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December 5, 2013

CM-Law hosts forum on JFK Assasination

By Daniel Herda

It has been five decades since that tragic afternoon on November 22, 1963, when the world was stunned as one of America’s greatest presidents was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, while riding in his black Lincoln Continental.

The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy has been a topic of discussion in the conversation of conspiracy theories, with many people not believing in Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman.


After Jack Ruby murdered Oswald on national television, President Lyndon B. Johnson established an investigation led by Chief Justice Earl Warren called ‘The Warren Commission.’

Judge Burt Griffin, retired Cuyahoga Country Common Pleas Court Judge, was an assistant counsel to the Warren Commission that produced the 889-page report on the assassination of the president.

The report was presented to President Johnson on Sept. 24, 1964, 10 months after the assassination of JFK.

The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law will be hosting a forum on Dec. 6, 2013 titled “JFK’s Assassination and the Law: 50 Years Later” and will feature Griffin as one of the speakers.

“No witness unknown at the time of the original investigation has come forward showing that any specific person assisted or encouraged either Oswald or Ruby in their murders,” said Griffin in his statement to the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

The Warren Commission was created to achieve four goals.

The first was to establish the truth encompassing the assassination of President Kennedy and the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald.

The second goal was to inform the American public about the truth, also attempting to satisfy the most influential people.

The third was to investigate the events in a manner that would not hinder national security or disrupt daily activities of the national government.

The final goal was to hold the investigation in a fashion that would prevent damaging the reputations of individuals that showed no criminal conduct.

“There have been numerous reinvestigations and they’ve all come to agree that the Warren Commission was right,” said Griffin to Engaged, which is the official Tumblr account for Cleveland State University. “Unfortunately, nobody sells books by saying The Warren Commission was right.”

“JFK’s Assassination and the Law: 50 Years Later” will look into the results of the Warren Commission.

Other judges from the Cleveland area will also be at the forum, including former Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Steven Dever, former Cuyahoga County Public Defender Jerome Emoff, Cuyahoga Country Common Pleas Court Judge Brendan Sheean, Cleveland Municipal Court Judge C. Ellen Connally, Cleveland Municipal Court Magistrate William Vodrey and Cleveland State law professor Jonathon Witmer-Rich.

Witmer-Rich teaches law and terrorism, criminal law and criminal proceedings. He spoke about the overall goal of the forum.

“There are still many Americans who have doubts about what happened to President Kennedy,” Witmer-Rich said. “Our goal is to allow people to examine the work of the Warren Commission and decide if their conclusions are reliable and trustworthy.”

Witmer-Rich said that there is plenty of evidence that supports the idea that Oswald was the lone gunman, but the fact that Oswald was killed by Ruby, who has connections with the Mafia, does create some suspicion.

The program will also speculate what would have happened if Oswald had been put on trial instead of being killed two days after Kennedy’s assassination.

“Whether or not Oswald could have gotten a fair trial in a Dallas courtroom is something that we are going to also discuss,” said Witmer-Rich.
Kennedy’s fame not only resides in his assassination but in his achievements as well.

An area of success for Kennedy was his involvement with major civil rights bills.

“The groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were some of the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century and I believe that Kennedy deserves some credit for that,” said Witmer-Rich.