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Experts to Delve Into New and Established Theories on JFK Assassination

Hope is to 'Pass the Torch' to a New Generation of Researchers

Though it's been nearly a half-century since that fateful day in Dallas, Texas, the murder of President John F. Kennedy continues to draw widespread attention and fascination from experts, scholars and the general public alike.

Duquesne University's Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law will host leading scientific, legal and investigative experts this fall to discuss existing evidence and examine new insights and theories on the president's assassination.

Passing the Torch: An International Symposium on the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which will be held Thursday, Oct. 17, through Saturday, Oct. 19 in the Power Center Ballroom and other campus locations, is expected to inspire a new generation of investigators to pick up "the torch" and continue to search for answers.

"The conference presents a way to instill a keener appreciation and understanding of criminalistics, forensic medicine and related topics, not to mention Cold War-era American history, among everyone from criminal justice professionals to the general public," said Ben Wecht, the Institute's program director. "Beyond that, with some of the case's top investigators now in their 80s and beyond, we consider it important to 'pass the torch' to a new generation of researchers, and look forward to reaching college and high school students as well."

According to a 2012 survey commissioned by The History Channel, 85 percent of those polled indicated that they did not believe that the Warren Commission's 1964 report and its single-gunman, single-bullet theory regarding the JFK assassination was accurate. Other polls over the past two decades have obtained similar results.

Institute Advisory Board Chair Dr. Cyril H. Wecht testified in 1978 before the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), during which he was the only one of a nine-member panel of forensic pathologists re-examining the JFK assassination to disagree that the single-bullet theory and Kennedy's head wounds were mutually consistent. Despite such differences, the HSCA concluded in its 1979 report that there was a "high probability" that JFK's murder was a conspiracy, and subsequent research, books and films have borne that out.

Dr. Wecht believes that today, public interest in the case continues to be high and that further study is essential.

"We, as Americans, need to know the truth," said Dr. Wecht. "We need to be aware of historical matters, such as the Kennedy assassination, that are important to all of us and that, if ignored, have a very dangerous potential of breeding further secrecy, complacency and lies."

Passing the Torch, which is open to the public, will include expert presentations, panel discussions, breakout sessions and special evening events, including an opening reception and panel discussion on the media's role in the case at the Senator John Heinz History Center.

In addition to Dr. Wecht, among the featured conference presenters are:

  • Dr. Robert N. McClelland, a professor emeritus at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center who served as one of one of Kennedy's attending physicians at Parkland Hospital
  • Mark Lane, a criminal defense attorney and author of the pioneering 1966 work, Rush to Judgment, among other books on the subject
  • Dr. Josiah Thompson, a private investigator and author of the influential 1967 micro-study of the assassination, Six Seconds in Dallas
  • Robert K. Tanenbaum, an attorney and expert legal commentator who served as deputy chief counsel to the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations
  • David Talbot, author of the provocative 2007 book, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, and founder and former editor in chief of Salon.com.

For more information on Passing the Torch, including a complete agenda and speaker list, fees and registration, continuing education opportunities and accommodations, visit www.duq.edu/jfk, contact wechtinstitute@duq.edu or call 412.396.1330.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.