PBS's "NOVA" turns its "Cold Case File" series to President Kennedy in "Cold Case: JFK" (9 p.m. Wednesday, WQED-TV). The program looks at what science can reveal about the Kennedy assassination and the investigations that followed.
MIchael Haag, a senior forensic scientist with the Albuquerque Police Department, advocates reconstructions of crime scenes.
"It's not just thinking of theories and philosophically trying to figure out whether they're true or not, but actually going out and shooting things. I mean, truly, we make our living shooting stuff under clinical or scientific circumstances," he said at an August PBS press conference. "[The program] has something like 12 or 14 different experiments, depending on how many make the end product. We approached it also from the view of technology. We've got 3D laser scanning, which certainly was not even close to available at that time. So we're documenting the relationships of all the buildings, the angles. We've got a street that curves down and away. Do we need to measure that? Can we take that into account when we're thinking about the trajectory through numerous people?
"We've got high‑speed videography," he continued. "So instead of just looking at the aftereffects of terminal ballistic events, we're actually seeing them take place under high‑speed videography. We've got Doppler radar, one of my dad's instruments, that is very, very rare, but very, very powerful in understanding what's happening to these bullets as they strike things. So those three technologies come into play. But also, I think, from a fundamental forensic standpoint, we lay the evidence out on the table. If you just want to start making up theories and have no physical evidence to support that, well, anybody can do that all day. That's not how any homicide case investigation works. What we do is we lay all the physical evidence out on the table and see what options we're left with."
So what about all those conspiracy theories? Read more after the jump. ...
"I think a key issue is not so much whether we know the single‑bullet theory is true, but can it be true?" said John McAdams, an associate professor of political science at Marquette University. "Does it work out, okay? And there's a huge amount of evidence that, yes, it does work out. Many of you may have seen the scene in the movie 'JFK' where you've got the Connelly figure and the Kennedy figure with Connelly sitting directly in front of Kennedy, and the bullet would have to zig and zag in midair. I'm sure you've all seen that. The photographic evidence says no, Connelly was inboard of Kennedy, lower in terms of head height, and had his torso rotated to the right. So the trajectory works out. Now, the ballistics people probably have something to add to that, but the key thing is, is it possible, or is it impossible? The conspiracists say it's impossible. I think it's clear, with regard to trajectory, it's perfectly possible."
Lucien Haag, a forensics consultant and Michael's father, brushes away conspiracy theory suggestions.
"Well, those who have come forward with the idea that the bullet is not a single bullet have no evidence to support it," he said. "It's easy to stand up and make a claim. And then you need to set about, as a forensic scientists, testing that claim and, hopefully, disproving it. It is easily disproven. I'd be a little stronger than John. Mike and I can easily demonstrate one of these bullets can go through two people, possibly even three people, and end up looking like the so‑called pristine or magic bullet."