JAHS Chapter 29


"So... what the hell?," one might ask. "If the single-bullet theory is such a steaming pile of nonsense, why oh why did the HSCA--a committee that rejected the Warren Commission's location for the back wound and ultimately concluded there was more than one shooter--come down on its side? And why did so many prominent doctors play along with it?"

Well, I've did some thinking on this...and here's what I've come up with...

It was Guinn-sanity. 
Let us first consider that, among the 14 charter members of the Physical Anthropology Section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in 1972, were: 
  • Dr. Michael Baden, a Forensic Pathologist, who led the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, and helped pick its consultants.. 
  • Dr. Lowell Levine, a Forensic Odontologist, who worked as a consultant to the HSCA and verified the authenticity of Kennedy’s autopsy x-rays by comparing them to earlier x-rays. 
  • Dr. Ellis Kerley and 
  • Dr. Clyde Snow, Forensic Anthropologists, who worked as consultants to the HSCA and verified the authenticity of the autopsy photos and x-rays by comparing them to each other 
  • Dr. Vincent Guinn, a nuclear chemist, who studied the bullets and bullet fragments involved in the assassination, using neutron activation analysis, and claimed they showed the wrist fragment to have been a fragment from CE 399, the magic bullet

Well, that's quite a coincidence, wouldn't you say? 5 of the 14 ended up working for the HSCA. One might presume, then, that Dr. Guinn was well-known and well-regarded within this small network of  experts. And that they would be inclined to go along with his conclusions...

Now, let's look at a timeline...Robert Blakey took over as HSCA Chief Counsel on 6-20-77.

  • Blakey had a strong bias towards forensic evidence. On 10-29-18, he told a packed house at The Sixth Floor Museum: "The forensics gives you a framework through which you can assess the witness testimony."
  • In 1995, Robert Tanenbaum, HSCA Deputy Chief Counsel, published Corruption of Blood, a novel based on his experience working with the committee. In this book, one of the characters, Claude Wilkey, who is clearly based upon HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey, gets excited upon his being asked to run the investigation of the murder of a president, and announces: “We’re going to settle the scientific issues, the forensics, the autopsy once and for all. That’s what the congress expects and that’s what we intend to do.” 
  • Dr. Guinn published an article in the April 1979 article in Analytical Chemistry in which he claimed he was first contacted by an HSCA staff member in the “early summer of 1977.”
  • Memos and letters found in the Weisberg Archives reflect that HSCA Chief Counsel Blakey wrote a 7-29-77 letter to the National Archives to inform them that the comparative bullet lead tests to be performed by Dr. Guinn were already in preparation.
  • The HSCA report of Dr. Guinn indicates that he performed these tests on 9-12—9-14, 1977. 
  • The report of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel indicates that Group A, which included Dr. Baden, got together on 9-15-77, and that they met Dr.s Humes and Boswell at the archives on 9-16-77. These were the first meetings of the medical panel. Strangely, they began the day after Guinn's tests were completed.
  • Now, did Baden tell the other members of the medical panel of Guinn's findings re the wrist fragment and magic bullet--and therefore the single-bullet theory--before or after this meeting? One might well assume before, and that Blakey and Baden had decided to confirm Guinn's findings...even before the medical panel had been given a chance to review the autopsy photos. 
  • In any event, in 1998, HSCA investigator Ed Lopez told writer Jim DiEugenio that it was around this time that Chief Counsel Robert Blakey and medical panel chief Michael Baden called chief medical investigator Andy Purdy into a meeting...and that, upon leaving this meeting, Purdy announced: “We’re going with the single-bullet theory.” 
  • Guinn testified before the HSCA on 9-8-78.
  • On 1-25-79, HSCA Chief Counsel Blakey made a speech at Cornell University. He told his audience: "Ballistics tests show that the bullet found on the stretcher...came from Oswald's rifle. Neutron Activation Analysis established that that bullet, in fact, hit Governor Connally's wrist...The single-bullet theory is correct."  
  • The Final Report of the HSCA Medical Panel, published that summer, confirmed: "The medical evidence alone does not provide the panel with sufficient information to state with absolute certainty that the bullet that struck Governor Connally was the same one which had previously struck President Kennedy in the upper right back, exiting through his neck. The majority believes, however, that the medical evidence is consistent with this hypothesis and much less consistent with other hypotheses. Further, the panel considered other nonmedical evidence that strongly indicates that a single bullet injured both men. This evidence includes: the position of the two men, as shown in the Zapruder film; the fact that the two men can be alined consistent with the trajectory of one bullet; photographs of the seat locations in the limousine; the actual distortion of the so-called "pristine bullet"; the failure to recover any other bullet from the limousine or body; ballistics studies of the ammunition involved; and the results of neutron activation analysis of the bullet fragments conducted by Vincent P .Guinn, Ph.D."
  • On 9-10-81, Blakey made an appearance on William F. Buckley's show Firing Line. He asserted: “The single-bullet theory is absolutely correct. We established it with the photographs and with the ballistics testimony and the neutron activation analysis testimony...The first bullet misses everybody. The second bullet hits both Kennedy and Connally, several frames in the Zapruder film earlier than what you people looked at. And when you look at 157, where we looked, you can see Connally turning around as he always testified, and a little girl freezing in the back of that frame. And then when you look a little further, to about 187, Kennedy and Connally are perfect in alignment, in the film---this is where the acoustics says it occurred—and that’s the point at which the bullet goes through both of them. And the neutron activation analysis establishes that the bullet fragments in Connally’s wrist are from the bullet fired from Oswald’s rifle, the so-called CE-399The irony is that much of our scientific work confirmed, and I think put beyond a reasonable doubt, things like the single-bullet thesis that had been an underpinning of the critics’ analysis before.”
  • In an article by Ron Rosenbaum in the November, 1983 Texas Monthly, Rosenbaum claimed that early assassination researcher Josiah Thompson was now convinced of the single-bullet theory, as a "recent neutron activation analysis of the bullet and the tiny fragments left in Connally's wrist make it almost a scientific certainty that they came from the same bullet.
  • And Thompson was just one in a long line to claim Guinn's findings propped up the single-bullet theory. In 1988, David Belin published Final Disclosure, supposedly his last word on the Kennedy assassination. There, he rejoiced “since 1963, a new test known as ‘neutron-activation analysis’ has been performed on the bullet fragments from Connally’s wrist and the nearly whole bullet that fell off his stretcher…The neutron-analysis test corroborated that, indeed, all of Connally’s wounds had been caused by the single bullet.” (ugh… no it didn’t.) He continued “The arguments of the Warren Commission critics that Exhibit 399 could not be the single bullet did not depend on whether the bullet had passed through Kennedy’s neck (ugh..what about Nichols?) but really on the argument that two different bullets struck Connally. His physicians disputed this (no, they did not), the wound ballistics’ tests on the wrists of cadavers disputed this (no, they did not!) and all of the neutron analysis tests refuted these claims (no, they did not).The record is clear: One shot did indeed strike the back of President Kennedy’s neck (no, one did not), exited in the front, and hit Connally, causing all of his wounds.” (This is propaganda with a capital P. List reasons to believe that are lies, and then defy anyone to contradict your logic.)
  • And the beat goes on. In 1989, Dr. Michael Baden published Unnatural Death: Confessions of a Medical Examiner. On p. 18, he claimed: “A tiny fragment of bullet was removed from Connally’s wrist in Parkland Hospital and put into the archive. We took it, together with the bullet from the stretcher, and sent it to a special laboratory in California. The lab does neutron activation analysis, a technique for finding trace amounts of heavy metals that is so sensitive it can distinguish between two bullets on an assembly line. The trace metal content in the bullet found on the stretcher and the fragment from Connally’s wrist matched perfectly.” 
  • And let's not forget Posner. In 1993's Case Closed, Gerald Posner similarly gushed: "Guinn concluded that all the fragments were Western Cartridge Co. bullets manufactured for the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. He found they came from only two bullets...His most important finding was that CE 399, the stretcher bullet, was indistinguishable, both in antimony and silver, from the fragments recovered from the Governor's wrist. Guinn's findings ended the speculation that CE 399 had been planted on the stretcher, since there was now indisputable evidence that it had traveled through Connally's body, leaving behind fragments...He considered the test results as definite as any he had seen in two decades of testing."
  • Now this shouldn't come as a shock. Dr. John Lattimer, single-bullet theorist extraordinaire, reported in the Spring 1995 issue of Wound Ballistics Review that the lead cores of Mannlicher-Carcano bullets "had enough chemical differences to permit Prof. Vincent P. Guinn to distinguish lead fragments from one bullet from those of the other, with certainty, using neutron activation analysis" and that this had led Guinn "to determine that there were no lead fragments representing a third bullet."  
  • Nor should this come as a shock. Here's Larry Sturdivan in his 2005 book, The JFK Myths: "How do we know that CE 399, or any other bullet from a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, was the bullet that injured Connally? The proof comes from the fragment of lead core that was recovered during the surgical repair of his wrist...Dr. Guinn's NAA, along with the earlier FBI test, unequivocally connects the fragments recovered from the two men to WCC/MC bullets that were fired from Oswald's rifle."
  • And, finally, here's Vincent Bugliosi. in what was intended to be the last word on the case, Reclaiming History (2007): "Guinn concluded that the large fragment found in the limousine, the smaller fragments found on the rug of the limousine, and the fragments recovered from Kennedy's brain were all from one bullet. His most important conclusion by far, however, scientifically defeating the notion that the bullet found on Connally's stretcher had been planted, was that the elemental composition and concentration of trace elements of the three bullet fragments removed from Governor Connally's wrist matched those of a second bullet, the stretcher bullet. The stretcher bullet, then, had to be the one that struck Connally." (Bugliosi was fibbing, of course. Only one of the wrist fragments was tested.)
Still, from this it seems likely that word of Guinn's findings had promptly spread like wildfire, and had helped set the course for the HSCA's investigation, and the books and articles to follow.

So...how was this a bad thing?

Neutron Activation Analysis Analysis

While single-assassin theorists cite Dr. Vincent Guinn as an expert on bullet-lead analysis...who testified both before the HSCA and in subsequent televised appearances (such as 1988's PBS program Who Shot President Kennedy?) that his test results indicated only two bullets struck Kennedy and Connally, and that the bullet fragment removed from Connally’s wrist "matched" and most probably came from the bullet purportedly found on Connally's stretcher...few have actually studied Guinn's results or read his numerous articles. 

If they had, they wouldn't be so supportive.  

And that's not just me talking. In his book Every Contact Leaves a Trace (2000), noted forensic scientist Dr. Zakaria Erzinclioglu reported that, when one actually studies Guinn's results, "it is clear that the trace element evidence shows that more than two bullets were fired."

Still, on what basis can a layman as myself question the findings of a nuclear physicist? 

Well, without even going into the substantial circumstantial evidence indicating that the bullet supposedly found on Connally’s stretcher after falling from his leg was, in fact, found on someone else’s stretcher (as per the hospital employees who discovered it—Darrell Tomlinson and Nathan Pool), was never seen until at least an hour after Connally had been rushed into the hospital (as per the nurses and orderlies who removed Connally’s clothes and wheeled away his stretcher—Doris Nelson, Ruth Standridge, Jane Wester, and R. J. Jimison) and never lodged in his leg (as per Connally’s doctor, Dr. Tom Shires), there is reason to doubt Guinn’s results proved what so many believe. (An alternative explanation for the bullet’s presence on the stretcher appears at the end of this chapter.) 

If one looks at Guinn’s results, one realizes there is a surprising lack of uniformity in the make-up of Mannlicher-Carcano bullets, both from bullet to bullet and box to box. This is because the type of ammunition used in the gun believed to be Oswald’s was made from the melted-down lead of other bullets. When one looks even closer at Guinn’s analysis, one finds that his interpretation of his test results leaves even more to be desired. Since Guinn believed that similar counts in parts per million of certain elements could leave an identifiable fingerprint of exact bullets, and that antimony, silver, and copper were the most reliable of these elements, let’s make a comparison between three sets of bullets on these elements, and Guinn’s subsequent conclusions. 

Numbers reflect the counts of the two samples in parts per million. 

A vs. B. 647-602 antimony, 8.6-7.9 silver, and 44-40 copper.

C vs. D, 833-797 antimony, 9.8-7.9 silver, and 994-58 copper.

E vs. F, 732-730 antimony, 15.9-15.3 silver, and 23-21 copper.

So which two samples were described by Guinn as being from the same bullet?

Well, that's actually a trick question, as A vs. B actually represents FOUR samples, a fragment found in Kennedy's brain, two fragments found on the floor of the limousine, and the nose of the bullet found on the front seat. And yet notice how uniform they seem to be. One might actually conclude they are probably from the same bullet. And Guinn did. Well, since they were so uniform and since Guinn also concluded the wrist fragments came from the magic bullet, then E vs. F must be the comparison between the magic bullet and the wrist fragment, right?

WRONG. E vs. F is a comparison between 6001B and 6003A, test bullets taken from separate batches of ammunition from separate years. Subsequent tests showed them to be quite dissimilar. 

Which leaves C vs. D as the wrist/magic comparison. Since the silver and copper ranges are substantial, it's safe to say Guinn's conclusion came purely from the similarity on antimony. He ignored everything else and focused on those two numbers...833-797. And yet, when one looks at the test results, one finds that 6002 A2 was at 869, and 6001 B4 was at 791, within 36 ppm of the magic bullet and the wrist fragment, respectively, and this out of only 40 tests beyond the magic bullet and wrist fragment. This translates to there being a 5% chance for the wrist and magic fragments to fall within 36 ppm randomly. Of the 14 different bullets tested from assorted boxes of Western Cartridge ammunition, in fact, 3, 6000a, 6001d, and 6001A, were within 15 ppm on antimony, even though they were from different years and different batches. This reduces the 833-797 numbers to nothing near the relevance Guinn and such disciples as Kenneth Rahn attach to it. When one takes into account the other six elements tested, in fact, the logical deduction is amazingly the opposite of Guinn's ...that it's highly probable the magic bullet and the wrist fragment ARE NOT related.

A comparison of ranges of the 4 fragments found in the limousine vs. the magic bullet/wrist fragment on the 7 elements tested by Guinn:

Antimony: 4 fragments 647-602, magic/wrist 833-797
Silver: 4 fragments 8.6-7.9, magic/wrist 9.8-7.9
Copper: 4 fragments 44-40, magic/wrist 994-58
Aluminum: 4 fragments 5.5-1.1, magic/wrist 8.1-0
Manganese: 4 fragments 0.1-0.01, magic/wrist 0.09-0.07
Sodium: 4 fragments 134-9, magic/wrist 120-5
Chlorine: 4 fragments 59-22, magic/wrist 257-19

Since the range of 2 related samples should be smaller than the range of 4 related samples (7 out of 8 times), and since the range difference should usually be significant, it's clear that manganese is the only element that suggests the magic bullet and wrist fragment are related, and that antimony and sodium are also consistent with that analysis. It's equally obvious that the other 4 elements tested are strongly suggestive there was NO relation at all between the two, as the range of the 2 samples is many times that of the 4. The proper conclusion then should be that the magic bullet and the wrist fragment are most probably not related. This conclusion is supported by the additional fact that CE 399, while missing some lead, is not believed to have lost any size-able amount of copper.  As both Connally’s coat by his exit wound and the wrist fragments themselves were found to contain inordinate amounts of copper, one should conclude he was struck by a separate bullet whose jacket had been badly damaged. In short, anyone whose argument for the single bullet theory relies on Guinn's analysis has clearly never studied Guinn's results with an open mind. I mean, his conclusion was just plain wrong. Perhaps this was a mistake. Perhaps not. Perhaps, like a quick draw artist who rapid fires six shots into the side of the barn...and then walks up and draws a bullseye around the closest grouping, he fails to understand how his actions appear to others. 

The FBI v Guinn

Sure enough, recent developments in bullet lead analysis have alerted me to much that is suspicious with Guinn’s analysis...beyond his incorrect conclusions. On September 1, 2005, the FBI announced they would no longer analyze bullet lead. Their decision was spurred on by a February 2004 report by the National Academy of Sciences questioning the value of bullet lead analysis, particularly in light that it had never been tested by scientists outside those whose careers depended on its presumed worth, including Vincent Guinn.  Surprisingly, this study was performed by the Academy on behalf of the FBI itself, after a former FBI metallurgist named William Tobin began writing articles critical of the probative value of bullet lead analysis. Shockingly, this study even spurred one-time HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey, the man who'd pushed Guinn's findings on the House Committee, to reverse himself and publicly denounce Guinn's findings as "junk science." 

Among the reports written by Mr. Tobin and members of the Academy, I found at least three good reasons to suspect that Guinn knew his HSCA testimony was questionable.  

 1.  Although bullet lead analysis was conducted by the FBI for over 30 years, the FBI would not allow its employees to testify beyond that a bullet (usually found within a body) was likely to have come from the same box as bullets found somewhere else (usually in the home of a suspect). The FBI's Cortlandt Cunningham, then Chief of the Firearms section of the FBI Crime Lab, testified in court on February 24, 1977, only months before Guinn's tests, that his agents could only testify that a bullet "could have come from that source or another source with that same composition" and could not identify a fragment as having come from a particular bullet. Guinn’s testimony that it was “highly probable” the wrist fragments and the magic bullet were parts of the same bullet is therefore perhaps the only time in history someone has testified to such a degree. Since the National Academy has now found that “The available data do not support any statement that a crime bullet came from, or is likely to have come from, a particular box of ammunition,” and that the possible existence of coincidentally indistinguishable bullets “should be acknowledged in the laboratory report and by the expert witness” it would seem apparent that Guinn’s expert opinion went well beyond what was warranted.  

2.  While Guinn said his opinion was based on the results of three elements, antimony, silver, and copper, the FBI at that time was using antimony, copper, and arsenic. Even when Guinn expanded his test to seven elements, arsenic was not included. This forces one to consider the possibility that Guinn tested arsenic, found it did not match, and excluded it from his results. Since silver, which the FBI started using as one of its seven elements in 1990, is reported to have little value, as most bullets are within a small range in parts per million, and are considered to match, its propping up by Guinn as the second most valuable element is also intriguing. Guinn’s own results, where more than half of the test bullets matched the wrist fragment in silver, with many of them closer in parts per million than the “magic” bullet determined by Guinn to be identical, support that such a match is not really much of a match.

3.   It seems Guinn himself was skeptical of any conclusions based on only three elements.  In 1970, Forensic Neutron Activation Analysis of Bullet Lead Specimens, a report prepared by Guinn and three other scientists for the Atomic Energy Commission, concluded “two bullets with the same pattern of only three identification points are not usually definitively identified as having a common source, Matching concentrations of all three elements does not indicate that two bullets came from the same lot.” Since the FBI began using seven elements 20 years later, and since it was necessary for a bullet to match on all three elements tested up until that time, and all seven elements afterwards, before the FBI would even find that a bullet was likely to have come from the same box as another bullet, it seems clear that, due to the problems with copper, at no time in its history would the FBI have testified that the wrist fragments and the magic bullet matched. In fact, when given the opportunity to do so, in 1964, without even testing copper, the FBI ruled their tests inconclusive and kept them from the public. The question then is not only why Guinn testified in the manner he testified, in contradiction to his previous reports and the accepted standards of the FBI, but whether the FBI was deliberately removed from the process.

Should one suspect I'm exaggerating the vast divide between Guinn's methodology and that of the FBI's crime lab, one need but read The Basis for Compositional Lead Comparisons, an article by Charles Peters of the FBI's Materials Analysis Unit, published in the July, 2002 issue of Forensic Science Communications, and available on the FBI's website. Peters explains: "Years of analysis in the FBI Laboratory have demonstrated that the distinctiveness of a melt is defined not only by the number of elements measured but also by the relative scarcity of other alloys in that melt. Not all measured elements are equally effective at discriminating among lead sources, however. In general, for most lead products, the relative source discrimination power of the measured elements decreases in the following order: copper, arsenic, antimony, bismuth, and silver (Peele et al. 1991). Tin is not included in this list because in many lead sources it is not present at detectable levels. However, when tin is present, it provides excellent discrimination among melts of lead. Antimony, specified by the ammunition manufacturers, is alloyed with lead in order to harden the bullets. The other elements are present in trace amounts and can vary from one product to another." Note that Peters considers both copper, which Guinn found did not match, and arsenic, which Guinn inexplicably failed to test, more reliable indicators than antimony, which Guinn upheld as the only element that mattered. From this it seems clear that, should they have been forced to testify, and encouraged to tell the truth, the FBI's crime lab employees would have told the HSCA that the stretcher bullet and wrist fragments did not match, and that the single-bullet theory, which their former Director J. Edgar Hoover never believed anyhow, was bunkum. This brings us back to the question of why Guinn and Guinn alone was called.

Arsenic Poisoning

Should one think I'm being a nit-picker, and assume that Guinn had found his own reasons not to trust arsenic as an indicator, and his own reasons to think a single true match was sufficient to pronounce that two fragments were highly probable to have come from the same bullet, let alone the same source, one should read the words of Guinn himself. The bulk of the tests described in Guinn's 1970 report to the AEC were for antimony, copper, and arsenic. Although antimony and copper were found in much more consistent numbers from lot to lot, and box to box, of the same type bullets tested, than arsenic, making arsenic the least reliable, there was no call that arsenic be dropped. In Chemistry and Crime, an anthology published by the American Chemical Society in 1983, moreover, Guinn claimed that "small samples of bullet lead can be analyzed rapidly, quantitatively, and non-destructively for their concentrations of antimony, silver, copper, arsenic, and sometimes tin." He then explained that antimony, silver, and copper can be tested via a rapid screening method, but that the test for tin takes slightly longer, and the test for arsenic even longer. He then declared "if the rapid screening procedure reveals marked differences in the elemental composition (antimony, silver, and copper concentrations) of two bullet lead samples (e.g. a sample from a fatal bullet, and one from a cartridge found in the possession of a suspect) it is apparent they were not produced from the same homogeneous melt of lead, and hence, no further analysis is necessary. If, however, the two samples being compared are analytically indistinguishable from one another in their antimony, silver, and copper concentrations, it is desirable to also compare them via their arsenic concentrations by using the longer procedure to provide four points of comparison instead of just three. In crucial cases, it is even worthwhile to use a third (intermediate) INAA procedure, in an effort to detect and measure a fifth element, tin." 

Well, hell, seeing as neither arsenic nor tin were (at least officially) tested, are we to assume that Guinn didn't consider the murder of a president a crucial case?

And it's not as if this was the only time Guinn touted the benefits of arsenic...

In Activation Analysis Vol.2 , published 1990, the arsenic poisoning of Guinn's credibility approaches a lethal dose. While discussing the best way to test bullet lead, he proposed that one first test his three favorites (antimony, silver, and copper). He then declared: "If this fast method clearly shows that none of the victim specimens match any of the specimens associated with a suspect, in elemental composition, no further analyses are needed. However, if one or more of the victim specimens appears to match one or more of the suspect samples, an additional analysis is called for...to add a fourth element (AS-arsenic) to the comparison."  He then discussed other elements that can be tested, including tin. Later, in this chapter, Guinn trumpeted that his bullet lead testing procedures had "been used to advantage in many hundreds of criminal cases...including some very well known cases (e.g. the President John F. Kennedy assassination)."

Sorry, but I have to ask--to whose advantage, exactly?

In Nuclear Analytical Methods in the Life Sciences, published 1991, moreover, Guinn once again pushed arsenic and tin. There, he asserted: "Applications of the NAA method in the field of forensic chemistry--such as the detection of primer gunshot residue (detecting barium and antimony), and the analysis of evidence specimens of bullet lead and shotshell pellets (for antimony, arsenic, silver, copper, and tin)--are special to the author and used on a large scale in the investigation of gunshot homicide criminal cases, especially by the FBI Laboratory. In 1977, as part of the reinvestigation of the President Kennedy assassination, the author's reanalysis of all the bullet-lead evidence specimens, by INAA, produced decisive results." 

So, should we assume that in 1978, when Guinn testified before the HSCA, he just didn't have the appreciation for the importance of arsenic and tin he would later develop? 

When asked if there were other elements found in bullets beyond antimony, silver, and copper, after all, he'd testified: "Well, many times in bullets, under the conditions that we normally use, you will just see those three. Very often, unless you very carefully clean them, you will find a little bit of sodium and a little bit of chlorine, coming from salt, which may be from perspiration if anybody has handled the specimens, or salt spray in the air if it is anywhere near the ocean, for example. Often you will find a little trace of manganese... The main reason for using the activation analysis method is that it is an extremely sensitive method. it will detect very small concentrations, but it doesn't have the same sensitivity for all elements. Some are far more sensitive than others. So we sometimes see a little manganese, occasionally a little aluminum, once in a while some arsenic or tin. That about covers all of the elements that we have ever seen in all bullet leads."

"Once in a while some arsenic or tin..." Was Guinn deliberately downplaying the importance of arsenic?  Or did he simply not see it as important?

If so, it's hard to see how. Guinn had tested arsenic as far back as the 1960's. An article in the May 2004 issue of Analytical Chemistry credits him with pioneering its use. Forensic Neutron Activation Analysis of Bullet Lead Specimens, the 1970 report co-written by Guinn describing his tests for antimony, arsenic, and copper in bullet lead, had suggested that more elements be added into the mix, not that arsenic be dropped. In Application for Nuclear Science in Crime Investigation, a paper written for the Annual Review of Nuclear Science in 1974, moreover, Guinn was still presenting tests for antimony, arsenic, and copper as the usual procedure. 

So what happened?

Well, in Chemistry and Crime, 1983, Guinn explained that while the FBI still used the longer procedure he'd helped pioneer, and tested antimony, arsenic, and copper, he now preferred a rapid-screening procedure for antimony, silver and copper. He then explained why he dropped arsenic from the big three. He declared "many samples are too low in arsenic for very precise measurement."  But he didn't stop there. He then admitted "that bullet fragments and samples taken from mashed bullets often have bits of copper jacket imbedded or buried in them (if the bullet was a copper jacketed bullet), thus resulting in spuriously high copper concentrations. Of course, such jacket contamination of the sample also produces erroneously high copper values in the rapid-screening INAA procedure. Whenever such useless copper values are encountered, the longer INAA procedure reduces to just two elements (antimony and arsenic, if the arsenic concentration is high enough) and the rapid-screening INAA procedure also reduces to just two useful elements (antimony and silver). In such cases of copper contamination, it is especially desirable to use both INAA procedures to determine a possible total of three useful comparison elements (antimony, silver, and arsenic)." 

Well, that's as good as a confession, don't you think? Guinn knew full well he based his conclusions regarding the assassination on two elements, and yet here he is admitting to his colleagues that he really needed to test another element--arsenic--before coming to such a conclusion. 

So why didn't he test it?

Hmmm. In Guinn's chapter in Activation Analysis Vol. 2, he spelled out that the content of bullet lead impurities normally ranges from 1 to 100 ppm for silver, 1 to 1500 ppm for copper, 1 to 2000 ppm for tin, and 1 to 2500 ppm for arsenic. This suggests that the likelihood of random matches for arsenic and tin was much less than the likelihood of random matches for silver, and slightly less than copper. (The levels of copper in the stretcher bullet and wrist fragment, of course, didn't match). This, as you might guess, but strengthens my suspicion Guinn tested arsenic and perhaps even tin, but didn't like his results, and flushed them down the memory hole. 

In 2014, for that matter, I came across something to make me even more suspicious. While preparing for a conference of my own, I came across a paper by Guinn entitled Neutron Activation Analysis in Scientific Crime Investigation, which he presumably delivered at the 11th Biennial Conference on Chemical Education in Atlanta, Georgia, August, 1990. In this paper, he briefly described the Kennedy assassination bullet fragments, and then claimed "During a period of three days, the author examined and sampled the specimens and then analyzed them for antimony, silver, copper, and arsenic (though no arsenic was detectable in any of them)...The largest difference between the two groups of specimens was in their antimony concentration: one group (the Connally stretcher bullet and fragments from Connally's wrist) averaged 815 +/- 25 ppm antimony, whereas the other group (fragments from President Kennedy's brain and one large fragment and various small fragments found in the limousine) averaged 622 +/- 20 ppm antimony. The two groups of specimens also differed significantly in their silver and copper concentrations." 

Well, YIKES. First of all, why was no arsenic detectable in the specimens? Mannlicher-Carcano bullets from the same batches as those studied by Guinn were subjected to NAA for a study discussed in the December 2007 issue of the Annals of Applied Statistics, and arsenic was found in the specimens. Second of all, if Guinn had tested arsenic, and had failed to detect any arsenic in the magic bullet and wrist fragment, as claimed, well, why didn't he mention this earlier--like when he was writing his report twelve years earlier--as this would undoubtedly support the wrist fragment's coming from the magic bullet, as opposed to some other bullet? I mean, how could Guinn not have seen this? (One might reasonably suspect, then, that Guinn did in fact test arsenic, but chose to shit-can his results.)

And that's not all. Third of all, why did Guinn fail to mention the copper problem, and instead assert that the copper concentration of the magic bullet and wrist fragment "differed significantly" from the other fragments? They also "differed significantly" from each other. So why didn't Guinn say so? And fourth of all, the two groups of specimens most definitely DID NOT differ significantly in their silver concentrations. The wrist fragment was at one end, and the magic bullet the other, with the four brain and limo specimens in between. Yeah, that's right. Both the wrist fragment and magic bullet were closer in their silver concentrations to the other group than to each other. Guinn's last statement was a lie...

And we have reason to believe it was a deliberate lie...in keeping with a previous lie...

The Silver Solution

While I'd like to have left it at that, there are a number of reasons to distrust Guinn, which I would be remiss not to mention. In Chemistry and Crime, for starters, he not only discussed his testing of the fatal fragments, he provided his readers some background on the assassination and his role in solving the crime...and was totally deceptive in doing so...

For example,  after stating that Oswald killed Kennedy and Tippit as a fact, Guinn further revealed his bias by claiming "The consensus of opinion among witnesses was that three rifle shots emanated from that room (NOTE: he means the 6th floor of the depository) when the President and Texas Governor John Connally were hit." This, of course, was nonsense. While some thought some shots came from the general direction of the depository, very few could identify what room the shots came from, let alone form an opinion as to whether all three shots came from there. 

He then discussed the Warren Commission, and his work with the HSCA. While doing so, however, he overstated the case by claiming that his testing of the bullet fragments clearly revealed the presence of two and only two bullets. He based this on the fact that the mean or average values of the brain and limo fragments tested were "markedly lower" in antimony than the average values of the magic bullet and wrist fragment (622 vs. 815), and "somewhat lower" in silver (8.07 vs. 9.3). 

This last point caught me by surprise. Guinn's HSCA testimony and report reflect that the magic bullet and wrist fragment were measured at 7.9 ppm and 9.8 ppm silver, respectively. That's a mean of 8.85, not 9.3. This led me to take another look at the April 1979 article in Analytical Chemistry in which Guinn first reported his results to the public. Here he claimed the magic bullet was measured at 8.8 ppm silver (plus or minus 0.5 ppm). Well, that explained the 9.3. But how in the heck did 7.9 (plus or minus 1.4) ppm silver in September 1978 become 8.8 (plus or minus 0.5) ppm silver in April 1979? I then noticed a footnote in Guinn's 1978 report at the bottom of Appendix B, where he presented his findings. It explained that silver and aluminum were measured twice for each sample, and that the uncertainty measurements for the test of these elements--which were more than twice as large for the magic bullet (plus or minus 1.4 ppm) than any other sample--reflected either the standard deviation taken from the counting statistics (a number obtained from a formula estimating the accuracy of the test) or "the spread of the two values," whichever was larger. Well, hell, this suggested that one of the two measurements for silver on the magic bullet was even lower than the 7.9 ppm Guinn reported, possibly much lower. 

Heck... if I'm understanding this correctly Guinn's measurement of 7.9 ppm silver (plus or minus 1.4 ppm) for the magic bullet meant that his actual measurements were 9.3 ppm and 6.5 ppm, and that he'd averaged them out, and assumed the distance to his actual results was the range. If so, well then it seems likely that his measurement of 9.8 ppm silver (plus or minus 0.5 ppm) for the wrist fragment means that his actual results were 10.3 and 9.3. If this is true, however, it means that Guinn knew that the silver value for the magic bullet may actually have been a bit smaller than 6.5 ppm (when one subtracted the standard deviation taken from the counting statistics) and that the silver value for the wrist fragment may actually have been a bit larger than 10.3 ppm. Well, then, no wonder he ignored the counting statistics! No wonder he measured his samples twice and averaged them out! As shown on the slide above, there is no way anyone can consider a silver value of 10.3 ppm a match for a silver value of 6.5 ppm. As more than half the Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition samples tested fell within this range, it is at best inconclusive. If the test for silver was inconclusive, of course, Guinn had little choice beyond admitting that there was insufficient evidence to claim the magic bullet and wrist fragments matched. Perhaps then this was why Guinn reconfigured this number months later, and changed a 7.9 into an 8.8... Perhaps he'd realized that if he'd presented the measurement for silver as 7.9 (plus or minus 1.4 ppm), questions might arise in the minds of his fellow scientists. A wrist fragment measurement of 7.9 ppm silver, after all, would suggest that the wrist fragment and magic bullet were closer in composition to the brain and limo fragments than they actually were to each other. And this, in turn, would pretty much sink Guinn's claim that his tests revealed two readily distinguishable bullets. 

So why not just change a number or two? I mean, if you're gonna fudge your numbers you might as well make it a nice chocolate-y fudge.

(It should be noted, moreover, that many if not most of Guinn's colleagues were fooled by his switcheroo. As recently as 2007, the standard textbook Criminalistics: An Introduction to Forensic Science featured a section on Guinn's tests in its chapter on Inorganic Analysis. It reprinted, with Guinn's permission, the almost certainly falsified chart Guinn published in Analytical Chemistry, and failed to note that this chart was at odds with the chart Guinn provided the HSCA. It included, among the conclusions to be drawn from Guinn's tests, that there was evidence for only two bullets, one represented by three fragments found in the limo with a composition of 8.1 ppm silver, and one represented by the magic bullet and the wrist fragment with a composition of 9.3 ppm silver. If the magic bullet (CE 399) had actually demonstrated 7.9 ppm, as Guinn told the HSCA, of course, no such conclusion could have been drawn. One can only wonder, then, if the reprinting of the chart Guinn published in Analytical Chemistry was part of an ongoing effort to conceal Guinn's original chart, not to mention his sworn testimony. Just sayin'.)

Of Alchemists and Liars

Guinn's treatment of the copper test in Chemistry and Crime was even more curious. While acknowledging that the wrist fragment had far more copper than the other fragments, he claimed this indicated it was "probably contaminated with imbedded copper jacket material," and that this invalidated the test. He discusses this on pages 74-75. Well, on pages 70-71, he claims that in the FBI Laboratory specimens "are examined under magnification to ascertain whether there is any visible evidence of adhering jacket material. If there is, one attempts to remove the jacket material with a surgical scalpel." He then proceeds "In our laboratory, such samples are then further processed by immersing each sample in concentrated nitric acid for 10 minutes at room temperature. This procedure will dissolve away any specks of adhering jacket material without dissolving any measurable amount of the lead material. However, even this acid treatment procedure fails if there are jacket particles completely imbedded in the lead and inaccessible to attack by the nitric acid." Now, the largest wrist fragment, the only one tested, was tiny, only 16.4 mg. (It would take 632 fragments of this size to make a 160 grain bullet like the one purportedly killing Kennedy.) This tiny fragment, moreover, supposedly fell from the bullet as it traversed Connally's wrist. There was no copper missing, at least that anyone described, from the tail end of the bullet. So how, presuming Guinn actually performed the inspection described both above and in his September 1978 report to the HSCA, did copper get "imbedded" within the lead of this tiny fragment? 

Well, on page 76 he offers up a theory. Sort of. Basically, he throws out a little fact (which turns out not to be a fact) which those reading his chapter can then use to make sense of the copper mystery. He writes that the so-called magic bullet "left no particles along the wound track in either the President or the Governor, and hence was not damaged (even though it broke one of the Governor's ribs with a glancing blow) until it struck the Governor's right wrist. Here, it suffered a dent in its nose and lost about 1% of its lead." Yep, he proposed, albeit in a roundabout way, that the copper imbedded in the wrist fragment came from the nose of the so-called magic bullet. Well, there's two problems with this: 1) the dent on the bullet nose was created by the FBI subsequent to the shooting, and 2) he knew the lead in the wrist fragment came from the back of the bullet.  Yes, when asked in his HSCA testimony if it was his testimony that the magic bullet and wrist fragments came from the same bullet, he testified "Yes. One, of course, is almost a complete bullet so it means that the (wrist) fragments came from, in this case, the base of the bullet."  

SO...my gosh, it appears from this that Guinn was trying to sell that a nearly pristine bullet hit Connally's wrist, and lost some copper from its nose, and that this copper then somehow got imbedded within a tiny speck of lead squeezed from the base of the bullet upon impact, so much so that the copper was imperceptible to the human eye... even under magnification. Yeah, okay... We have a magic bullet and now we have a magic fragment from this bullet. 

Let's note here that in Chemistry and Crime Guinn admitted that he'd studied Mannlicher-Carcano bullet lead even before being hired by the HSCA, and that he'd found the range of copper among this lead to be from 10 to 370 ppm. Let's note as well that in Activation Analysis Vol. 2, he admitted that he'd studied the lead of other bullets as well, and had found the range for copper to be between 1 and 1500 ppm. Now, let's recall that the wrist fragment was 994 ppm copper. This means that Guinn knew, as soon as he'd performed his test, that he'd PROVED the wrist fragment did not derive from the magic bullet, or any other bullet fired from Oswald's rifle, and that the single-bullet and single-assassin theories he'd clearly subscribed to were thereby kaput...UNLESS he could find some reason--any reason--to invalidate his own test. 

Well, the quickest way to do that was to claim jacket material had thrown off his count for copper. So far, so good. But there was no copper missing, as far as could be determined, from the base of the bullet. Well, that's okay, there was a dent on the bullet nose; perhaps it came from there. Only the FBI admitted they'd made the mark on the nose while performing spectrographic tests in the FBI Crime Lab... 

Now, is it reasonable to assume Guinn didn't know this? I don't think so. It seems hard to believe that in his many discussions with the HSCA he would never have inquired about the nick on the bullet nose, and have been informed it had been created by the FBI. 

Well, then, is it possible he just...lied? Yes, I now think so. The final paragraph of Guinn's chapter in Chemistry and Crime reads not like the conclusions of a serious scientist, but the bragging of a politician. He writes: "My findings, of course, neither prove nor disprove the various conspiracy speculations, such as someone, in addition to Oswald, firing from some other location such as the 'grassy knoll.' They do show that if any other persons were firing, they did not hit anyone or anything in the President's limousine." 

Now, this, of course, is nonsense. Even if one accepts Guinn's analysis of the bullet fragments, his findings "showed" no such thing. But he didn't stop there. In 1986, in sworn testimony taken as part of a televised mock trial, Guinn actually repeated this nonsense. When asked by his fellow Vincent, Bugliosi, "What you're saying is that from your neutron activation analysis, there may have been fifty people firing at President Kennedy that day--is that correct--but if there were, they all missed--ONLY bullets from Oswald's Carcano rifle hit the President--is that correct?" Guinn eagerly responded "That's a correct statement, yes!" 

Well, I'll be! Could Guinn really have forgotten he'd found no evidence suggesting the magic bullet had created Kennedy's back wound? Or throat wound? Could he really have forgotten that at least one of the bullets was never found? Well, then, how could he claim that tests never performed on this bullet proved it hadn't hit Kennedy, or anything else in the limo for that matter?

He couldn't, and what's worse, he knew he couldn't. Here is how he summed up his findings in Analytical Chemistry, written but 4 years before Guinn wrote his chapter in Chemistry and Crime, and 7 years before he testified in the mock trial: "The new results can not prove the Warren Commission's theory that the stretcher bullet is the one that caused the President's back wound and all of the Governor's wounds, but the results are indeed consistent with this theory." 

And here is how Guinn testified before the HSCA, only 8 years before he testified in the mock trial: "These results only show that the CE 399 "pristine" bullet, or so-called stretcher bullet, matches the fragments in his wrist. They give you no information whatsoever about whether that bullet first went through President Kennedy's body, since it left no track of fragments and, for that matter, it doesn't even say that it went through Governor Connally--through his back, that is--because it left no track of fragments there. At least I have never seen or heard of any recovered lead fragments from either of those wounds. The results merely say that the stretcher bullet matches the fragments in the wrist, and that indicates indeed that that particular bullet did fracture the wrist. It unfortunately can't tell you anything else because there were no other bits and pieces along the other wounds."

Guinn had completely reversed himself for the mock trial!

And this wasn't the only point on which Guinn's mock trial testimony was suspect. Upon cross-examination, Oswald's defense attorney Gerry Spence pointed out that there were at least thirty bullet fragments in Kennedy's head, and that Guinn had examined but two. He thereby raised the possibility that, in opposition to what Guinn had just told Bugliosi, another bullet was involved. When then asked by Spence if he knew the composition of the fragments he'd never examined, Guinn testily replied "Yes!" When then asked if he'd actually tested these fragments, Guinn fought back, showing what one assumes were his true colors. He snapped "No, but I know what they are!" 

Well, how could he know that? And, what's more, what kind of scientist would claim, in a court of law, (even a mock court of law) that he knows the results of tests he'd never conducted?

This suggests then that Guinn knowingly misrepresented his test results to the HSCA, knew it was only a matter of time before his fellow scientists caught on, and attempted to obfuscate the issue by further misrepresenting the case for a single-assassin in articles like the one in Analytical Chemistry, in books such as Chemistry and Crime, and in public appearances like his testimony in the 1986 mock trial.  

Above: a tale of two Vincents. This is Dr. Vincent Guinn on the stand in the 1986 mock trial, in which he testified as a witness for prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, and bragged about knowing the results of tests that had never been conducted.

Guinn v Guinn

But that's just me. Now, has any expert on bullet lead analysis supported this conclusion? No, not directly. There is one expert on the subject, however, whose writings demonstrate beyond any doubt that Dr. Guinn's conclusions were inappropriate, and far beyond what was warranted. And that expert, as you no doubt have figured out, is Dr. Guinn himself. 

When asked during his 9-8-78 HSCA testimony the degree of certainty he'd attached to his conclusion the Connally wrist fragment derived from the magic bullet, that is, whether he felt it was merely more probable than not or highly probable, after all, Dr. Guinn testified: "I would say highly probable, yes. I would not want to say how high, whether it was 99 percent or 90 percent or 99.9 percent. I can't make a calculation like that."

Hmmm... Well, what are we to make of this? He wouldn't give a number, but said it was "highly probable." Was this a deliberate use of the term?

Yes, sure enough, in the final paragraph of his final report on the fragments, entered into evidence during his testimony, and published on page 533 of HSCA Appendix Vol. 1, Guinn uses the term again. Here, he asserts: "It is highly probable that the specimen tested from Q1 (the stretcher bullet) and the specimen tested from Q9 (the wrist fragment) came from the same bullet." 

So, make no mistake about it, here was a man of science throwing the full weight of his expertise behind his conclusion the stretcher (or magic) bullet and wrist fragment were one.

Now look at how he handled this issue in Chemistry and Crime five years laterHe admits: "Because of an inadequate background file of bullet-lead compositions and for other reasons, it is not possible to make an accurate calculation of the mathematical probability that two scientifically indistinguishable bullet-lead samples were produced from the same homogenous melt of lead. Instead one must resort to more qualitative expressions, such as 'probably' (if only three elements were measured), 'very probably' (if four elements were measured), or 'highly probably' (if five elements were measured). Depending in individual cases on how relatively common or uncommon the observed concentrations are (among the whole population of bullet leads) and on how accurately and precisely each concentration was measured, these three qualitative expressions of probability of a common melt origin may correspond, respectively, to probabilities to the order of 99, 99.9, and 99.99%." 

Yes, you got it. While Guinn used the term "highly probable" in his HSCA testimony, and implied that this term could be used to describe a 90% probability that two samples having two matches, antimony and silver, came from the same bullet, he later reserved the term "highly probable" for the 99.99% probability that two samples having five matches came from the same melt. 

Now look at how he backs this up in Activation Analysis, Vol. 2, published 1991. He now claimed: "If one is to conclude that two BL (bullet lead) or SSP specimens "match" one another to the extent that, to a high degree of probability, they had a common lead-melt origin, they must "match" one another in their concentrations of each of a number of elements measured to a respectable precision, and not exhibit any significant mismatches... For a variety of reasons, it is presently not possible to calculate a numerical probability that any two specimens had a common lead-melt origin. Instead, assuming that they do not mismatch in any element, but only match one another in one or two measured elements, one usually merely states that they might have had a common origin; with three matching elements, that they probably had a common origin; and with four, five, or six matching elements, that there is a very high probability (approaching "certainty") that they had a common origin."

So, ask yourself, is it a coincidence that Guinn testified that the apparent match between the wrist fragment and magic bullet on two elements made it "highly probable" they came from the same bullet, when he later claimed such a match meant merely that they "might" have come from the same melt, and reserved the term "highly probable" for samples matching on four or more elements? 

I think not. In Neutron Activation Analysis in Scientific Crime Investigation, a 1990 paper by Guinn found on the International Atomic Energy Agency website, he noted that a one ton melt of lead can be made into 1,870 boxes of 50 bullets each, or 93,400 bullets. And this was chicken-feed. A May 2004 article by Wilder Smith in Analytical Chemistry notes further that a compositionally indistinguishable volume of lead can be used to make 12 thousand bullets, on the low end, and 35 million, on the high. How can Guinn have claimed, then, that it's "highly probable" two samples matching on two elements in the Kennedy case are the exact same bullet, when he elsewhere said the most one can say about two samples matching on two elements is that they "might" be from the same batch of 93,400 bullets, or more? I mean, who was he trying to fool?

Apparently everyone. Not only had Guinn become far more conservative in his use of the term "highly probable" after his HSCA testimony, he'd become much more liberal with its use for his testimony. After conducting his first series of tests in 1970, using antimony, copper, and arsenic, Guinn claimed that although "matching concentrations of all three elements does not indicate that two bullets came from the same lot" "a significant difference in concentration in any one of the three elements...indicates that they came from different lots."

Yes, Guinn was, at least initially, convinced his tests were far better at showing two specimens did not match, than match. Here is how he summed it up in the Annual Review of Nuclear Science in 1974, justthree years before he conducted his tests for the HSCA: "the antimony concentration itself proves to be a fairly effective means of deciding whether two specimens of bullet lead do not have a common origin. Measurements of the levels of a few additional elements that can be detected, e.g. aluminum, copper, arsenic, silver, tin, can lead to at best only a moderately strong probability of common origin...The purely instrumental NAA approach can readily indicate two specimens do not have a common origin, but it cannot yet establish very high probabilities of common origin." 

So what changed? Did Guinn make some major break-through just prior to his HSCA testimony? 

Not that I've discovered... No, it appears instead that Guinn changed. Had Guinn's 1977-era methodology have been far superior to previously-used methodology, after all, he wouldn't have said the FBI had been mistaken when they claimed their 1964 test results were inconclusive, and he wouldn't have presented their results as support for his conclusions. But he did...

This leads me to conclude, then, that it's highly probable Dr. Vincent Guinn deliberately skewed his conclusions to support the single-bullet theory during his 1978 HSCA testimony, and that he deliberately lied about it afterward.

And it's not as if his misuse of the term "highly probable" was just an unfortunate turn-of-phrase, with no repercussions. Dozens if not hundreds of books, starting with the HSCA's 1979 report, were tainted by it--some to near comical effect... In 1998's Live By The Sword, for example, Oswald-did-it-for-Castro theorist Gus Russo relates "Using a technique known as neutron activation analysis, the HSCA received supporting testimony from Dr. Vincent Guinn, one of the country's top experts in the field of neutron activation. Although at the time Guinn would use only the words "highly probable," he later published two articles in which he makes it clear that by "highly probable" he meant a "99.99% probable." 

Yes, you read that right. Russo got it backward. He realized that Guinn claimed "highly probable" in his testimony, and later specified that "highly probable" meant 99.9%, but failed to realize, or at least acknowledge, that Guinn's definition of "highly probable" changed along the way, and that the match for antimony described in his testimony could no longer be taken to mean it was "highly probable" these samples came from the same source. 

Of course, I'm skeptical Guinn ever honestly believed these odds were "highly probable"...

But that's me. Should the reader wish to think better of this learned man of letters, (Guinn, not Russo) and give him the benefit of the doubt, well, then, let us conjure up an explanation for at least some of his mistakes -- one that moves him from the category of deliberate liar to mere screw-up.  In their early tests of bullet lead, Guinn and others discovered there was an apparent conformity between bullets in the same box, and sought to find practical applications for their discovery. Over time, the courts came to accept the value of bullet lead analysis and the FBI began testifying that one bullet most probably came from the same box as another. This allowed prosecutors to convict suspects even when no gun was found. The problem, as outlined by William Tobin and the National Academy of Sciences, was that little research was done on how bullets were actually made and distributed, and that, when one studied these things, one could only conclude that virtually indistinguishable bullets were likely to end up in boxes of ammunition on opposite sides of the country.  In his research on Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition, however, Guinn found that the bullets within the same box had no apparent conformity. This led him to believe that the slight conformity between the wrist fragment and the magic bullet had significance, as other bullets from its box would be unlikely to match on antimony.  The problem was that there was NO REASON to assume the wrist fragment bullet came from the same box as the magic bullet.  Quite literally, then, Guinn was thinking inside the box when he should have been thinking outside the box!  

Or maybe he was lying.  All I know for sure is that his testimony regarding the magic bullet and wrist fragment was inaccurate.  In July, 2006, Dr.s Erik Randich and Patrick Grant published an article in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, describing a study they'd conducted with the help of Tom Pinkston. They used cross-sections of bullets to demonstrate that antimony concentrations were not standard throughout bullet lead, even within the same bullet, and that one would have to have used samples far larger than those used by Guinn before coming to any conclusions whether or not a fragment could have come from the same bullet as another fragment. They also found that other full-metal jacketed ammunition contained similar levels of antimony as the ammunition fired in Oswald's rifle. Their conclusion reads: “We therefore assert that, from our perspectives of standard metallurgical practice and statistical assessment of the fundamental NAA measurements a conclusion of material evidence for only two bullets in the questioned JFK assassination specimens has no forensic basis.  Although collateral information from the overall investigation might very well narrow the choices, as stand-alone primary evidence, the recovered bullet fragments could be reflective of anywhere between two and five different rounds fired in Dealey Plaza on that day.  Only the near-complete mass of CE-399, the stretcher bullet, precludes the conclusion of one to five rounds.  Moreover, the fragments need not necessarily have originated from MC ammunition.  Indeed, the antimony compositions of the evidentiary specimens are consistent with any number of jacketed ammunitions containing hardened lead." 

In May, 2007, a similar article by Spiegleman, Tobin et al in the Annals of Applied Statistics confirmed Randich and Grant's conclusions, and disclosed that they had repeated Guinn's tests on random Mannlicher-Carcano bullets. Not surprisingly, given Guinn's results, they'd found that one of the thirty random bullets used in their study was a close match to one of the assassination fragments. This news even made the Washington Post. 

And SO... in my estimation, one has a choice: the tests on the fragments performed by Guinn were either: 1) incorrectly interpreted, as they actually showed the likelihood of more than one shooter; 2) of little scientific value; or 3) BOTH incorrectly interpreted and of little scientific value. No matter what, however, one thing is clear: the tests did not do what single-bullet theorists claim they did-- prove the magic bullet passed through Connally's wrist. 

I realize, of course, that belief in the single-bullet theory is of a religious nature, where no amount of contrary evidence can make an impact upon the most devout. To wit, The Encyclopedia of Forensic Science, a Facts on File publication by Suzanne Bell, continued to claim in its 2008 edition that Guinn's tests "showed conclusively that two and only two bullets were involved in the killing and that the bullet recovered from Connally's stretcher was the same one that deposited fragments in his wrist." It then cited Guinn's 1979 article in Analytical Chemistry as support for this claim. 

Well, this was most unfortunate. As we've seen Guinn changed his results for silver for this article. As we've seen, this helped turn what can only be considered a non-match...into a possible match. It follows, then, that Dr. Bell was deceived by Guinn's article, and that she then failed to correct what should have been corrected. 

But she wasn't the last to push Guinn's results long after she should have known better. In 2013, Australian detective Colin McLaren, in his book JFK: The Smoking Gun, asserted "I firmly believe"Guinn's analysis "proves two very different rounds were in play on the day. One round (800 ppm) is tested to have been from the pristine bullet found on Connally's hospital trolley and also matched to the wound on Connally's wrist." 

Now this was 7 years after the Randich/Grant study called such a match into question. Apparently news travels slow in the land down under. 

P.S. The DOJ Un-ravelling

In 2017, I noticed something on an online thread regarding the Martin Luther King assassination that made me feel a little sick. It was a quote from a Department of Justice website designed to refute Judge Joe Brown's claim the bullet killing Martin Luther King failed to match the bullets retrieved from across the street, which were purportedly linked to James Earl Ray.

The DOJ argued: "Judge Brown testified that the bullet recovered from Dr. King did not come from the same batch as four similar cartridges found in the bundle with the rifle since, according to the FBI, the bullets from those four cartridges were metallurgically identical to each other but different from the bullet taken from Dr. King. This testimony, at the outset, is based on the factually incorrect presumption that cartridges boxed together always possess identical trace elements. Very often they do not. More fundamentally, Judge Brown's testimony is directly contradicted by the very FBI records on which he claimed to rely. According to those records, the FBI found five similar unfired cartridges in the bundle with the rifle -- not four -- and, contrary to Judge Brown's assertions, none of the bullets from those cartridges were metallurgically consistent with each other. At the same time, the FBI found the composition of the bullet from the fifth cartridge -- the one Judge Brown overlooked -- to be consistent with the composition of the bullet recovered from Dr. King's body."

Let's reflect...

1. The FBI report on the NAA of the JFK fragments was written in 1964. They found the results inconclusive. 

2. The FBI report on the NAA of the MLK bullets was written in April 1968. They found a match between a fragment of the fatal bullet and one of the five bullets found with the rifle linked to James Earl Ray, and concluded the fatal bullet had come from the same box as this bullet. 

3. Dr. Guinn re-tested the JFK fragments in 1977.

4. Dr. Guinn testified that Mannllcher-Carcano bullets were unique in that they were inconsistent from bullet to bullet. He testified further that there was a strong correlation between the wrist fragment and stretcher bullet. He testified that this supported the single-bullet theory.

5. His test was performed before the HSCA pathology panel visited the archives. HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey almost certainly informed them, moreover, of Guinn's results before they inspected the evidence. And they were almost certainly encouraged to go along with his findings.

6. And yet, one can only assume, the HSCA had within its files an FBI report on the MLK bullets which was at odds with Dr. Guinn's findings...

7. Guinn's conclusions, after all, were based upon not one but two assumptions regarding Mannlicher-Carcano bullets that were at odds with the FBI's report...that 1) they were unique in their variation from bullet to bullet within the same box; and 2) the odds of their being a match between two bullets from the same box was next to non-existent, and suggestive that two matching fragments came from the same bullet, as opposed to two separate bullets from the same box. 

And yet, here, in the MLK case, the reverse was held to be true, and the matching of a fragment from the body with one of five non-matching bullets found with the gun meant the fatal bullet must have come from the same box of bullets as the bullet found with the gun. Oh, my, how convenient!

Perhaps it should be said, then, that the HSCA's conclusions were not unlike what Guinn claimed of Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition, i.e. that they were consistently inconsistent.