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Testimony of Debra Conway

Before the ARRB, 4/2/97

 3             (3:35 p.m.)

 4             JUDGE TUNHEIM:  The board is now going to 

 5   come back into session.  We have an additional witness 

 6   on the question of the Zapruder camera-original film 

 7   that we would like to hear from now, Debra Conway.  Ms. 

 8   Conway?  

 9             MS. CONWAY:  For those of you who have not 

10   met me, I am Debra Conway.  I came all the way from Los 

11   Angeles to be with you today.  I want to thank all the 

12   the board members, David Marwell and all of the 

13   distinguished speakers that came before me today.  

14             I would like to take this opportunity to 

15   speak on behalf ot the active JFK assassination 

16   research community.  I have no personal agenda other 

17   than to show support of the board's past efforts and to 

18   applaud your decision to address the status of the 

19   Zapruder film.  However, I would like to bring to your 

20   attention additional actions that the board should take 

21   related to the matter at hand.  And let me explain. 

22             Recently the Zapruder film was the subject of 


 1   what I would consider a major workshop and symposium at 

 2   the JFK Lancer Conference held in Dallas in November of 

 3   '96.  Though important new research and questions on 

 4   the film were presented, we were severely hindered by 

 5   the lack of access to a verified copy of the original 

 6   film, studies of the original film, a control film 

 7   taken with the original camera, the camera itself, and 

 8   the first section of film not taken at Dealey Plaza.  

 9             I have with me for the board today copies of 

10   that Zapruder film symposium from the conference which 

11   will include different information on the different 

12   versions of the film. 

13             Many photographic materials of evidence in 

14   the murder case are kept under less than satisfactory 

15   conditions in various locations.  Neither the private 

16   owners (one who has kept her film in a locked box while 

17   aupposedly trying to sell it for the last 33 years), 

18   not the government (who has always protected -- not 

19   always protected the photographs and films from being 

20   damaged) and not even the research community, some of 

21   whom seem to have problems being collectors -- none 

22   have been the best of caretakers up to now.  


 1             Action that I feel the board could take: The 

 2   decision you make on the Zapruder film's status as it 

 3   falls under the language and spirit of the JFK Act must 

 4   also effect other photographs and films of 

 5   assassination related events.  I ask you to be bold and 

 6   to use the JFK Act to collect and protect the original 

 7   of these items.  Lock boxes and shoe boxes are not 

 8   acceptable repositories.  Saving a piece of film for 

 9   years until the value raises and lawsuits over who owns 

10   what have brought research on the Zapruder film and 

11   these other pieces of photography and films to a halt. 

12             The value of scholars' and researchers' 

13   access to these items must be placed above those of 

14   private owners, private collectors or museums.  Let the 

15   owners continue their collection of fees for use of 

16   films or photos and even maintain ownership, 

17   copyrights, be compensated.  However, you must insist 

18   that the originals of these most important films and 

19   photographs be properly housed in the government 

20   archives and never allowed to be sold.  While I am a 

21   firm believer in the American free enterprise system 

22   and the rights of property holders, these must be 


 1   exceptions.  The issue of ownership, copyrights and 

 2   "show me the money," secondary to the need to assign 

 3   these materials permanent protection as JFK 

 4   assassination documents.

 5             Thank you.  

 6             JUDGE TUNHEIM:  Thank you Ms. Conway.  Are 

 7   there questions, members of the board?  

 8             MS. NELSON:  Assuming we have to pay for it, 

 9   the film, we being the American taxpayers, I will ask 

10   you the question I have asked others: Where do you 

11   stop, what is the ceiling?  Is it of such value that we 

12   don't set a ceiling?  

13             MS. CONWAY:  That is a question I have asked 

14   myself the last few days that I have been here.  In 

15   fact, I must have rewritten my statement to you four or 

16   five times because I thought it is priceless to me as a 

17   researcher.  However, as a citizen, I don't feel that 

18   we should be held ransom by the Zapruder family.  And I 

19   am afraid -- as soon as you announce price controls, 

20   that is what the price goes up to.  I can remember the 

21   Nixon Presidency very clearly on that matter.  

22             I think that someone here today made a great 


 1   point in the audience, and that was that after the 

 2   Jackie Onassis auction we should be very fearful of 

 3   what a collector would offer the Zapruder family for 

 4   this film.  We should be very fearful of what someone 

 5   would be willing to pay just for the copyrights.  I 

 6   think it is two separate issues, the ownership and the 

 7   copyright.  I agree with the speakers before me who 

 8   said the family should donate the film.  I think they 

 9   have made enough money.  But I know that is not 

10   answering your question.  I would advise you to -- 

11             MS. NELSON:  There is no answer -- 

12             MS. CONWAY:  Do research on what they have 

13   been paid.  Once you make that public, maybe they 

14   should be shamed into donating it.  Maybe you need to 

15   use the President and the public to help you with that.

16             MS. NELSON:  It is, of course, their private 

17   property, in their view.  I was just curious -- I 

18   didn't expect a monetary answer because that is an 

19   issue that we have to consider as board members, but 

20   also as taxpayers, as responsible members to the 

21   Congress, especially in this current era, of what our 

22   decision is.  


 1             MS. CONWAY:  I was aware that compensation 

 2   was a factor.  Looking at the Nixon papers, I was 

 3   unaware that compensation was a part of that Act.  I 

 4   wish I had known that before.  I would continue to look 

 5   into any other -- the same as you have attorneys doing, 

 6   any time that compensation became a factor.  Again, I 

 7   would research what the film was worth in the past and 

 8   get several appraisers to come in and assist you, which 

 9   I am sure you are going to do.  But I don't think the 

10   American people or the citizen of the world should be 

11   held hostage by this family's right to something that 

12   may already belong to us and should belong to us.  Be 

13   bold.  

14             MR. GRAFF:  I just would like to say as a 

15   fellow researcher, I share your passion about the 

16   documents and records and so on.  Are you working on a 

17   particular aspect of the assassination yourself?  

18             MS. CONWAY:  I do help the authors and 

19   researchers and on the side, my favorite, the spy 

20   world, I love to read about Mexico City and what was 

21   going on with the CIA.  But I see myself more as a 

22   facilitator to keep the dialogue going.  It doesn't 


 1   bother me that there is debate and disagreement and 

 2   discussion.  I encourage that.  

 3             MS. NELSON:  We have been very bold on Mexico 

 4   City.  You have a lot of new documents.  

 5             MS. CONWAY:  I am very happy.  

 6             JUDGE TUNHEIM:  Thank you.  We appreciate you 

 7   coming all this way.

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