Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D. (1931-2024): Acclaimed Pathologist, Professor, Author, Civic Leader and Devoted Family Man

 

 

Dr. Cyril Wecht

“There was, and will only be, one Dr. Cyril H. Wecht.”
President Ken Gormley, J.D., Duquesne University.

By Glenda de Vaney, Chair, Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) (Guest Column)

No one who came before him or who will come after him can be compared with Dr. Wecht (shown above in his laboratory). He stands alone in his accomplishments, whether they be connected to his skill as a forensic pathologist or as a truth-teller about the John F. Kennedy assassination.

That’s the view of virtually all those who knew the man, including the Board of CAPA, an organization he founded and chaired. He advanced to the post of Chairman Emeritus earlier this year and continued to provide active participation at all our board meetings this year until the most recent one.

We’ll describe below our experiences at CAPA working with this brave, honorable and civic-minded leader exploring such sensitive matters as jfk 1959 senate office lookmagcurrent research on the 1960s deaths of President John F. Kennedy, left, his brother Robert F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

First, however, it’s both necessary and appropriate to describe how the world, his nation and his other varied communities benefited from his rare expertise and dedication.

Helping illustrate his scope and impact is, for example, the obituary published by the Associated Press via the Los Angeles Times on May 13 under the headline: Dr. Cyril Wecht, celebrity pathologist who argued more than 1 shooter killed JFK, dies at 93.

He became world famous as an expert broadcast commentator, author, and courtroom expert analyzing the true cause of deaths for such celebrities as JFK, RFK, MLK, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, JonBenet Ramsey, Brian Jones and many, many others.

But the essence of the man is reflected also in his service for 20 years as the elected part-time coroner of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, the locale of Pittsburgh. His was a position of trust whereby he served as the indispensable independent expert providing judgment and sometimes accountability regarding the deaths of non-celebrities — including on occasion those who may have met their demise in ways not apparent to police or prosecutors — or even perhaps at the hands of rogue law enforcers, and then covered up.

His renown emanated also from his close collaborations and enduring friendships with other leading coroners and medical examiners, including thomas noguchisuch iconic figures as Dr. Henry Lee of New Haven, Dr. Michael Baden of New York City and Dr. Thomas Noguchi of Los Angeles, right, plus his prodigious output as an author and teacher. He authored or co-authored 45 professional books for doctors and lawyers, the five-volume set Forensic Sciences, plus other books for general readers, plus more than 500 expert articles in his field — or we should say “fields” because his wide-ranging expertise covered several.

Of particular pride was his long association with Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he taught forensic pathology to duquesne logomedical students for many years and founded The Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law, which provides a wide range of continuing learning opportunities on cutting-edge issues vital to medical, law enforcement, and other legal professionals. The programs, organized in significant part by Program Director Benjamin Wecht, his son, have long provided both in person and by remote video expert analysis of cause-of-death mysteries, sometimes using for teaching case history medical evidence that is confidential and so unlikely to be available for other purposes.

Some of these highlights are available in two recent books that reflect his prodigious energies even late in life, when he performed more than 500 cyril wecht life and deaths coverautopsies a year (double the average number for coroners) until just three years ago. One book is The JFK Assassination Dissected: An Analysis by Forensic Pathologist Cyril Wecht,” co-authored by Dawna Kaufmann and with a forward by Oliver Stone (Exposit/McFarland, 2022). The other book is his memoir, The Life and Deaths of Cyril Wecht: America’s Most Controversial Forensic Pathologist, right, coauthored with Jeff M. Sewald, (Exposit/McFarland, 2020).

He was well-known for his ability to fight effectively on some of the nation’s hottest and most-longstanding controversies. This includes the medical evidence regarding the JFK assassination, while also maintaining cordial relationships – up to a point – even with some of his major forensic adversaries.

arlen specterOne was the late U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, left, who as a Warren Commission staff member in 1964 successfully advocated to Commission members that they endorse the so-called “single-bullet theory” that pointed, erroneously in the analysis of Dr. Wecht’s analysis and a number of other experts. This was the concept that one bullet supposedly fired by Lee Harvey Oswald caused JFK’s death plus multiple other wounds in him and Texas Governor John Connally, a fellow presidential limo passenger, during the fateful motorcade through Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Connally himself maintained until his death that there must have been more than one shooter.

Dr. Wecht served as a pallbearer at Specter’s funeral at the request of the deceased.

Those of us at CAPA came to know him from his pioneering work through the decades to expose, based on scientific evidence, the shortcomings of the Warren Report and conventional wisdom in most of mainstream media that parroted the Warren Report’s misleading narrative, much the same as misreporting or biased narratives on certain other cases, including the deaths of RFK and MLK.

Dr. Wecht has been a leader in forensic pathology. His career is best described by Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor and prolific commentator, who observed, “When Cyril Wecht started practicing, his profession was not highly regarded.…Forensic science is “in” today; however, in those days, when he was first practicing, Cyril was the lone ranger and he created the profession, professionalized it, and made it what it is today, which is central to the administration of justice.”

Dr. Cyril Wecht, shown at the National Press Club describing during the news media's annual Sunshine Week the extreme reluctance of the nation's national news media to report on the forensic medical evidence undercutting the Warren Report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Photo courtesy of Noel St. John).pc st john

Dr. Cyril Wecht is shown at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, describing during the news media's annual Sunshine Week the extreme reluctance of the nation's national news media to report on the forensic medical evidence undercutting the Warren Report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Photo courtesy of Noel St. John)

Peter Vaira is a former U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania who acts as special hearing master in the state. He has written an article about Dr. Wecht that states, "Dr. Wecht has shaped the law such that the use of forensic pathology is now de rigueur in death cases."

 

 

capa logo blue

Dr. Wecht closely supervised the annual CAPA multi-day research conferences held in Dallas on the anniversary of the JFK death each November. Also, he generously assisted many authors, filmmakers, academics and other researchers, often with endorsements of books that he admired.

For such reasons, everyone in relevant research communities, especially those of us in CAPA or affiliated with Duquesne, were thrilled that he was able to experience the output of research, love and honor bestowed on his field and personal legacy via the conference last November, “The JFK Assassination At 60: New Frontiers in Scientific, Medical, Legal and Historical Research.”

paul landis coverDuquesne University hosted the conference, which attracted one of the largest and most expert audiences ever in JFK assassination research. Among highlights were the dedication by the university’s president and other eminences of the Cyril H. Wecht Collection in the University’s library, plus speakers who included the bold JFK researcher, author and acting star Alec Baldwin, former Secret Service Special Agent Paul Landis (making his first public remarks following revelations in his memoir, The Final Witness, right) and many other experts.

CAPA organized for Dr. Wecht a special lifetime achievement award and banquet, capturing highlights of his illustrious career in a way meaningful to him and his beloved family, including his family members. The accomplishments and civic service of his wife, Sigrid, and children deserve mention as part of a key part of the life and legacy of this exceptional man:

⦁ Sigrid Wecht, a family law attorney and longtime office manager of Cyril H. Wecht and Pathology Associates

Children, in birth order:
⦁ David N. Wecht, Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice
⦁ Daniel A. Wecht, clinical professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
⦁ Benjamin E. Wecht, program director of Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law at Duquesne University
⦁ Ingrid A. Wecht, obstetrician-gynecologist and a senior staff member at West Penn Hospital.

Dr. Wecht once stated that, if given the opportunity to live his life again by the Supreme Being, he would not change anything and would do exactly what he has done despite the hardships and consequences involved.

“It was a very full life,” he concluded in an extended interview with WPXI-TV, the NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh on Channel 11.

So let us pick up the torch and keep running to honor him, what he fought for, what he endured, and what he stood for.

As he said at the CAPA dinner honoring him last November, “Never give up, keep going, and one day we shall prevail!”

 

Author’s Bio: CAPA Chair Glenda de Vaney, right, based in California, was longtime CAPA Program Chair and a Board director when Dr. Wecht glenda devaneyrecommended her in 2022 to be his eventual successor as CAPA Chair. She was elected to the post in early 2024 by unanimous vote and leads CAPA’s programming for its next annual conference, to be held in Dallas this coming November. Contributing also to this column was Andrew Kreig, Justice Integrity Project editor, curator of its JFK Assassination Readers Guide (shown below), a co-founding director of CAPA and master of ceremonies the banquet honoring Dr. Wecht at the Wecht Institute conference in November, 2023.

 

 Dr. Wecht, at center wearing a hat, surrounded by family and friends at the CAPA banquet in his honor where he received CAPA’s lifetime achievement award during the “The JFK Assassination at 60” conference organized by the Duquesne University School of Science and Engineering in Pittsburgh from Nov. 15-17, 2023.

 Dr. Wecht, at center wearing a hat, surrounded by family and friends at the CAPA banquet in his honor where he received CAPA’s lifetime achievement award during the “The JFK Assassination at 60” conference organized by the Duquesne University School of Science and Engineering in Pittsburgh from Nov. 15-17, 2023.

 

Dr. Cyril Wecht banquet 11 2023 photo 2 IMG 9052Among the well-wishers for Dr. Wecht after the banquet were filmmaker Irving Nestor of Auriela LLC and his wife Stephanie. The filmmaker had presented the results of his Matterport 3D scan of the JFK assassination locale of Dealey Plaza in Dallas, a CAPA-funded project for historical purposes.

Republished from the CAPA ListServe.

 

Related News Coverage

ap logoAssociated Press via Los Angeles Times, Dr. Cyril Wecht, celebrity pathologist who argued more than 1 shooter killed JFK, dies at 93, Staff Report, May 13, 2024. 

KDKA CBS Pittsburgh, Famed forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht dies at age 93, John Shumway and Andy Sheehan, May 13, 2024. Nationally known forensic pathologist and former Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht has died at the age of 93, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts said. He was well-known for his work on high-profile cases like JonBenet Ramsey and Anna Nicole Smith, as well as President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cyril H. Wecht, 93, Dies; Coroner Cast Doubt on Kennedy Assassination, Clay Risen, Published May 17, 2024, May 23, 2024 (print ed.). A widely respected forensic expert and frequent TV presence, he was also a powerful figure in Pennsylvania Democratic politics.

Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, a pathologist and lawyer whose professional reputation as the “godfather” of forensic medicine was at times overshadowed by his side gig as a TV commentator on suspicious celebrity deaths, his prominent criticism of the Warren Report, which concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating President John F. Kennedy, and his role as one of the most powerful figures in the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, died on Monday at his home in Pittsburgh. He was 93.

His son Benjamin confirmed the death.

Dr. Wecht, who spent almost his entire life in Pittsburgh, was best known as a celebrity coroner, offering his opinions on famous deaths, both in courtrooms as an expert witness and on television as a frequent guest on shows like “Geraldo” and “Larry King Live.”

Never shy with his opinion, he insisted that Elvis Presley had most likely died of a drug overdose at a time when fans did not want to admit that the King was an addict, and he contended that the coroners in the murder trial of O.J. Simpson had botched the autopsies of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. His pugnacious character kept him on speed dial among media bookers.

Dr. Wecht’s early prominence came from his willingness to challenge the conclusion by the commission led by Chief Justice Earl Warren that Oswald was solely responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas in 1963.

Invited in 1964 by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences to present a critique of the Warren Report, Dr. Wecht spent nearly a year poring over the underlying data. In his 1965 presentation, he detailed significant errors, including the decision to let two untrained Navy pathologists perform the autopsy.

In 1972, he was the first civilian allowed to review the government’s evidence at the National Archives, including autopsy reports, and the first to reveal that the president’s brain, along with several important specimen slides, had disappeared.

Dr. Wecht concluded that it was physically impossible for a single bullet from a single rifle to do so much damage in such a short time. He was not a conspiracy theorist, but he believed that a second shooter must have been present.

“Once you eliminate the single-bullet theory, you’re in the area of two persons involved,” he testified before a House committee in 1978.

Dr. Wecht was much more than a celebrity coroner. He was widely regarded as one of the leading forensic pathologists of the last century. In many people’s view, he was the person most responsible for modernizing the field and ensuring its place at the center of the American justice system.

When he started working at the coroner’s office of Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, in 1965, its facilities were outdated, its staff was untrained and its conclusions were often useless to law enforcement and the courts.

“They had no equipment to do things except an old porcelain autopsy table — really an old embalmer’s table — and they did very few autopsies,” Dr. Wecht told The Beaver County Times in 1989.

With degrees in both medicine and law, as well as a few years of service in the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Wecht brought professionalism and precision to the office. By the mid-1970s, it was considered one of the best in the country.

He used his position aggressively — examining suspicious deaths to uncover police abuse as well as unsafe conditions in workplaces and nursing homes, often butting heads with police departments and district attorneys.

At the time, the Allegheny County coroner was an elected position, so Dr. Wecht was by necessity a politician. He served two terms in the role, from 1970 to 1980 and from 1996 to 2006.

In 1980, he was elected to the county board of commissioners, and in 1982 he ran unsuccessfully against John Heinz, the Republican incumbent, for a Senate seat. He served as chairman of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee from 1978 to 1982.

Dr. Wecht was a popular, if at times divisive, figure around Pittsburgh, where “Wechtian” — loosely defined as brusque, ebullient and brilliant — was practically part of the local dialect.

 

Justice Integrity Project Readers Guide To JFK Assassination

By Andrew Kreig, JIP Editor and CAPA Board member

What follows are excerpts from our Project's previous segments of a "Readers Guide" to the assassination begun in 2013 to underscore both the 50th anniversary of the death and its continuing relevance, particularly slanted media, government, and academic treatment of the death that serves as a Rosetta Stone to similar slanted coverage sensitive matters extending through the decades to today's news.

John F. Kennedy side profile

The Justice Integrity Project cooperates with Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) and The Indicter, each of which investigates suspected political assassinations around the world.

In the Readers Guide below, a red asterisk (*) denotes major articles in the series. Other articles may be regarded as more routine or duplicative treatments sometimes covering specific events.

Dealey Plaza Panorama (Andrew Kreig Photo)At right is a photo by this editor in Dallas showing Dealey Plaza. The Texas Book Depository Building where accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald worked is behind the row of trees. The car in the center lane is near the location of President Kennedy's limo at the time of his fatal shooting. The "X" mark is repeatedly painted on the street by author and photographic expert Robert Groden as reminder of the horrific crime that Dallas authorities seek to expunge by removing the X.

  1. Project Launches JFK Assassination Readers' Guide, Oct. 16, 2013.
  2. Project Provides JFK Readers Guide To New Books, Videos, Oct. 26, 2013. This is a list of new books and films in 2013.
  3. Disputes Erupt Over NY Times, New Yorker, Washington Post Reviews of JFK Murder, Nov. 7, 2013. *
  4. Self-Censorship In JFK TV Treatments Duplicates Corporate Print Media's Apathy, Cowardice, Nov. 7, 2013.
  5. 'Puppetry' Hardback Launched Nov. 19 at DC Author Forum on ‘White House Mysteries & Media,'  Nov. 19, 2013.
  6. Major Media Stick With Oswald 'Lone Gunman' JFK Theory, Nov. 27, 2013.
  7. JFK Murder Scene Trapped Its Victim In Kill Zone, Nov. 30, 2013.
  8. Project Lists JFK Assassination Reports, Archives, Videos, Events, Nov. 2, 2013. *
  9. JFK Murder, The CIA, and 8 Things Every American Should Know, Dec. 9, 2013. *
  10. JFK Murder Prompts Expert Reader Reactions, Dec. 19, 2013. Reactions to our Dec. 9 column. 
  11. Have Spy Agencies Co-Opted Presidents and the Press? Dec. 23, 2013. *
  12. Don't Be Fooled By 'Conspiracy Theory' Smears, May 26, 2014. *
  13. Experts To Reveal Secrets of JFK Murder, Cover-up at Sept. 26-28 DC Forum , Sept. 5, 2014. 
  14. Washington Post Still Selling Warren Report 50 Years Later, Sept. 22, 2014. *
  15. JFK Experts To Explode Myths, Sign Books In DC Sept. 26-28, Sept. 24, 2014.
  16. Former Cuban Militant Leader Claims CIA Meeting With Oswald Before JFK Killing, Sept. 27, 2014. *
  17. JFK Readers Guide: Assassination Books, Reports, Oct. 15, 2014. *
  18. Dealey Plaza Picket Fence (Andrew Kreig Photo)Former House JFK Murder Prober Alleges CIA ‘Lied,’ Seeks Hidden Records, Oct. 18, 2014. *
  19. The JFK Murder 'Cover-up' Still Matters -- As Does C-SPAN's Coverage, Nov. 11, 2014. *
  20. JFK, Nov. 22 and the Continuing Cover-Up, Nov. 24, 2014. *
  21. JFK Assassination Readers Guide To 2013-14 Events, Nov. 28, 2014. *
  22. CIA, Empowered by JFK Murder Cover-up, Blocks Senate Torture Report, Dec. 1, 2014. *
  23. Nearly Too Late, Public Learns of Bill Moyers’ Conflicts Over PBS, LBJ, Jan. 2, 2014.
  24. Why Bill O'Reilly's Lie About JFK's Murder Might Matter To You, March 17, 2015.
  25. Free Videos Show Shocking Claims About CIA, JFK Murder Probes, June 29, 2015.
  26. Pioneering Black Secret Service JFK Guard Abraham Bolden Warns Of Current Lessons, July 22, 2015.
  27. Understanding Hollywood-Style Presidential Propaganda From JFK To Trump, Aug. 18, 2015.
  28. Beware Of Wrong Conclusions From New CIA Disclosure On Oswald, Sept. 28, 2015.
  29. The JFK Murder Cover-Up: Your Rosetta Stone To Today’s News, Nov. 29, 2015.
  30. Austin Kiplinger, David Skorton: Two Civic Giants Going And Coming, Dec. 15, 2015.
  31. Trump Alleges Rafael Cruz Tie To JFK Murder Suspect Oswald, May 3, 2016.
  32. Revelations Confirm Proof Of JFK, RFK Murder Cover-ups, Nov. 25, 2016.
  33. Top Experts To Assess JFK Murder Records, Revelations March 16, March 8, 2017.
  34. Speaker Program For March 16 Forum On Secret JFK Records, March 8, 2017.
  35. JFK Experts Advocate Compliance With Records Deadline, March 8, 2017.
  36. At CAPA Forum, JFK Experts See Need, Momentum For Assassination Records Release, March 23, 2017.
  37. Time Magazine, History Channel Ramp Up Oswald-JFK Fake News, April 26, 2017.
  38. JFK Birthday Prompts Inspiration, Art, Advocacy, Snark, June 2, 2017.
  39. Deep State Killed JFK For His Cuba Policy, Peace Advocacy, Experts Say, June 13, 2017.
  40. Newly Released JFK Murder Files Prompt Disputes, 'Jigsaw' Solutions, Aug. 4, 2017.
  41. CAPA Challenges Warren Report Defenders Sabato, Shenon, Sept. 22, 2017.
  42. Trump Plans Release Of Suppressed JFK Records, Oct. 21, 2017.
  43. Trump Backs Off Promise To Release All Suppressed JFK Documents Today; Permits Partial Release, Oct. 26, 2017.
  44. More JFK Murder Records Released On Nov. 9, Nov. 10, 2017. 
  45. TV Star John Barbour Premieres New JFK Documentary In DC With Free Screenings, Lectures, Nov. 13, 2017.
  46. Two Major Annual JFK Research Conferences Launch Friday In Dallas, Nov. 15, 2017.
  47. DC, Dallas Nov. 22 Events Mark JFK Murder, Official Cover-up, Nov. 22, 2017
  48. Assessing Newly Released JFK Records, Alec Baldwin's Slam of NBC Cover-up, Dec. 19, 2017.
  49. DC 'Big Event' Boosts Pressure To Disclose Suppressed JFK Records, March 16, 2018.
  50. Trump Postpones Some JFK Documents At Deadline For Three Years, Releases Others, April 26, 2018.
  51. Trump Suppresses JFK Murder Records, Violates Pledge, Bows To CIA, Deep State, May 1, 2018.
  52. Rights Pioneer's Obit Prompts Disputes Over JFK Murder Half-Truths, May 29, 2018.
  53. Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest: Half-Truths History (four-part series on life, legacy of George H. W. Bush), published from Dec. 9 through Dec. 14, 2018, with link to first installment).
  54. Kennedy and King Family Members and Advisors Call for Congress to Reopen Assassination Probes, Jan. 20, 2019.
  55. 3 JFK Research Conferences In Dallas From Nov. 21-24, Andrew Kreig, Nov. 17, 2019.