A Profile in Cowardice
Ted Kennedy, the accident, and the cover-up

Epilogue - Justice: Kennedy Style

"You tell me, is Kennedy finished? Or are they going to paper this over with $20 bills?"
- Ferrymaster, Dick Hewitt
"Do we operate under a system of equal justice under law?
Or is there one system for the average citizen and another for the high and mighty?"
- Senator Ted Kennedy, 1973

Timeline: The Days After the Accident
Excerpts from : Senatorial Privilege by Leo Damore & The Kennedy Men by Nellie Bly

1) Leaving the Scene of an Accident


2) Senator Kennedy's Expired License is "Fixed"


3) The Failure to Perform an Autopsy on Mary Jo Kopechne


4) Senator Kennedy's Medical Prognosis


5) The "Best and the Brightest" Assemble at Hyannis Port


6) Ted Kennedy Pleads Guilty to Leaving the Scene of an Accident


7) Teddy Kennedy Faces the Nation ( but not the Facts )


1) Leaving the Scene of an Accident

- Shortly after Senator Ted Kennedy and Paul Markham had left the Edgartown police station, Chief Arena was joined by Walter Steele, the Special Prosecutor for Dukes County, Martha's Vinyard.

- Arena's only source of information about the accident was Senator Kennedy's report, which in Steele's opinion "didn't add up at all."
- The "wrong turn" was particularly contradictory. Kennedy was familiar enough with the geography of Chappaquiddick to know to bear left instead of turning right on Dike Road - properly identified in his report - if he were going to the ferry.Yet he'd made the turn anyway. [ View Kennedy's statement ]
- The Senator's approximation of the distance from the Main Street (Chappaquiddick Rd) intersection to Dike Bridge was right on the money. [ View Map ]

- Questionable too, was the "shock and exhaustion" Kennedy said he'd suffered after the accident. The Senator had not sought medical attention after the accident, nor did he appear to be injured at the police station - factors which combined to suggest that the Senator may have tried to avoid responsibility by delaying his report. As it was, Kennedy hadn't done so until after the accident was discovered and a body had been removed from his car.
- Steele told the chief that unless there were mitigating circumstances to account for the ten-hour delay, Arena had no choice but to seek a complaint against Ted Kennedy for leaving the scene of an accident. "That's all you can do," Steele said. "The statement is in clear violation of the statute."

- Steele asked Arena if he had notified the district attorney's office about the fatal accident, and Arena said that he hadn't. "The statute says that you have to notify the district attorney," Steele said. "Let's not take any chances."
- Arena called the district attorney's office in New Bedford, and spoke to George Killen, the State Police Detective Lieutenant in charge of the Cape Cod office of the district attorney.
- Killen said, "This is just a motor vehicle case. You don't need our help." He offered the "assistance" of the district attorney's office, but he made it clear, "It's your case."

- Because he had failed to interrogate Ted Kennedy, Arena was left with only a single piece of evidence: the Senator's own statement.

- Arena started drawing up a traffic violation complaint charging Edward M. Kennedy with a violation of Chapter 90, Section 24:

"Any operator of a vehicle who, without stopping and making known his name, residence, and the registration number of his motor vehicle, goes away after knowingly colliding with, or otherwise causing injury to any person, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than twenty days or more than two years."

2) Senator Kennedy's Expired License is "Fixed"

- To complete the citation, Arena needed to know Ted Kennedy's driver's license number and expiration date. Since the Senator had been unable to produce a license at the police station, Arena called the Registry office in Oak Bluffs, and was told, "we'll get back to you."

- Meanwhile, Ted Kennedy's Administrative Assistant, David Burke, telephoned Registry Inspector George Kennedy to report that he couldn't find the Senator's license in his Washington car.
- Inspector Kennedy then called Registry headquarters in Boston to request a license check for:
"D.O.B. 2/22/32 - Edward M. Kennedy."
- Registry Inspector Joseph Mellino recieved the call, and went into the Registry's file room where license cards are kept in alphabetical order. He discovered that Senator Kennedy's license had expired on February 22, 1969 and had not been renewed. Inspector Kennedy instructed Mellino to pull the license card from the file and put it together with the car's registration in an envelope on Registrar Richard McLaughlin's desk. It was, Mellino reflected, an unusual request.

- Inspector Kennedy was disturbed to learn that Ted Kennedy, in addition to leaving the scene of a fatal accident, had been driving on an expired license at the time. The Senator's growing list of motor vehicle violations were evidence of "some negligence" that supported a charge of manslaughter in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.
- Inspector Kennedy called Joe Greelish, the Regional Head of Motor Vehicles for southeastern Massachusetts. Greelish ordered the inspector to give no information about the expired license to anyone, including Edgartown Police Chief Arena. To conceal important information from investigating authorities was highly irregular, Kennedy thought. Nevertheless, he agreed to stall Arena about the license information.

- Greelish called Registrar McLaughlin to inform him that Senator Kennedy was driving on an expired license at the time of the fatal accident. Mclaughlin told Greelish he would take over the case personally, "So it doesn't get screwed up."

- Joseph Mellino had been alone in the radio room when he'd checked on Kennedy's license. He hadn't seen anyone in the building, "but a while later, I heard talk going around that McLaughlin was there on Saturday night," he said. It wouldn't take much for someone to keypunch a new license, to spare the Senator the embarrassment of not having one, he said.

- The fact that Kennedy's license had expired, and that it had been concealed by the Registry, was confirmed when Joe Greelish telephoned assistant district attorney Jimmy Smith. Greelish wanted Smith to know the "problem" with the Senator's license, "had been taken care of."

- On Sunday, July 20, Greelish delivered Senator Kennedy's driver's license information to Chief Arena. The records now showed that Kennedy's license was valid until February 22, 1971.
- Arena used this information to complete his citation. Arena charged Kennedy only with leaving the scene of an accident after causing personal injury. Unaware that Kennedy's license had expired, and lacking evidence that the Senator had been operating under the influence of alcohol, Arena said, "We don't and probably will not have a case of negligent driving in the criminal sense."

- Massachusetts law required a minimum mandatory 20-day jail term in all cases of leaving the scene of an accident where personal injury had occurred.

- Six days later, when Senator Ted Kennedy pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, he was able to produce a valid driver's license, which he surrendered to the court. Tests later performed on the Senator's license showed absolutely no traces of salt water.

3) The Failure to Perform an Autopsy on Mary Jo Kopechne

- State Police Detective George Killen was the senior officer responsible for the investigation and prosecution of all criminal matters on Cape Cod and the islands. When Medical Examiner Donald Mills called to ask whether or not an autopsy should be performed on Mary Jo Kopechne, Killen told him that if he was satisfied with his diagnosis and there was no evidence of foul play, no autopsy was necessary.

- Mills called undertaker Eugene Frieh and instructed him to go ahead with the embalming. Mills then put the accident at Chappaquiddick out of his mind. He had a baby to deliver at Oak Bluffs Hospital.

- Frieh was surprised no autopsy had been ordered in the case. "I figured there should have been one for three reasons: the type of accident it was; the important people involved; and the fact that insurance companies would be hounding officials over double indemnity claims."
- Frieh began preparing the body for the embalming process. As was customary in drowning cases, a body block was affixed under the diaphragm to provide abdominal compression and thereby remove any water from the lungs and stomach. He observed "a very slight bit of moisture," which he estimated to be less than a tea-cup. "I did raise an eyebrow in the sense that I was expecting much more moisture."
- Because the car had gone over a bridge, Frieh wondered if there might be some injury Dr. Mills had missed during his brief on-scene examination. After a thorough examination, he discovered no bruises or marks on the body, except for a slight abrasion on the left hand knuckle.

- Frieh was beginning to doubt the validity of the medical examiner's diagnosis. The lack of water evacuated from the body was "unusual" in a drowning case. Frieh suspected that instead, the accident victim may have suffocated to death. His observations strongly supported scuba diver John Farrar's theory that Mary Jo Kopechne had survived in the submerged automobile by breathing a pocket of trapped air, and had died by suffocation only after the oxygen had been depleted.

- When Frieh contacted Dr. Mills to suggest he change his finding, the medical examiner told him he "didn't want to cause any problem," and refused to make an independant decision about ordering an autopsy.

- Dun Gifford, an aid to Senator Kennedy, was sent to Edgartown with instructions to do whatever he could to expedite the paperwork required to get Mary Jo Kopechne's body off the island as quickly as possible.
- Gifford appeared in Frieh's office and announced he was available "to help in any way that makes sense," in making the funeral arrangements.
- At the police station, he told Chief Arena, "I've come up here to help things along."
- Gifford also made the arrangements to have the body of Mary Jo Kopechne flown to her home in Pennsylvania the next morning.
- Thus, the body was removed from the island before the authorities investigating the accident had gathered enough information to realize that an autopsy was in order.

- The failure to perform an autopsy on the body of Mary Jo Kopechne caused a "public clamor", and drew harsh criticism from both prosecutors and the press. Prior to the inquest, a motion to have the body exhumed in order to perform a belated autopsy was challanged by the Kopechne family. The request to exhume the body was successfully blocked by the Kopechne's lawyer Joseph Flanagan, who was hired and paid for by Ted Kennedy.

4) Senator Kennedy's Medical Prognosis

- After leaving the Edgartown police station, Senator Kennedy was taken to the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, where he was examined by the Kennedy family physician on Cape Cod, Dr. Robert Watt.
- Watt's examination disclosed a half-inch scrape above the right ear, a bruise with swelling at the top of the Senator's head, and a muscle spasm in an area about the nape of the neck. He diagnosed: concussion, contusions and abrasion of the scalp and acute cervical strain.
- Watt's determination of concussion was based "upon objective evidence of injury and the history of the tempory loss of consciousness and retrograde amnesia. Impairment of judgement and confused behavior are symptoms consistent with an injury of the character sustained by the patient."
- Dr. Watt prescribed a sedative to relieve the headache, neck pain and generalized soreness which Senator Kennedy complained of.
- Details of Watt's diagnosis and his prescribed treatment of Kennedy's injuries was immediately released to the press.

- Other medical authorities found Watt's concussion diagnosis far-fetched - "highly-unlikely," as one put it in a Boston Globe interview. In that same interview, Watt admitted that his diagnosis about Kennedy's post-accident memory loss had been based "simply on what Kennedy told him."
- Another medical source familiar with the case told The Globe that Dr. Watts conclusion about Kennedy's behavior after the accident was open to question because, "It seems to be stretching the facts to fit the diagnosis."
- Retrograde amnesia, impairment of judgement, and confused behavior were symptoms identical in all respects to yet another "malady": intoxication by alcohol.
- Another medical expert criticized Dr. Watt's prescription of a seditive, saying that sedation is medically inadvisable in cases of concussion. Nor did Watt's examination confirm the type of severe physiological "shock" which would have caused Senator Kennedy to delay reporting the accident for more than nine hours.

- On Monday afternoon, Senator Kennedy was taken to Cape Cod hospital to have x-rays taken of the first to seventh vertebrae of the cervical spine (neck). Radiologist W.E.Benjamine found no evidence of fracture or depression.
- The Senator was then given an electroencephalogram (EEG), which revealed "no abnormalities."

- The EEG results appeared to call into question the symptoms of memory loss, impairment of judgement and confused behavior which Dr. Watt had reported.
- Any neurological symptoms or alterations of awareness, levels of consciousness or memory would show up on an EEG, according to medical authorities consulted by The Boston Globe.

"It is safe to be dubious about the contention that there was a protracted period when Kennedy was alternately lucid and then terribly confused, because this behavior would almost certainly show up if the EEG had been properly administered and interpreted."
- The Boston Globe

5) The "Best and the Brightest" Assemble at Hyannis Port

- Edgartown Police Chief Dominick Arena had allowed Senator Kennedy to leave the station without answering any questions because, "I figured Kennedy would be eager to clear the matter up."
- For the next six days, however, Arena recieved no further statements from Ted Kennedy or his lawyers.

- Instead, Arena would recieve many new details about the accident from stories in the press. For example, Arena first learned of the party at Chappaquiddick from a reporter who had spoken to the parents of Mary Jo Kopechne.
- Arena was "really bothered" that Senator Kennedy had made no mention of the party during the three hours he'd spent at the police station. "That's one thing I objected to, that I had to hear about it from reporters. When I found out there'd been a party and everybody had left the island, I really got put on the spot."

- Meanwhile, behind the locked gates of the Kennedy compound, the Kennedy machine went to work. By Sunday morning the old, all-white, all-male brain trust had gathered at Hyannis Port. Among those present were:

Former secretary of defense Robert McNamara, Ted Sorensen, Burke Marshall, Steve Smith, Dave Burke, Paul Markham, Joe Gargan, Milton Gwirtzman, Richard Goodwin, and Arthur Schlesinger Jr., while John Kenneth Galbraith (Jonh Kennedy's Ambassador to India) gave advice by phone.

- The line-up of big names at the compound made it look like a gang-up of special privilege. "Inviting all those people to advise on a motor vehicle accident case made it look like Teddy Kennedy was in more serious trouble than he was," Steve Smith said later.

- Together, Teddy and his advisors moved into damage control. Yes, a young woman was dead, but all those present agreed that the most important thing was to salvage Teddy's political career.
- No Kennedy woman was included in these intense sessions, not even Teddy's wife, Joan.

- Neither Joe Gargan nor Paul Markham were allowed to participate in the strategy sessions going on at the Kennedy compound. To the others present, Gargan and Markham were "pariahs," as responsible for the incident as Senator Kennedy himself.
- "Some staff members, would-be friends, and others did try to indicate blame for me having the party, the location of it and other arrangements that led up to this disaster - that I had put the Senator in the middle of this situation," Gargan said.

- Edward Hanify, one of the lawyers hired to represent Ted Kennedy, set Gargan straight on exactly what bearing he would have on the matter. Because he was representing the Senator, Hanify couldn't talk to him about the case, suggesting Gargan discuss the accident with his own lawyer. Hanify told Paul Markham the same thing. "You people are going to be highly criticized," he said. "I think you ought to protect yourselves."
- Hanify informed Gargan and Markham that Ted Kennedy considered he'd had a lawyer-client relationship with them. Whatever advice they had given him after the accident, the Senator didn't want disclosed to anyone. Kennedy was invoking privileged communication to prevent Gargan and Markham from revealing what had happened on Chappaquiddick after the accident.

- By failing to report the accident, the Senator had made Gargan and Markham unwitting accomplices in his effort to conceal it from police for more than nine hours, involving them in a net of intrigue so as to avoid his own responsibility for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. Now he was invoking lawyer-client privilege to prevent them from telling anybody what they knew.

- Hanify's instructions to Gargan renewed the outrage he had felt at the Chappaquiddick landing when the Senator bolted from the car with a promise to report the accident. To Gargan, Teddy's attempt to conceal the accident, and his child-like dread of facing the consequences of Mary Jo Kopechne's death had betrayed an astonishing weakness of character.
- On the other hand, Gargan had done nothing to be ashamed of. He'd gotten into the water, as treacherous as that effort had been. He hadn't sat on his ass on the bridge feeling sorry for himself and then refused to take responsibility for what he'd done. He did not attempt to conceal the accident from authorities, and then invoke lawyer-client privilege to prevent anybody from finding out.

- Senator Kennedy's actions revived in Gargan a sense of family pride. "Gargans don't shit in their own bed." he said. "And that guy drove a car off a bridge and put everybody in the soup."

Tuesday - July 22, 1969

Senator Kennedy, wearing his controversial neck brace, leaves St. Vincent's Church with his wife, Joan, after the funeral Mass for Mary Jo Kopechne.


- Senator Ted Kennedy, accompanied by his wife Joan, flew aboard a private, family-owned DC-3 to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to attend the funeral of Mary Jo Kopechne.

- Although Kennedy had shown no apparent discomfort the day after the accident, and despite the fact that a battery of tests had found no physical evidence of a neck injury, the Senator arrived at the funeral wearing a cervical collar.
- Teddy wore a dark blue suit, with a black tie loosely knotted about a dress shirt opened to accommodate the neck brace.

- Confronted by reporters for the first time since the accident, Kennedy turned away, saying "This is the day of the funeral. I will make a full statement at the appropriate time."


Friday - July 25, 1969
6) Ted Kennedy Pleads Guilty to Leaving the Scene of an Accident

- The Kennedy brain trust agreed it would be beneficial to have a local lawyer defend the Senator against the charge of leaving the scene of the accident on Chappaquiddick. Attorney Richard McCarron, whose law offices were on Martha's Vinyard, was chosen represent him.

- McCarron was concerned about the mandatory 20-day jail term in all cases of leaving the scene of an accident where personal injury had occurred.
- The District Court Judge assigned to hear the case was James A. Boyle, known as a stickler for strict adherence to statuatory rules when it came to sentencing.
- Kennedy told McCarron, "Don't worry about it. He's already made up his mind."

- Senator Kennedy, who had left his cervical collar at home, was escorted to the Edgartown Courthouse by a detachment of state police officers.

- At 9:00 AM, the court clerk called the first case on the docket:
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts versus Edward M. Kennedy

"This complaint charges that Edward M. Kennedy of Boston, Mass., on the 19th day of July, 1969, at Edgartown, did operate a certain motor vehicle upon a public way in said Edgartown and did go away after knowingly causing injury to Mary Jo Kopechne without stopping and making known his name, residence and the number of his motor vehicle."

- The clerk addressed Kennedy directly, "How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?"
- Kennedy hesitated. He looked at his attorneys. "Guilty," he said in a choked near-whisper, hardly audible. He swallowed hard, then repeated in a louder, but shaking voice, "Guilty."

- After Police Chief Arena was sworn in, he read a summary of the evidence from personal notes written on a single sheet of yellow paper. He made no mention of the party at Chappaquiddick, or the possibility that the Senator may have been intoxicated at the time of the accident.
- Arena was dismissed after his breif statement, and no other witnesses were called.

- Incredibly, Judge Boyle did not question Kennedy about what he had done in the hours after the accident. He apparently was satisfied that the Senator's plea of 'guilty' was in effect a confession to the crime, and therefore no further questions were necessary.
- When Kennedy's guilty plea had been entered, McCarron argued against confinement of the defendant. "I believe his character is well-known to the world," McCarron said. "We would, therefore, ask that any sentence that the court may impose be suspended."

- The prosecutor, Walter Steele, proposed incarceration in the Barnstable House of Correction for a period of two months.

- Because the defendant's prior driving history would directly influence the sentencing, Judge Boyle asked the chief probation officer, Helen Tyra, "There is no record of previous violations?"
- The Associated Press had circulated a story appearing in that morning's newspapers listing Ted Kennedy's record of previous traffic offenses in Virginia, but apparently, Tyra hadn't read the papers. "None, your Honor," she said.

- The offenses in Virginia had occurred on Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts driver's license, but mysteriously neither the Registry of Motor Vehicles nor the office of probation in Cambridge had any record of the out-of-state convictions. [ View Ted Kennedy's Driving Record ]

- "Considering the unblemished record of the defendant," Boyle said, "and insofar as the Commonwealth represents this is not a case where he was really trying to conceal his identity....." "No, sir!" Steele interjected firmly.
- Boyle continued, "Where it is my understanding that Mr. Kennedy has already been, and will continue to be punished far beyond anything this court can impose, the ends of justice would be satisfied by the imposition of the minimum jail sentence and suspension of that sentence - assuming the defendant accepts the suspension."

- McCarron wasted no time in saying, "The defendant will accept the suspension, your Honor."
- Kennedy stood up, and the court clerk said, "Edward M. Kennedy, on the complaint the court has found you guilty and has sentenced you to serve two months in the House of Correction at Barnstable. Sentence is suspended."

- Boyle adjourned the court. The proceeding had taken seven minutes.

Senator Kennedy, in front of the Edgartown Courthouse after pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident


- Suspension of a mandatory sentence for leaving the scene of a fatal accident was not legal, Falmouth attorney Frank Keating said.
- "The statute called for no less than 20 days in all cases. That meant if you gave any sentence at all, it's got to be a minimum 20 days in jail. You can't give two months, then suspend. The only way Boyle could have gotten around that was to give Senator Kennedy straight probation, with no sentence at all."

- As Senator Kennedy and his wife left the courthouse, they were confronted by a corps of reporters shouting questions.
- Kennedy ignored the questions. He said, "I have made my plea and I have requested time on the networks tonight to speak to the people of Massachusetts and the nation."

- The reporters who had been allowed inside the courthouse were highly critical of the court's decision.
- The haste with witch the case had been disposed of, the appearance of a show trial, combined with a guilty plea that precluded cross-examination and the taking of evidence, smacked of a deal worked out in advance of Kennedy's court appearance.
- When confronted by reporters, Walter Steele refused to speculate about the questions that remained unanswered about the accident. Presumably, he said, Senator Kennedy would address those mysteries in his speech.

7) Teddy Kennedy Faces the Nation ( but not the Facts )

- During the week of councils at the Kennedy compound, Joe Gargan was pointedly excluded from the strategy sessions. The Senator did not feel like talking about the accident. Gargan was an ambarrassment and a potential threat.
- To those who didn't know the real story he was a puzzle wrapped in conspiratorial silence, but a silence that Ted Kennedy had demanded.

- Ted Sorensen, one of the major speech writers for President John F. Kennedy, had composed the speech which the Senator was planning to read on national television that evening.
- Gargan and Paul Markham were allowed to examine the speech of explanation Kennedy was planning to deliver, and they found nothing wrong with the speech as far as they were personally concerned. "However," Gargan said, "we felt that the tone of the speech, the way it was written, wasn't going to be helpful to the Senator and we didn't think he should make it."

- Because the speech referred to his client, Gargan's lawyer Joseph Donahue read over the draft. Donahue found it acceptable with regard to Gargan's legal position, but otherwise was appalled. He urged Gargan to go personally to Ted Kennedy to dissuade him from delivering the speech.
- Donahue said, "Can't you get to him? Can't you tell him how damaging this is?"

- "We indicated our feelings, but others had theirs," Gargan said. "It seemed to me they'd already made up their minds to go ahead with the explanation."

- While the speech presented an accurate portrayal of the rescue effort Gargan and Markham made at Dike Bridge, the rest of it was a fake, Gargan said later. "It was made up, all of it, including thoughts and emotions."

- Because the Senator's address was regarded as a news story, all three television networks donated 15 minutes of prime time to the broadcast. Facilities for the broadcast were set up at the home of Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, inside the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port.
- No reporters were to be allowed inside the house, and Ted Kennedy wasn't going to answer any questions after his speech

- Francis Broadhurst, a reporter for the Boston Herald Traveler, was outraged by the conditions being imposed on the broadcast. "I was pretty disillusioned that the Kennedys could exercise so much control over the press," he said.

- A light layer of pancake makeup was applied to the Senator's face, and he took a seat behind a desk. The desk and chair had been built up, using books as support blocks, so that the cameras were at eye-level, to give a more natural angle when Ted Kennedy delivered his speech.

- On cue at 7:30 PM, Senator Kennedy began reading from a manuscript gripped tightly in his hand:
My fellow citizens:

I have requested this opportunity to talk to you, the people of Massachusetts, about the tragedy which happened last Friday evening.

This morning I entered a plea of guilty to the charge of leaving the scene of an accident. Prior to my appearance in court it would have been improper for me to comment on these matters, but tonight I am free to tell you what happened and to say what it means to me.

On the weekend of July 18th, I was on Martha's Vinyard Island participating with my nephew, Joe Kennedy, as for 30 years my family has participated in the annual Edgartown Sailing Regatta. Only reasons of health prevented my wife from accompanying me.

On Chappaquiddick Island off Martha's Vinyars, I attended on Friday evening, July 18th, a cookout I had encouraged and helped sponsor for a devoted group of Kennedy campaign secretaries. When I left the party around 11:15 PM, I was accompanied by one of these girls, Miss Mary Jo Kopechne. Mary Jo was one of the most devoted members of the staff of Senator Robert Kennedy. She worked for him for four years and was broken up over his death. For this reason and because she was such a gentle, kind and idealistic person, all of us tried to help her feel that she still had a home with the Kennedy family.

There is no truth whatever to the widely circulated suspicions of immoral conduct that have been leveled at my behavior and hers regarding that evening. There has never been a private relationship between us of any kind. I know of nothing in Mary Jo's conduct on that or any other occasion - and the same is true of the other girls at the party - that would lend any substance to such ugly speculation about their character. Nor was I driving under the influence of liquor.

Little over a mile away the car that I was driving on an unlit road went off a narrow bridge which had no guard rails and was built on a left angle to the road. The car overturned into a deep pond and immediately filled with water. I remember thinking as the cold water rushed in around my head, that I was for certain drowning; then water entered my lungs and I actually felt a sensation of drowning; but somehow I struggled to the surface alive. I made immediate and repeated efforts to save Mary Jo by diving into the strong and murkey current, but succeeded only in increasing my state of utter exhaustion and alarm.

My conduct and conversation during the next several hours, to the extent that I can remember them, made no sense to me at all. Although my doctors inform me that I suffered a cerebral concussion as well as shock, I do not seek to escape responsibility for my actions by placing the blame either on the physical and emotional trauma brought on by the accident, or anyone else. I regard as indefensible the fact that I did not report the accident to the police immediately. Instead of looking directly for a telephone after lying exhausted on the grass for an undetermined time, I walked back to the cottage where the party was being held, requested the help of two friends, Joe Gargan and Paul Markham, and directed them to return immediately to the scene with me ( it then being sometime after midnight ) in order to undertake a new effort to dive down and locate Miss Kopechne. Their strenuous efforts, undertaken at some risk to their own lives, also proved futile.

All kinds of scrambled thoughts - all of them confused, some of them irrational, many of which I cannot recall, and some of which I would not have seriously entertained under normal circumstances - went through my mind during this period. They were reflected in the various inexplicable, inconsistent and inconclusive things I said and did - including such questions as whether the girl might still be alive somewhere out of that imediate area, whether some awful curse actually did hang over all the Kennedys, whether there was some justifiable reason for me to doubt what had happened and to delay my report and whether somehow the awful weight of this incredible incident might in some way pass from my shoulders. I was overcome, I am frank to say, by a jumble of emotions - greif, fear, doubt, exhaustion, panic, confusion and shock.

Instructing Gargan and Markham not to alarm Mary Jo's friends that night, I had them take me to the ferry crossing. The ferry having shut down for the night, I suddenly jumped into the water and impulsively swam across, nearly drowning once again in the effort, returning to my hotel around 2 AM and collapsed in my room. I remember going out at one point and saying something to the room clerk. In the morning with my mind somewhat lucid, I made an effort to call a family legal advisor, Burke Marshall, from a public telephone on the Chappaquiddick side of the ferry, and then belatedly reported the accident to the Martha's Vinyard police.

Today, as mentioned, I felt morally obligated to plead guilty to the charge of leaving the scene of an accident. No words on my part can possibly express the terrible pain and suffering I feel over this tragic accident. The last week has been an agonizing one for me, and for the members of my family; and the greif we feel over the loss of a wonderful friend will remain with us the rest of our lives.

- Kennedy put aside the prepared text. He folded his hands, looked directly into the camera and appeared to continue the speech extemporaneously. However, large cue cards picking up the text of the speech were held up out of camera range. The Senator continued:

These events and the publicity and inuendo and whispers which have surrounded them, and my admission of guilt this morning, raises raises the question in my mind of whether my standing among the people of my state has been so impaired that I should resign my seat in the United States Senate. If at any time the citizens of Massachusetts should lack confidence in their Senator's character or his ability, with or without justification, he could not, in my opinion, adequately perform his duties, and should not continue in office.

The people of this state - the state which sent John Quincy Adams, Danial Webster, Charles Sumner, Henry Cabot Lodge, and John F. Kennedy to the United States Senate - are entitled to representation in that body by men who inspire their utmost confidence. For this reason I would understand full well why some might think it right for me to resign.

This would be a difficult decision to make. It has been seven years since my first election to the Senate. You and I share many memories. Some of them have been glorious, some have been very sad. The opportunity to work with you and serve our state has been much of what has made my life worthwhile.

And so I ask you tonight, the people of Massachusetts, to think this through with me. In facing this decision, I seek your advice and opinion. In making it, I seek your prayers. For this is a decision that I will have finally to make on my own.

It has been written:

"A man does what he must - in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures - and that is the basis for all human morality. And whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience - the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men - each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul."

I pray that I can have the courage to make the right decision. Whatever is decided, whatever the future holds for me, I hope I shall be able to put this most recent tragedy behind me and make some future contribution to our state and mankind whether it be in public or private life. Thank you and good night.

- Kennedy's speech hit hard at the one thing his attorneys feared most - a charge of manslaughter.
- It did so through his outright denial of drunk driving, and reaffirmation of his efforts to save Mary Jo Kopechne.

- Kennedy also denied any sexual misconduct, an issue that represented such a serious threat to his political career that it had preoccupied the counselors at Hyannis Port who were composing his speech.
- Richard Goodwin said, "They were trying to say something and still avoid the connotation of immoraity - the old Irish Catholic fear of ever suggesting that you were screwing anybody outside of marriage."

- The rest of the speech was a painful, bedraggled account constructed around the pitfalls of his statement to Edgartown police.
- A week of conferences had failed to fill in the gap of ten hours during which the accident had gone unreported. Despite a disclaimer, Kennedy was still clinging to the "shock and exhaustion" from his police report to defend his delay in reporting the accident.
- Yet, by pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, he had forfeited that medical defense in the eyes of the law. Furthermore, no doctor had ever given him a "shock" diagnosis.
- The actual injuries Kennedy had sustained in the accident were grossly exaggerated in the extraordinary catalogue of symptoms his speech inventoried.

- Kennedy's escape from Gargan's nagging at the landing had been transformed into an effort to swim to Edgartown so strenuous as to have incapacitated his ability to report the accident.
- It was a piece of legalistic logic that covered all bases, but failed to explain why Mary Jo Kopechne should have been left submerged for more than ten hours while the Senator wrestled with his "scrambled thoughts." Nor did it explain why the simple task of informing police had been beyond his ability to perform.

- In wondering "whether somehow the awful weight of this incredible incident might in some way pass from my shoulders," Kennedy came close to admitting his desire that "somebody else" would take the blame for the accident. The aborted scenario he'd proposed at the landing had left a number of loose ends to account for, such as his alibi-seeking encounter with the room clerk, Russel Peachey, at the Shiretown Inn.

- Unable to explain Kennedy's failure to report the accident, his advisers had re-focused the incident as a political problem through the contrived and irrevelant issue of whether he should resign his Senate seat.
- To ensure against that threat, Kennedy had asked for a vote of confidence under the guise of advice. Those close to the Senator later admitted that it had merely been a ploy to buy time until the publicity surrounding the accident had died down; and that Kennedy had never intended to resign, regardless of the public's response.

- The speech ended with a passage taken verbatim from his brother Jack's Profiles in Courage, an effort to elevate the episode into a heroic mold more suitable to the Kennedy image.
- As Time later observed: "There was nothing heroic about fencing with half-truths, falsehoods, omissions, rumors and insinuations of cowardice. And above all, Kennedy wanted it both ways: he asked to shoulder the blame for what happened, while at the same time he was obviously begging to be excused."
- Ted Kennedy said he was accepting responsibility for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, but what he wasn't willing to accept were the consequences.

- No organized poll had been established wherby Massachusetts voters could register their opinion. There was only one candidate in this election, and his staff was going to count the votes.
- Kennedy's press secretary reported that the response "was overwhelmingly favorable."
- An NBC spokesman, however, revealed that the reaction to the speech had been, "Unanimously anti-Kennedy."

- The speech came as a shock to Detective George Killen. "It was just foolish political talk. You'd have thought he was running for re-election from the gist of it. He didn't explain a goddamned thing about the accident. If that's all he was going to say, he'd have been better off saying nothing at all."

- Detective Bernie Flynn was already convinced that Senator Kennedy had lied in his police report. "Watching that speech, I'm saying to myself: 'Jesus, this goddamned guy is lying again!' He should never have gone on the air, he came off so badly. The speech was an insult to your intelligence. Whoever came up with that speech ought to be shot."

- Police Chief Dominick Arena was astonished to learn about the rescue attempt made by Gargan and Markham which was revealed for the first time in the Senator's speech. Arena said, "This revelation stunned police who clearly feel that this information should have been given them at the outset and cannot see why it was not."

- - Unable to reveal how they had urged Kennedy to immediately report the accident to police, Gargan and Markham were severely criticized by the press.

- Time Magazine wrote:
- "While under no legal obligation to do so, Gargan and Markham could reasonably have been expected to report the accident. A prompt call to the police would have saved the Senator from some of the innuendo that followed - if indeed, he was innocent of drunkenness."
- "The only reason the two men did not call police is that they were afraid that Kennedy was in no shape to undergo breath or other tests for alcohol. Thus, they chose to risk the lesser charge of leaving the scene of an accident over the graver charges that might have arisen from drunk driving."

- Newsweek wrote:
"Their efforts were devoted almost exclusively in trying to get Teddy Kennedy off the hook."

- Indeed, the role of Markham and Gargan touched off the strongest reaction to the speech, a wave of editorial revulsion and reproach.
- By belatedly acknowledging their rescue efforts at Dike Bridge, Kennedy had passed the blame for not reporting the accident onto Gargan and Markham.
- Those who believed that Kennedy had been in shock felt that he could not wholly be blamed for failing to report the accident. At the same time, they considered that because the two men were "in full possession of the facts, not in any state of shock, trained in the law and politically astute," their inaction was indefensible.

- Gargan would later say that "when the Senator jumped into the water, he told Paul and me that he was going to report the accident. He wasn't in shock at that point. What happened to him after that, I don't know. We had a guy right up to the moment he went into the water who was capable of reporting his own accident. But he did not live up to what he said he was going to do."

- In fact, it would have been unethical for Gargan and Markham to do anything about notifying police about the accident. As lawyers to Senator Kennedy, they would have breached the canons of ethics had they reported the accident without his permission.

- Senator Kennedy's speech had a devastating effect on the district attorney's office. The reaction of the press and the public outcry following the speech would force District Attorney Edmund Dinis to take action.

The Inquest




Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Ted - The Other Scandals

YTEDK Joe Kennedy Sr. page