RU students present Kennedy Assassination research to panel of experts

Radford University students in the semester-long course "Investigating the Kennedy Assassination" presented their contemporary interpretations on the case before a panel of Kennedy experts, academics and law enforcement officials on Tuesday, Dec. 3 in McGuffey Hall.

Taught by Radford University criminal justice professors Tod Burke and Stephen Owen, "Investigating the Kennedy Assassination" has explored the event that captured the fascination of Americans for the past 50 years.

To cap off the semester, five student groups presented projects where they took the existing data and considered new ways to explore the JFK assassination. Students defended their new research, answered questions and explained their ideas to panelists and the public.

RU President Penelope W. Kyle, who holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law, was one of the panelists who quizzed students on their research and offered praise for their work.

"You have looked at this event with a fresh mind and that's critically important as you prepare for careers in criminal justice and the legal system," Kyle said. "I'm so impressed by the work you have done."  President Kyle also recognized the presentations as good opportunities for the RU students to learn collaboration and to practice public presentation skills, which are both valuable across all disciplines and career fields.

Additional panelists were:

  • Don Goodman '84, Chief of the Radford City Police
  • Chris Rehak '92, Radford City Commonwealth's Attorney
  • Dr. Dennie Templeton, Executive Director of the RU Office of Emergency Preparedness
  • Dr. Tom Goodale, educational consultant
  • Emil Moldovan, adjunct faculty member of the Department of Criminal Justice at RU
Kennedy panel experts

Dr. Dennie Templeton, Executive Director of the RU Office of Emergency Preparedness, President Penelope Kyle, Chris Rehak '92, Radford City Commonwealth's Attorney, Don Goodman '84, Chief of the Radford City Police, Emil Moldovan, adjunct faculty member of the Department of Criminal Justice and Tom Goodale, Educational Consultant

The five groups of students covered a wide swath of research surrounding the events of Nov. 22, 1963, when Lee Harvey Oswald killed the president as his motorcade passed through Dallas.

The first group opened the evening with a view into the Dallas' climate of hostility towards President Kennedy and the preparations made by the Dallas police and Secret Service for his visit. Next, a group analyzed the bullets that struck the president and credibly argued that the bullets disprove many conspiracies.

The third presentation of the night explored Oswald's Marine marksmanship scores, concluding he could have made the fatal shot with his rifle. The following group used physics models to understand what might have happened if the driver of Kennedy's limousine sped up more quickly after the first shot. Finally, the night's last presentation explored the limitations of eyewitness testimony in Oswald's murder of Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit, the event for which he was eventually apprehended.

"This is a multi-disciplinary approach in so many ways," said Burke, associate dean of RU's College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences, professor of criminal justice and former Maryland police officer. "They learn about investigative technique and police procedure, but the assassination touches on psychology, sociology, political science and even philosophy."

Students in attendance for the presentations were impressed by the depth of research and many of them walked away with new understanding of the assassination.

"I thought it was really interesting," said sophomore Jillian Lates. "I didn't have any idea about the ballistic evidence or the weapon Oswald used. There's a lot to it."

Fellow sophomore Akhil Gowda agreed with Lates' assessment of the evening, saying, "It was interesting learning about all of the parts of the event. I didn't know how many eyewitnesses there were or how the city was at the time."

The student-researchers covered a tremendous amount of ground and engaged their audience with critical thinking about the assassination, tasks Burke and Owen knew they could achieve.

"Finding a new perspective on a 50-year-old investigation isn't easy and we expect a lot of our students. They've met and exceeded our expectations," Burke said.

Dec 12, 2013