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Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK, A ballistics expert's astonishing discovery of the fatal bullet that Oswald did not fire Hardcover – March, 1992

4.4 out of 5 stars 115 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Polls show that the majority of Americans doubt the Warren Commission's finding that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Two important new books may now be added to the list of conspiracy accounts. Jean Hill, the "lady in red" in the famous Zapruder film, was within ten feet of the presidential limousine and is the last surviving eyewitness to dispute the commission's verdict. Her story, written with Sloan, is absolutely spellbinding. After hearing the second gunshot, Hill saw a puff of smoke near the wooden fence at the top of the infamous grassy knoll. A shadowy figure of a man holding a rifle was barely visible to her. She saw another man, whom she later identified as Jack Ruby, run toward the "shooter." As she began to pursue Ruby, two alleged Secret Service agents stopped her and confiscated the Polaroid photographs of the motorcade a friend had taken moments before. The photos were never seen again. From then on, Hill's life became nightmarish: she endured a series of humiliating FBI interrogations, her surveillance by the FBI lasted for months, and her automobile was tampered with. Hill has never wavered in her convictions about what she saw that day and offers convincing testimony. Mortal Error , while much more technical in content, is another fascinating account of what happened in Dallas. Menninger skillfully summarizes the research findings of ballistics expert Howard Donahue, who spent 25 years reexamining Warren Commission evidence, the Zapruder film, and other materials. Donahue's startling conclusion is that the fatal headshot was accidentally fired by special agent George Hickey, who was in the car behind Kennedy's. Donahue shows where the Warren Commission went wrong in its original interpretations and answers critics who question the "pristine" bullet anomaly. Donahue initially wondered why a ballistics expert was not called upon during the initial investigation. He now believes that Robert Kennedy, among others, did not want this tragic accident to become known. Donahue's findings were published in the Baltimore Sun in 1977 but engendered no follow-up studies by government officials. While many questions remain, these two books are substantial additions to the field and both are highly recommended for most libraries.
- Gary D. Barber, SUNY at Fredonia Lib.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From AudioFile

The subject is jarring, and the theory bizarre, but John Hockenberry's assured delivery gives this reading an intellectual, newsy and calming flavor. The established voice of Hockenberry, a frequent contributor to NPR's All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation, lends a no-nonsense tone. Howard Donahue's theory that one of JFK's Secret Service men was responsible for the fatal shot and how he got to that conclusion are an intriguing detective story. Donahue's compelling ballistics evidence, which is supported with illustrations on the packaging, will be remembered as this work's enduring contribution. L.C. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 361 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st edition (March 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312080743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312080747
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read many books on the subject of JFK's murder. As a former law enforcement officer, I thought this book would be good as the indication was it was a review of "evidence" not a conspiracy theory book. I was correct. A very interresting book and analysis of the evidence collected during an investigation of a murder. No yelling conspiracy, no my friends knows a guy who knows a guy, who heard something. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interrested in the analysis of evidence and what it means from a non-conspiracy minded author. Great book, easy read and very different than all the other books on the subject.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the only book that explains why SEVEN witnesses near the motorcade smelled gunpowder. No one else -- conspiracy or lone assassin theorist -- has explained that, to my knowledge. And all JFK conspiracy theories run into one scarcely acknowledged buzzsaw, the complicity of Attorney General RFK, who turned down an invitation from the Warren Commission for further comment, would have been necessary. Along the same lines, the Kennedy family has always opposed all attempts to reopen the inquiry. Bonar Menninger may have provided the only explanation possible for this attitude of the Kennedy family that is INCONSISTENT with the Warren Report's findings. If Menninger and his ballistics expert, Howard Donahue are right, and I firmly believe that they are, history would have two more ironies added to it: 1) the most controversial of all the controversial aspects of the Warren Report, the single-bullet theory WAS ACTUALLY PROVEN CORRECT; and 2) the United States government, in order to spare itself embarrassment, has been working so hard for 34 years to cover up an ACCIDENTAL HOMICIDE that it has counterproductively spawned lurid theories of deadly conspiracies. Yet the government still covers up this homicide from reflex because that's what governments do. History is indeed replete with ironies like this. One problem with the Menninger/Donahue thesis - it requires the bullet fragments found on the windshield to have arrived there after the first (missed) shot. In his 1966 tome, Six Seconds in Dallas, Josiah Thompson appears to have shown that this is unlikely to have happened since it is at odds with what the driver of the limousine witnessed (Thompson and the driver weren't responding to suppositions of an accidental homicide at the time).Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book when it was first published after seeing Mr. Menninger on a local TV talk show. It was a very methodical, scholarly, and somewhat "dry" read, but absolutely fascinating. I had always had many questions about the assassination and the many supposed cover-ups/conspiracies.This book and theory I believe answers almost every point worthy of debate in a very plain spoken, matter-of-fact manner that leaves you stunned. This is the way most governments, officials, and beauracrats react. They don't lie- they don't reveal. They don't cover-up they- just aren't forthcoming. I've always thought that the truth would not be made known in my lifetime. Wouldn't it be nice if before they pass away some of the principals would come forward and heal the 30+ year old wounds in our country's psyche.
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Format: Hardcover
The assassination of John F. Kennedy has produced many, many conspiracy theories have been put forth and each, in turn, have been disproved...except Mr. Menningers.

The wounds to JFK and John Connally were caused by one single shot. A shot made by a weapon with a relatively slow muzzle velocity and a medium/heavy bullet. The wounds were clean and the round was found, virtually intact, on a gurney at Parkland Hospital soon after. So Oswald's second shot, it has been proven, caused all of the wounds were, with the exception of the head shot, received by the two victims. The "Magic Bullet" theory went out the window long ago.

Lee Harvey Oswald, it has been proven, was a mediocre marksman, at best. Evidence points to the fact that Oswald got off only two rounds. The first round missed entirely. That round struck a curb on Elm Street, fragmented, and pieces, in all probability hit Kennedy. Another fragment hit a bystander, near the Triple Overpass. It is interesting to note that that particular section of curb was removed and replaced. Evidence of this "patch" are still visible today. The curb repair was carried out by persons unknown.

At the "sniper's nest" three spent cartridges were found. One was somewhat darker than the other two, indicating it was, in all probability it had been in the chamber for some period of time. The lip of this cartridge was also deformed. It has been speculated that this damaged cartridge may, very well been in the chamber of the weapon in question for a relative long period of time. Perhaps as a precaution to prevent corrosion of the barrel liner. I, personally used this practice before the advent of the "snap caps" available today.
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Format: Paperback
Howard Donahue having been recruited as an expert marksman to help prove Oswald fired all shots, found it impossible to accomplish within the known timeframe. Soon, when this was covered up, he found himself on a long journey to uncover what happened. He largely failed, helped by the cover up conducted by the Warren commission, and his inability to recover Kenndy's brain which would contain bullet/gun powder fragments. This book has excellent detail regarding ballistics, gun & bullet types. He proves the bullet from Oswalds gun could not have blown up Kennedy's head the way it was. He details how the FBI's gun type could - the very gun carried in the follow up car that day. He details the ensuing cover up by the FBI and names the FBI agent who shot the fatal bullet that killed Kennedy. The title refers to the horrible error done by an FBI agent in the act of defending the President. This is an excellent book and one that remains unrefuted, yet pushed to the back benches of Kennedy assination theory, perhaps simply because it's theory is so mundane and is so likely to be true.
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