As chair of the U.S. Assassination Records Review Board, Judge John Tunheim has held one of the bullets that fatally wounded President Kennedy. He has examined the president’s coat and peered through the scope of the rifle alleged to have been used by Lee Harvey Oswald — three key pieces of evidence in the assassination that continue to generate speculation five decades later.

Judge Tunheim presents to a packed crowd at Thomson Reuters on Dec. 19, 2013

On Thursday, Dec. 19, Judge Tunheim spoke at the Thomson Reuters Eagan campus as part of a thought leadership series sponsored by Legal Editorial Operations. In his heavily attended presentation, Judge Tunheim discussed the many legal, procedural and practical obstacles faced by the Board and its staff in its vigorous efforts to obtain documents from our nation’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies. He also discussed the many evidentiary issues in the Kennedy assassination that continue to raise questions in the minds of people around the world.

Some key takeaways from Judge Tunheim’s presentation included the following  facts:

  • This was the last time a president rode in an open limousine.
  • If President Kennedy had just suffered from the first gunshot wound, he would have been debilitated but would have survived. He died instantly from the second shot to the head.
  • This was a day in age when a press conference was held for reporters to ask Lee Harvey Oswald questions – something we haven’t seen since.
  • The Board consisted of three historians, one archivist and one attorney (Judge Tunheim).
  • After obtaining many documents that were never released, the Board presented a 200 page report to President Clinton.
  • Judge Tunheim discussed this report on the Oprah Winfrey show and was joined on the show by Marina Oswald, Harvey Lee Oswald’s widow.

“A lot of the documents we obtained were not that interesting,” said Judge Tunheim. “But they certainly became more interesting when you retract huge parts of them and then uncover that information years later.”

The official transcripts of hearings and testimony related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy received from the Assassination Records Review Board are available on Westlaw. Documents have been enhanced with commentary by an expert in the case. Selected retrospective documents, such as the Warren Commission Report, have also been included. Coverage varies by source. The assassination records are derived from various government agencies and are retrieved from the National Archives. There is no designated beginning date for the assassination records; coverage is based upon the public availability of the document.

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