Warren Commission.

Across the state, a Single Bullet Exhibition opening Monday had a special preview at the Arlen Specter Center for Public Policy at Philadelphia University.

In Pittsburgh, director Oliver Stone, whose film “JFK” introduced alternate theories of the case to a new generation, joined a panel discussion on how media covered the investigation, and he planned to speak again on Friday.

Also planned for the conference's final two days were presentations on the prosecution of Clay Shaw, an analysis of Air Force One tapes recorded after the killing and a discussion of then-CIA Director Allen Dulles.

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David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or

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