Executive Action: JFK Witness Deaths and the London Times Actu

The 1973 film Executive Action depicted a conspiracy to assassinate JFK. It was based on a book by Mark Lane, who in 1966 was the first JFK investigator to debunk the Warren Commission in his book “Rush to Judgment”. Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan played CIA operatives involved in the plot. They were resisted in their efforts to have the film made by mainstream Hollywood producers. The movie reveals how Kennedy’s progressive agenda and peace initiatives were a threat to the establishment. He refused to invade Cuba, was seeking detente with the Soviet Union, planned to pull all troops out of Viet Nam by 1965, break up the CIA, eliminate the Federal Reserve and promoted the civil rights movement. Congress passed the Test Ban Treaty a few months before the assassination. In other words, he was doing his job.

At the end of the film, it was revealed that an actuary engaged by the London Sunday Timescalculated the odds of 18 material witnesses dying within three years of the JFK assassination. as 1 in 100,000 TRILLION. Assuming the data and calculation methodology were essentially correct, then it was clear proof of a conspiracy and refuted the Warren Commission conclusion that Oswald was the lone assassin.

There has been much controversy about the actuary’s calculation. Apparently, no one at the Sunday Times even remembers the actuary’s name. And even more strange, the Times editor did not provide the 1977 House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) the actuary’s calculation assumptions or methodology. The editor claimed that the problem was not clearly defined and therefore the calculation of the odds was suspect. This analysis indicates that the calculation was essentially correct – and that the editor’s response to HSCA was misleading and incomplete.

In fact, there were more than 18 suspicious deaths in the three years following the assassination. The actuary did not include Oswald and Ruby – and at least 20 others. The JFK witness spreadsheet database shows there were at least forty (40) suspicious deaths in the three years; at least 33 were unnatural (homicide, accident, suicide, unknown). The probability of 33 unnatural deaths is lower than 1 in 100 TRILLION TRILLION!

The probability of at least 70 unnatural deaths in the 14 years following the assassination is 1 in 700 MILLION TRILLION TRILLION (1.4E-33). . But there were at least 100 unnatural and suspicious deaths, so the probability is even lower. Since the probability of at least 70 deaths is infinitesimal, why bother to look any further? There are 104 dead witnesses in the spreadsheet database (this is conservative; researchers have estimated at least 300).

Of the 104 in the database, 71 deaths were unnatural: 7 were ruled suicides (0.58%); 40 homicides (0%); 24 accidental (0%). The other 33 deaths consisted of 4 from unknown causes (0.02%) and 29 suspiciously timed heart attacks, sudden cancers, etc.(0%). The probability of each cause of death is shown in percent.

Perhaps the problem is better illustrated if we ask: How many unnatural deaths are required in the 14 year period (assuming 1400 material witnesses) to obtain a probability of less than 1% (ONE in ONE HUNDRED)? This would meet the definition of beyond a reasonable doubt. The answer is 18. How many would return a probability of ONE in ONE THOUSAND? The answer is 22. As the number of deaths increase, the probability rapidly approaches ZERO.

HSCA statistical expert Jacqueline Hess testified that the actuarial calculation was “invalid” due to the “impossibility” of defining the “universe” of material witnesses. Her dismissal of the odds was a ruse (like the Magic Bullet Theory) to maintain the cover-up. The fact is that there was a definable set of 552 Warren Commission witnesses, of whom at least 19 died unnaturally in the period from 1964-1977. Only four would normally be expected. The 552 is a subset of the approximately 1400 JFK-related witnesses named in the reference Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination.

But in addition to the 19, two others should be noted. Domingo Benavides was a witness to the Tippit murder who could not identify Oswald. But after his brother was killed by a gunshot, he identified Oswald. Warren Reynolds was also at the Tippit scene. He changed his testimony after making a miraculous recovery from a gunshot to the head.

There were different categories of witnesses: 1) The 121 eyewitnesses who gave depositions to the FBI (51 said the shots came from the front, 38 from the rear, 32 were unsure); 2) the 552 interviewed by the 1964 Warren Commission; 3) witnesses sought by Jim Garrison 3) witnesses sought by the HSCA; and 4) the full set of 1400+ JFK-related witnesses.

The timing of the deaths makes it all the more suspicious. At least fifteen died the year after the assassination; several died in 1967, soon after being named as witnesses in the 1969 Garrison/Shaw trial; at least 12 died in 1977 (including SEVEN FBI officials) just before they were due to testify at HSCA. Using this information, we can calculate probabilities of these unnatural, suspicious deaths for each witness category.

Hit List: An In-Depth Investigation Into the Mysterious Deaths of Witnesses to the JFK Assassination is a comprehensive study by Richard Belzer and David Wayne (published April 2013).

The following graph of unlikely deaths among the 552 Warren Commission witnesses over the 14 year period from 1964-1977 shows that the probability of at least 19 deaths is essentially zero.

But even the “natural” deaths were suspicious: heart attacks, sudden cancers, etc. Jack Ruby died just before his second trial, 29 days after being diagnosed with cancer. He claimed that he was injected with a virus. Another mysterious death was that of David Ferrie, who supposedly had a brain aneurysm that was ruled a suicide the day after his release from protective custody, shortly after New Orleans D.A. Garrison named him as a witness in the Clay Shaw trial.

In spite of their efforts to the contrary, the HSCA was forced to conclude that both the JFK and Martin Luther King murders were conspiracies. Acoustic evidence indicated a 96% probability that at least four shots were fired. At least one came from the grassy knoll, indicating at least two shooters. That should have closed the book on the Warren Commission’s physically impossible, irrational Magic Bullet Theory but this 50-year old work of fiction is still presented as gospel by the mainstream media while the overwhelming scientific ballistic, acoustic, video, medical, eyewitness and mathematical evidence of suspicious deaths is ignored.

The mathematical analysis of the scores of suspicious, unnatural deaths related to the assassination is further proof of a conspiracy – beyond any doubt. This is a comprehensive spreadsheet database of suspicious unnatural witness deaths, probability calculations, Warren Commission, Garrison/Shaw trial and HSCA witnesses. 

The London Times
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In a response to a letter from the 1977 House Select Committee on Assassinations, London Sunday Times Legal Manager Anthony Whitaker wrote: Our piece about the odds against the deaths of the Kennedy witnesses was, I regret to say, based on a careless journalistic mistake and should not have been published. This was realized by The Sunday Times editorial staff after the first edition – the one which goes to the United States – had gone out, and later editions were amended. There was no question of our actuary having got his answer wrong: it was simply that we asked him the wrong question. He was asked what were the odds against 15 named people out of the population of the United States dying within a short period of time to which he replied -correctly – that they were very high. However, if one asks what are the odds against 15 of those included in the Warren Commission Index dying within a given period, the answer is, of course, that they are much lower. Our mistake was to treat the reply to the former question as if it dealt with the latter – hence the fundamental error in our first edition report, for which we apologize. None of the editorial staff involved in the story can remember the name of the actuary we consulted, but in view of what happened, you will, I imagine, agree that his identity is hardly material.

The actuary’s identity was hardly material? It was and still is very material. Only the actuary could speak to his interpretation of the problem and method of calculation. And no one on the editorial staff remembered his name? Really? We are supposed to believe that? Both statements made no sense; nothing else the Times editor said should have been taken at face value. In fact, Whitaker misrepresented what is essentially a simple mathematical problem: to determine the probability of a given number of unnatural deaths over relevant time intervals within a given population group.

His first error was to provide an incomplete and misleading statement of the problem. The U.S. population is not relevant; the number of JFK-related witnesses is. The “short period of time” is not specific. He misrepresented the essential goal of the probability analysis by not considering the frequency of unnatural deaths.

His second error was one of omission. He did not provide unnatural death mortality statistics and probability calculations used by the actuary. Was it because they would show that the calculation was plausible?

Whitaker claimed that he asked the actuary to calculate the probability that 15 names included in the Warren Commission Index would die within a “short” period. One must assume that the actuary assumed unnatural deaths and utilized corresponding unnatural mortality rate(s) in his calculation. Just because the Times Editor did not specify unnatural deaths does not mean that the actuary was oblivious to the distinction. Is it just a coincidence that at least 15 Warren Commission witnesses (listed below with links to their testimony) died unnaturally and/or suspiciously. Or that others died mysteriously at convenient times just before they were due to give testimony at the Garrison/Shaw trial or at the HSCA?

It is important to note that Whitaker did not specify unnatural deaths – as he should have. In any case, his response settled the matter. The HSCA’s designated “statistical expert” just added to Whitaker’s obfuscation.

HSCA Obfuscation
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The HSCA designated statistical expert Jacqueline Hess dismissed the actuary’s odds as being invalid, claiming that it was “unsolvable”. Hess testified that she consulted with actuarial experts, who told her “you cannot establish any kind of universe” of material witnesses. This was pure disinformation; a universe of 1400+ JFK-related witnesses was presented in the Who’s Who in the Kennedy Assassination reference.

In her list of 21 names, Hess conveniently left out scores of mysterious, unnatural deaths. Hess focused on five names in the list where the deaths appeared to have been natural (heart attacks). But they were still suspicious.

For example, Thomas Howard was one of three people who met in Ruby’s apartment on Nov. 24, 1963. All died within a little over a year (two unnaturally). Hess never calculated the odds of that.

She did not include David Ferrie and Eladio del Valle. Ferrie supposedly died of an aneurysm within days of being called as a witness by Garrison. Ferrie was held in protective custody until Feb. 21, 1967. He was found dead in his apartment the next day. Ferrie associate Eladio del Valle was also sought by Garrison. He was murdered on Feb. 21. Hess never calculated those odds, either.

What is even more unbelievable, Hess neglected the strange deaths of nearly a dozen prospective HSCA witnesses. She gave a convoluted excuse as to why she did not include George De Morenschildt, Oswald’s friend who allegedly shot himself with a rifle the day he was notified by HSCA. Nor did she mention the seven (7) high level FBI officials who died within a six-month period in 1977 just before they were due to testify at HSCA. She obviously never calculated the probability. Apparently, HSCA-related deaths were immaterial; she limited her analysis to 1964-1967.

In this analysis, all of the probabilities are easily calculated.

Hess claimed the actuary concluded that on 11/22/63 the odds of 15 witnesses being dead was 1 in 10 to the 29th power which is 1 in 10,000 TRILLION TRILLION. That is obviously an incorrect statement. The actuary calculated the odds as 1 in 100,000 trillion (1 in 10 to the 17th power). He presumably used the Poisson probability function of rare events – the perfect mathematical tool for the problem (see below). One in 100,000 trillion is E-17, or 0.0000000000000001. Hess appears to have been anything but a “statistical expert”. If she was one, she would have done the calculations herself.

So how did the actuary calculate the probability? How many witnesses did he assume? If he assumed 560 witnesses, consisting of the 552 who testified at the Warren Commission (10 died unnaturally) and 8 other JFK-related witnesses who died unnaturally, then applying the 0.000542 unnatural mortality rate, the probability of exactly 18 unnatural deaths in three years is 1.16E-17 or 1 in 85 thousand trillion. This is very close to the actuary’s 1 in 100,000 trillion odds! Only ONE unnatural death out of the 560 would normally be expected in the three year period.

Bugliosi’s Calculation

Famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi tried to refute the actuary in his book Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He cited Robert M. Musen, vice president and senior actuary at Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Musen calculated the odds of 15 people out of 2,479 in the Warren Commission Index dying within a three-year period, assuming a median age of 40, to be 98.16 percent or one out of 1.2.

But there are two major problems with Musen’s calculation.
1- There are only approximately 600 names listed in the index, including George Washington and several other presidents. Only 552 were witnesses who testified.

2- Musen did not consider that the deaths were unnatural. Even assuming 2479 names, approximately 4 unnatural and 70 natural deaths from the list would be expected over a three year period. Musen must have applied an approximate .01 overall mortality rate, not the .000542 unnatural rate.The odds that at least 15 of 2479 would die unnaturally within 3 years is 1 in 46,000. The odds of 18 dying unnaturally is 1 in 3.6 million.

The Correct Method: Expected and Actual Unnatural Deaths

There were 1400 JFK-related witnesses listed in the Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination by Michael Benson. At least 15 died from unnatural causes in the first year, defying the odds. There had to be a plausible explanation; the 15 unnatural deaths could not have been just a 1 in 167 TRILLION coincidence. Only one unnatural death would normally be expected. There must have been a rationale and motivation for the deaths. What could it have been?
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The expected number N of unnatural deaths in time period T is approximated by a simple formula: N = R * W * T, where R is the unnatural mortality rate, W the number of witnesses and T the number of years in the study. For one year, N = 0.76 deaths = .000542*1400*1

This is a Probability Analysis of Witness Deaths. At least 33 of 1400 JFK assassination-related witnesses died unnaturally in the three years following the assassination. Only two or three would normally be expected. The probability of this occurrence is 1 in 137 TRILLION TRILLION.

The Poisson Probability Distribution

This mathematical function is useful for calculating the probability that a certain number of rare events will occur over a specified period of time. For instance, the probability that 10 customers will walk into a store from 10-11 am, given an average arrival rate of 5 per hour for that time period. Or that 2 accidents will occur at a busy intersection next month, given an average of 1 per month.

In this analysis, the Poisson function is used to calculate the probability that at least n people in a random group of N individuals will die unnaturally(suicide, murder, accident, unknown cause, etc.) in T years. Historical mortality statistical tables show that the unnatural death rate R is approximately 0.000542 (1 in 1845).

The probability of an unnatural death in one year from…
suicide….. 0.000107
homicide…. 0.000062
accidental.. 0.000359
unknown….. 0.000014
Total……. 0.000542

The Poisson probability function is:
P(n) = a^n * exp(-a)/n!
where a = the expected number of unnatural deaths = R*N*T

For example, in a random group of 1400 individuals, in any given year less than ONE unnatural death (0.7588) is expected to occur: a = 0.7588 = R*N*T = 0.000542*1400*1

Using the expected number (a=.7588) of unnatural deaths and the actual number (n= 15) in the Poisson formula, the probability that there would beexactly 15 unnatural deaths turns out to be
P (15) = 0.7588^15 * exp(-0.7588)/15!
P (15) = 5.70E-15 = 1 in 175 trillion

The probability of at least 15 unnatural deaths is of course slightly higher: P (>=15) = 1 in 167 trillion!

Key witness categories
1 Unnatural deaths vs. suspicious natural deaths
2 Witnesses: Warren Commission (552), Shaw trial (60), HSCA (100)
3 Witnesses who died just before being called to testify (15+)
4 Approximate number of JFK-related witnesses (1400+)
5 Eyewitness depositions to the Warren Commission (121)
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– The unnatural death rate is used in the probability analysis.
– ZERO probability of unnatural deaths in categories 2,3 and 4.
– 51 Warren Commission eyewitnesses claimed that the shots came from the Grassy Knoll, 38 from the Texas Schoolbook Depository and 32 had no opinion. Their recollections were dismissed by the Warren Commission as simply being “mistaken”. Parkland Hospital doctors initially reported entrance wounds to the neck and head which were confirmed years later in the Zapruder film.

Ruby’s Visitors

Ruby shot Oswald on Nov. 24, 1963. But how many know that three people who met in Ruby’s apartment that day died within one year, two unnaturally and one naturally. The probability is
P = 1/(.000542^2*.01)= 1 in 340 million!

– Bill Hunter, a reporter, was shot to death by a policeman in April 1964. It was ruled an accident.
– Tim Koethe, another reporter, was killed in Sept. 1964 by a blow to the neck.
– Tom Howard, Ruby’s first lawyer, died from a heart attack in March 1965.

Mysterious FBI Witness Deaths

In 1977, seven top FBI officials died in a six month period just before they were scheduled to testify at the House Select Committee on Assassinations( HSCA). Two were accidents. If we assume only 7 FBI were called to testify and all died from natural causes within a six month period, the probability is 1 in 81 TRILLION. But the odds must be lower than that since at least two of the deaths were unnatural “accidents”.

Now we will conservatively assume that the HSCA sought testimony from 20 FBI officials. The probability that 7 would die from natural causes in a 6 month period is 1 in 55 BILLION. But since two deaths were unnatural, the probability is much lower.

. William Sullivan- Head of counter/espionage. Predicted his death. Hunting accident.
. James Cadigan- Document expert; previously testified to Warren Commission. Accidental fall in his home.
. Regis Kennedy- Heart attack on the day he was to testify on confiscation of home movies of assassination.
. Louis Nichols- Former #3, worked on JFK investigation. Heart attack
. Alan Belmont- Liaison to Warren Commission; Long illness.
. Donald Kaylor Fingerprint expert. Heart attack.
. J.M. English- Head of Forensic Sciences Lab. Heart attack.
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Suspicious Timing of Other Witness Deaths

In 1967, David Ferrie was found dead (ruled a suicide from a brain aneurysm) in his apartment shortly after he was named as a defendant by New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison in the upcoming trial of Clay Shaw. Ferrie was an associate of Oswald, Shaw, Guy Banister and anti-Castro Cubans. Ferrie left two suicide notes. He was held in protective custody until Feb. 21, 1967 and was found dead in his apartment the next day. Ferrie associate Eladio del Valle was also sought by Garrison. He was murdered on Feb. 21 by gunshot and an axe. The odds of both deaths: 1 in 453 billion: P= 1/(0.000542/365)^2. Banister, an ex-FBI agent, died in 1964 from a suspicious heart attack.

Shaw was a New Orleans businessman accused of involvement in the JFK assassination. He denied he was CIA and acquitted. He died a few years later from cancer. There was no autopsy. CIA Director Richard Helms later admitted under oath that Shaw was a CIA contractor.

Maurice Gatlin, also sought by Garrison, was a pilot who worked for Guy Banister, an ex-FBI agent in New Orleans connected to Ferrie, CIA, Carlos Marcello and Oswald. Gatlin died in a fall from the 6th floor after suffering a “heart attack”. The death was ruled an accident.

The following individuals were sought by the HSCA. All died unnaturally. Once again, the probability is ZERO…
– Charles Nicoletti, mob hit man and possible JFK shooter, was found dead from gunshots the day before he was scheduled to be contacted.
– John Paisley, Deputy Director of the CIA, was “about to blow the whistle” (shotgun ruled suicide).
– George DeMohrenschildt, a friend of Oswald with CIA contacts, had previously testified at the Warren Commission. He was found dead the day before he was scheduled to be contacted (shotgun ruled a suicide).
– Johnny Roselli, a powerful Mafia figure, was found in a drum off the coast of Miami. He told investigative reporter Jack Anderson that Ruby was ordered to silence Oswald and testified before the Senate.

Data Sources
The reference Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination by Michael Benson, presents vital information on each of more than 1,400 individuals (from suspects to witnesses to investigators) related in any way to the murder of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Based on years of research, it uses a wealth of data sources and a detailed analysis of the Warren Commission’s twenty-six volumes. The volume includes entries on virtually all suspects, victims, witnesses, law enforcement officials and investigators involved in the assassination.

In Crossfire assassination researcher Jim Marrs lists 103 individuals related to the assassination who died mysteriously from 1963-1978. Lee Harvey Oswald is not on the list but should be.
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Warren Commission apologists who troll the online forums jump through illogical hoops in their attempts to debunk the probability calculations. But their arguments just prove the case for conspiracy. They agree that the math is correct, but argue that the data is invalid. They claim that the 1400+ witnesses and scores of unlikely deaths were self-selected and not a random group. Of course it is not a random group – by definition. That is precisely the point.

Witnesses who were called to testify before the 1964 Warren Commission, the 1969 Clay Shaw trial and the 1977 HSCA investigation were obviously not self-selected. Neither were the 1400 in the “Who’s Who” reference; they were all related in some way to the JFK assassination – suspects, victims, witnesses, law enforcement officials and investigators. It is not just a coincidence that an impossible number of them died unnaturally. There are only a few dozen that were missed in the “Who’s Who”, but even some of these died unnaturally. The only rational conclusion is that many JFK-related witnesses had inside information that would expose the crime and coverup. That’s why they died unnaturally in numbers that defied the unnatural death mortality tables.

N witnesses, at least n unnatural deaths, T years, P odds
Warren Commission: N= 552, n>=21 (exact), T= 14, P = 1 in 236 million
Warren Commission Index: N= 2479, n>=18, T= 3, P = 1 in 3.6 million
Who’s Who Reference: N= 1400, n>=15, T= 1, P = 1 in 167 trillion
Who’s Who Reference: N= 1400, n>=33 (exact), T= 3, P = 137 trillion trillion
HSCA FBI N=20 (est.), n>=6 (4 natural), T= 6 months, P = 1 in 784 million

1400 JFK-related Witnesses
T = 3 years
p = 0.000542 = unnatural mortality rate
n = 33 unnatural, suspicious deaths; Expected a= 2.3 = p*N*T
P(33) = a^n * exp (-a)/n! = 7.3E-27
P = 1 in 137,439,196,231,656,380,000,000,000

To put these numbers in perspective, there are approximately 7E17 (700,000 trillion) grains of sand on the earth and 3E23 (300 billion trillion) stars in the universe.

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Alphabetical List of Witnesses and Testimony


Benavides, Eddy – His brother Domingo was a Warren Commission witness who was in the vicinity of the Tippit crime scene. Domingo was forced to change his testimony after his-look alike brother was killed by gunshot – a very suspicious case of mistaken identity.

Carlin, Karen – a Ruby employee, was the last one to talk with him before he shot Oswald. Killed by gunshot.

Bogard, Albert – Dallas automobile salesman who said Oswald test drove a new car. He was badly beaten after giving testimony. Supposedly died by committing suicide with carbon monoxide poisoning.

Bowers, Lee E. – Employee of the Union Terminal Co. Witnessed men behind picket fence on Grassy Knoll. Died in a one-car collision.

Roberts, Earlene – Oswald’s landlady testified he did not kill Tippet. Heart attack.

Russell, Harold – Witness in the vicinity of the Tippit crime scene. Saw escape of Tippit killer with Warren Reynolds. Blow to the head head by a cop in a bar. Heart failure.

Worrell, James – Saw man flee from rear of Texas School Book Depository. Motor accident.

Whaley, William Cab driver who reportedly drove Oswald to Oak Cliff (only Dallas taxi driver to die on duty). Accident: motor collision

Martin, Frank Dallas policeman Captain who witnessed Oswald slaying; told WC: “there is a lot to be said but its best that I don’t say it”. Sudden Cancer.

Ruby, Jack – Oswald’s slayer. Connected with Mob. Believed he was poisoned in prison. Died from sudden cancer.
In this press conference, Ruby claimed a government conspiracy to murder JFK.
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“Everything pertaining to what’s happening has never come to the surface. The world will never know the true facts, of what occurred, my motives. The people had- that had so much to gain and had such an ulterior motive for putting me in the position I’m in, will never let the true facts come above board to the world.”
Reporter: “Are these people in very high positions Jack?”
Jack: “Yes.”

Hale Boggs was a congressman who served on the Warren Commission. He expressed disagreement with the conclusion that Oswald was the assassin. He died in a mysterious plane crash over Alaska.

J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director, died suddenly. There was no autopsy.
The FBI did not reveal warnings from the field (Abraham Bolden) of a plot to assassinate JFK and later withheld this information from the Warren Commission.

Roger Craig, a Dallas Deputy sheriff, found a German Mauser rifle in the TSBD, before the police claimed that Oswald used a Mannlicher-Carcano. Died from gunshot.

These Warren Commission witnesses died just before they were due to testify at HSCA in 1977:
Alan Belmont – FBI liaison to Warren Commission. Long illness.

James Cadigan – FBI document expert. Accidental fall in home.

George De Morenshildt – CIA friend of Oswald, suicide by gunshot.

In this video, Mark Lane interviews researcher Penn Jones.