Cyril H. Wecht, Coroner Who Cast Doubt on Kennedy Assassination, Dies at 93

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 TV 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 the King had an addiction and that the coroners in the 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.

His early prominence came from his willingness to challenge the conclusion by a 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 gone missing.

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