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Home movie screen shot of JFK murder
A 60-year-old home movie could finally reveal whether multiple shooters, and not a lone gunman, assassinated President John F. Kennedy - but the federal government has been hiding it for decades, according to an explosive new lawsuit.

The heirs of Orville Nix, a Dallas maintenance man who recorded the moment of Kennedy's death with his home-movie camera, have tried for years to get his original film back from the government's clutches.

"It would be very significant if the original Nix film surfaced today," said Jefferson Morley, author of The Ghost and other books about the CIA.

With recent advances in digital image processing, the original film "would essentially be a new piece of evidence," Morley explained. "There's a significant loss in quality between the first and second generation" of an analog film like Nix's.

Nix's clip, unlike the better known film shot by Abraham Zapruder, was taken from the center of Dealey Plaza as the presidential limousine drove into an ambush on Elm Street in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

JFK Assasination - The Orville Nix Film

It provides the only known unobstructed view of the infamous "grassy knoll" at the time of the fatal shot - the area where, some researchers claim, additional snipers were concealed.

Nix's original film was last examined in 1978 by photo experts hired by the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Based in part on that analysis, the panel concluded that Kennedy "was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy" and that "two gunmen" likely fired at him.

But the technology of the time left the experts in doubt about whether Nix's movie captured those alleged marksmen — and the complete, original film disappeared without a trace. Only imperfect copies remain, including one that flashed on theater screens in Oliver Stone's JFK.

Forty-five years later, computer-enhanced analysis of the original frames could at last solve the mystery, spurring the Nixes back to court after their 2015 lawsuit was dismissed by a different tribunal that lacked jurisdiction in the matter.

The new suit, a 52-page filing in the US Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., is loaded with dozens of documents that meticulously trace the winding path taken by the original film since Nix created it.

In 1963, the UPI press agency paid Nix $5,000 - about $50,000 today - for a 25-year license. Nix handed over his reel, which UPI promised to return in 1988. When Nix died in 1972, the rights passed to his wife and son. They were never notified when the House Special Committee on Assassinations subpoenaed the original film from UPI in 1978.

The lawsuit details the government's startlingly sloppy handling of the priceless piece of American history from that point on, chronicling patchy documentation and lax security. It also alleges that officials at the National Archives and Records Administration have repeatedly lied to the family, claiming never to have had the "out-of-camera original" film in their possession.

But the filing presents newly uncovered evidence that the HSCA's photo analysts delivered Nix's original film directly to NARA in 1978, once their work on it was complete.

The Nixes are seeking $29.7 million in compensatory damages, along with the release of the film. But time could be running out, a prominent photo expert said.

Kenneth Castleman, a former NASA senior scientist who analyzed photos for the official investigations of the Challenger and Columbia disasters and studied the Nix film in the early 1970s, said:
"The Nix film is at or near the end of its lifespan. Modern image processing should be done. Working directly from the original, assuming it's still in good shape, might reveal data that is not visible on the copies. There are new techniques to bring up detail in an image that might possibly bring out new information that was not visible previously."
In 1973, Castleman conducted an extensive analysis of one element seen in Nix's film, the Dealey Plaza pergola, that some believe shows a marksman with a raised rifle. That element, dubbed a "controversial aspect" by the HSCA
"was definitely not a person. It was actually just three bright spots that appear in some frames. I have no expectation that further analysis of the Nix film will change that result."
But researchers have pointed to two other locations — one at the edge of a retaining wall, and another behind the picket fence at the top of the grassy knoll — that remain suspicious.
"Digitizing the original film with modern equipment and analyzing the data with modern image processing techniques could possibly bring out interesting new detail."
The original film could shed important light on other aspects of the assassination as well, Morley said.

A source familiar with the new lawsuit said:
"It might tell us more about the impact of the shots on Kennedy's body, both the first shots and the fatal shot. And I think it would. The Kennedy assassination remains an open wound for our country. This film could finally prove - or disprove - the official government conclusion."