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WASHINGTON _ The U.S. government must pay $16 million for the film that captured President John F. Kennedy's assassination, an arbitration panel has ruled, making the 26 seconds of 8 mm film the most expensive historical artifact in American history.
Concluding a dispute that brought comparisons to the $30.8 million paid for a Leonardo da Vinci manuscript and the $3 million spent on Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball, a divided panel gave the family of the late Abraham Zapruder a sum that's much less than it sought but far more than the government wanted to pay.
The dispute involved the stunning color footage Zapruder filmed near the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza in Dallas as Kennedy was shot on Nov. 22, 1963.
Within a day, Zapruder, a dress manufacturer, had sold the footage to Life magazine for $150,000. Ultimately, Life sold it back for $1. The U.S. government later took possession of the film as part of the Warren Commission investigation into the assassination.
For more than two decades, the film has been kept in a cold, dark corner of the National Archives, now at College Park, Md., its quality and vivid colors still impressive, even haunting.
The family agreed to the …