QUESTION: How did you become interested in the JFK assassination?
MEL AYTON: It became the greatest story for my generation. I wanted to find out if conspiracy theorists were right.
DAVID VON PEIN: I first became interested in John F. Kennedy's assassination after reading David Lifton's book "Best Evidence" in 1981. I was never really a "conspiracy theorist", however, even after reading Lifton's wild theory about how the President's body was stolen and his wounds altered. Upon further examination into the real evidence surrounding the crime, I became firmly entrenched in the "Oswald Did It Alone" camp.
QUESTION: Mel, why did you decide to write your first book, "The JFK Assassination: Dispelling The Myths"?
MEL AYTON: Meeting with Arlen Specter in 1988. Specter told me how conspiracy writers had abused the evidence in the case, particularly the testimony of witnesses, which they took out of context, e.g., Jack Ruby.
QUESTION: Why do you think there have been so many conspiracy books written about the JFK assassination?
MEL AYTON: The American public could not accept that a misfit and loser like Oswald was capable of committing the crime of the century. They were conditioned to believe that great events must have great causes -- and a conspiracy would fit nicely.
Mistakes were made by the Warren Commission, which created a vacuum which led to much speculation. If anyone is responsible for disseminating historical inaccuracies about the case, it is Mark Lane, who was the first Warren Commission critic to argue for Oswald’s innocence. He distorted the testimony of witnesses and relied more on speculation than facts.
The HSCA incorrectly concluded that a police audio recording of the gunshots in Dealey Plaza proved that a second gunman was present, thus indicating a conspiracy.
Many books have fooled the public, including those by authors who have faked evidence and believed JFK conspiracy hoaxers.
QUESTION: Why did you write "Beyond Reasonable Doubt" when there are so many other JFK books out there?
MEL AYTON: There are hundreds of books on the market that rely on rumour, innuendo and the promotion of a particular conspiracy theory without any credible, factual and documentary evidence to back their claims up.
I became aware that Vincent Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History, which I consider to be the definitive account of the assassination, had not had the impact on the American public it deserved. It had not satisfied a great many Americans about the truth of the assassination.
The authors [of "Beyond Reasonable Doubt"] do not claim to surpass Bugliosi’s work, but complements it by telling the true story of the assassination in a comprehensive way which Bugliosi failed to do.
I knew that on the 50th anniversary of the Warren Report there would be questions asked -- did the commissioners get it right? And I wanted to re-write and update my book ["Dispelling The Myths"].
I also wanted to work with a fantastic JFK researcher who I knew could present accurately many of the truths and facts about the case to rebut the thousands of claims made by conspiracy writers.
Essentially, our book seeks to show the general reading public that the conspiracy theorists’ claims do not hold up under close scrutiny.
QUESTION: What are the unique features of your book?
MEL AYTON: It is the first book since the publication of Reclaiming History to critically examine claims by conspiracy authors. Particularly, claims of CIA and Cuban involvement in the assassination.
And it's the first book to involve one of America’s great JFK researchers, David Von Pein, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the assassination and whose archival material is one of the best, if not THE best you can find on the web.
The book provides a compelling and, arguably, definitive motive for Oswald -- something the Warren Commission failed to accomplish.
QUESTION: Does the book include any evidence which is new?
MEL AYTON: Beyond Reasonable Doubt includes an appendix by JFK assassination researcher Michael O’Dell, who provides scientific evidence that the acoustics evidence in the JFK case, ‘proving’ a second gunman fired from the Grassy Knoll, is flawed.
The book also includes excellent rebuttals of numerous claims made by conspiracists regarding the numerous myths surrounding the assassination, particularly the following:
Was CE399 a planted bullet?
Was JFK's motorcade route changed at the last minute?
The so-called “Mysterious Deaths”.
The “Secret Service Standdown” myth.
QUESTION: Why do you think the majority of Americans believe JFK was assassinated as the result of conspiracy?
MEL AYTON: Mistakes of the Warren Commission – ‘Second Oswald’ sightings – Mistakes of HSCA – Oliver Stone’s JFK – non-release of files – ineptitude of FBI/CIA – JFK assassination as a ‘lucrative industry’ – every journalist wants to be a ‘Woodward and Bernstein’.
DAVID VON PEIN: Also, there have been so many conspiracy books (plus the many pro-conspiracy Internet articles and websites) that have deluged the American public, it’s no wonder that so many people think “something’s not right” about the Warren Commission’s lone-gunman conclusion.
The number of pro-conspiracy books outnumbers the “lone assassin” books by a very large margin (at least 10 to 1, and probably more than that).
But when it gets down to the brass tacks (i.e., the actual EVIDENCE in the case), and when we toss aside the absurd notion that all of the evidence in the case has been faked or manufactured to frame an innocent “patsy”, one conclusion becomes pretty clear—Oswald did it.
QUESTION: You say in your book that conspiracy writers are, in the main, left wing. Why is that?
MEL AYTON: Obsession with the CIA – JFK supporters tended to be on the left – most conspiracy believers tend to be critics of American power and wealth and they usually believe that ‘Dark Forces’ of a ‘Fascist’ nature control the government.
QUESTION: How long did it take you to write "Beyond Reasonable Doubt"?
MEL AYTON: Two years.
QUESTION: Why is an understanding of Jack Ruby, the man who shot Oswald, important?
MEL AYTON: Claims of Mafia involvement, plus the claims that he was a co-conspirator with Oswald.
The testimonies of Ruby’s friends and relatives (in particular, Ruby’s brother Earl) are vitally important to understand that the night club owner had no role in any conspiracy.
QUESTION: What is the most important reason you give which demolishes any idea that Ruby was given the role of Oswald’s killer to keep the assassin quiet?
MEL AYTON: Postal Inspector Holmes - Ruby’s dog – Ruby’s sister, who told of how her brother was devastated on hearing the news of the assassination.
DAVID VON PEIN: And the way things played out on 11/24/63 just before Ruby shot Oswald. In truth, there was simply NO ROOM to wedge in a pre-planned “conspiracy” with respect to Ruby’s movements and actions that Sunday morning in Dallas.
The timing of the telephone call to Ruby’s apartment by Karen Carlin ALONE pretty much eliminates the idea of any pre-arranged “plot” to rub out Lee Oswald.
Plus the timing of Ruby’s visit to the Western Union office that morning—four minutes before he shot Oswald. If that was part of a “pre-arranged” plot, it’s pretty amazing timing and coordination indeed.
And there is also Oswald’s change of clothing just before the police moved him into the basement too. Nobody FORCED Oswald to change into that black sweater. And if he hadn’t taken the time to put that sweater on, it’s quite likely that Oswald would have already been put into the car before Ruby ever got into position in the basement.
QUESTION: What do you think is the ‘Rosetta Stone’ of the assassination? In other words, what part of this story do you think is important for those readers who have been confused about whether or not JFK was killed as the result of a conspiracy?
MEL AYTON: The attempted assassination of General Walker. Plus, Oswald’s desire to be a ‘true revolutionary’ and ‘Hunter of Fascists’.
Also, the murder of Police Officer J.D. Tippit, [which shows] consciousness of guilt.
QUESTION: What is the most important piece of evidence you discovered about Oswald that would provide conclusive evidence that he shot the president?
DAVID VON PEIN: There is, indeed, much evidence to show that Oswald (and Oswald’s rifle) was responsible for JFK’s death. A brief list would include…..
1.) All bullets and fragments recovered in this case that were large enough to be used for comparison purposes ALL came from OSWALD’S rifle. Plus the three bullet shells in the Book Depository's Sniper’s Nest also came from OSWALD’S rifle. And I always make the logical argument of: Who is MORE LIKELY to have used Lee Oswald’s own rifle—on any given day----Lee Oswald or somebody OTHER than the rifle’s owner?
2.) Oswald’s lies that he told the police after he was arrested just reek with “consciousness of guilt”. Plus the statements attributed to Oswald while in the Texas Theater and in the police car just after he was taken into custody, which are statements that pertain more to the Tippit murder, but the Tippit crime is very important in linking Oswald to JFK’s murder too.
3.) Oswald’s prints on objects (boxes and the EMPTY paper bag) in the exact place where President Kennedy’s assassin was located.
4.) Oswald’s fleeing the scene of JFK’s murder within just minutes of the crime.
5.) Also see this article.
QUESTION: What is the most interesting anecdote you discovered while researching your book?
MEL AYTON: Robert Oswald’s interviews – how his brother liked to create a climate of mystery and intrigue around himself.
Also, Marina Oswald’s story of how Oswald wanted to kill former Vice President Nixon.
QUESTION: Can you share a few of the relatively unknown stories about Oswald that you believe revealed his thinking about his act of assassination?
MEL AYTON: Fidel Castro–Oswald’s hero. [See Chapter 11 of "Beyond Reasonable Doubt".]
DAVID VON PEIN: To reiterate something Mel brought up earlier, there is Oswald's attempted murder of General Edwin A. Walker on April 10, 1963, which is a very very important part of Oswald’s past history--because it shows his willingness to take a gun and attempt to kill someone with it.
Oswald was, in effect, a POLITICAL ASSASSIN seven months before November 22, 1963. That’s an exceedingly important fact that is often just flat-out ignored by many conspiracy theorists who attempt to claim that Oswald never tried to shoot ANYONE--not even General Walker--in the year 1963. (They’ll claim that Oswald was “framed” for that assassination attempt too.)
QUESTION: Did any of your beliefs or opinions change as a result of what you learned while writing this book?
MEL AYTON: How the media, particularly the internet, has damaged U.S. history.
QUESTION: What are you hoping people will get from your book?
MEL AYTON: To look at the stark facts; and to look at the life of Oswald and realise he was an assassin in the making all his life; and to see how conspiracy writers have distorted the truth.
QUESTION: Which conspiracy writers do you consider to have done immense damage to the history of the JFK assassination?
MEL AYTON: Mark Lane - James DiEugenio – Lisa Pease – Len Osanic – Jim Fetzer – Robert Groden – too many!
DAVID VON PEIN: My answer to that question would have to be --- Pretty much all of them. Maybe not 100% of the pro-conspiracy writers, but close to it.
QUESTION: Why do you think there are no smoking gun documents which are still withheld from public scrutiny?
DAVID VON PEIN: Only a tiny percentage of documents (overall) are still sealed that relate to the JFK case. And to think that any of those relatively few documents contain any “bombshell” information that would somehow ERASE all of the evidence we have in this case that indicates Lee Harvey Oswald was JFK’s lone assassin is really a difficult thing to believe.
Millions of additional pages of documents WERE released as a part of the 1992 “JFK Act” following the Oliver Stone movie, and it was the thinking of some conspiracy theorists that it was going to be THOSE documents that would bring down the Warren Commission like a house of cards.
But those documents have not done that at all. And despite what some conspiracists seem to believe, I haven’t seen any document (or series of documents) released by the ARRB in the 1990s that seriously undermines or destroys the “lone assassin” conclusion at all. If such a document(s) exists, I sure wish somebody would send it to me--because I’m just dying to see it. So far, I haven’t.