Chapter 4e: Un-smoking the Gun
Chapter 4e: Un-smoking the Gun
The absence of evidence and the evidence of absence
We shall now embark on an amazing journey into the mostly unknown, and undoubtedly little-understood...the events of 11-22-63 leading up to the arrival of Lt. Day and Det. Studebaker at the crime scene.
The 11-23-63 report of Deputy Sheriff Allen Sweatt:
"At approximately 12:30 PM, Friday, November 22, 1963, I was standing with a group of Deputy Sheriff's about 30 feat east of the corner of Houston and Main Street on Main Street.
The president's caravan had just passed and about a minute or 2 I heard a shot and about 7 seconds later another shot and approximately 2 or 3 seconds later a third shot which sounded to me like a rifle and coming from the vicinity of Elm and Houston street. Several officers and myself from the Sheriff's department ran around the corner and towards Elm Street and Houston and were told that someone had shot at the President. A man by the name of "Hester" told Deputy John Wiseman that the shots had come from the old Sexton building. As we approached the building we were told the shots had come from the fence. Deputy Wiseman and a City Officer went to the front door of the building and I continued towards the railroad yards with Deputy Harry Weatherford and I stopped where I could see two sides of the building which was the west and south sides. Deputy Harry Weatherford went into the building through an open window on the 1st floor and Deputy Wiseman and the DPD officer went in the front door. On the far side of the building opposite me were some DPD Officers. At that time I was told the President had been shot and that Governor Connally also had been shot.
Officers started coming to the scene and approximately 15 deputy sheriff's and a number of DPD officers were at location. At this time, Inspector Sawyer of the DPD came to the front of the building and started taking names of witnesses and I suggested to inspector Sawyer that I get two deputies and send the witnesses to the Sheriff's Office for statements instead of letting the witnesses leave the scene. Inspector Sawyer agreed with this plan and as witnesses were brought together they were taken directly across the street to the Sheriff's Office to wait until statements could be taken.
While I was still at the front of the Building, Deputy Sheriff Luke Mooney stuck his head out of the 5th floor window and the Northeast corner of the building and stated he had found some spent cartridge cases and he was told to let them remain untouched until the DPD Crime Lab arrived on the scene."
Well, okay, this sounds pretty hectic, so hectic, in fact, that Sweatt thought the cartridge cases were found in the northeast corner, not southeast corner. And yet, Sweatt's account is pretty clear. Within seconds of the shooting, Sheriff's Deputies and Dallas Police scrambled to the train yards and then into the school book depository. But what about the exact timing? How long was it before Mooney discovered the cartridge cases?
Here is Mooney's 11-23 statement:
"I was standing in front of the Sheriff's office at 505 Main Street, Dallas, When President Kennedy and the motorcade passed by. Within a few seconds after he had passed me and the motorcade had turned the corner I heard a shot and I immediately started running towards the front of the motorcade and within seconds heard a second and a third shot. I started running across Houston Street and down across the lawn to the triple underpass and up the terrace to the railroad yards. I searched along with many other officers, this area, when Sheriff Bill Decker came up and told me and the Officers Sam Webster and Billy Joe Victory to surround the Texas School Book Depository building. As we approached the two big steel wire gates to the building dockat the back of the building on Elm Street side, we saw saw that the loading dock had locks on it and I then pulled the steel gates closed and requested of a citizen standing there to see that no-one came out or went in until I could get a uniformed officer there, which he did. Officers Webster, Victory, and myself took to the building. Officers Webster and Victory took the stairs and I told them I would take the freight elevator. At the time I got on the elevator two women who work in the building got on the elevator, saying they wanted to go to their offive. As the elevator started up, we went up one floor and the power to the elevator was cut off. I got out on the floor with theese women and looked around in their office and I then took to the stairs and went to the 6th floor, and Officers Webster and Victory went up to the 7th floor. I was the only person on the 6th floor when I searched it and was reasonably sure that there was no one else on this floor as I searched it and then criss-crossed it, seeing only stacks of cartons of books. I was at that time also checking for open windows and fire escapes. I found where someone had been using a skill saw in laying some flooring in one corner of this floor and I then went to the 7th floor and was assisting in searching it out and crawled into the attic opening and decided it was too dark and came down to order flash lights. I then went on back to the 6th floor and went direct to the far corner and then discovered a cubby hole which had been constructed out of cartons which protected it from sight and found where someone had been in an area of perhaps 2 feet surrounded by cardboard cartons of books. Inside this cubby hole affair was three more boxes so arranged as to provide what appeared to be a rest for a rifle. On one of these cartons was a half-eaten piece of chicken. The minute that I saw the expended shells on the floor, I hung my head out of the half opened window and signaled to Sheriff Bill Decker and Captain Will Fritz who were outside the building and advised them to send up the Crime Lab Officers at once that I had located the area from which the shots had been fired. At this time, Officers Webstr, Victory, and McCurley came over to this spot and we guarded this spot until Crime Lab Officers got upstairs within a matter of a few minutes. We then turned this area over to Captain Fritz and his officers for processing."
Okay, that doesn't tell us. So let's ask again. When did Mooney find the cartridge cases?
Mr. BALL - About what time of day was this?
Mr. MOONEY - Well, it was approaching 1 o'clock. It could have been 1 o'clock.
Mr. BALL - Did you look at your watch?
Mr. MOONEY - No, sir; I didn't. I should have, but I didn't look at my watch at the time to see what time it was.
Mr. BALL - Were you the only officer in that corner?
Mr. MOONEY - At that very moment I was.
One o'clock? A number of witnesses pointed out the sniper's nest window within minutes of the shooting. And yet, it took another 25 minutes before someone made it over to this window and discovered that, by golly, there were three shells on the floor by this window?
Nope. It's way way worse than that.
An excerpt from the report of Det.s Sims and Boyd (top assistants to Capt. Fritz) follows:
"About this time someone yelled that some empty hulls had been found on the sixth floor. Capt. Fritz, Sims, and Boyd went to the southeast window on the sixth floor and saw three empty hulls on the floor near the window. The empty hulls were found about 1:15 PM. Deputy Sheriff Luke Mooney said he found them and let them lay as they were. We stayed there with the empty hulls to preserve the scene and a methodical search was started by other officers going from east to west. About 1:20 PM, Lt. J.C. Day and R.L. Studebaker arrived on the sixth floor. Capt. Fritz asked Lt. Day to take pictures of the hulls and the surrounding area. About 1:25 PM someone called for Capt. Fritz, and he left Det. L.D. Montgomery and Marvin Johnson to stay with the hulls. Capt. Fritz, Sims and Boyd went over to near the stairway where one of the officers had called Capt. Fritz...Sims went back to where Lt. Day was and told him the gun had been found. Lt. Day or Det. Studebaker took another picture of the hulls and said they had already taken pictures of the scene. Sims picked up the empty hulls, and Lt. Day held an envelope open while Sims dropped them in the envelope. Lt. Day then walked over to where the rifle had been found. Det. Studebaker and Lt. Day took pictures of the rifle." (24H519-521)
1:15??? The Dallas Police were told of the sniper's nest location within minutes, and yet no one from the DPD went up and checked it out, or even told someone else to check it out? And this even though a dozen or more Deputy Sheriffs and DPD officers were running all over the building? Even if one buys into the belief 1:15 was incorrect, and that the time of Mooney's discovery was more like 1:06, it still seems too much time--no, way too much time--passed between the moment the Dallas police and deputies heard shots and the moment the shells from this shooting were discovered behind an open window.
If Oswald had had a trial, his defense team could have feasted upon this, and raised the possibility one or more of the men running around the building had made a brief detour to plant evidence against Oswald by the window. Heck, they might ask, what was Mooney doing up there all by himself? Mooney, as we've seen, admitted he was on the sixth floor for some time before going up to the seventh, and then returning. Had he planted the evidence by the window, and then gone up to the seventh, in hopes someone else would discover the evidence on the sixth? Had he then got tired of waiting, and then, and only then, come back down to the sixth, to "find" the evidence? By his own admission, he went straight to the corner when he came back down. Why?
Now, to be clear, I personally don't consider Mooney a suspect. But the Warren Commission, should it truly have been acting as both prosecutor and defense attorney, should have gotten into this, and, at the very least, criticized the Dallas Police for their incompetent behavior at the crime scene. Let this soak in. The Dallas Police had multiple sources telling them the location of the shooter, and multiple officers inside the building, but, apparently, failed to tell any of these officers from where the shots had been fired, just so, y'know, they could go and take a look, or even maybe find the shooter...prior to their going over to Mooney...45 minutes after the shooting.
The story on this is incredible, as in incredibly hard to believe.
Now I know what some are thinking. They believe the delay in finding the sniper's nest was caused by witnesses saying the window was on the fifth floor, and not sixth, or by a reluctance on the part of the police to go off by themselves out of fear they'd encounter the sniper. But that's just hoo-ha. There's no record of any of the deputies or police running up to the fifth floor, or any such thing. And there's no record of anyone sticking his head out the fifth floor window and asking if this was the right window, or any such thing. And that's because no one was told to go up and find the location from where the shots were fired. They were told to go in and inspect the building, which to them meant find the sniper. So they ran up to the seventh floor and waited around for someone, anyone, to bring them flashlights. and this, while, just below them, someone, anyone, was free to tamper with the crime scene.
And that's not the only thing that's fishy about the shells... (insert seafood pun here.) As shown above, the shell closest to the camera in the DPD photo of the floor by the window was altered for the FBI's report on the school book depository.
What was that about? Was the shell in the original photo not really a shell? Did the FBI then try to cover this up?
Eclipsing Mr. Mooney
Well, whatever the FBI's purpose in drawing in that shell on photo 32, it paid off.
Here is a big chunk of Mooney's 3-25-64 testimony.
Mr. MOONEY - ...I never did look at my watch to see how many seconds it took us to run so many hundred yards there, and into the railroad yard. We were there only a few seconds until we had orders to cover the Texas Depository Building.
Mr. BALL - How did you get those orders?
Mr. MOONEY - They were referred to us by the sheriff, Mr. Bill Decker.
Mr. BALL - Where was he when he gave you those orders?
Mr. MOONEY - They were relayed on to us. I assume Mr. Decker was up near the intersection of Elm and Houston.
Mr. BALL - Did you hear it over a loudspeaker?
Mr. MOONEY - No, sir. It come by word, by another officer.
Mr. BALL - And you were with Walters at that time?
Mr. MOONEY - Right, And where Officer. Walters went at that time, I don't know. We split up. I didn't see him any more until later on, which I will refer to later.
Mr. BALL - Where did you go?
Mr. MOONEY - Mr. Webster and Mr. Vickery were there with me at the time that we received these orders from another deputy.
Mr. BALL - They are deputy sheriffs?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir; they were plainclothes officers like myself, work in the same department, and we run right over to the building then, which we were only 150, 200 feet back--I assume it is that distance I haven't measured it. It didn't take us but a few seconds to get there. When we hit the rear part, these big iron gates, they have cyclone fencing on them--this used to be an old grocery store warehouse--Sachs & Co., I believe is correct. And I says let's get these doors closed to block off this rear entrance.
Mr. BALL - Were the doors open?
Mr. MOONEY - They were wide open, the big gates. So I grabbed one, and we swung them to, and there was a citizen there, and I put him on orders to keep them shut, because I don't recall whether there was a lock on them or not. Didn't want to lock them because you never know what might happen. So he stood guard, I assume, until a uniformed officer took over. We shut the back door-- there was a back door on a little dock. And then we went in through the docks, through the rear entrance. Officer Vickery and Webster said, "We will take the staircase there in the corner. I said, "I will go up the freight elevator." I noticed there was a big elevator there. So I jumped on it. And about that time two women come running and said, "we want to go to the second floor." I said, "All right, get on, we are going."
Mr. BALL - Which elevator did you get on?
Mr. MOONEY - It was the one nearest to the staircase, on the northwest corner of the building.
Mr. BALL - There are two elevators there?
Mr. MOONEY - I found that out later. I didn't know it at that time.
Mr. BALL - You took the west one, or the east one?
Mr. MOONEY - I would say it was the west elevator, the one nearest to the staircase.
Mr. BALL - Did it work with a push button?
Mr. MOONEY - It was a push button affair the best I can remember. got hold of the controls and it worked. We started up and got to the second. I was going to let them off and go on up. And when we got there, the power undoubtedly cut off, because we had no more power on the elevator. So I looked around their office there, just a short second or two, and then I went up the staircase myself. And I met some other officers coming down, plainclothes, and I believe they were deputy sheriffs. They were coming down the staircase. But I kept going up. And how come I get off the sixth floor, I don't know yet. But, anyway, I stopped on six, and didn't even know what floor I was on.
Mr. BALL - You were alone?
Mr. MOONEY - I was alone at that time.
Mr. BALL - Was there any reason for you to go to the sixth floor?
Mr. MOONEY - No, sir. That is what I say. I don't know why. I just stopped on that particular floor. I thought I was pretty close to the top.
Mr. BALL - Were there any other officers on the floor?
Mr. MOONEY - I didn't see any at that time. I assume there had been other officers up there. But I didn't see them. And I begin criss-crossing it, round and round, through boxes, looking at open windows---some of them were open over on the south side. And I believe they had started laying some flooring up there. I was checking the fire escapes. And criss-crossing back and forth. And then I decided--I saw there was another floor. And I said I would go up. So I went on up to the seventh floor. I approached Officers Webster and Vickery. They were up there in this little old stairway there that leads up into the attic. So we climbed up in there and looked around right quick. We didn't climb all the way into the attic, almost into it. We said this is too dark, we have got to have floodlights, because we can't see. And so somebody made a statement that they believed floodlights was on the way. And I later found out that probably Officers Boone and Walters had gone after lights. I heard that. And so we looked around up there for a short time. And then I says I am going back down on six. At that time, some news reporter, or press, I don't know who he was--he was coming up with a camera. Of course he wasn't taking any pictures. He was just looking, too, I assume. So I went back down ahead of Officers Vickery and Webster. They come in behind me down to the sixth floor. I went straight across to the southeast corner of the building, and I saw all these high boxes. Of course they were stacked all the way around over there. And I squeezed between two. And the minute I squeezed between these two stacks of boxes, I had to turn myself sideways to get in there that is when I saw the expended shells and the boxes that were stacked up looked to be a rest for the weapon. And, also, there was a slight crease in the top box. Whether the recoil made the crease or it was placed there before the shots were fired, I don't know. But, anyway, there was a very slight crease in the box, where the rifle could have lain--at the same angle that the shots were fired from. So, at that time, I didn't lay my hands on anything, because I wanted to save every evidence we could for fingerprints. So I leaned out the window, the same window from which the shots were fired, looked down, and I saw Sheriff Bill Decker and Captain Will Fritz standing right on the ground. Well, so I hollered, or signaled I hollered, I more or less hollered. I whistled a time or two before I got anybody to see me. And yet they was all looking that way, too except the sheriff, they wasn't looking up. And I told him to get the crime lab officers en route, that I had the location spotted. So I stood guard to see that no one disturbed anything until Captain Will Fritz approached with his group of officers, city officers. At that time, of course, when I hollered, of course Officers Vickery and Webster, they came across and later on several other deputies--I believe Officers McCurley, A. D. McCurley, I believe he came over. Where he came from--they was all en route up there, I assume.
Mr. BALL - I show you three pictures. Officer; for your convenience I will give you the pictures. I have a picture here which has been marked as Commission Exhibit 508.
(The document referred to was marked Commission Exhibit No. 508 for identification.)
Mr. BALL - Does that look anything like the southeast corner of the building as you saw it that afternoon?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - About what time of day was this?
Mr. MOONEY - Well, it was approaching 1 o'clock. It could have been 1 o'clock.
Mr. BALL - Did you look at your watch?
Mr. MOONEY - No, sir; I didn't. I should have, but I didn't look at my watch at the time to see what time it was.
Mr. BALL - Were you the only officer in that corner?
Mr. MOONEY - At that very moment I was.
Mr. BALL - You say you squeezed behind certain boxes. Can you point out for me what boxes you squeezed through?
Mr. MOONEY - IF I remember correctly, I went in there from this angle right here right through here. There could be a space. There is a space there I squeezed in between here, and that is when I got into the opening, because the minute I squeezed through there there lay the shells.
Mr. BALL - All right. Let's make a mark here. Is this the space?
Mr. MOONEY - I believe that is going to be the space; yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - If I make an arrow on that, would that indicate it?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir. There is another picture I have seen later that shows an opening in through here, but I didn't see that opening at that time.
Mr. BALL - That is the opening through which you squeezed? And it is an arrow shown on Exhibit 508.
Now, I will show you 509.
(The document referred to was marked Commission Exhibit No. 509 for identification.)
Is that the way the boxes looked?
Mr. MOONEY - That is the three boxes, but one of them was tilted off just a little, laying down on the edge, I believe, to my knowledge.
Mr. BALL - Now, does that look like
Mr. MOONEY - That is the three boxes that were there; yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - Are they arranged as they were when you saw them?
Mr. MOONEY - I am not positive. As I remember right, there was one box tilted off.
Mr. BALL - What were the boxes---did they have a label on them, two of the boxes?
Mr. MOONEY - These do. I didn't notice the label at that time.
Mr. BALL - That is a picture of the window?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes.
Mr. BALL - Do I understand that you say that it appeared to you that the top box was tilted?
Mr. MOONEY - The end of it was laying this way.
Mr. BALL - You say there was a crease in a box. Where was that crease?
Mr. MOONEY - This crease was right in this area of this box.
Mr. BALL - You mean over on the edge?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir; on this far ledge here, where I am laying my finger.
Mr. BALL - Did it go into the box?
Mr. MOONEY - Very slight crease, very slight.
Mr. BALL - Can you take this and point out about where the crease was on 509? Now, was there anything you saw over in the corner?
Mr. MOONEY - No, sir; I didn't see anything over in the corner. I did see this one partially eaten piece of fried chicken laying over to the right. It looked like he was facing--
Mr. BALL - Tell us where you found it?
Mr. MOONEY - It would be laying over on the top of these other boxes. This here is kind of blurred.
Mr. BALL - We will get to that in a moment. Now, I show you 510.
(The document referred to was marked Commission Exhibit No. 510 for identification.)
Mr. BALL - Is that the empty shells you found?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - Are they shown there?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - Now, will you take this and encircle the shells?
Mr. MOONEY - All right.
Mr. BALL - Put a fairly good sized circle around each shell. That is the way they were when you saw them, is that right?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir. I assume that this possibly could have been the first shot.
Mr. BALL - You cannot speculate about that?
Mr. MOONEY - You cannot speculate about that.
Mr. BALL - Those were empty shells?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - They were turned over to Captain Fritz?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir; he was the first officer that picked them up, as far as I know, because I stood there and watched him go over and pick them up and look at them. As far as I could tell, I couldn't even tell what caliber they were, because I didn't get down that close to them. They were brass cartridges, brass shells.
Mr. BALL - Is this the position of the cartridges as shown on 510, as you saw them?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir. That is just about the way they were laying, to the best of my knowledge. I do know there was--one was further away, and these other two were relatively close together--on this particular area. But these cartridges--this one and this one looks like they are further apart than they actually was.
Mr. BALL - Which ones?
Mr. MOONEY - This one and this one.
Mr. BALL - Now, two cartridges were close together, is that right?
Mr. MOONEY - The one cartridge here, by the wall facing, is right. And this one and this one, they were further away from this one.
Mr. BALL - Well--
Mr. MOONEY - But as to being positive of the exact distance
Mr. BALL - You think that the cartridges are in the same position as when you saw them in this picture 510?
Mr. MOONEY - As far as my knowledge, they are; pretty close to right.
Mr. BALL - Well, we will label these cartridges, the empty shells as "A", "B", and "C."
Now, I didn't quite understand---did you say it was your memory that "A" and "B" were not that close together?
Mr. MOONEY - Just from my memory, it seems that this cartridge ought to have been over this way a little further.
Mr. BALL - You mean the "B" cartridge should be closer to the "C?"
Mr. MOONEY - Closer to the "C"; yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - Now, I have another picture here which I should like to have marked as 511.
(The document referred to was marked Commission Exhibit No. 511 for identification.)
Mr. BALL - Does this appear to be--- first of all, does that appear-----
Mr. MOONEY - There are two cartridges. Where is the third one?
Mr. BALL - The third one is not in this picture. This is taken from another angle.
Mr. MOONEY - This looks more like it than this angle here.
Mr. BALL - You can see it is a different angle.
Mr. MOONEY - That is right.
Mr. BALL - Now, in this same picture 511, you see a box in the window. Does that seem to be about the angle---
Mr. MOONEY - Yes; that box was tilted.
Mr. BALL - That was tilted in that way?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - Now, when you made a crease on 509, the box shown in 509--
Mr. MOONEY - The box should have been actually tilted.
Mr. BALL - In other words, it was your testimony, was it, that the box as shown in 509 was not as you first saw it?
Mr. MOONEY - If I recall it right, this box was tilted. It had fallen off--looked like he might have knocked it off.
Mr. BALL - Well, you cannot speculate to that, but you can just tell us what you saw. What about the box in the window shown in 511?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - Is that the box that had the crease on it?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir; I believe that is correct.
Mr. BALL - Now, the crease was started from the edge, and came across?
Mr. MOONEY - yes, sir; just a slight crease.
Mr. BALL - I have another picture. This is 512.
(The document referred to was marked Commission Exhibit No. 512 for identification.)
Mr. BALL - Here is a picture taken, also, from another angle. Does that show the cartridges?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - Now, compare that with 510..
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - Is that about the way it looked?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir; that is right. It sure is.
Mr. BALL - Now, were the boxes, as you saw them, on the extreme left side of the window, the middle of the window, or the right side.
Mr. MOONEY - Well, they were further over to the left of the window than over to the right. More or less as they are in there in that picture.
Mr. BALL - In 509?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - Now, the boxes are in about the right position with reference to--
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir; because I had room enough to stand right here, and lean out this window, without disturbing the boxes.
Mr. BALL - You could stand on the right of the boxes?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - And put your head out the window?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir. If I recall, I put my hand on the outside of this ledge.
Mr. BALL - And put your head out the window?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir.
Senator COOPER - Was the window open when you got there?
Mr. MOONEY - Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL - If you stood to the left of the boxes, could you have looked out the window?
Mr. MOONEY - I don't believe I could, without, disturbing them. Possibly I might have, could have, but I just didn't try.
Mr. BALL - How long did you stay up on the sixth floor? After you found the location of the three cartridges?
Mr. MOONEY - Well, I stayed up there not over 15 or 20 minutes longer--after Captain Will Fritz and his officers came over there, Captain Fritz picked up the cartridges, began to examine them, of course I left that particular area. By that time there was a number of officers up there. The floor was covered with officers. And we were searching, trying to find the weapon at that time.
So, what was all that about? 508 is a photo of the sniper's nest taken from ten yards or so behind. It doesn't show the boxes and shells by the window. 509 is a photo of the sniper's nest boxes after they had been moved. These photos probably shouldn't have been shown to Mooney. Photo 510, however, is a photo taken of the sniper's nest shells looking west. It is shown on the slide above. Although 510 was purported to show the sniper's nest shells as first observed by Day and Studebaker, Mooney recalled the shells as having been in a slightly different arrangement. And he even explained why this might be. He said he saw Capt. Fritz pick up the shells. Mooney was then shown 511, a photo taken of the sniper's nest shells looking east. One of the shells has been cropped off this photo. He was then shown photo 512--a cropped version of 510 on which a shell has been added on top of the shell closest to the camera--and was told this was yet another photo taken from a different angle.
Now, note that when Ball did this, Mooney, instead of pointing out the obvious--that this was the same photo he was just shown, but with a shell added on top of the shell closest to the camera--immediately jumped to "Yes, sir; that is right. It sure is."
So...was Mooney tricked into supporting the accuracy of the photos taken by Studebaker and Day? Or intimidated into going along?
We can assume the latter. Mooney was interviewed by Gary Mack for the Sixth Floor Museum on 12-4-02. The transcript to this interview reveals that, when asked about the layout of the shells in the sniper's nest, Mooney replied: "down here, besides where the rifle was when he ejected the shells, there were three spent shells. (indicating with finger on tabletop their position—off camera) One like... about like there and one here and one over here. They might have been a foot apart because I didn’t have no camera to take pictures of them, but I’m sure they did because I had to identify them all in Washington, D.C. And all--either good pictures or fake pictures (smiling), they had all kinds. And if you didn’t know what you saw, you better not talk (chuckling and Gary briefly chuckles in background) because they had the answer."
In any event, we can conclude that Mooney believed the crime scene photos taken by Studebaker and Day did not accurately reflect the location of the casings as he first saw them, and that he thought Capt. Fritz was responsible.
Here is Mooney as quoted by Larry Sneed in No More Silence (1998): "The first thing that I saw were the spent shells...As I recall, the shell casings were laying in the area of where he had rested the rifle on the carton. They were not right against the baseboard under the window sill; one was about a foot from the other and the third was further away. It appeared as though they had been ejected from the rifle and had possibly bounced off the cartons of books to the rear. After I located the spent shells and I knew that that was the location of the assassin, I hooked my elbows over the window sill so that I wouldn't leave any fingerprints or disturb any evidence and called down to Sheriff Decker and Captain Fritz, who surprisingly happened to be down on the street, to send up the Crime Lab. Fritz arrived a few moments later taking the same route through the stacks of boxes that I had. He was the first man to reach down and pick up one of the shell casings to see what caliber it was. I had secured the area before he had arrived, thus nothing had been disturbed until that time. After that, I don't know what happened to the casings."
Let's get to the bottom of this.
Fritz the Cat?
Here, again, is a still from the Tom Alyea film in which Capt. Fritz is shown standing over in the far corner, right by where two of the shells are presented in Exhibits 510 and 512. Note that the motorcycle cop and the man with a dark hat are looking down at the floor in the foreground. This is the location of the third shell in 510 and 512.
Now absorb that Tom Alyea not only corroborated Mooney's claim Capt. Fritz picked up the shells, he claimed he filmed Fritz doing it.
Of course, many, if not most, of those looking into this matter, assume Alyea's footage of Fritz picking up the shells has been destroyed. But I don't believe this is true. In 2010, while watching the History Channel, I saw a segment from Alyea's film which I had seen previously in an altered form. This previously-seen footage had inexplicably clipped off the bottom of the footage. A still from this slightly less-butchered image is presented below.
Well, this shows Fritz bent over by where the third shell was located, with something in his hand. He has turned to his right to discuss this something, moreover, with an assistant, presumably Det. Sims or Boyd.
And here is a close-up view of this something...which is visible by the left jaw of Fritz's assistant.
And here is a link to this footage...
So what's the problem? Alyea recalled seeing Fritz pick up all three shells. That is a bit problematic. But this footage shows him pick up but one, which is less problematic.
Now, to be clear, on 12-4-02 Gary Mack asked Luke Mooney about Fritz's picking up a shell, and if this was filmed by Alyea, and received the following response: "there wasn’t no photographer there at that time the best I remember when Fritz... because me and Fritz was the only two men standing there in the... around this area because you had to wind around to get over in that area. And so, we was the only two men standing there at the time he reached over there and picked it up and laid it back down."
So it seems possible Fritz picked the shells up more than once.
And yet, even so... Fritz's picking up one or even all three of the shell casings once or twice or even dozens of times is not nearly the problem some make it out to be...
Fritz was on the hunt for a killer. He needed to know what kind of weapon had been used. If he needed to pick up a shell and look at it in order to determine the weapon used in the assassination, what was the harm?
Especially since fingerprints are rarely--and I mean almost never--found on spent cartridge cases.
And no, I'm not kidding.
In 1992, when interviewed by Gerald Posner for Posner's book Case Closed, Lt. Day declared that it's "routine" that one not find prints on shells discovered at a crime scene, and that "You can handle them and still not leave a mark." And no, Day wasn't lying.
The Minneapolis Police studied this in 2006, and found 0 prints on 2727 unfired cartridges recovered at crime scenes, and only 1 print (which they assumed was created after the shooting) on 259 spent cartridges recovered at crime scenes.
And the Denver Police Dept. followed up on this from 2008-2010, and found but 2 prints on 817 unfired cartridges recovered at crime scenes, and 0 prints on 200 spent cartridges recovered at crime scenes.
And these studies led forensic scientist Betzaido Maldonado, in the Journal of Forensic Science (vol. 62 2012), to conclude that “Fingerprints placed on curved surfaces can be challenging," and that the “limited surface area" and heat inflicted on cartridge cases make the development of prints on these cartridges even more challenging, and that, as a result, when it comes to cartridges, there is an “extremely low probability of developing fingerprints with conventional methods”
So it's really not so bad if Fritz picked up the shells...
provided he didn't lie about it...
Mr. FRITZ. We started at the bottom; yes, sir. And, of course, and I think we went up probably to the top. Different people would call me when they would find something that looked like something I should know about and I ran back and forth from floor to floor as we were searching, and it wasn't very long until someone called me and told me they wanted me to come to the front window, the corner window, they had found some empty cartridges.
Mr. BALL. That was on the sixth floor?
Mr. FRITZ. That is right; the sixth floor, corner window.
Mr. BALL. What did you do?
Mr. FRITZ. I told them not to move the cartridges, not to touch anything until we could get the crime lab to take pictures of them just as they were lying there and I left an officer assigned there to see that that was done, and the crime lab came almost immediately, and took pictures, and dusted the shells for prints.
Mr. BALL. Which officers, which officer did you leave there?
Mr. FRITZ. Carl Day was the man I talked to about taking pictures.
Mr. BALL. Day?
Mr. FRITZ. Lieutenant Day; yes, sir.
Mr. BALL. Do you know whether he took the pictures or not?
Mr. FRITZ. I feel like he did but I don't know because I didn't stay to see whether he could.
There are two points, then, on which Fritz's words seem to contradict Mooney's.
The first apparent contradiction is that Fritz appears to claim he didn't pick up the shells. But look again. He didn't actually deny picking up the shells. When asked what he did, he said he told others not to touch the shells, not that he'd never touched them. Nice sashay.
And the second seeming contradiction is that he says he was on the sixth floor when he heard about the shells. Mooney said he yelled down from the sixth floor to tell Fritz about the shells. Fritz said he had just left the sixth floor and walked up to the seventh, but was then called back to the sixth because someone had found some shells.
Well, surprise, surprise, Fritz skates on this one as well.
Here is another segment of Sims' and Boyd's report. Keep in mind that they were Fritz's assistants and followed him around like a crutch.
"We arrived there at approximately 12:58 PM and saw that the building was surrounded by Police officers, so we rushed on inside. We got on the elevator with several other officers. Lt. Jack Revill and Det. R. W. Westphal are the only ones that we can remember who rode the elevator with us. We stopped on the second floor, opened the elevator door, and saw officers there. We went on up to the third floor and got off the elevator. Westphal said he had a key to 305. We stayed there about 30 seconds and saw several other officers there, so we got back on the elevator and went to the fourth floor and got off. There were several officers on this floor so we caught the freight elevator and went to the fifth floor. We made a hurried search along the front and west side windows and then went on up to the sixth floor. Some officers stayed on the sixth floor, and we went on up to the seventh floor and started to search along the front windows. About this time someone yelled that some empty hulls had been found on the sixth floor. Capt. Fritz, Sims, and Boyd went to the southeast window on the sixth floor and saw three empty rifle hulls on the floor near the window. The empty hulls were found about 1:15 m. Deputy Sheriff Luke E. Mooney said he found them and left them lay as they were." (24H519-521)
Hmmm... Fritz's testimony was foreshadowed by Sims' and Boyd's report. Hmmm... This is the same report in which Sims and Boyd claimed the "hulls" were discovered around 1:15. So let's think about this. Mooney thought he found the "hulls" around 1:00. He saw Fritz arrive, apparently around 12:58, and yelled down for Fritz to come up. Fritz, Boyd and Sims then entered the building. Mooney thought they were on their way up. But they took their sweet time coming up to the sixth floor. They then went up to the seventh floor, only to be told Mooney had found shells on the sixth floor.
Well, it follows, then, that they not only failed to hear Mooney when they were outside the building, but failed to realize when they came over to him that he'd been standing around for 15 minutes or so waiting for them to arrive. They thought he'd found the shells at 1:15, but he'd actually found them much earlier.
Now, let me give some credit where credit is due. The Day Kennedy Was Shot (1968) by Jim Bishop is a pretty horrid book, with many false claims and depictions, some of which we've already discussed, and some of which we'll get to later. But Bishop did talk to a number of Dallas deputies and sheriffs, including, one can only assume, Luke Mooney.
Well, look how Bishop describes the aftermath of Mooney's discovery of the sniper's nest. On page 253, Bishop writes:
"Mooney kept the other policeman away from the area. In time, Fritz arrived. The Crime Laboratory, a mobile unit, had been summoned from headquarters on Main Street. The deputy sheriff was excited. Having made his find, he observed everything. The pile of boxes was high enough to serve as a private screen against prying eyes from anywhere on the sixth floor. The small boxes which had been placed inside, on the floor, were just high enough, with the window one third open, to serve as an assassin's roost. A man could sit on the one nearest the heating pipes, while resting the gun on the one near the window., and looking diagonally down Elm Street toward the overpass. He would have an open, commanding view everywhere except as the motorcade passed the broad tree below. The only open space in the tree was furnished by the "V" of two main branches. Mooney was still dwelling on the subject when ranking officers and their entourages descended on him."
And, should that not be enough, here's an HSCA contact report on an 11-15-77 interview of Mooney: "He leaned out a window and yelled down to Sheriff Decker (Bill) and Capt. Fritz (Will) to send up the Crime Lab. A little later Capt. Fritz arrived and he turned the scene over to him for further investigation and processing."
So, no, the belated discovery of the sniper's nest was not as belated as at first it might appear, and not nearly as mysterious. Mooney discovered it around 1:00, and sat up there daydreaming about the crime of the century until Fritz came over to him around 1:15.
It was just good ole' American incompetence. As common as dirt, and as American as apple pie.
Speaking of which...
Two of the most famous mysteries related to the crime scene are probably equally innocent. While much has been made of the fact the DPD only sent two of the hulls/shells/cartridge cases to the FBI on the night of the shooting, and that this two subsequently became a three, the official excuse--that is, the explanation uncovered by the Warren Commission--actually makes some sense. Fritz held onto one of the shells, as was his prerogative. End of story. Everyone to view the shells claimed there were three shells. From the beginning. It's just silly to think there were actually but two, and that this two became three after the fact. This would not only mean that all the reports were changed, but that all the witnesses were convinced to lie. And that's not even to mention that the three photos of the sniper's nest taken before the boxes were moved all showed three shells, and that one of these photos shows a firetruck outside that proves the photos were taken in the early afternoon of 11-22-63.
The Smudge on the Trigger Guard
Now this brings us to the other mystery: the rifle. While much has been made of the fact several Deputy Sheriffs thought the rifle found on the sixth floor was a Mauser, the fact remains that they were wrong. Period. Tom Alyea filmed the discovery of the rifle on the sixth floor, and the subsequent dusting of this rifle by Lt. Day. And the rifle in this footage is a Mannlicher-Carcano. No other rifle was discovered. No other rifle was filmed. And the news footage of Lt. Day carrying a rifle from the building shows this same rifle.
So let's move on, shall we? On to something more solid...
But first, let's establish that recovering prints from a firearm is no mean trick, and not the expected outcome of finding a weapon at a crime scene most assume it would be. While some of those researching the Kennedy case assume prints should have been found on the rifle found in the building, and take the supposedly smudged nature of the supposedly recovered prints as an indication Oswald, or whomever, tried to wipe his prints off the rifle, this just isn't true, as prints are rarely found on weapons.
And no, I'm not kidding. Really.
Let's begin by summarizing Factors Affecting the Recovery of Latent Prints on Firearms, an article by ATF crime lab scientists Clive Barnum and Darell Klasey published in the Mar/April 1997 Journal of Forensic Identification. Barnum and Klasey begin by claiming they had examined 1,000 recovered firearms from Feb 92 to August 95, and had found but 114 identifiable prints on just 93 firearms. Of these 114 prints, moreover, only 25 were subsequently identified, with 24 being linked to an offender and one to a law enforcement employee. The article then reveals that the L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. had examined 1,400 recovered firearms from Jan 92 to July 96 and had found identifiable prints on but 109 of these firearms. When one combines the two studies, then, one finds that but 8.5% of recovered firearms have an identifiable fingerprint upon them. Barnum and Klasey then proceed to explain why this is so, and offer that “Firearms can be difficult to process due to various reasons such as the condition of the metal and the limited smooth area available for processing (most firearms have few smooth surfaces, although an auto loading pistol generally has more processing area for latent prints than a revolver)." They then reveal “The type of finish applied to the metal surface of firearms by the manufacturer, gunsmith, or home repair person can have a detrimental affect upon the development of latent prints. For example, latent prints are particularly difficult to develop on the Parkerized finish found on many military firearms. This type of finish is used on firearms to prevent rust. The metal surface is usually sandblasted prior to the Parkerizing process to produce a nonreflective surface." And that, accordingly, "Weapons with chrome, smooth nickel, or stainless steel finishes are better for the recovery of latent prints" than military weapons.
So that's another myth toppled. First, we explain that Fritz's picking up the rifle shells was no big deal, seeing as prints are almost never found on rifle shells. And now we explain that prints are rarely found on rifles as well.
Speaking of which...the studies cited to demonstrate the unlikelihood of a print being found on an expended cartridge also had some numbers for firearms. To wit, the 2006 study by the Minneapolis Police Dept. found prints on but 35 of 289 firearms (12.11%) and the 2008-10 study by the Denver Police Dept. found prints on but 7 of 189 recovered firearms (3.7%), for a whopping combined total of 42 of 478 (8.8%).
Well, heck, the studies in the 90's found identifiable prints on 8.5% of the recovered firearms, and the studies in the 00's found identifiable prints on 8.8% of the recovered firearms. That's quite an improvement in 15 years, wouldn't you say?
Just kidding. Really. But the point is that the Dallas Police should not have been too optimistic on 11-22-63 that, with the recovery of the rifle, they would find the prints of the shooter. It was not likely they would find any prints on the rifle. It was not reasonable to expect they'd do so. And yet their behavior suggests a quiet confidence that fingerprints will solve this case.
Read on and see if you agree.
Starting with Lt. Day's testimony regarding the dusting of the rifle...
Mr. McCLOY. When was the rifle as such dusted with fingerprint powder?
Mr. DAY. After ejecting the live round, then I gave my attention to the rifle. I put fingerprint powder on the side of the rifle over the magazine housing. I noticed it was rather rough. I also noticed there were traces of two prints visible. I told Captain Fritz it was too rough to do there, it should go to the office where I would have better facilities for trying to work with the fingerprints.
Mr. McCLOY. But you could note with your naked eye or with a magnifying glass the remnants of fingerprints on the stock?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir; I could see traces of ridges, fingerprint ridges, on the side of the housing.
We are fortunate, moreover, that on this point--Day's claiming he found some prints on the rifle at the crime scene--we don't have to take him at his word. As shown in the Alyea film, and on the slide above, some prints became apparent on the side of the rifle after it was dusted.
Well, okay. This was a big break. Lt. Day has found prints on the rifle. He has decided, moreover, that these prints are of too much importance to fiddle with on the floor of a book depository. So he takes the rifle back over to the crime lab. (This is shown below. The man walking with Day is FBI Agent Bardwell Odum.)
Now this is well and good. There's a killer on the loose. Day should get to work on these prints as fast as possible, and then see if these prints match up to their suspect, as soon as one is identified.
But Day does no such thing. He drops the rifle off at the crime lab, and returns to the sixth floor.
Now, this could be excused should he have returned to complete an orderly search of the building.
But no, he had something else on his mind...
All in a Day's Work?
Lt. Day returned to the sixth floor to give the press a tour of the crime scene. As discussed, he showed them the sniper's nest boxes, and allowed them to take pictures from the sniper's nest window. But that wasn't all. As shown above, he also showed them where the rifle had been found. He even posed for pictures. And not just pictures. As shown below, he posed for TV cameraman Dan Owens as well.
Well, this says a lot about the man. He could have been over-seeing the work of the inexperienced Studebaker. Or he could have stayed at the crime lab, working on the rifle, or the bag, once it arrived. (In the official story, let's remember, the rifle had not been fully processed at this time, and the bag had not been exposed to chemicals.) But no, he decided his priority should be giving tours to the press, and posing for pictures.
Well, when this was over and done with, what did he do? Now this, in some ways, is even harder to fathom. As discussed, he may have re-dusted parts of the sniper's nest. But, sadly, it appears that he spent much of the next few hours taking largely unnecessary pictures of the crime scene, including pictures of the building from out on the street.
I mean, just think of it. In Day's account, he had three prime pieces of evidence by 3:00 or so--a rifle with prints on the side, a paper bag in the shape of a rifle case that had not yet been tested for prints, and a piece of cardboard bearing the palm print of the suspected assassin. And yet he opted to spend the next three hours taking largely unnecessary pictures of the building.
In any event, it appears that when Day did return to the crime lab, around 6:00, he did the right thing. He got the rifle out and worked on the prints on the trigger guard. It appears, moreover, that he had applied a piece of cellophane tape over these prints and was preparing to make a lift when he got interrupted. Marina Oswald was in Capt. Fritz's office. Lt. Day was instructed to show her the rifle, to see if she could identify it as her husband's rifle. As shown below, Lt. Day carried the rifle over the heads of the press en route to Fritz's office. As shown below, the taped-off prints on the right trigger-guard are readily visible on photos taken of the rifle parade.
The Prints That Got Away
Well, there it was--the smudge first observed in the Alyea film made more apparent through the application of powder and tape.
And no, it wasn't just a smudge. A close-up view of a rifle parade photo taken for the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reveals three dark shapes inside the taped-off dark area. These would appear to be isolated prints, as opposed to smudges. (This is shown below).
And no, this dark shape with the apparent prints on the right trigger guard wasn't something one could only find in the Alyea film, and press photos of the rifle parade.
As shown below, this shape was also apparent in Lt. Day's photos of the rifle.
Well, on the one hand this makes sense. Lt. day claimed he'd found prints on the trigger guard, and here are photos showing prints on the trigger guard.
Only...something's wrong? Right? Right?
The prints are supposed to have been left. On the left trigger guard, that is...
So what happened?
As the photos of Lt. Day in the rifle parade reveal a taped-off black smear on the right trigger guard, but no such smear on the left trigger guard, it seems probable the prints Day discovered on the sixth floor, and resumed working on when he returned to the crime lab around 6:00, were the prints on the right trigger guard, not left.
If so, this is a huge bombshell. Not only does this raise questions about these prints--why were they never mentioned by Lt. Day or Sebastian Latona, etc--but about the prints on the left trigger guard. Were those prints allowed to continue in the record because Lt. Day et al thought the prints on the left trigger guard were Oswald's, but knew the prints on the right trigger guard were not Oswald's?
Let's look, then, at the record and try to figure out...
Which Print Was Which?
Let's start with an FBI memo written on the afternoon of the assassination.
The FBI's 11-22-63 Memo on Its 11-22-63 Discussion With Lt. J.C. Day
Now, this is clearly a reference to one of the trigger guard prints, which Day first noticed at the school book depository. It was the discovery of this print, moreover, that led Day to bring the rifle to the crime lab. As Day did not return to the depository after his purported discovery of a palm print on the barrel of the rifle, moreover, it's crystal clear this memo was not written in reference to the palm print. (Note: this version of the memo was never provided the Warren Commission, but was discovered in the archives and made available by Malcolm Blunt.)
The FBI's 11-23-63 Memo on Its 11-22-63 Discussion With Lt. J.C. Day.
Now, this is essentially a re-wording of the Pinkston memo from the day before. Since it fails to specify where Day was when he spoke to Pinkston, however, this re-wording made the memo less clear, and left open (for those desperate to believe Day found a palm print on the rifle on 11-22-63) that the print discussed within this memo was the palm print.
The FBI's 11-24-63 Report on its 11-22-63 Discussion with Lt. J.C. Day
Well, we're off and running. While these three FBI memos, written by Nat Pinkston, don't tell us much about the location of the partial print discovered by Lt. Day, they do tell us that Lt. Day was at the depository when he told Pinkston about the print, and that he planned on returning to his lab and photographing this print. Well, this reveals the print to be one of the trigger guard prints. There is certainly nothing about this memo and report to suggest this was a reference to a palm print Day later claimed to lift from the rifle hours--hours--after beginning his work on the trigger guard.
Now, here is an 11-22-63 memo from FBI agent James Bookhout, found in the Weisberg Archives. Apparently, this report was never forwarded to FBI headquarters. In any event, this report details the evidence against Oswald as of late in the evening on the day of the shooting.
The FBI's 11-22-63 Memo Detailing the Evidence Uncovered up to this Point by the Dallas Police.
For completeness' sake, here is the other page of Bookhout's memo.
Now this is pretty interesting. First, let's note that Day has already identified the print on the cardboard ripped from Box D as Oswald's print. Now note as well that Bookhout thinks the Dallas Police have photographed the box from which this cardboard has been torn (which, of course, they have not), and that this print came from the top box in the stack by the window, Box A.
And now note that beyond working on the print on the cardboard, Day has been studying a print from the middle of the rifle, and that he has found 4 points on this print which he will try to match up to Oswald's prints.
Was this print on the right trigger guard? Or left? If this print was on the right trigger guard, one should wonder, what happened to it? Did Day prove to himself this wasn't a print made by Oswald, and then make it disappear?
In any event, the only trigger guard prints mentioned in the Warren Report are the prints Day claimed he found on the left trigger guard.
Photos of these prints can be found in the Dallas Police Archives. Photos of these prints were purportedly sent the FBI. And photos of these prints were published by the Warren Commission.
The Dallas photos appear to match the commission photos, moreover.
So all is well and good, right?
Nope, there's a whole heap of questions about these prints as well.
The Secret Photos
Here is what FBI fingerprint examiner Sebastian Latona had to say about the prints found on the trigger guard:
Mr. LATONA. There had, in addition to this rifle and that paper bag, which I received on the 23rd--there had also been submitted to me some photographs which had been taken by the Dallas Police Department, at least alleged to have been taken by them, of these prints on this trigger guard which they developed. I examined the photographs very closely and I still could not determine any latent value in the photograph. So then I took the rifle personally over to our photo laboratory. In the meantime, I had made arrangements to bring a photographer in especially for the purpose of photographing these latent prints for me, an experienced photographer--I called him in. I received this material in the Justice Building. My office of operations is in the Identification Division Building, which is at 2nd and D Streets SW. So I made arrangements to immediately have a photographer come in and see if he could improve on the photographs that were taken by the Dallas Police Department. Well, we spent, between the two of us, setting up the camera, looking at prints, highlighting, sidelighting, every type of lighting that we could conceivably think of, checking back and forth in the darkroom--we could not improve the condition of these latent prints. So, accordingly, the final conclusion was simply that the latent print on this gun was of no value, the fragments that were there. After that had been determined, I then proceeded to completely process the entire rifle, to see if there were any other prints of any significance or value any prints of value--I would not know what the significance would be, but to see if there were any other prints. I completely covered the rifle.
Mr. LATONA. I was not successful in developing any prints at all on the weapon.
Well, this is quite clear, isn't it? The DPD sent the FBI some photographs of the trigger guard prints. The quality of the prints on these photos was lacking. The FBI then spent a considerable amount of time trying to improve upon these photos, by taking their own photos of the prints apparent on the rifle. But they were, reportedly, unable to improve upon them. So Latona gave up and re-processed the rifle. And found no prints anywhere.
Well, this is quite a problem, wouldn't you say? Lt. Day taped-off some prints on the right trigger guard. These disappeared from the record. He also found some prints on the left trigger guard. Copies of these photos were published by the Warren Commission. But the FBI said these were a no-go...
Now, I must admit I have a problem with this. The photos published by the Warren Commission were horrible. This led many to claim, over time, that the prints on these photos were smudged. But better versions of these photos were later put on line by the City of Dallas. These showed at least one of the prints to have been faint, but un-smudged.
Well, it only follows, then, that the FBI should have been able to create an image of similar quality, and to have created some photos in which this print, at the very least, could have been identified as Oswald's print, or not Oswald's print. This very thought, moreover, haunted researcher James Olmstead. For years, he begged the FBI to release the photos created by Latona, that Latona said were of no use. But the FBI refused to co-operate.
Now, should we take from this that the FBI knows full well that these prints weren't Oswald's? I don't know.
But it's important, nonetheless, that we realize there were no prints linking Oswald to the rifle before his death. None. And that, much as Howard Brennan popped up after Oswald's death so the assassination story could be changed to reflect there'd been an eyewitness who'd ID'ed Oswald as the shooter, the DPD popped up a print after Oswald's death so the story could be changed to reflect Oswald's prints had been found on the rifle.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves.... We're still discussing the prints on the left trigger guard...
And the strange fluctuations in their supposed value...
Let's reveal then that these prints were written off as smudged and/or of no value by everyone to take a look at them or even write about them prior to the release of First Day Evidence in 1993. There, author Gary Savage, working with a fingerprint examiner named Jerry Powdrill, claimed that the most prominent print apparent on the DPD's photos of the trigger guard matched Oswald's right middle finger on three points, and shared "very similar characteristics" on three more. Powdrill said, moreover, that this gave him a "gut feeling" the prints were a match.
So how seriously should we take this?
Not too seriously. As we've seen, First Day Evidence was a book written by the nephew of Rusty Livingston, one of Lt. Day's employees. It had an obvious bias. This bias was revealed, moreover, in the following passage: "Latona could not make a positive identification since the fingerprints were extremely faint following the removal of the protective tape." (First Day Evidence, 1993, p.109)
Now, should the bias in this passage not be clear, let me explain. Lt. Day said he covered the trigger guard prints with cellophane to protect them. He did not say he covered them with cellophane tape. The removal of cellophone tape from a print, for that matter, would create a "lift" of the print which could then be applied to a card. No cards were created in this manner. Latona, furthermore, claimed he received the rifle with "cellophane material" over the area on which latent prints had been detected. He never called this material tape or mentioned any problems created by the cellophane.
In fact, he said just the opposite...
Mr. DULLES. Is is likely or possible that those fingerprints could have been damaged or eroded in the passage from Texas to your hands?
Mr. LATONA. No, sir; I don't think so. In fact, I think we got the prints just like they were.
So, yeah, Savage was blowing smoke to hide that the wafer-thin ID of the print as Oswald's he'd received from Powdrill contradicted the sworn testimony of Latona, a top FBI fingerprint examiner.
But wait, it gets worse. Spurred on by Savage's book, the producers of the 1993 PBS program "Who was Lee Harvey Oswald?" hired HSCA fingerprint examiner Vincent Scalice to take a look at the photos published by Savage. Scalice said the prints in the photos were "barely distinguishable" and "partially distorted," but nevertheless concluded they were Oswald's.
Here is an excerpt from the transcript to this program.
"When Livingston began working with his nephew, Gary Savage, on a book about the assassination called JFK: First Day Evidence, they decided to have the fingerprints reexamined. They turned to Captain Jerry Powdrill of the West Monroe, Louisiana, Police Department, a qualified fingerprint examiner. Powdrill found three points of identity between the trigger guard prints and Oswald’s known prints and three possible points of identity. Six to ten points of identity are normally required in the U.S. to make a positive identification. Powdrill told FRONTLINE, “I cannot say that sufficient evidence exists to conclude that the latent print [in the photograph] is in fact that of Lee Harvey Oswald; however, there are enough similarities to suggest that it is possible they are one in the same.” FRONTLINE asked George Bonebrake, a former supervisor of the FBI latent fingerprint division to examine copies of the fingerprint photographs. Bonebrake told FRONTLINE the prints were not clear enough to make an identification of anyone. “They lack enough characteristic ridge detail to be of value for identification purposes,” said Bonebrake. FRONTLINE also asked Vincent Scalice, former head of the New York City Police latent fingerprint unit to examine the trigger guard prints. In 1978, Scalice had examined all the prints in the Kennedy case for the House Select Committee on Assassinations. At that time, he concluded that the trigger guard prints were “of no value for identification purposes.” But after examining Rusty Livingston’s original fingerprint photographs in Louisiana, Scalice reversed his 1978 assessment. Scalice told FRONTLINE: “I took the photographs. There were a total of four photographs in all. I began to examine them. I saw two faint prints, and as I examined them, I realized that the prints had been taken at different exposures, and it was necessary for me to utilize all of the photographs to compare against the inked prints. As I examined them, I found that by maneuvering the photographs in different positions, I was able to pick up some details on one photograph and some details on another photograph. Using all the photographs at different contrasts...! was able to find in the neighborhood of about eighteen points of identity in the two prints. I feel that this is a major breakthrough in this investigation, because we are able for the first time to actually say that these are definitely the fingerprints of Lee Harvey Oswald and that they are on the rifle. There is no doubt about it.”
The transcript continues:
"How could Scalice have missed an identification in 1978 that he was able to make in 1993? The answer appears to lie in the number of photographs of the prints that were available for experts like Scalice to examine. Sebastian Latona, the head of the FBI fingerprint division in 1963, told FRONTLINE that the FBI examined only the rifle itself in making its determination that the trigger guard prints were of no value. Latona said the FBI never looked at the Dallas Police photographs of the trigger guard fingerprints. Although the record is not precise on this point, it appears that only one or two of the Dallas Police photographs of the trigger guard prints were forwarded to the Warren Commission, where they were examined by Arthur Mandella, a consultant to the commission. Mandella came to the same conclusion as the FBI, that the trigger guard prints were of no value. When Vincent Scalice examined photographs of the trigger guard prints in 1978 for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, he apparently only had the one or two Dallas police photographs that were part of the Warren Commission files. “I have to assume,” says Scalice, “that my original examination and comparison was carried out in all probability on one photograph. And that photograph was apparently a poor quality photograph, and the latent prints did not contain a sufficient amount of detail in order to effect an identification. I know for a fact that I did not see all these four photographs in 1978, because if I had, I would have been able to make an identification at that point in time. So where these photographs were, I don’t know. But after this reexamination, I definitely conclude these are Oswald’s prints.” After consultations with Scalice, Captain Jerry Powdrill told FRONTLINE that he also now agrees with Scalice’s judgement-that the trigger guard prints are those of Lee Harvey Oswald. 'Vincent Scalice’s identification of the trigger guard fingerprints is a significant development in our understanding of the Kennedy assassination,' says FRONTLINE senior producer Sullivan. 'But clearly the experts do disagree on this matter. We hope that this story will spark a proper professional debate among the nation’s leading fingerprint experts that will lead to a more definitive conclusion to the question.”
Well, this sounds pretty definitive, right? Scalice says he sees 18 points and everyone, sans Bonebrake, falls in line.
But whatever happened to research? Here are the "4 photographs" published in First Day Evidence.
The Five Photos of Mr. Savage
Well, by golly, there weren't four photographs, were there? There were five. And by five I mean Savage thought the five photos on the slide above represented five different photos from five different negatives.
Here is an excerpt from his book that proves this:
"Rusty has copies of five photographs taken by Lieutenant Day made directly from the original Dallas police negatives which show latent fingerprints found on the trigger housing of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle from the sixth floor of the Depository. The fingerprints are visible to the naked eye even before enhancement. Each of the fingerprint photographs was taken with a light shining on the trigger housing from different directions in order to produce various contrasts of the fingerprints. This was an attempt by Lieutenant Day to bring out as much of the ridge detail as possible in order to do a comparison for identification of whoever had previously handled the rifle (the shooter)."
Now, even at first glance, some of these photos look similar, as if they are not different photos from different negatives, but prints from the same negative.
So let's crop 'em down and line 'em up.
Here they are, in order from photo 33 to 37.
Well, hell, it's clear from this that photos 33 and 35 came from the same negative, as did 34 and 36. This means there were actually but 3 photos taken of the left trigger guard--at least that were developed, and of quality enough that Livingston would make himself a copy.
Now look again at 37, the bottom photo. It appears that this photo was not only taken from further back than photos 33 and 34, but over-exposed in the area of the trigger guard on which prints can be seen. If so, well then this tells us Scalice was full of beans when he implied he used four different photos to come to his conclusions, and that he, at most, used two different photos.
And that's not even the biggest eyebrow-raiser among the statements made by Scalice. He claimed as well that he'd never viewed the trigger guard photos before, beyond perhaps one "poor quality photograph." And this excuse almost makes sense. When one combs through the Mary Ferrell Archives, however, one can find a "2 pg listing of material made available to HSCA" with the following paragraph at the bottom of the second page. (HSCA Admin Folder M-3, p5-6)
Well, if this doesn't suggest Scalice saw more than one photo of the trigger guard prints, I don't know what does. It says "Photos of Latents on rifle" not "photo." And it says there were "8 small negs w/10 small prints." While some might assume these "negs" were actually of the rifle, and not "latents on rifle," moreover, the rest of the items on the 2 pg list are items bearing prints, fingerprint cards, and photos and negatives of photos depicting prints. The 8 "negs" are thereby almost certainly "negs" of the Dallas Police photos of the trigger guard prints, or the FBI's photos of the trigger guard prints, or both. Well, wait. If the date for this folder is to be believed, it would suggest these photos are the FBI's own photos of the trigger guard prints, with the possible exception of the photos sent the FBI from Dallas. Such a circumstance, moreover, would explain why there were 10 prints, but only 8 negatives.
Now, Frontline was, and is, a respected news source. It's bad enough that they failed to take a close look at the photos Scalice claimed he'd studied, and to check with the research community or archives to see if he was correct in stating he'd never seen these photos before. But this wasn't the only questionable part of the segment.
Here is Sebastian Latona in his 4-2-64 testimony before the Warren Commission...
"...in addition to this rifle and that paper bag, which I received on the 23d--there had also been submitted to me some photographs which had been taken by the Dallas Police Department, at least alleged to have been taken by them, of these prints on this trigger guard which they developed. I examined the photographs very closely and I still could not determine any latent value in the photograph(s)."
and here is Frontline, almost 30 years later...
"Sebastian Latona, the head of the FBI fingerprint division in 1963, told FRONTLINE that the FBI examined only the rifle itself in making its determination that the trigger guard prints were of no value. Latona said the FBI never looked at the Dallas Police photographs of the trigger guard fingerprints."
Are we really to believe no one at Frontline studied Latona's testimony before interviewing him, and that no one at Frontline knew he was incorrect or lying when he claimed the FBI never studied the photographs?
And it's not as if Latona's testimony was the only time the FBI admitted they'd studied the photographs. Here's an excerpt from the FBI's 11-23-63 report on the evidence sent them on the night of the shooting (24H263)...
Now, aha!, one might say. That report reveals that the FBI was sent but one of the DPD's photographs!
Only not so fast... Let's take a look at this 11-26-63 FBI report provided the Warren Commission (CD5 p167).
And then this 11-29-63 FBI report (FBI HQ, sec 17, p176).
It's clear, then, that the FBI not only studied the Dallas Police Department's photographs of the trigger guard, they sought out and studied the original negatives...all 3 of them.
So, Latona's excuse was Bullshit with a capital B.
Of course, he was an old man in 1993. So, of course, he could have been mistaken. And, of course, there's always the possibility the trigger guard photos mentioned in the 11-26 memo were photos taken of the right trigger guard, and that Latona is guilty of covering that up but not guilty of lying to Frontline about studying photos of the left trigger guard. But that's beside the point.
The excuse Latona fed Frontline is not credible. Period.
Well, this is disturbing. The Warren Commission's fingerprint expert, and the HSCA's fingerprint expert, appeared on the same TV program, and they both blew smoke. They both made out that they'd never studied photographs of the trigger guard, when the record suggests they had.
Still, this does little to disprove Scalice's latter day identification of the trigger guard prints as Oswald's.
Was he mistaken, or worse?
The Missing Charts
I suspect worse... There are reasons to believe Scalice was biased. He worked for the New York City Police Dept. from 1956-1977. He spent much of that time as the Coordinator of the NYPD's Latent Fingerprint Unit. He was almost certainly trained by Arthur Mandella. Mandella, as we've seen, testified in a suspicious manner before the Warren Commission, with his conclusions and testimony being pretty much a rubber-stamp of the FBI's conclusions and testimony.
Was Scalice determined to support his mentor, and/or his colleagues in the FBI, by adding another piece to the evidence pile supporting Oswald's guilt? Scalice's latter-day C.V. boasted that he'd "worked closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning deaths of President John F. Kennedy and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King." Well, this is a bit of a shock seeing as he was supposed to be coming to an independent conclusion regarding the fingerprint evidence for these cases.
Or was Scalice merely out for attention? It seems a bit of a coincidence that, but 18 months after his appearance on Frontline, in which he presented himself as a fingerprint expert, Scalice appeared at a press conference funded by right-wingers opposed to Bill and Hillary Clinton, and presented himself as a handwriting expert, and not just any handwriting expert, mind you, but as a handwriting expert claiming Vince Foster's suicide note had been forged.
And that wasn't the last we heard of Scaiice. On March 22, 1996, Scalice appeared once again on national TV, this time on the program Unsolved Mysteries. Well, did he add any details regarding his matching the trigger guard prints to Oswald's prints? Nope, no such luck. His appearance was devoted to his latest project--he doubled-down on his claim the Foster note was forged.
Scalice died on Nov. 25, 1997.
Now, think about this. Scalice died four years after announcing a major breakthrough in the Kennedy assassination. He claimed he'd ID'ed 18 points of similarity between Oswald's prints and the trigger guard prints. And this even though Lt. Day, working with the actual trigger guard prints and not just photos of the trigger guard prints, told FBI agent Bookhout there were but 4 points on these prints that he was going to try to match to Oswald's prints.
Well, what is one to take from this? It sure seems as though Scalice was trying to make a name for himself, and that he grossly oversold the similarity between the trigger guard prints and Oswald's prints. But that doesn't mean he was wrong.
No, what we have here is not a case of a dog that shouldn't have barked, but a case where the dog didn't bark...when he should have.
Scalice was a veteran fingerprint examiner. He knew, better than most anyone else, that juries expect fingerprint examiners to show them charts in which the points of similarity between a known print and a latent print are matched up and numbered. He knew, better than most anyone else, that juries, or even better, the American people, would withhold judgement on any fingerprint identification for which no charts of this nature had been supplied. And yet he supplied no charts.
He said he found 18 points of similarity. Oh wait, did I write "18 points?" In 1998, Gus Russo, the chief researcher for Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?, published his first book on the assassination, Live By the Sword. There, he related: "In 1992, I met with Rusty Livingston, a former Dallas policeman assigned to the crime lab at the time of the assassination. Livingston had saved high contrast photo prints of the rifle, taken before it was shipped to FBI headquarters in Washington. The photos contained evidence that had gone unnoticed, and when Frontline had them analyzed, Oswald's guilt seemed even more certain. Vincent Scalice, a renowned fingerprint expert and HSCA consultant, was engaged by Frontline and expressed astonishment at what he saw -- three fingers from Oswald's right hand had left their mark just inches from the trigger. Scalice, in fact, had located a whopping 18 points of identification. After the production aired, he continued his work and increased the total to 24 points. 'If I had seen these four photographs in 1978,' says Scalice, 'I would have been able to make an identification at that point in time. After this reexamination, I definitely conclude these are Oswald's prints. There is no doubt about it.'
In any event, 18 points or 24 points--take your pick--it would have been relatively easy for Scalice to match up a copy of a Dallas PD photo with a copy of Oswald's prints, and draw arrows between the two showing these numerous points of similarity. If he had to do this with more than one of the police photos, well, then so be it. This would have taken Scalice perhaps a day or two, and it would have earned him a cover story in the Journal of Forensic Identification, or whatever publication on fingerprinting he admired. And he could have used this as a calling card to drum up more business, a la the Foster business.
But his charts never appeared. And have still never appeared, more than 20 years after his death.
The "proper professional debate" about these prints which Frontline hoped to "spark" never came to pass.
And I think we know why.
Right on Left?
Let us turn our focus to the second print.. The central print purported to be Oswald's right middle finger print is accompanied by a print to its right, at the upper edge of the trigger guard on the image above. This is clearly the second print described by Scalice, which accounts for an unspecified number of the 18 points of similarity he identified.
So what print was this? While Latona never told, Lt. Day was a bit more forthcoming...
Mr. BELIN. Do you have those photographs, sir? I will mark the two photographs which you have just produced Commission Exhibits 720 and 721. I will ask you to state what these are.
Mr. DAY. These are prints or pictures, I should say, of the latent--of the traces of prints on the side of the magazine housing of the gun No. C-2766.
Mr. BELIN. Were those prints in such condition as to be identifiable, if you know?
Mr. DAY. No, sir; I could not make positive identification of these prints.
Mr. BELIN. Did you have enough opportunity to work and get these pictures or not?
Mr. DAY. I worked with them, yes. I could not exclude all possibility as to identification. I thought I knew which they were, but I could not positively identify them.
Mr. BELIN. What was your opinion so far as it went as to whose they were?
Mr. DAY. They appeared to be the right middle and right ring finger of Harvey Lee Oswald, Lee Harvey Oswald.
Mr. BELIN. At the time you had this did you have any comparison fingerprints to make with the actual prints of Lee Harvey Oswald?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir; we had sets in Captain Fritz' office. Oswald was in his custody, we had made palmprints and fingerprints of him.
The second print was, purportedly, the print of Oswald's right ring finger. Well, think about it. How likely is it that a right ring fingerprint would be found just to the right of a right middle fingerprint if the prints hadn't been created at the same time? Not very likely, right? And then add in that these right fingerprints were found on the left trigger guard in a manner suggesting someone had held the rifle with the trigger guard in the palm of his right hand, with his fingers stretching up across the left trigger guard. And then add in that the print for this right ring finger is higher on the trigger guard than the right middle finger. Well, this suggests the ring finger was stretched forward of the middle finger.
Now how does one do that while holding a rifle? I've tried to contort my hands into this position but it's incredibly awkward. It makes no sense. Non-smudged fingerprints are left on objects when fingertips are pressed straight down onto the object, and not when they briefly slide across the object. As a result, it's hard to see how the right middle finger and right ring finger of Oswald's hand could have left the prints in question.
Let us now remember that a faked print can sometimes be detected by its reflecting "an orientation inconsistent with normal handling."
When the fingerprint evidence presented against Oswald is re-examined by a forensic body--and it will be re-examined by a forensic body--an analysis of the orientation of these prints should be made.
That is, of course, if these examiners can get beyond arguing about the other print supposedly found on the rifle--the barrel print.
The Rifle Barrel Polka
Let us begin our discussion of the barrel print by reminding ourselves what should have happened.
"If a fingerprint is visible, an effort should be made to photograph it before any attempt is made to develop it. In every case a print developed with powder should be photographed before lifting. It sometimes happens that the print does not lift properly although it may be quite clear after development."
The Science of Fingerprints (the FBI's manual on fingerprinting), Chapter 15, p.187
Mr. LATONA. The purpose of the lift is simply to insure the probability of getting a good record of the print, because a lot of times when you photograph a print, you have to go through the process of having it developed and then printed and at the same time by lifting it you may, that would be an additional security that you are getting the best results. Then you take your choice as to which result turns out the best.
Mr. EISENBERG. So these are alternative routes?
Mr. LATONA. That is right.
Mr. EISENBERG. Lifting and photographing?
Mr. LATONA. That is right. Well, primarily our recommendation in the FBI is simply in every procedure to photograph and then lift. Then you choose the one which you feel gives you the best results in your final photograph.
(The 4-2-64 testimony of FBI fingerprint expert Sebastian Latona)
Mr. DAY. In the matter of fingerprints, I have been assigned to the identification bureau 15 years. During that time I have attended schools, the Texas Department of Public Safety, on fingerprinting; also an advanced latent-print school conducted in Dallas by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have also had other schooling with the Texas Department of Public Safety and in the local department on crime-scene search and general investigative work.
(The 4-22-64 testimony of Dallas Crime Scene Search Section Chief Lt. J. C. Day)
So now let's go through the various accounts of what did happen, and see if we can spot changes in the story. .
Newsman Robert MacNeil on NBC around 11:00 PM CST on 11-22-63
“Dallas Police Chief Jess Curry has recently reported that his men have found a partial fingerprint on the rifle believed used in the assassination. The weapon will be sent to Washington to assure proper handling of the print.”
Well, okay. This appears to be a reference to the main print on the trigger guard, which Lt. Day first developed in the school book depository.
Newsman David Brinkley on NBC around 12:30 AM CST on 11-23-63
"The Dallas Police reported a moment ago that the foreign-made rifle believed to have been used in the shooting of the President had no fingerprints on it but has been sent here to the FBI laboratory in Washington for an analysis".
So why the change? As Lt. Day would later admit, he just couldn't bring himself to conclude the trigger guard print was Oswald's. Well, this is interesting, no? Rather than admit there is a print that they can't match to Oswald's prints, someone in the DPD has decided to claim there are NO prints. Period...
But as for the honchos leading the investigation, they've decided that mum's the word...
NBC Transcript of Post-Midnight 11-23-63 Interviews of Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry and Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade (CE 2142, 24H750)
Q. Any particular thing that he said that caused you to file the charges regarding the President's death against him?
Curry. No, sir. Physical evidence is the main thing that we are relying upon.
Q. Can you name the physical evidence?
Q. Mr. Wade, could you elaborate on the physical evidence?
Wade. Well, we've gone on into some other things that were gathered; the gun is one of them.
Q. Are there any fingerprints on the gun?
That there really were no prints found on the gun, moreover, was repeated in the mainstream press the next day.
11-23-63 UPI Report on the Evidence Against Oswald (found in, among many newspapers, the New Castle News)
"Police also found the imported rifle with the telescopic sight which fired the fatal bullet into Kennedy's brain, but they said there were no fingerprints on it."
WFAA Transcripts of 11-23-63 Interviews of Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry (CE 2144, CE 2145, CE 2146)
Q. Now that you have made the record clearer as to the matter of FBI cooperation, can you tell us where you now stand in the matter of prosecuting this man?
Curry. Well, so far as I know we are exactly where we were last night because I don't know what has developed in the questioning this morning. We are still trying to establish a verification on the gun--where it came from--and we are still--
Q. Is it the rifle you are talking about?
Curry. Yes, the rifle. We are still interviewing many witnesses...
Q. Do you have anything other circumstantial evidence to rely on?
Curry. Well, we have some physical evidence.
Q. Can you tell us anything about that physical evidence?
Curry. No sir, I don't think I should discuss that.
(Shortly thereafter, in CE 2145, Curry comes back and details evidence that Oswald owned the gun, and that there are pictures of him holding the gun. He fails to mention the DPD's finding any prints on the gun, however.)
We now move on to CE 2146. (This interview took place around 12:00)
Q. Do you think that smudged fingerprints that have been found on the rifle which killed the President will be able to establish the identity of the killer?
Curry. We hope so, but I couldn't say positively at this time that they will be.
Q. Well, will you know--to convict him?
Curry. I don't know whether it will be enough to convict him or not, but if we can put his prints on the rifle why, it'll certainly connect him with the rifle and if we can establish that this is the rifle that killed the President, why--
(Curry then lists circumstantial evidence Oswald brought the gun into the building--the package which he says was long enough to have held the rifle, etc., but says nothing of a print found on the rifle barrel.)
So there it is. On the day after the shooting, Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry confirmed that, as of yet, no prints had been found on the rifle that could tie the rifle to Oswald, but that he was nevertheless still hoping that someway, somehow, someone could match the smudged prints on the rifle to Oswald's prints.
He never said anything about a trigger guard, moreover. And neither did he say anything about the barrel.
WFAA Transcripts of 11-23-63 Interviews of Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz (CE 2153, CE 2155)
Fritz. There is only one thing I can tell without going into the evidence before first talking to the District Attorney. I can tell you that this case is cinched--that this man killed the President. There's no question in my mind about it.
Q. Well, what is the basis for that statement?
Fritz. No sir, I don't want to go into the basis. In fact, I don't want to get into the evidence.
(Later, from CE 2155)
Q. Have you got this fellow tied to the murder weapon--the rifle?
Fritz. Well, we'd like to have him tied to it better than we have, but we're still in pretty good shape.
Q. Captain, how well do you--?
Fritz. Well, I can't go into that because that is very important to the evidence and the District Attorney should pass on that.
Q. Were there any--?
Fritz. I wouldn't want to talk about the prints and--?
Q. Is it hoped that the--?
Fritz. Get ready for court.
So Fritz, at this point, is with Curry. They are both hoping for something more, with that something more being a print or two that more conclusively ties Oswald to the rifle.
KRLD Transcript of 11-24-63 Interview of Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry (CE 2149, 24H780)
(Note: This is before Oswald's death. Curry has just been asked to list the "high points" of the evidence against Oswald.)
Curry. I don't know what you mean by high points, but we have been able to do this. We have been able to place this man in the building, on the floor at the time the assassination occurred. We have been able to establish the fact that he was at the window that the shots were fired from. We have been able to establish the fact that he did order a weapon that is similar and we feel is the weapon that was used. We have been able to, through the FBI Laboratory, to establish the fact that we do have the murder weapon. Their reports have been able to tell us that this is the gun that fired the bullets that killed the President and wounded the governor.
Note that Curry has mentioned the FBI's laboratory, but has said nothing of the fact the FBI said it had found no identifiable prints on the rifle. It seems clear, then, that he is resigned to the fact Oswald's prints weren't on the rifle.
Various Transcripts and Articles Regarding the 11-24-63 Press Conference Given By Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade After Oswald's Death
11-24-63 Wade Press conference transcript in the 11-25-63 NY Times
Wade. On this box that the defendant was sitting on, his palm print was found and was identified as his, The three ejected shells were found right by the box.
(Then later, during Q & A)
Q. What other evidence is there?
Wade. Let's see...His fingerprints were found on the gun, have I said that?
Q. Which gun?
Wade. On the rifle.
Q. You didn't say that...What about the paraffin tests?
Wade. Yes, I've got paraffin tests that showed he had recently fired a gun--it was on both hands.
Q. On both hands?
Wade. Both hands?
Q. Recently fired a rifle?
Wade. A gun.
Q. The rifle prints were his, were Oswald's?
Q. Were there any fingerprints...?
Wade. Palm prints rather than fingerprints.
Q. Were there any fingerprints at the window?
Q. (second newsman) Palm prints on the what?
Wade. Yes, on...
Q. On the rifle?
Wade. Yes, sir.
Q. Where are they on the rifle?
Wade. Under--on part of the metal--under the gun."
Now, for some, this is explosive. They interpret Wade's claiming there was a palm print under the gun as meaning there was a palm print under the rifle barrel, and cite this as proof Wade had been told about the lift from the rifle barrel Lt. Day would later send to the FBI. But there's a number of problems with this. One is that Lt. Day claimed he had not ID'ed the palm print as Oswald's before sending it to the FBI on 11-26, and two is that Lt. Day said he only told two people about lifting this print--Chief Curry and Capt. Fritz--both of whom to this point have given us no indication they know of any yet to be studied prints from the rifle.
So let's continue our study of the statements about the prints, to see which was which, and see, when, if ever, anyone clarified the record regarding the location of the trigger guard prints.
11-24-63 Wade Press Conference as Reported in the 11-25 Wisconsin State Journal, Madison WI
DALLAS (AP) — A palm print identified as that of Lee Harvey Oswald was found on the underside of the rifle. Such ballistics tests showed fired the bullets that killed President Kennedy, District Atty. Henry Wade said Sunday night. \Vade called a news conference to make public what he said Was the complete mass of evidence accumulated to prove Oswald was the presidential assassin.
Although he revealed more details than he had divulged previously, Wade made no startling disclosures. But he said he was confident
be had an air-tight case.
Print On Gun
"I have sent men to the electric chair with less evidence," Wade said. "The gun was here, his prints were on the gun, the gun was the gun that killed Kennedy, his palm prints were on the box on which the killer sat, and witnesses put him on the sixth floor at the time of the shooting," Wade said. Among the specific links in the chain of evidence against Oswald, in addition to the palm print on the rifle, Wade cited:
11-24-63 Wade Press Conference as Reported in the 11-25-63 Waterloo Daily Courier Waterloo Iowa
DALLAS, Tex. UPI
Cites 2 Facts
Wade said two facts stood linking the slim, brown - haired Oswald to the slaying. First, a palm print on the underside of the rifle which fired the bullets that killed Kennedy was identified as Oswald's. Secondly, Wade said, Oswald had definitely been placed inside the building at the time the shots were fired from there at Kennedy.
'The gun was here, his prints were on the gun, the gun was the gun that killed Kennedy, his palm prints were on the box on which the killer sat, and witnesses put him on the sixth floor at the lime of the shooting."
11-24-63 Wade Press Conference as Reported in the 11-25-63 Post-Tribune, Jefferson City MO
(Chicago-Tribune Press Service)
DALLAS — The full preparation of evidence which proved that Lee Harvey Oswald, 24, self identified Marxist, assassinated President Kennedy here Friday, was made public for the first time Sunday night.
The action was taken by the Dallas County authorities after consultation among themselves and reportedly with Washington officials who believed that the American people should be told unreservedly of the case against President Kennedy's slayer.
The spokesman was Dallas County State's Attorney, Henry Wade, who had prepared to prosecute the case.
Wade said that local police with the help of federal agencies had provided what he regarded as an "absolutely conclusive chain of evidence proving Oswald was the sniper-assassin." This evidence convinced me beyond any shade or moral doubt," Wade said. "I have sent many others to the electric chair on much less conclusive evidence."
Primary facts disclosed that Oswald had been placed in the Texas School Book Depository building from which the sniper fired at the time of the shooting. A palm print identified as Oswald's was taken from the window sill of the sixth floor window through which the sniper thrust his rifle barrel. The rifle and three spent cartridges cases were found in the room near the window. A palm print identified as Oswald's was found on the metal portion of the rifle barrel. The FBI positively proved that the rifle was purchased in March of 1963 by Oswald from a Chicago mail order house. The weapon was mailed to a Dallas postoffice box to a man named "A. Hiddel."
What the? Wade never said anything about the print being on the rifle barrel during the press conference. Was this just a misunderstanding? Did Wade tell this to the writer afterwards? Where did this come from?
Let's let Wade try to answer this for us...
The 6-8-64 Testimony of Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade before the Warren Commission
Mr. RANKIN. Did you discuss the evidence that they did have at that time with Captain Fritz?
Mr. WADE. Yes, sir.
Mr. RANKIN. Will you tell us what evidence you recall?
Mr. WADE. I have made no notes but roughly he gave the story about him bringing the gun to work, saying it was window rods from the neighbor, someone who had brought him to work. He also said there were three employees of the company that left him on the sixth floor. He told about, the part about, the young officer running in there right after the assassination and Oswald leaving after the manager said that he was employed there. Told about his arrest and said that there was a scuffle there, and that he tried to shoot the officer. I don't know--I think I am giving you all this because I think a little of it may vary from the facts but all I know is what Fritz told me. He said the Dallas police had found a palmprint on the underside of the gun of Oswald. At that time, the FBI was standing by to fly the gun to the laboratory here in Washington which incidentally, they didn't find, but I assume the Commission has interviewed Senator--not Senator--Day, the fingerprint man of the Dallas police but I have learned since that he probably can't identify the palmprint under there but at that time they told me they had one on it. They said they had a palmprint on the wrapping paper, and on the box, I believe there by the scene. They did at least put Oswald there at the scene.
Mr. RANKIN. Will you clarify the palmprint that you are referring to on the rifle? Was it on the underside of the rifle, was it between the rifle and the stock or where was it as you recall?
Mr. WADE. Specifically, I couldn't say because but he said they had a palm-print or a fingerprint of Oswald on the underside of the rifle and I don't know whether it was on the trigger guard or where it was but I knew that was important, I mean, to put the gun in his possession. I thought we had that all the time when I took the complaint on the thing. Let me see what else they had that night. Well, they had a lot of the things they found in his possession. They had the map, you know, that marked the route of the parade. They had statements from the bus driver and the taxicab driver that hauled him somewhere. I think they varied a little as to where they picked him up but generally they had some type of statement from them. That is generally what they gave me now.
Mr. RANKIN. That is all you recall as of that time?
Mr. WADE. Yes, sir.
Mr. RANKIN. Did you give any report to the press then about----
Mr. WADE. No; I will tell you what happened then.
Let's cut in. This is quite confusing. Wade says essentially that he can't recall the location of the palm print Fritz told him about on the 22nd, but that he was told a palm print had been found on the underside of the rifle. Was this the palm print purportedly lifted from the barrel later sent the FBI? Or the print on the middle of the rifle that Bookhout was told about around the time Wade says Fritz told him about this print?
We have to lean to the latter. As Day had told others about the trigger guard print on the 22nd, and had begun to match up the trigger guard print to Oswald's prints on the 22nd, it seems probable Fritz would mention this print to Wade, as opposed to a print Day had barely studied.
Let's continue then with more of Wade's testimony regarding his press conference...
Mr. WADE. This was 8 o'clock roughly on the 24th, Sunday night. I sat down with Captain Fritz and took a pencil and pad and listed about seven pieces of evidence from my own knowledge and I was going to write it down. They got hold of Chief Curry and he said no, that he had told this inspector of the FBI that there would be nothing further said about it. I asked Chief Batchelor and Lumpkin, they were all there, I said you all are the ones who know something about it, I said if you have at least got the right man in my opinion the American people ought to know. This is evidence you can't use actually, because he is dead. You can't try him. And the upshot of that was the police wouldn't say a word and refused actually to furnish me any more of the details on this. I mean what the seven points. I went on out there in from front of the cameras and ran them through those points. Actually my purpose in it was, good or bad was, because the Dallas police were taking a beating because they had solved the crime and had good evidence and I told them it was good but I did leave out some things and I was a little inaccurate in one or two things but it was because of the communications with the police. I didn't have the map, incidentally. I wanted the map at that time but forgot all about it, and I ran through just what I knew, which probably was worse than nothing. It probably would have been better off without giving anything, because we didn't give what all we had.
Mr. DULLES. Do you remember the elements of inaccuracy that got into this statement of yours?
Mr. WADE. I think I told them about the palmprint on the bottom of the gun, that Lane has made a great issue of and I still think I was right on it but he has made an issue. I think Oswald snapped the pistol over there in the jail or at least in the theater where they arrested him. There was a question of whether the gun had been snapped or not and I was told it was, you all may have seen the gun; I never have seen the gun. You had---I might have at that stage said what bullets are supposed to hit whom. That might have been somewhat inaccurate then but that is all I can think of. I don't think there is any basic thing. But my purpose in that, and I know the minute I got off that television, inspection called me and said please say nothing further about this case.
Well, you see, at that stage----
Mr. DULLES. Who was it that called you?
Mr. WADE. The inspector at FBI called me in the police station. He was the one the police had talked to. He was the man from Dallas down there. It wasn't Shanklin, Shanklin was in charge of the office. But I told him what my purpose was but apparently someone told him gathered since he had delivered a message, apparently someone had told him to have me quit talking about it. But my purpose on that was, I never did think that the people or the television were giving the right facts on the thing and they were making believe that probably they didn't have the right one, that the Dallas police had him in there to kill him, they even had commentators saying practically that, don't you know. So, I did that entirely--not anything for me. You may think I wanted to be on television. I didn't care a thing about being because I don't run for office in New York and Washington and. other places, but I thought the police needed, because their morale was awfully low and they were at fault in Ruby killing him. There was undoubtedly a breakdown on security there in the basement.
Mr. RANKIN. On the seven points were any of them that were new that hadn't already been told to the public?
Mr. WADE. To tell you the truth, I don't know. I think there were some of them that hadn't been but I think most of them had. But I couldn't see at this stage the evidence on this thing, nobody, the situation where you had an assassination, and a dead person and another case pending, and it was against my interest actually, to trying Ruby, it would be a whole lot better trying Ruby if he killed the wrong man than if he killed the assassin of the President but I was trying to establish that this was the assassin of the President. And I didn't give all the evidence, and I don't know whether there was anything new or not because I didn't see much of television during all this time. I don't actually know everything that was given out, and there was so much in the papers that I didn't have time to read them, so I didn't know for sure what all the police had given out.
Senator COOPER. Substantially then, you were laying out to the public the facts which had led you to issue a warrant for Oswald as the killer of President Kennedy?
Mr. WADE. That was the purpose of that interview.
Well, that clears it up, right? The "palm print" "under the gun" mentioned by Wade in his press conference was not something he'd learned about on the 23rd or 24th. It was not something brought forth after Oswald's death. No, it was a piece of evidence related to Wade before he indicted Oswald for killing Kennedy.
Well, this has got to be reference to the trigger guard prints, right?
Right. On 2-5-92, the CBS News program 48 Hours ran an interview with an elderly Wade, in which he clarified "They told me on Friday night that they had a palm print identified."
Well, the trigger guard prints were the only prints widely discussed on the 22nd. And they certainly weren't widely dismissed on the 22nd, whereby Wade would list another print not yet even studied as putting the rifle in Oswald's hands, and not even mention the prints on the trigger guard.
So how could Wade have been so confused he called the fingerprints on the trigger guard a palm print under the gun?
Well, as proven by Bookhout's memo, Day was initially focusing on but one of the trigger guard prints. So that's that. And "under the gun"? Well, that's the location of the trigger guard, right? The print purportedly lifted from the barrel was lifted from near the end of the barrel, under the wood stock. It would be bizarre to call that "under the gun."
So that leaves Wade's calling the print in question a "palm print" when the trigger guard prints are believed to have been fingerprints as the main reason to believe Wade was discussing the palm print purportedly lifted from the rifle barrel, as opposed to the fingerprints he'd photographed on the trigger guard.
Oswald was buried the next day.
On the next day, the FBI, in a renewed effort to connect the prints on the rifle to Oswald, asked the Dallas Police for the negatives to its photos of the trigger guard prints.
The FBI's 11-26-63 Report on its Obtaining the Negatives to the Dallas Police Photographs of the Trigger Guard Prints
Yes, we've already looked at this. But look again. It's right there. As late as the 26th, the Dallas Police were uncommitted about the nature of the trigger guard prints, and were unsure whether they were fingerprints or palm prints.
Well, this explains how Wade could tell the press the print he'd been told about was a palm print. He told them that because that's what he'd been told.
In any event, the negatives for the trigger guard photos weren't the only thing requested by the FBI on 11-26. They wanted everything.
And they got more than everything. Included with the familiar bits of evidence already sent the FBI was a print purportedly lifted from the side and underside of the rifle barrel on the 22nd.
Here, in a rarely-seen document uncovered by Archives spelunker Malcolm Blunt, is the FBI's receipt for both the negatives of the trigger-guard print, and what is presumably the lift of the barrel print.
Well, heck, that's strange. Why did Vincent Drain think the prints in the photos were Oswald's? Was it just wishful thinking? And why was he less optimistic about the latent he'd received? And, while we're thinking of it, why was there no mention of this latent in the report on the three negatives Drain put into the record, that was subsequently published as CD5, p167? I mean, they were received at the same time, and presumably sent out at the same time. To be clear, both Drain's report and his receipt note that the three negatives of the trigger guard prints and the latent were sent to the Bureau on the 26th.
That this amounted to special treatment, moreover, becomes obvious when one follows the bread crumbs. Let's first explain that the DPD's file on the case was entered into evidence by the Warren Commission as Commission Exhibit 2003. Well, within this file, on page 116 to be precise, one can find a list of the evidence provided the FBI on the 26th, which has been signed by Vincent Drain. This list, moreover, includes a "Partial palm print off underside gun barrel" and 3 "Negatives of partial prints found on trigger housing." Now, that's well and good. He received this evidence and sent it to the bureau on the 26th. Only he didn't, not all of it. Archives spelunker Malcolm Blunt was able to find within the archives an inventory list prepared by Agents Drain and DeBrueys on the 27th, that included everything on the first page of the list signed by Drain on the 26th...aside from the barrel lift and the negatives.
To be clear, Qs 6-13 on Drain's and DeBruey's list referred to, respectively, a cartridge case found by the window, a second cartridge case found by the window, the bullet ejected from the rifle, a fragment removed from Connally's wrist, the paper bag presumed to have held the rifle, the shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested, the blanket removed from the Paine's garage which Oswald's wife claimed had at one time held a rifle, and a bullet removed from Officer Tippit's body. And K1 and K3 referred to the rifle found in the building and the revolver found in Oswald's possession, respectively. Apparently, all of this remained behind on the 26th, and was shipped out the next day along with a few other items, including Q48, the third cartridge case found by the window, which was not provided FBI Agent James Hosty until 1 AM on the 27th.
And, yeah, I know, it could be that Drain shipped the print and the negatives out late on the night of the 26th, and the rest of the stuff the next morning. But this seems doubtful. The University of North Texas website has scanned and placed online many of the DPD's documents, including the original of the inventory list signed by Drain, and published by the Warren Commission. Here is the signature section of this document.
Well, I'll be. Someone--presumably Lt. Day seeing as he's the only one to sign the list with a blue pen, has written "2 pm" beneath Drain's signature. It appears then that the items sent out on the 26th were sent out on the afternoon or evening of the 26th, and that the items sent out on the 27th (which were, after all, prepared for shipment by Drain and DeBrueys on the 27th) personally delivered by Drain and DeBrueys, perhaps 24 hours or more later.
So why is this important, or, at the very least, intriguing? Here's why. The lift received by the FBI on the 26th was not found to be a match with Oswald's right palm print until the 29th--the same day the print on the cardboard torn from Box D, and the two prints discovered on Box A (which were not sent on to Washington until the 27th, let's remember) were determined to match Oswald's prints. Well, what caused this delay? The paper bag, let's recall, was flown from Dallas to Washington on the morning of the 23rd, was tested for prints using chemicals, and was identified as having Oswald's prints that very same day, within 18 hours or so of its coming into the FBI's possession, and 12 hours or so of its arrival in Washington. So why, with a print that had required no chemicals to become visible, and had already been lifted from the rifle, did it take the FBI 60 hours or more to come to a conclusion regarding the value of this print, that is, whether or not it matched one of Oswald's prints?
This question has never been answered.
It is curious, moreover, that FBI fingerprint examiner Sebastian Latona testified that he received the stuff delivered by Drain on the 27th on the 27th, but that he knew nothing of the palm print shipped out on the 26th until the 29th. Here is his testimony.
Mr. LATONA. This Box D, I received this along with Box A for purposes of examining for latent prints.
Mr. EISENBERG. Was that examined by you or under your supervision for that purpose?
Mr. LATONA. Yes, it was.
Mr. EISENBERG. When was that received?
Mr. LATONA. That was received on the 27th of November 1963.
Mr. EISENBERG. Mr. Chairman, may I have this admitted as 648?
Mr. DULLES. What date?
Mr. LATONA. 27th.
Mr. EISENBERG. When did you receive cartons 653 and 654?
Mr. LATONA. I received cartons 653 and 654 November 27.
Mr. EISENBERG. I now hand you a small white card marked with certain initials and with a date, "11-22-63." There is a cellophane wrapping, cellophane tape across this card with what appears to be a fingerprint underneath it, and the handwriting underneath that tape is "off underside of gun barrel near end of foregrip C 2766," which I might remark parenthetically is the serial number of Exhibit 139. I ask you whether you are familiar with this item which I hand you, this card?
Mr. LATONA. Yes; I am familiar with this particular exhibit.
Mr. EISENBERG. Can you describe to us what that exhibit consists of, that item rather?
Mr. LATONA. This exhibit Or this item is a lift of a latent palmprint which was evidently developed with black powder.
Mr. EISENBERG. And when did you receive this item?
Mr. LATONA. I received this item November 29, 1963.
Mr. DULLES. Do I understand then that if there is a lifting of this kind, that it may obliterate----
Mr. LATONA. Completely.
Mr. DULLES. The original print?
Mr. LATONA. That is right.
Mr. EISENBERG. So that you personally, Mr. Latona, did not know anything about a print being on the rifle which was identifiable until you received, actually received the lift, Exhibit 637?
Mr. LATONA. On the 29th of November.
Mr. EISENBERG. Seven days after the assassination. And in the intervening period, correspondingly, the FBI had no such knowledge?
Mr. LATONA. As far as I know.
Well, how about that? Although Drain rushed over the lift and negatives on the 26th, Latona--the FBI's top fingerprint examiner--claimed he knew nothing about the lift prior to the 29th! This stinks to high heaven. Drain personally delivered boxes 648, 653 and 654 on the 27th, and Latona acknowledges receiving them on the 27th, and it only makes sense that Drain would have asked him about the print.
So what happened? Why did Latona either 1) lie about the print, or 2) tell the truth about the print and reveal that the print supposedly lifted from the rifle was not sent directly to the FBI's fingerprint section, but somewhere else, where it remained for 2 1/2 days or so? Did Latona's superiors hide the print from him until they could decide what to do with it? We can only guess.
Still, even so, it seems likely that the arrival of this print set off some alarm bells, and that the FBI either delayed declaring it a match until they'd had some time to think about it, or perhaps, just perhaps...decided it was not a match, but then caved to outside pressure.
Of course, one need not swallow this conjecture to doubt the print was a match. The Warren Commission's charts and photos supposedly showing this print to be a match are, once again, a bunch of black blobs. As a consequence, there is simply no way for a layman--or anyone outside a privileged few, who've studied the FBI's charts--to conclude this print matched Oswald's print.
But that changed circa 2003, when researcher John Hunt was allowed to make a scan of the barrel lift in the archives...and wisely shared his scan with the research community.
I present Hunt's scan below, on the left. On the right is Oswald's right palm print as found in the Warren Commission's volumes.
And so I ask you, is this a
I honestly don't know.The prints bare a strong resemblance, but there are clear differences between the two.
I'm not sure if this is related to the age of the lift when scanned by Hunt, or not.
But one thing is clear.
The central loop in the print on the barrel lift (CE 637) is not a clear match with the central loop in the FBI's photo of the palm print found on the paper bag (CE 632).
They are placed side by side below, with the bag print on the left and the supposed rifle print on the right. Keep in mind that these are supposedly the identical loop from Oswald's right palm. (While both images are of low quality, they are taken from the best quality versions of these images available to the public.)
In any event, I suspect these images are of sufficient quality for someone who knows about this stuff to determine if they're a match. I currently suspect they are, but blow back and forth. If someone wishes to prove me wrong, or give us a strong reason to believe these prints are a match besides the usual fallback position ("Uhh, an expert once upon a time said so") then by all means please do.
Still, let's continue our study of the history of the barrel print under the assumption it was a match.
Let's return to 11-29-63. The FBI has just concluded the print they've been handed is a match for Oswald's right palm print.
As this print was the long-awaited print connecting the rifle to Oswald, one might assume the FBI would rejoice upon this discovery..
But, first, a question needed to be answered. Where did this print come from, and why hadn't the FBi been told of its existence on the 22nd, or anytime prior to the 26th?
Here, then, are the reports and testimony in which Lt. Day attempted to answer this question, starting with an FBI memo on an 11-30 -63 interview with Day (found in the Weisberg Archives).
The FBI's 11-30-63 Memo on Its 11-30-63 Interview of Lt. J.C. Day
While the basic substance of this memo is repeated in the report to follow, there are a couple of nuggets here that never made it to the report, and deserve our attention. One is that at this point Lt. Day claimed he took the trigger guard photos "about six-thirty" and a second is that he lifted the palm print "at approx. eight to eight thirty."
Lt. Day, of course, had control of this evidence until after 12:00. So why didn't he compare this palm print with Oswald's prints, and share the conclusions of his comparison with the FBI? As we've seen, he shared with them that he'd found a match between the print found on the cardboard and that he was trying to match up Oswald's prints to the prints found on the trigger guard. So why no mention of the print purportedly lifted from the rifle barrel?
There's also this....
This is a clear reference to a print Day never lifted or photographed, but that he nevertheless felt significant.
Let's follow the bouncing ball until it disappears...
Here, then, is the official report on this initial interview.
The FBI's 12-2-63 Report on its 11-30-63 Interview of Lt. J.C. Day
Well, okay. This is interesting. When interviewed by FBI agent Bardwell Odum, Lt. Day acknowledged taking three photos of the left trigger guard. This supports our analysis of the photos published in First Day Evidence. He also claimed the palm print lifted from the barrel was completely concealed by the wooden stock, and that there were traces of another print "near the back end of the portion of the gun" that he never got a chance to photograph or lift.
Should you find this all confusing, moreover, you're in good company as Capt. Fritz, apparently, had trouble keeping track of which print was which.
As we've seen, the Dallas Police Archives, now available online on the University of North Texas website, contains a few surprises. Another one is presented below, with an arrow pointing out this particular surprise.
The Palm Print Purportedly Lifted from the Barrel as Presented in the Dallas Police Department's Evidence Book
Well, this proves that as of the creation of this evidence book (presumably late November or early December '63, after the sniper's nest boxes had been sent the FBI), Capt. Fritz thought the print found on the trigger guard was a palm print AND that the lift performed by Lt. Day and provided the FBI/Warren Commission was of this print.
So yikes, he either failed to understand that this print was purported to have been lifted from the barrel OR added this passage into his book before it was decided the lift of Oswald's palm had come from the rifle barrel, and not the trigger guard.
(FWIW, this page from the DPD's evidence book can be found in the Warren Commission's records, in CD 81, on p753, to be precise.)
So now let's jump forward to Lt. Day's 1-08-64 letter to Deputy Chief Lumpkin, which amounts to being his first and only report on his activities on 11-22-63.
Lt. Day's 1-08-64 Letter to Deputy Chief Lumpkin
"Lieutenant Day returned to the Identification Bureau about 7 :00 P.M. and started checking the rifle for prints. Two fingerprints were found on the side of the rifle near the trigger and magazine housing and a palm print was placed on the underside of the gun barrel near the end of the stock. It appeared probable these prints were of the right palm and fingers of Lea Harvey Oswald, but the rifle was released to the FBI to be sent to Washington, D. C. before the examination was completed and positive identification of the prints could be made. The prints were not very good for comparison purposes." (26H833-834)
Okie dokie. Lt. Day now seems to think he returned to the police station around 7:00. That's a wee bit surprising considering there are photos of him standing in front of a clock at the station on the evening of the shooting, and the clock reads 6:17. And that's not even to mention that he'd previously claimed the photos of the trigger guard taken at the station were taken around 6:30.
Was his memory fading? Or was he gradually changing his story to decrease the amount of time he had with the rifle?
And what about the other print on the rifle barrel, the one he could see before removing the stock? Where has that gone? Down the memory hole?
(1964-ish Black and White Television Interview found on youtube)
"I returned to the Identification Bureau somewhere around 6:30 or 7 in the evening, and started processing the gun to see what we could do in the way of fingerprints. I removed the stock--it was a rather long stock it went near to the end of the barrel. The gun simply laid in on top of the stock. On the underside of the barrel, near the end, there was a palm print, partial palm print, found. This was lifted in our usual investigative process, using powder then tape. But it didn't come off very well. It was a rather dim print, indicating it was an old print. A fresh print will take powder, and is easily seen. But an old print won't take much powder, and is rather dim. I could tell though from the lift it appeared to be the right palm, of Oswald."
So here, in a black and white interview conducted within a year or two of the assassination, Lt. Day boasted that he did in fact match up the palm print with Oswald's right palm.
Well, then, why didn't he tell this to the FBI? Or write up a report?
Let's look then at Lt. Day's 4-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission.
The Testimony of Lt. J.C. Day before the Warren Commission (4-22-64)
Mr. DAY. I took it to the office and tried to bring out the two prints I had seen on the side of the gun at the bookstore. They still were rather unclear. Due to the roughness of the metal, I photographed them rather than try to lift them. I could also see a trace of a print on the side of the barrel that extended under the wood stock. I started to take the wood stock off and noted traces of a palmprint near the firing end of the barrel about 3 inches under the wood stock when I took the wood stock loose.
Mr. BELIN. You mean 3 inches from the small end of the woodstock?
Mr. DAY. Right--yes, sir.
Mr. McCLOY. From the firing end of the barrel, you mean the muzzle?
Mr. DAY. The muzzle; yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN. Let me clarify the record. By that you mean you found it on the metal or you mean you found it on the wood?
Mr. DAY. On the metal, after removing the wood.
Mr. BELIN. The wood. You removed the wood, and then underneath the wood is where you found the print?
Mr. DAY. On the bottom side of the barrel which was covered by the wood, I found traces of a palmprint. I dusted these and tried lifting them, the prints, with scotch tape in the usual manner. A faint palmprint came off. I could still see traces of the print under the barrel and was going to try to use photography to bring off or bring out a better print. About this time I received instructions from the chief's office to go no further with the processing, it was to be released to the FBI for them to complete. I did not process the underside of the barrel under the scopic sight, did not get to this area of the gun.
Well, this is fairly wild, when you think of it. The other barrel print has returned to Lt. Day's story. Lt. Day has claimed that, beyond the prints he'd placed under cellophane on the trigger guard, there were two prints visible on the rifle when he handed it over to the FBI--one down by the sight that was partially visible with the wood stock attached, and one near the end of the barrel which he was able to lift, that was completely covered by the wood stock.
Mr. BELIN. Do you know what Commission Exhibit No. 637 is?
Mr. DAY. This is the trace of palmprint I lifted off of the barrel of the gun after I had removed the wood.
Mr. BELIN. Does it have your name on it or your handwriting?
Mr. DAY. It has the name "J. C. Day," and also "11/22/63" written on it in my writing off the underside gun barrel near the end of foregrip, C-2766.
Mr. BELIN. When you lift a print is it then harder to make a photograph of that print after it is lifted or doesn't it make any difference?
Mr. DAY. It depends. If it is a fresh print, and by fresh I mean hadn't been there very long and dried, practically all the print will come off and there will be nothing left. If it is an old print, that is pretty well dried, many times you can still see it after the lift. In this case I could still see traces of print on that barrel.
Well, let's stop right here and note that Lt. Day has defended his supposed decision to lift this print before photographing it on the rifle. This goes against the recommendations of the FBI, and all the training Day has ever received. But it's actually worse than that. He has continued to insist that his making the lift made no difference and that the FBI missed the prints on the barrel due to its incompetence, not his.
Mr. BELIN. Did you do anything with the other prints or partial prints that you said you thought you saw?
Mr. DAY. I photographed them only. I did not try to lift them.
Mr. BELIN. Do you have those photographs, sir? I will mark the two photographs which you have just produced Commission Exhibits 720 and 721. I will ask you to state what these are.
Mr. DAY. These are prints or pictures, I should say, of the latent--of the traces of prints on the side of the magazine housing of the gun No. C-2766.
Mr. BELIN. Were those prints in such condition as to be identifiable, if you know?
Mr. DAY. No, sir; I could not make positive identification of these prints.
Mr. BELIN. Did you have enough opportunity to work and get these pictures or not?
Mr. DAY. I worked with them, yes. I could not exclude all possibility as to identification. I thought I knew which they were, but I could not positively identify them.
Mr. BELIN. What was your opinion so far as it went as to whose they were?
Mr. DAY. They appeared to be the right middle and right ring finger of Harvey Lee Oswald, Lee Harvey Oswald.
Mr. BELIN. At the time you had this did you have any comparison fingerprints to make with the actual prints of Lee Harvey Oswald?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir; we had sets in Captain Fritz' office. Oswald was in his custody, we had made palmprints and fingerprints of him.
Mr. BELIN. Is there any other processing that you did with the rifle?
Mr. DAY. No, sir.
Mr. BELIN. At what time, if you know, did you release the rifle to the FBI?
Mr. DAY. 11:45 p.m. the rifle was released or picked up by them and taken from the office.
Mr. BELIN. Was that on November 22?
Mr. DAY. November 22, 1963.
Mr. BELIN. At what time did these same photographs which are the same as Commission Exhibit 720 and 721 of this print----
Mr. DAY. About 8 o'clock, somewhere around 8 o'clock, in that neighborhood.
Mr. BELIN. Of what date?
Mr. DAY. November 22, 1963.
Now, here we go. Day initially claimed he took these pictures around 6:30. He's now pushed the taking of these pictures back to about 8 o'clock. Well, that, in turn, pushes his lift of the palm print from around 8:30 to around 10:00. And this strengthens his story a bit, in that it greatly decreases the amount of time between when he supposedly lifted the palm print to when he was told to stop working on the rifle and hand it over to the FBI. And this makes his failure to photograph the barrel print almost excusable.
But no, this doesn't actually excuse Day's strange behavior regarding the barrel lift.
Mr. BELIN. What about the lift which has previously been marked as Commission Exhibit 637?
Mr. DAY. About what?
Mr. BELIN. When did you turn that over to the FBI?
Mr. DAY. I released that to them on November 26, 1963. I did not release this----
Mr. BELIN. You are referring now----
Mr. DAY. On November 22.
Mr. BELIN. You are referring to Commission Exhibit 637?
Mr. DAY. Yes.
Mr. BELIN. Is there any particular reason why this was not released on the 22d?
Mr. DAY. The gun was being sent in to them for process of prints. Actually I thought the print on the gun was their best bet, still remained on there, and, too, there was another print, I thought possibly under the wood part up near the trigger housing.
Mr. BELIN. You mean the remaining traces of the powder you had when you got the lift, Exhibit 637, is that what you mean by the lift of the remaining print on the gun?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir. Actually it was dried ridges on there. There were traces of ridges still on the gun barrel.
Mr. BELIN. Can you tell the circumstances under which you sent Commission Exhibit No. 637 to the FBI?
Mr. DAY. We released certain evidence to the FBI, including the gun, on November 22. It was returned to us on November 24. Then on November 26 we received instructions to send back to the FBI everything that we had.
Mr. BELIN. Did you do that?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir; and at that time I sent the lift marked----
Mr. BELIN. 637.
Mr. DAY. Yes. The gun was sent back again, and all of the other evidence that I had, including cartons from Texas Bookstore, and various other items, a rather lengthy list.
Mr. BELIN. Had the FBI in the interim returned the gun to you then after you sent it to them on November 22?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir.
Mr. McCLOY. Am I to understand your testimony, Lieutenant, about the fingerprints to be you said you were positive---you couldn't make a positive identification, but it was your opinion that these were the fingerprints of Lee Oswald?
Mr. DAY. Well, actually in fingerprinting it either is or is not the man. So I wouldn't say those were his prints. They appeared similar to these two, certainly bore further investigation to see if I could bring them out better. But from what I had I could not make a positive identification as being his prints.
Mr. McCLOY. How about the palmprint?
Mr. DAY. The palmprint again that I lifted appeared to be his right palm, but I didn't get to work enough on that to fully satisfy myself it was his palm. With a little more work I would have come up with the identification there.
Mr. BELIN. Lieutenant Day, what is the fact as to whether or not palmprints are a sound means of identification of an individual?
Mr. DAY. You have the same characteristics of the palms that you do the fingers, also on the soles of feet. They are just as good for identification purposes.
Mr. BELIN. Is there anything else you did in connection with the rifle, the cartridges, the live cartridge, or the taking of prints from any of these metallic objects that you haven't talked about yet?
Mr. DAY. No, sir; I believe that is the extent of the prints on any of those articles.
Mr. BELIN. Did you make a positive identification of any palmprint or fingerprint?
Mr. DAY. Not off the rifle or slug at that time.
Mr. BELIN. At any other time did you off the rifle or the slugs?
Mr. DAY. After I have been looking at that thing again here today, that is his right palm. But at that time I had not no----
Mr. BELIN. When you are saying you looked at that thing today, to what are you referring?
Mr. DAY. Your No. 637 is the right palm of Oswald.
Mr. BELIN. Handing you what has been marked "Exhibit 629" I ask you to state if you know what this is.
Mr. DAY. That is the right palm of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Mr. BELIN. Do you know where this print was taken?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir; it was taken by Detective J. B. Hicks in Captain Fritz' office on November 22, 1963.
Mr. BELIN. Did you take more than one right palmprint on that day, if you know?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir; we took two, actually we took three. Two of them were taken in Captain Fritz' office, and one set which I witnessed taking myself in the identification bureau.
Mr. BELIN. Any particular reason why you took more than one?
Mr. DAY. In most cases, when making comparisons, we will take at least two to insure we have a good clear print of the entire palm.
Mr. BELIN. Now, based----
Mr. DAY. One might be smeared where the other would not.
Mr. BELIN. Based on your experience, I will ask you now for a definitive statement as to whether or not you can positively identify the print shown on Commission Exhibit No. 637 as being from the right palm of Lee Harvey Oswald as shown on Commission Exhibit 629?
Mr. DAY. Maybe I shouldn't absolutely make a positive statement without further checking that. I think it is his, but I would have to sit down and take two glasses to make an additional comparison before I would say absolutely, excluding all possibility, it is. I think it is, but I would have to do some more work on that.
Mr. BELIN. Could you do that here in Washington before you go back, sir, or would this necessitate going back to Dallas?
Mr. DAY. If I had the proper equipment I think I could do it here. I don't have very good equipment for making comparisons here. I need two fingerprint glasses. It was my understanding-the prints had been identified by the FBI. I don't have official word on it.
Mr. McCLOY. Can you restate again for the record what you can positively identify in terms of fingerprints or palmprints and Oswald's----
Mr. DAY. The palmprint on the box he apparently sat on I can definitely say it is his without being in fear of any error. The other, I think it is his, but I couldn't say definitely on a witness stand.
Mr. McCLOY. By the other, you mean the other palmprint?
Mr. DAY. The palmprint and that tracer print aside the trigger housing or the magazine housing.
Mr. McCLOY. Thank you very much.
Day's testimony raises a lot of questions, both about the FBI's competence (Did the FBI really miss not one but two prints on the rifle barrel?), and his own credibility. Day was given a set of Oswald's prints to work with around 8:00 or so. He compared these prints to the palm print on the cardboard, and the prints on the trigger guard. So why didn't he compare these prints to the barrel lift? That he was told to stop working on the rifle at 10, or even before, has no bearing on this, as Day had a set of prints and a lift card, and failed to send either of these to the FBI on 11-22-63.
So what gives? Why didn't Day compare Oswald's prints to the lift? He had the night of the 22nd. He had the whole next day, if he wanted it. And he had a half-day after that before Oswald was killed. During this 2 day period, his agency was responsible for the investigation of the President's murder. During this period, his superiors, Curry and Fritz, made repeated comments indicating they hoped more evidence would be forthcoming that would help them better tie Oswald to the rifle. And yet Day claims he pulled a print from the assassination rifle on the night of the shooting, but that he never got around to comparing this print to Oswald's prints before handing this print off to the FBI on the 26th. He had time to compare a possibly meaningless palmprint found on a piece of cardboard to Oswald's prints, mind you, but not a print he claims he lifted from the rifle used in the assassination.
It's transparent BULLSHIT. (Should someone actually invent and patent transparent bullshit, they should name it after Day.)
Day's failure to study the lift from the rifle on 11-22 makes no sense unless...unless...there really was no lift from the rifle on 11-22.
Now, to be fair, the problems with Day's testimony regarding the palm print were apparent to a number of those working for the Warren Commission. On 8-28-64, but weeks before the release of the Commission's report, Commission Counsel J. Wesley Liebeler begged the Commission to have the FBI re-interview Day, and make an attempt to figure out what happened.
But there's a curious twist here. Here is a memo on the "Palm print on E-1 rifle" written by Liebeler on 8-31, as found in the files of his superior, Howard Willens: "I attach a proposed letter to the F.B.I. on the above subject, as requested by Mr. Rankin. I have previously expressed my views to him that Lt. Day should be deposed on this question. I think, because of the nature of the problem, that that should be done with as little advance notice as is permitted by our rules."
And here is the key line in Rankin's 9-1 letter to the FBI: "Would you please conduct the investigation necessary to resolve the questions raised in the attached memorandum."
Apparently, deposing Day on this issue was verboten.
In any event, here is the FBI's immediate response.
The FBI's 9-4-64 Letter to the Warren Commission (CE 2637)
And here is the attachment.
Well, let's start by noting the gross inadequacy of the FBI's response. The Warren Commission asked the FBI for evidence proving the lift came from the rifle, and the FBI responded with a photograph of the lift beside the photograph of another piece of tape, which it purportedly had pulled from the rifle. It then purported to match up a whopping FIVE specks or marks on the DPD's lift with their lift.
Here are just a few of the problems with this development.
1. Hoover responded in a letter. No sworn testimony was taken along these lines.
2. No FBI report was generated about this comparison.
3. No photos were taken or at least put into the record showing where the FBI's lift was lifted from the rifle. As a result, there is no record--anywhere--in the DPD's records or even in the FBI's records--showing us where the palm print was supposedly discovered.
4. No record exists of the FBI's asking Lt. Day for specifics regarding the location of the lift. As a result, one is forced to assume the FBI searched the "area of the wooden foregrip" for five specks or marks in the same arrangement as on the DPD's lift, and then, once discovered, assumed this was the location on the rifle of the DPD's lift. This is undoubtedly subjective and not exactly scientific. For all we know, the FBI's five specks were found on the visible part of the rifle barrel, where Lt. Day said no print was found.
5. Even if one assumes the FBI's lift was lifted from the rifle near the end of the wooden stock, and that marks on their lift matched up with Lt. Day's lift, they found but 5 matches. They should have performed a series of tests to determine the likelihood of a 5 point match with a non-specific area of another rifle. No such tests were performed.
Still, let's do our best with what we have available.
This is Not a Joke
Let's begin by trying to place the Hunt scan of the lift onto where Day said he found the print. An attempt at this is presented above. The roughly 4 3/4 inch wide lift card is sized to be proportionate to the 28.9 inch long barrel and tang. The blue line on the right represents the beginning of the wood stock. The blue line on the left is about three inches down from the beginning of the stock, where Day said he found the print. The lift card was then centered over the barrel so that the print on the card sits lined up with the blue line.
A closer view is presented below. (The print is between the arrows.)
Well, the first thing that stands out is that the lift tape is 1 inch wide, much wider than the rifle barrel, so much wider, in fact, that some of the tape would have to have been wrapped around onto the far side of the barrel.
And then a second thing that stands out is that the print was purportedly on the barrel at a point where the barrel is only covered by the wood stock on one side.
Well, think about it. Initially, before he decided to make the palm print on the other end of the barrel disappear, Lt. Day was most adamant that the palm print he ended up lifting was entirely covered by the wooden stock. And this even though the print covers 3/4 the width of the lift.
Now, this more than suggests the palm print was only apparent on the side covered by the wood stock.
It also suggests the possibility there was a reason for this, that is, that the print at one time extended from the underside of the barrel covered by the stock out into the open on the top half of the barrel, but that it was rubbed off or wiped off over time.
Well, this supports that this was an old print, exactly as determined by Lt. Day.
Let that brew for a minute.
In the meantime, let's see if we can figure out the orientation of the hand on the rifle barrel.
The Missing Ridges
Ahh, there it is. The undiscovered country. The Hunt scan of Day's lift was hi-res enough where I could match the loop formation to the location of a similar formation on Oswald's palm, and then match his palm print to its orientation on the rifle.
This is demonstrated above.
It raises quite a question, however. If the palm print was left on the rifle while Oswald was holding the barrel in the above manner, why the heck did the latent print stop at the middle of the palm? Wouldn't someone holding a barrel in the above manner need to squeeze the barrel with his upper palm between his index finger and thumb? Well, then, why are there no prints on the barrel reflecting the upper palm?
Now this leads to another question, this one courtesy my octogenarian mom.
Since the DPD and FBI failed to show us how the palm print fit onto the rifle, the possibility remains that the palm print was headed in the other direction, that is, that the fingers on the hand pointed back to the bolt, instead of to the end of the barrel. These two options are shown below, first with the fingers facing to the end of the barrel, and then with them facing back to the bolt. (Keep in mind that the palm print was, at least according to Lt. Day, at the bottom of the barrel, and not on the side, as I've depicted.)
Now, here comes my mom's question. Why would someone carry a rifle barrel by either of these two options? Wouldn't most anyone ever, should he/she find himself/herself carrying a rifle barrel, or even a piece of pipe, hold it with the length of the barrel cutting across the palm of their hand, from just below the little finger to the web between the index finger and thumb (as shown in the third option below)?
I suspect Ma has a point (and I don't mean when she told me I should stop wasting my time on this stuff--that should be obvious).
But all kidding aside, before we got sidetracked by the FBI's response to the Warren Commission's questions about the rifle lift, we were discussing Lt. Day's ever-changing stories about this lift...and that on 8-31, Wesley Liebeler had told his boss he'd told their boss that Lt. Day should be deposed as soon as possible and with as little warning as possible, and be asked to once again explain the sudden appearance of this lift...under oath.
And yes, you read that right... On 8-31, Liebeler told Willens he'd told Rankin that Day should be deposed as soon as possible... Well, then, how did Rankin respond?
He dropped the ball or passed the buck, or both, take your pick. He responded by sending the FBI a letter, asking that they "conduct the investigation necessary to resolve the questions raised in the attached memorandum."
A week blew past. But then, on 9-8-64, Lt. Day was interviewed...by FBI agent Vincent Drain (that's right--his buddy on the Dallas FBI) and was allowed to skate, by golly, without even submitting a statement...
The FBI's 9-9-64 Report on its 9-8-64 Interview of Lt. J.C. Day (CE 3145)
"Lt. Day stated he made a written report on January 8, 1964, to Mr. G. L. Lumpkin. Deputy of Police, Service Division of the Dallas Police Department. This report is set forth as requested of Lt. Day, and a copy of such report was furnished for transmittal to the President's Commission investigating the assassination pf President Kennedy. Lt. Day stated he preferred to let the written report speak for itself and would rather elaborate orally on the lifting of the palm print from the underside of the rifle, which palm print was found when he examined the rifle on November 22, 1963, rather than to make a written signed statement."
Hmmm... It's hard to see this as innocent. Day has told FBI Agent Vincent Drain (the writer of this report) that he'd rather not sign a sworn statement to the Federal Government about the supposed lifting of the palm print from the rifle, and would rather the Federal Government just accept a letter he wrote to one of his superiors way back when. Well, of course he would. There's no legal peril in lying to your superiors in a letter. Perhaps, even, this is why Day wrote this letter--as opposed to an official record, such as, God forbid, a report placed in the files. So...why is Day so worried? Is it because he knows, and he knows that Drain knows, there was no such print? And what about Drain? Is he in on this? Is he worried that the taking of a sworn statement he knows is untrue--might put his own ass in jeopardy?
"Lt. DAY stated he dusted the left side of the rifle at about where the clip housing is located and in front of the trigger housing and observed three impressions, two of which indicated ridge patterns .
Lt. DAY stated he told Captain FRITZ he wanted to remove the gun to the Dallas Police Crime Laboratory where more suitable conditions were present in which to further examine this gun. The rifle was taken to the Dallas Police Crime Laboratory of the Dallas Police Department where on the evening of November 22, 1963, Lt. DAY Stated he made three photographs of the impressions of the fingerprints which had been raised near the clip housing and in front of the trigger housing. Lt. DAY advised he took the wooden part of the rifle off by loosening three or four screws and uncovered what he considered to be an old dry print with a loop formation underneath the barrel. He stated this appeared to him to be the right palm print of some individual. This print was found on the underside of the barrel which was completely covered by the wooden stock of the gun and not visible until he had removed the wooden portion of the gun. Lt. DAY estimated this print was within three inches of the front end of the wooden stock. Lt. DAY advised he dusted this print with black powder and made one lift. Lt. DAY stated at this point he received instructions from Chief of Police, JESSE H. CURRY not to do anything else concerning the examination of evidence as it was to be immediately turned over to SA VINCENT E. DRAIN of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for transmittal to the FPBI Laboratory. Lt. DAY stated he normally would have photographed this print, but since his instructions from the Chief of Police were not to do anything further, he literally took him at his word."
So here we have it. A scapegoat. Day is now naming names. He says it was Jesse Curry who told him to stop working on the evidence and to hand it all over to Drain. This was, what? 10 o'clock at the latest? While this might explain Day's failure to photograph the as-yet-unphotographed prints remaining on the rifle, it fails to explain why Day failed to compare the print he'd already lifted from the rifle with Oswald's prints.
"Lt . DAY stated the reason he had preserved the other prints found on the gun by photography was the fact he had already photographed these prints prior to getting the instructions from the Chief of Police to cease further examination of the evidence. Lt . DAY stated he had no assistance when working with the prints on the rifle, and he and he alone did the examination and the lifting of the palm print from the underside of the barrel of the rifle which had been found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository on November 22, 1963. Lt . DAY related that after he made the lift of the palm print on the underside of the barrel, he could still see this palm print on the underside of the barrel of the gun and would have photographed same had he not been ordered to cease his examination. Lt. DAY stated he had no reason for not photographing this palm print first before attempting to lift it other than in the interest of time."
Well, wait a second. According to Day, there was not enough time for him to photograph the print before being told to stop working on the rifle, and not enough time for him to photograph the print after being told to stop working on the rifle. This makes little sense unless...hmmm...he made the lift AFTER being told to stop working on the rifle, so that he'd have something to work on while the rifle was in Washington. But wait a second...again. He claimed he never did get around to comparing the print to Oswald's prints. So let's go back to square one. Day's claim he failed to take a photo because he was in a hurry makes no sense.
"Lt . DAY stated he did not take any photographs of the palm print which he lifted on the underside of the rifle barrel after the lift was made, and that the prints of the less valuable ones he had found near the trigger housing and clip housing were photographed prior to the time he received instructions to conduct no further examination of this evidence. Lt. DAY advised it was customary practice to photograph fingerprints in most instances prior to lifting them, but in some cases where it was felt by him that he could make a lift, he would go ahead and make the lift and then photograph the print in question."
So now Day's changing speeds. He's shifted from claiming he failed to take the photo because he was in a hurry to claiming he didn't think the usual order of business for crime scene investigators--photograph first and then lift--applied to him.
"Lt. DAY stated he saw no reason for wrapping the palm print on the underside of the barrel with any protective covering since it was protected by the wood stock when fully assembled and that it was not necessary to use cellophane or other protective coating as it would have been on the exposed prints. Lt. DAY stated he tentatively identified the palm print that was lifted off 'the underside of the rifle, which was believed to have been used in the assassination of President KENNEDY, as matching that of the known palm print of LEE HARVEY OSWALD. He stated this was done on the night of November 22, 1963, in the Crime Laboratory of the Dallas Police Department, Dallas, Texas. Lt. DAY related on that night he told only two people that he had made the tentative identification of the palm print obtained off the underside of the rifle barrel with that of the known palm print of LEE HARVEY OSWALD. Lt. DAY stated these two individuals were Chief of Police JESSE E. CURRY of the Dallas Police Department and Homicide Captain WILL FRITZ of the Dallas Police Department. Lt . DAY advised he could not remember the exact time he made the identification nor the exact time he advised Chief of Police CURRY and Captain WILL FRITZ of the tentative identification, but he did know it was on the night of November 22, 1963, prior to the time he released the rifle to SA VINCENT E . DRAIN of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for transmittal to the FBI Laboratory, Washington, D.C."
Hubba...what the Fred? With this interview, conducted ten months after Kennedy's assassination, Lt. Day suddenly offered that he'd not only studied the print on the lift on the night of the 22nd, but that he'd tentatively ID'ed this print as Oswald's print, and had even told this to Curry and Fritz. Well, why hadn't he said this before?
Now get this. Neither FBI agent Drain, who conducted this interview, nor the Warren Commission, whose job it was to get to the bottom of this mess, followed-up on this with Curry and Fritz, if only just to see, y'know, whether the chief crime scene investigator on the murder of the century was a big fat liar.
"Lt . DAY stated he received instructions from Chief of Police JESSE R. CURRY, Dallas Police Department, Dallas, Texas, to turn over all of the evidence collected that he was examining, which related to LEE HARVEY OSWALD, to the FBI shortly before midnight on November 22, 1963. The exact time he received these instructions he cannot recall, but the evidence which included the rifle believed to have been used by OSNALD was turned over to SA VINCENT E . DRAIN, Federal Bureau of Investigation, at 11 :45 p.m., November 22, 1963, for transmittal to the FBI Laboratory. Lt. DAY stated that he could positively state that the palm print, which was lifted by him from the rifle, came from the underside of the barrel which, when the gun is fully assembled, is covered by the wooden stock. This palm print, which was lifted by him from this location, was not turned over to SA VINCENT E . DRAIN for examination by the FBI laboratory until November 26, 1963, inasmuch as he wanted to make further comparisons of this palm print with the known palm print of LEE HARVEY OSWALD."
So here we go again. More BS. Day claimed he couldn't remember when he was told to hand over the evidence. This helps obscure that he'd previously claimed he'd lifted the print around 8 to 8:30, and that this was hours--hours!--before he was told to give the evidence to Drain. And even more BS... Day also claimed he'd withheld the lift from Drain because he wanted to make further comparisons of the print on the lift with Oswald's prints. SO WHY DIDN'T HE? It would have taken at most a few hours, and would have helped nail down the case against Oswald. It was the most important piece of evidence gathered by the Dallas Police. And yet Lt. Day failed to act upon it. Or even tell the FBI about it. BS.
"Lt. DAY stated the gun was carefully reassembled, and when the wooden stock was reassembled to the barrel of the gun, this afforded the print that was still visible on the underside of the barrel sufficient protection that it would not be disturbed in his estimation. Lt. DAY related he would have offered this print the same protection by photographing it as he had other less identifiable prints found on the gun near the trigger housing and clip housing had he had enough time prior to receiving instructions to cease examination and turn the rifle over to the FBI. Lt. DAY stated he had no other reason for not affording all of the prints found the same protection. Lt. DAY related that when the rifle was turned over to SA VINCENT E. DRAIN of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, it was fully assembled and in the same condition as when he had found it on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository on November 22, 1963."
And that's it--the bulk of a long-assed FBI report on what Lt. Day had to say about the barrel print that never mentions the other print Day claimed to see on the barrel, y'know, the one partially covered by the wood stock that Day said he saw before removing the wood stock. Has Day stopped talking about it? Or has the FBI elected to keep it out of the record? Their top fingerprint expert, we should recall, claimed no such print existed! While Day claimed he lifted the other barrel print, he said he failed to do anything to this one...AND that it was mostly covered by the wood stock. Well, think about it. He was thereby claiming the barrel print he'd first noticed--that he never got around to photographing or lifting--remained on the rifle when he handed it over to Drain, AND that no one but no one could claim he removed the bulk of this print during lifting, or that he screwed up by lifting it before he photographed it, etc, because he didn't do anything to it outside of covering it up with the stock.
So, yes, it's clear. The other barrel print was a major problem for the FBI..that disappeared from Day's story just after the FBI was asked to investigate Day and verify his story. Go figure.
The Paper Trail of Tears
Let us now take a leap from what Lt. Day supposedly said, to what others have said about him.
The Day Kennedy Was Shot (1968), as we've seen, had quite a spotty record when it came to presenting the facts. Just look at how its author, Jim Bishop, portrayed Lt. Day.
The Day Kennedy Was Shot (1968)
p. 478 "Lieutenant Day would be interested in these slugs. He and his men were still working on the fourth floor at police headquarters. As evidence came in, they studied it, analyzed, made notes and photographs. The Dallas Crime Laboratory was doing well. Day and his assistants had found two smudgy fingerprints on the side of the rifle close to the trigger guard. A palm print was raised from the underside of the barrel. There was a good palm print from the packing case. In some cases, they photographed their finds without completing comparison tests so that they could work on new evidence."
Boy, is this misleading. What notes? What photographs? They failed to photograph the print on the "packing case" while it was on the "packing case." They failed to photograph the paper bag at any time that day. And they failed to photograph the palm print supposedly found on the rifle...while it was on the rifle.
p. 543 "On the fourth floor, Lieutenant Day looked at the side of the rifle, smiled and murmured: Yes, sir." It wasn't much of a print, and it was coming up slowly, but there it was as plain as a slap mark on a tender cheek. "The metal is rough" he said to an assistant. "If it was smooth, this print would be sharper." It was part of a palm of a hand, on the underside of the wood stock. The screws of the stock were loosened, and the print seemed clear. The police photographer took several closeup shots of it. Day took Scotch Tape, carefully applied, and slowly lifted the print free. It was faint but it was discernible."
Wow! And I mean it. This is serious serious bullshit. Day claimed he photographed the trigger guard prints because the metal was rough, but said nothing like this regarding the barrel. And how can a print be on 'rough' metal, while simultaneously being on 'the underside of the wood stock?' And what's this about Day raising the print before loosening the screws? It was the other barrel print that could be seen with the stock still on the barrel, not the one lifted by Day. And what's this about the 'police photographer'? Yikes. That reeks of propaganda. Anyone studying the case long enough to write a book about it oughta know no such photos were taken. So what was Bishop up to?
p. 543 "He had a palm print on a carton taken from the sixth floor window. If both were of the same hand and they matched, the lieutenant would put them on a projector beside some he had taken from Oswald. If all three matched, then Oswald handled this gun and also sat in that window. Vincent Drain of the FBI came up to the laboratory to see how the Lieutenant was doing. Day showed him the material..."
Oh my Lord. This is such nonsense. Drain claimed he was never told about the lift from the rifle. And yet Bishop has him not only being told about the lift, but being shown this lift long before he collected the evidence.
p.543 "The tall, good-natured Drain left. The men on the fourth floor continued their work. They knew that the FBI wanted all this material. Day had orders to process it, and that's what he was doing. The room smelled of developer. Lights went on and off as negatives were fixed. The men worked in silence, at microscopes, cameras, acid baths, calipers, projectors, spectroscopes. There were hairs on the blanket which housed the rifle, but they were short and kinky. They were pubic. Someone had slept in this thing nude."
While there is no record of the DPD's examining the blanket for hairs and fibers on the day of the shooting, such an examination was performed...the next day...by the FBI in Washington.
p.543-544. "A clear palm print was thrown up on the projector. The smudged print from the underside of the rifle went up beside it. The officers stopped work to look. The one from the rifle wasn't clear enough. Still, the swirls which could be defined appeared to match the ones taken from Oswald's left hand tonight. The photos were reversed, and the eyes of the men scanned them again. It wasn't the best of evidence, but both appeared to be made from the same hand."
Okay, this is made up from whole cloth. Day did not put the palm print up on a projector. According to Vincent Drain, moreover, "Lt . DAY stated he had no assistance when working with the prints on the rifle, and he and he alone did the examination and the lifting of the palm print from the underside of the barrel of the rifle."
p.544 "Be back in a minute," the lieutenant said. He ran down the stairs and into the chief's office. "I make a tentative identification from a palm print on the rifle which matches one I got from Oswald," he said. The chief smiled and looked up from his desk. "Good," he said. Day fought his way down the center hall into Fritz's outer office. He called the captain out. Fritz said that the prisoner was on his way down again. He was making a couple of phone calls. The lieutenant whispered the story of a print match. Fritz smiled a little. "Give me a report on it when you have it," he said. "We're moving along--a little at a time." "It's tentative," Day said. "It looks pretty good."
Well, alright. This is a dramatization of what Day told Drain. At least it's based on something beyond Bishop's imagination.
p. 614, "about the transfer of evidence... "The chief surrendered. He said that he would order Fritz and Day to hand the stuff over to Washington right away. It must be clearly understood that the FBI would sign a receipt for each item, they would photograph it and send copies to the Dallas Police Department, they would fly it up tonight, they would run it through their mill, and have it back in police headquarters tomorrow night."
Well, here's more BS, presumably dished up to boost the reputation of the Dallas PD. Get this. Not only were NO receipts signed by the FBI for the evidence collected on 11-22-63, no list of this evidence was even created by the Dallas Police.
So, now, that nightmare out of the way, let's look at what some other books have to offer.
As we've seen, Investigation of a Homicide, by Judy Bonner, was a BS-laced defense of the Dallas Police Department, written by a Dallas science reporter with the help of at least one member of the Dallas Police Department. One might have expected something right out of the Warren Report. But no, it was far far worse than that.
Investigation of a Homicide (1969)
"Day squeezed between the boxes and carefully examined the rifle. 'No prints on the bolt that I can see,' he said. 'Looks like there might be a partial print on the barrel. I can't tell for sure. We'll dust it here and lift the prints after we get back to the lab.'Lifting' a print involves use of adhesive material to remove fingerprint powder which has been dusted over the print. In this way, an entire impression of the dusted print can be removed from the object for extensive examination and comparison."
Now this is something conjured up by Orwell, si? Instead of Day's discovering a palm print on the rifle all by his lonesome, and failing to tell anyone about this outside of a few superiors who were never called to support his story, Bonner has Day finding this palm print when first inspecting the rifle, and telling EVERYONE about it! And not only that, she presents lifting as the primary way one documents a print, and suggests that it's normal for the "entire impression" of a print to be removed via one lift. Well, this smells like obvious BS on her part designed to hide the super-suspicious fact Day claimed he'd left a faint ridge impression on the rifle which should have been discovered by the FBI, but was not.
It is fortunate, however, that Bonner wasn't the only one pumping out a defense of the Dallas PD in 1969. For that year--the year of Jim Garrison's prosecution of Clay Shaw--also saw the release of former Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry's book JFK Assassination File. Although Curry failed to acknowledge ever being told about the palm print on 11-22-63, or claim he wasn't told about it, he did claim something which damaged Day's credibility, at least a little bit...
JFK Assassination File (1969)
"By midnight we had recorded and photographed most of the physical evidence, and it seemed entirely reasonable to cooperate with the FBI for further laboratory investigation. By midnight Friday (November 22,1963) I agreed to allow Vince Drain to fly the evidence to Washington D.C. to have further laboratory tests completed. The evidence was released only for lab reports to be made, and it was clearly understood that the physical evidence was then to be returned to the Dallas Police Department."
Hmmm This appears to contradict Day's claim Curry prevented him from photographing the print on the barrel. As we've seen, Day initially claimed he'd lifted the barrel print before 8:30. And now here's Curry indicating he allowed his people to record and photograph the physical evidence up till around midnight. Well, it follows then that Day had hours and hours with the rifle in which he could have photographed the print on the rifle, but either failed to do so out of incompetence, or failed to do so because no such print existed.
Let us jump ahead now to 1977, when the assassination was re-investigated, and Lt. Day's actions once again fell under scrutiny.
Notes on a 10-18-77 interview by HSCA investigators Harold Rose and Al Maxwell with Lt. J. C. Day (HSCA record 180-10107-10176)
Now, this might appear to be more of the same. But there are differences. The parade of the rifle to Fritz's office has by now migrated to 8:00 or so, when it was really around 6:17.
Still, this change is to little benefit, and could be innocent. I mean, does Day really expect anyone to accept that there was just no time for him to photograph a print on a rifle discovered shortly after 8, by 11:30 or so? I hope not. And then there's the change in casting. Apparently, Day has swapped Fritz into the role formerly occupied by Curry--that is, the role of the bully who pressured Day into not photographing the print on the rifle. And what's with this claim Day used white powder on the rifle? Where does that come from?
There are, of course, more substantial changes as well. Most notably, Day now claims he told Drain about the palm print on the rifle. Not just that he thought the FBI would find it. But that he specifically told them about it.
Now, let's skip ahead to 1984. Journalist Henry Hurt has interviewed both Lt. Day and Vincent Drain for his book Reasonable Doubt. Just look at what Drain told Hurt about the rifle lift...
Reasonable Doubt (1985)
p.109 "In 1984, the author interviewed both Lieutenant Day and Agent Drain about the mysterious print. Day remains adamant that the Oswald print was on the rifle when he first examined it a few hours after the shooting. Moreover, Day stated that when he gave the rifle to Agent Drain, he pointed out to the FBI man both the area where the print could be seen and the fingerprint dust used to bring it out. Lieutenant Day states that he cautioned Drain to be sure the area was not disturbed while the rifle was in transit to the FBI laboratory. Drain flatly disputes this, claiming Day never showed him such a print. 'I just don't believe there was ever a print,' said Drain, He noted that there was increasing pressure on the Dallas police to build evidence in the case. Asked to explain what might have happened, Agent Drain stated, “All I can figure is that it (Oswald's print) was some sort of cushion, because they were getting a lot of heat by Sunday night. You could take the print off Oswald’s card and put it on the rifle. Something like that happened.”
Well, yowza! Drain just went ahead and said what everyone was thinking. This was not just some old FBI guy venting, moreover. Drain, we should recall, was the agent tasked with interviewing Day back in '64 and finding out why he'd failed to photograph the rifle lift while it was on the rifle. In that report, of course, Day offered excuse after excuse.
And yet, as revealed to Hurt, Drain hadn't believed a word of it!
And why was this? Why did Drain suddenly turn on Day? Well, think about it. This is 1984, 20 years after the Warren Commission investigated the case. Day and Drain are both retired, reliving their glory days. And Hurt goes to Day and Day says, for the first time to a member of the press, that he told Drain about the print before handing him the rifle. Now, this is in April. Well, then, in May, Hurt goes to Drain and tells him what Day said. He tells him something like "Hey, Day says that he told you all about the print, but that you apparently forgot about it, and that he's been covering for you all these years. What's your response?" So of course Drain goes off.
And that's how things sat for awhile, and sat for awhile, until Oliver Stone stirred things back up with his movie JFK... And a defense of Day was mounted...
CBS News program 48 Hours (broadcast 2-5-92)
After a chat with Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade about the "palm print" someone told him about on the 22nd, the camera cuts to Carl Day: "I started working with the gun then--6, 6:30 or so." 48 Hours correspondent Erin Moriarty then narrates "Lt. Carl Day says he found Oswald's palm print on the barrel of the rifle." Moriarty then asks Day if he'd positively identified the palm print as Oswald's, to which he responds "Yes. I was reasonably sure it was his." She then interjects "Before Day could make a positive match, he says he was ordered to stop and hand the rifle over to the FBI." She then adds "Oddly enough the FBI examined the gun one day later and never saw the print." She then tells Day "But if there had been a palm print that you could see, then you would think that the FBI would have been able to find it as well." Day responds "I was surprised they couldn't find it." Moriarty then concludes: "One week later Lt. Day's print finally reached the FBI, but the contradiction was never resolved."
Well, this was misleading. Was CBS really unaware Day had previously testified to not having studied the print before handing the rifle off to the FBI, and that he'd previously claimed he was working on photographing the print when told to stop working on it? And was CBS really unaware Day had admitted further that he'd had a lift of the print in his possession from early on the night of the 22nd, but had failed to study it prior to handing it off to the FBI on the 26th?
Because the story they've presented--that Day identified the print on the 22nd, that Wade was told about this identification, that Wade told the media about it on the 24th, and that the print was somehow delayed in its delivery to the FBI--sounds reasonable enough, even though untrue...
It reeks of an orchestrated lie...designed to defend Day.
Or, if not, a remarkably ill-informed fantasy...which oh so coincidentally presents a scenario in which a dogged Day was all over the palm print, which he just knew belonged to Oswald, and the FBI somehow dropped the ball...
Unfortunately, it's tough to say which, seeing as so much of the story was told by CBS newswoman Erin Moriarty, who may have had a piss-poor grasp of the facts...
In any event, it was somewhere around this time that Gary Savage started chatting with his uncle Rusty Livingston and convinced him to collaborate on First Day Evidence (1993), a defense of the Dallas Police in general, and Lt. Day in particular.
First Day Evidence (1993)
p. 71 "At the time of President Kennedy's assassination, Rusty was working nights and was home asleep. He first heard of the assassination when his wife, Daisie, had awakened him with the news she'd just heard on television. He told me 'I called in and talked to Captain Doughty to see if they needed me to come in and help out. He told me not to come in until my regular time, which was eleven in the evening.'"
Well, this is kind of shocking. The Crime Scene Search Section had but one employee at the depository from 2:00 to 3:00, and Lt. Day was buried under the evidence from 6:00 to 12:00 or so, and Doughty told Rusty not to show up until 11:00. Go figure!
p. 72 (Quoting Rusty) "I am sure that Lieutenant Day, who was in charge of the Crime Lab, dusted the rifle that was found on the sixth floor of the School Book Depository, and lifted a partial palm print off the underside of the barrel after the rifle was taken apart. They had an actual print there in the office that night. I compared it myself with Oswald's print, and it looked to me like there was enough to say yes, it was Oswald's print. I think all the other people on the day shift had already looked at the palm print before I arrived that night, but I went ahead and looked at the palm print myself and was satisfied that it was Oswald's."
Wow! That's a whopper, right? In 1964, Day says he showed the barrel lift to no one and then 29 years later Livingston comes out of the shadows to say he not only looked at it, but analyzed it, and concluded the print was Oswald's print. But there's a problem, besides the obvious. Livingston says he thought the day shift had all looked at this print. It's beyond belief that 1) he would have access to this print when no one else did, and 2) he would never realize the significance of his having studied this print prior to telling his nephew about it almost 30 years later. The thought occurs then that Rusty studied the palm print on the cardboard taken from Box D--which may very well have been studied by the day shift--and not the palm print purported to have been lifted from the rifle.
p. 106 "As Lieutenant Day worked on the rifle during the evening, Chief Curry came into the Crime Lab Office. Lieutenant Day told him at the time that he had located a print on the trigger housing, but he had not yet had a chance to do a comparison check with Oswald's print card. He told Rusty and me that the Chief then went back down to the third floor and told the newsmen that we had a print. He said that he had not told Chief Curry that it was Oswald's print at the time."
Well, okay. This is useful. It almost makes First Day Evidence worthwhile. It helps explain why on the evening of 11-22 NBC said Chief Curry said there was a print on the rifle but then later, after Lt. Day had had a chance to compare the trigger guard prints to Oswald's prints, said no prints had been found on the rifle.
p.107 "Lt. Day recalled that, as he was beginning to dust the rest of the rifle following the photographing of the trigger-housing prints, Captain Doughty came in and told him to stop working on the rifle. He said this was probably about 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. A few minutes later, Captain Fritz came into the Crime Lab Office and told him that Marina Oswald was in his office and he needed some information about the gun. He need to know if Lee Oswald's prints were on the rifle. So Lieutenant Day began to once again dust the Mannlicher-Carcano and soon located a palm print."
Uhh, no. Marina Oswald was in Capt. Fritz's office when Day showed her the rifle, around 6:17. She wasn't in there for hours and hours. Day has either forgotten the circumstances of his finding the palm print or he found the palm print shortly before 6:17. And, oh yeah, what's with Doughty? Has he been swapped in for Fritz, who was himself swapped in for Curry?
p.108 "Lieutenant Day told us that, after he had photographed the trigger-housing prints and been stopped by Captain Doughty, he continued work on the rifle under the order of Captain Fritz. It was at that time that he noticed a print sticking out from the barrel. He said it was obvious that part of it was under the wooden stock, so he took the stock off and finished dusting the barrel. He said he could tell it was a palm print, and so he proceeded with a lift."
Well, it just keeps getting better, no? Having been shot down by Curry, Day now blames Capt. Doughty. And what's with this bit about Day noticing a print sticking out from the barrel, and then taking the stock off and lifting it? His earlier statements had made clear that the print he saw sticking out from the barrel was a different print. Had Day conflated two prints together? Or had Savage?
Or was Day sticking to a deal made back in 1964 after the FBI was asked to check into Day's story about the print on the rifle barrel, whereby they verified the authenticity of his rifle barrel lift in exchange for his no longer claiming there was a print on the barrel which he did not lift which should have been photographed and analyzed by the FBI?
p.108 "He told Rusty and me that he could tell it wasn't put on there recently by the way it took the fingerprint powder. He said what makes a print of this sort is a lack of moisture, and this print had dried out. He said he took a small camel hair brush and dipped it in fingerprint powder and lightly brushed it. He then placed a strip of 2" scotch tape over the developed print and rubbed it down before finally lifting the tape containing the print off and placed it on a card. He said he then compared the lift to Oswald's palm print card and was certain that it was Oswald's. He also said that after the lift, he could still see an impression of the palm print left on the barrel."
So what was once a tentative ID had hardened over time into a certain ID. So why didn't Day tell anyone?
p. 108 "Next, Lieutenant Day had intended to photograph the area of the rifle barrel from which the palm print had been made, but was again interrupted by Captain Doughty at about 10:00 P.M. He was told once again to stop working on the gun and release it to FBI Agent Drain, who would arrive about 11:30 p.m. Lieutenant Day did not have time to write any reports about what he had found, but did have time to reassemble the rifle before Drain arrived."
So it's official. By 1993, Capt. George Doughty had replaced Chief Jesse Curry as the heavy in Day's story. And what's this crap about Day not having the time to write reports, but having enough time to reassemble the rifle? Drain didn't pick up the rifle until 11:30, at the earliest. It took but 10-15 minutes to re-assemble the rifle. So what did Day do for the remaining 75 minutes or so--bitch about how he was just too busy to write a report?
p. 110 "Rusty was standing by as Lieutenant Day gave the rifle to Drain. Rusty told me that Drain was in a hurry to leave and was distracted by another FBI agent who was hurrying him to leave. According to Rusty, 'Drain was half-listening to Lieutenant Day and half to the other FBI man and evidently didn't get the word about the palm print at that time.'"
Well, this reveals the true nature of this book--that it's but a whitewash of the DPD's flawed and suspicious investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy. Rusty just so happens to have been standing there when Day told Drain about the print, and can confirm that Day did so, but that Drain wasn't paying attention. Oh my, how convenient.
p. 180-181 "Rusty told me that he helped to process the boxes in the Crime Lab Office after they had been brought down on the Monday following the assassination...Rusty told me that he did develop some prints on the boxes using silver nitrate and determined that they were Oswald's."
Yeah, I know, this is a repeat from the last chapter. But just think of it. Day claimed he lifted a print from the rifle, that he told the FBI about this print but they failed to hear him, and that he failed to study this print prior to his being asked to do so by the Warren Commission. And here comes Rusty to his rescue, almost 30 years later. Not only did Rusty hear Day tell the FBI about this print, he studied Day's lift of this print on the night of the shooting and identified it as Oswald's print. And not only that, he performed the tests on the boxes that Day should have performed in the days after the shooting, and ID'ed Oswald's prints on these boxes as well. Dut-da-da-duh! Super Rusty to the rescue! The DPD Crime Lab's reputation is saved! Except...it's not. It's further tarnished. No silver nitrate was added to the boxes in Dallas. This was a procedure performed by the FBI in Washington. Nice try, Rusty. Except...not.
Of course, First Day Evidence wasn't the only whitewash released in '93 as a response to Oliver Stone's JFK and the 30th anniversary of the assassination. In fact, it wasn't even the most prominent. No, that honor goes to Gerald Posner's Case Closed.
Case Closed (1993)
p.283 "'At the Dallas police crime lab, Lt. Carl Day had begun dusting the metal on the rifle. He found partial prints near the trigger guard and at the main barrel. 'There were some looping impressions,' Day told the author, and 'incidentally, it later turned out that Oswald had looping impressions as opposed to arches or whorls. But there was not enough to positively identify them as his.' Then Day moved to the wooden stock. 'Down toward the end of the stock, there was a print partially developed,' he recalls, 'and I could see it running back up under the stock. So I lifted the gun out of the stock. When I dusted that print, it developed. I kept looking at it as it did not stand out real good--it wasn't a great print. So I took the tape and lifted that print off as best I could. It lifted off pretty well, considering it was dim print." That print was Oswald's right palm."
So there it is again. Day initially claimed the barrel print he lifted was a print completely covered by the wooden stock, that he came to see after noticing another print peeking out from under the stock and removing the stock. But over time he started claiming the print he saw peeking out was the print he lifted. It's hard to say if this was by design or not.
p. 283-284 "Day then prepared to take pictures of the stock, using reflected light and time exposures. But before he could finish, he was told the FBI was sending an agent to collect the rifle and to take it to FBI headquarters in Washington for further tests. "So I put the gun back in the stock," Day says. "I had my orders and I didn't do anything else to it. Around 11:30, the FBI came, Agent (Vince) Drain, and I gave him the gun. I told Vince, "Here's a print right here,' and I pointed to it. I didn't give him that lifted print on the tape. They said give him the gun, and that's what I gave him. The gun had our powder all over it by then, and I know I wouldn't have liked to receive it in that condition once somebody else had started their work on it. It should have stayed with us."
No real problems here, outside Day's now claiming he pointed out the location of the barrel print to Drain..
Not in Your Lifetime (1998)
p.54 (while referencing a 1994 interview of Day by Robyn Summers, in which Lt. Day discussed the barrel print) "I would say that this print had been on the gun several weeks or months."
Now this is a bit surprising. Over time Day not only changed his story, he became more dismissive about the value of the rifle print.
Oral History Interview of Lt. J.C. Day for the Sixth Floor Museum (8-15-96)
(On analyzing the trigger guard prints) "I spent an awful lot of time with that. I couldn't get them to where I could definitely say they were his, working at it that length of time, I wasn't able to say one way or the other, although I suspected they were his, but there was no way of saying they were his. Then I took that gun out of the stock and started putting powder on the rest of the gun. Down toward the end of the stock I found traces of a fingerprint that extended out from...Well, actually I found the print before I removed it from the stock... Anyway, I found traces of a print that extended out on the barrel, part of them apparently went up under the barrel between the barrel and the stock. So then I took the gun (sic, he means stock) off and finished dusting the area, and then I found a piece of a palm print there. It looked reasonably good for comparison purposes. The usual method of collecting these prints after you develop them and can see them, is to take a piece of Scotch tape and mash it down over good. And the powder will cling to the tape when you pull it off, and you can put the powder (sic, he means tape) on a 3 by 5 card like this (holds up card), put it on the back. And then you've got the print under that tape, and you can take it and compare it. But this was very dim, which indicated that it was not a new print. It didn't take much powder...It was a very dim print, and for presentation to a jury, you like the best print you could show...So I was fixing to set up my camera to try to take a photograph of that print...About that time, I got orders from my captain, Captain Doughty 'Don't do anything else on the gun. Stop what you're doing...the FBI will be in at 11:30 to pick it up'...anyway, I stopped and stripped it back in the stock and put it aside...I didn't have time to write any reports or anything like that. It must have been 10 o'clock then, so I just put the gun back in the evidence room and left it alone until Drain came in at 11:30...I'd known Drain a long time. And I told him at the time there's a print there. I showed him where it was. But I don't know whether it registered with him or not...I didn't turn over the lift that I'd previously made of that dim print...I didn't even think of giving them this print that I had lifted off there...Now, I thought there was a print on that gun that was better than the one I'd lifted. I thought I could see it. And that was what I was going after at the time they stopped me."
Well, this is kinda depressing. Day's story grew more and more self-serving over the years. Here, he once again blamed Doughty, and not Fritz or Curry. Here, he claimed it was the print he lifted that convinced him to remove the stock, and not the print he never got around to analyzing. Here, he claimed he was told to stop working on the rifle around 10, as opposed to his earliest statements when he said he was told to stop working on the rifle just after he lifted the barrel print, which was between 8 and 8:30. Here, he not only claimed he told Vincent Drain about the palm print on the rifle barrel, he claimed he showed him its location on the barrel. And here, he resurrects that there was another print on the rifle, but only as a way of explaining why he didn't give Drain the lift. These changes all serve to make Day's failure to photograph the print he claimed he found on the rifle--or even write a report describing the print he claimed he found on the rifle--understandable. When it's not. Not if there really was a print, anyway. I mean, think about it. Day's story had evolved to where he claimed he showed Drain the faint, barely visible location of a print he'd already lifted, but said nothing about the "better" quality print he was going after before being ordered to give the rifle to Drain. P.U. That doesn't pass a smell test, now does it? He would, if anything, have shown Drain the location of the "better" print he was actively pursuing, as opposed to the "dim" or "old" one already captured. That's just common sense.
Oh, wait! He did tell Drain about that print, and not the lift. At least according to the FBI's 11-30-63 report on Day, in which he was asked to explain the lift...
Hmmm... That sounds about right.
In 1987, writer Larry Sneed began interviewing witnesses to Kennedy's assassination and law enforcement officers involved in its investigation. He then turned these interviews into first person narratives. Sneed continued this project for a decade, before publishing these interviews in No More Silence (1998). (Unfortunately he didn't provide exact dates for his interviews.)
Day's Recollections in No More Silence (1998)
p.236: "When the barrel was removed, I noticed more of that print which had been concealed by the stock. Obviously someone had had the mechanism out of the stock laying in his hand. I tried to lift it with scotch tape and it came off dimly. By then I had Oswald's palm prints, and just at a quick glance, it looked like it was his. I didn't go far enough with it to get on the witness stand and say absolutely that it was his print, but it looked like it was through the preliminary examination..."
p. 237: "But I still wasn't satisfied with the lift because it was pretty dim. By turning the rifle and letting the light shine on it, I could still see the print on the barrel. To take the proper pictures, you have to set a time exposure on the camera and move the light which reflects around the barrel because you can't twist the barrel while you're taking pictures. I was in the process of doing that when I got word from one of my captains, which came directly from the chief's office, not to do anything else. Right in the middle of the stream I was told not to do anything else with it! So I slipped the barrel back on the stock and put it back in the lock box."
Well, okay, this could explain the shift of blame from Curry to Doughty. They were both guilty.
p. 238: "Around 11:30 that night, I received orders which merely said "Release the rifle to the FBI." Shortly thereafter I handed it to Vincent Drain of the FBI. I told him "There's a trace of a print here" and showed him where it was. It was just a verbal communication to him. I didn't have time to make any written reports; I just gave it to him and he signed for it without saying anything. I don't remember whether he wrapped it up with anything or not, but he took it on to Washington that night."
Now, this has got several problems. No receipt was signed for the rifle, etc.
p.238 cont'd "It's a funny thing about that. We had a few other items around such as some of his clothes and paper off the roll at the Book Depository that we didn't do anything else with. I didn't send the lift card either. They told me not to do anything else, so I didn't even look at it again. There was some friction somewhere. I never quite understood how all that happened, but it was a confusing thing. Later, all the stuff that was sent to Washington came back to us. The rifle came back in a wooden box but we didn't open it. We were told to just hold it, so I put it in our evidence room and locked it up. We held that stuff a few days then we got an order to release everything to the FBI, the gun, the box, everything we had. At that time, I then released the card with the lifted print.
p. 241: "I didn't work on Saturday, but that Sunday morning, the 24th, Mr. Truly had given me a key to the School Book Depository so that we could take measurements of the whole floor and make diagrams of everything. I had one or two detectives with me. We were the only ones in the building, so it was pretty quiet, but I noticed that somebody had been taking pictures up there somewhere between Friday and that Sunday morning as there was film all over the floor."
Yeah, right! Lt. Day had a piece of molding from the window that needed more testing. He had boxes from the window that needed more testing as well. And he had a palm print "lifted" from the rifle that needed to be compared to Oswald's prints. And yet...he claims he took Saturday off and only came in Sunday to measure the Texas School Book Depository!
Oral History Interview of Lt. J.C. Day for the Sixth Floor Museum (7-11-06)
"I do definitely remember telling Drain there's a palm print on the underside of the barrel, when you lift it out of the stock. You could see a little of it sticking out when I put the powder on and then I took it out of the stock and then more of it came out...I did not send the palm print in. They said give him the rifle and I gave him the rifle. I didn't write any reports or anything like that. I didn't have time to. But I told Drain, definitely I remember, showing, pointing there and saying there's a palm print under there...But he didn't hear me or pay attention to me..."
Now this was a repeat of Day's most recent story.
This brings us, then, to 2006, and the publication of a book written by a veteran detective, Mark Fuhrman.
A Simple Act of Murder (2006)
p.76 "A palm print lifted from the underside of the barrel of the C2766 Mannlicher-Carcano, partially beneath the stock, was found to match Oswald's right palm print."
And that's it. One sentence on the rifle prints. Well, if ever a book on the assassination lived up to its name, it's this one. The book was a simple act of murder, alright. Murdering the truth. By making it as simple as can be... A piece of evidence that was as complicated as can be was stripped down to be as simple as can be, and the truth was murdered in the process.
I mean, he couldn't even make it through his one sentence without misrepresenting the facts. The earliest reports on the palm print make it absolutely clear the palm print lifted from the rifle was completely covered by the stock. Period
Well...if a former detective turned best-selling author of true crime stories could screw this up so bad, how would a former prosecuting attorney turned best-selling author of true crime stories fare?
This brings us to Bugliosi.
Reclaiming History (2007)
p.147 "6:16 p.m. In the fourth-floor crime lab, Lieutenant Carl Day examines the rifle carefully, looking for fingerprints that the gunman might have left behind. Captain Fritz walks in and tells Day that Marina Oswald has arrived and is downstairs in the Forgery Bureau office."I want her to look at the gun and see if she can identify it," Fritz says. "But there's an awful mob down there. I don't want to bring her through that crowd. Can you bring the rifle down there? " "I'm still working with the prints," Day replies, "but I think I can carry it down there without disturbing them." In a minute, Day is ready and the two of them make their way downstairs. When they get to the third floor, Day hoists the rifle high over his head and wades into the throng of reporters, who shout questions, "Is that the rifle? What kind is it? Who made it?"
p.800 "Lieutenant Day carried the rifle from the building around 2:00 p.m. and took it to the fourth-floor crime lab in the Identification Bureau at police headquarters, where he locked it in an evidence box until later that evening. Day returned to the Depository and super-vised the taking of fifty photographs of the southeast corner of the sixth floor, the dusting of the boxes in the sniper's nest for fingerprints, and the drawing of a scale map of the sixth-floor crime scene.
p.800 "Returning to the crime lab about 7:00 p.m., Day began examining the fingerprint traces he had seen on the trigger housing earlier that afternoon. Despite the fingerprint pow-der adhering to them, the traces were still unclear. Day decided to photograph them rather than try to lift them with an adhesive material similar to cellophane tape, since the latter actually removes some of the oil, dust, and fingerprint powder making up the visible print. Day later testified that because the prints were only "traces " and "unclear," he "could not positively identify them." However, Day added he "thought" the fingerprints "appeared to be the right middle and right ring finger" of Lee Harvey Oswald. (Day, long since retired, told me that "the general pattern of the two prints were the same as Oswald's but the ridges just were not clear enough for me to say they were his .")
Let this be a cautionary tale. Should you decide to write a mammoth book about a complex subject, make use of as many proof-readers as possible. Here, Bugliosi (or one of his ghost-writers, let's get real) presented a narrative in which Lt. Day returned to this office around 6:00, but then slipped out of this narrative 650 pages later, and had Lt. Day return to his office at 7:00.
p.800 "Day then began dusting the rest of the rifle and noticed a print on the bottom of the barrel, partially covered by the wooden stock. Taking the stock off, it looked to him like a palm print, and he could tell by the way the powder was sticking to the print that it had been there quite a while. Day placed a strip of two-inch cellophane tape over the print, then peeled the tape off, lifting "a faint palm print" off the barrel. He made a quick comparison between the palm print lifted from the rifle and Oswald's palm prints taken earlier in Captain Fritz's office and tentatively identified the palm print on the rifle as Oswald's, but he wanted to do some more work before declaring that he had a positive match. He did, however, tell both Captain Fritz and Chief Curry that night that he had a tentative match."
p.801 "At 11:45 p.m., the rifle and film negatives of the prints were turned over to the FBI's Vince Drain. In a 1984 interview, Day said that he pointed out to the FBI man the area where the palm print was, adding that he "cautioned Drain to be sure the area was not disturbed. Though Drain denied that Day showed him the palm print, crime-lab detective R .W. "Rusty" Livingston, who was standing nearby, recalled that another FBI agent was there pressuring Drain to leave. "Drain was half listening to Lieutenant Day and half to the other FBI man and evidently didn't get the word about the palm print at that time. (The FBI agents were in a hurry to catch a C-135 jet tanker, its crew waiting on the runway at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth to fly the evidence to Washington.) Also, Day told me that technically he didn't "show" Drain where the print was because "you couldn't see it. It was under the stock. But I told him where it was."
Well, let's jump back in to point out Bugliosi's trademark sloppiness/dishonesty. He says the DPD turned the negatives of their trigger guard photos over to the FBI on the night of the shooting. This was not true. He then pushes Rusty Livingston's latter-day excuse for Drain's not hearing Day. This lets Day off the hook. He then invents some nonsense in order to let Drain and the mystery agent supposedly distracting Drain off the hook. He says they were in a hurry. Except...they weren't. As we've seen, the "jet tanker" in which Drain flew to Washington didn't leave Carswell 'til 3:10 in the morning, almost 3 1/2 hours after Bugliosi claims it was "waiting" for Drain "on the runway." And then, finally, Bugliosi has Day claim Drain couldn't see the palm print since it was under the stock. Well, gosh, what's wrong with that? Uhh, nothing except that two paragraphs earlier he'd reported that this print was only partially under the stock, and that Day first saw it before the removal of the stock. You can't have it both ways.
p. 802 "Lieutenant Day, in looking back on the event, told me, "I don't fault the FBI for not being able to find the palm print. It was already faint when I lifted it, and it's even more difficult to lift the same print a second time because some of the detail has been removed from the first lifting of the print."
Oh boy. This is garbage--presumably spat out by Day to smooth things over with the FBI. The issue wasn't whether or not the print could have been lifted a second time, but whether or not the print raised by Day was readily visible on the barrel, and could have/should have been photographed by the FBI. Day testified that it was. This put him on a collision course with Sebastian Latona, who testified it was not.
p.802 "Apart from the absurd notion that for some reason Lieutenant Day would decide to frame Lee Harvey Oswald for Kennedy's assassination, as he told me in 2002, "I don't even think such a thing [transferring Oswald's prints on the finger and palm print samples, or exemplars, he gave to the Dallas Police Department, onto the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle] could be done. In this day and age they might be able to figure out some way to transfer the ink print on the card to the weapon, but I wouldn't know how to do it myself. Sounds like an impossible task to me."
Well, I'll be. Day was either playing Bugliosi, or the two of them were playing Bugliosi's readers. First, Day acts as though the problem between his claiming he lifted a print and the FBI's claiming they saw no sign of such a print was that there wasn't enough print remaining after he'd lifted his print for the FBI to lift a print. (As stated, this wasn't the problem at all. The problem was that he said the print was still apparent on the rifle when he handed it over to the FBI, and they said it was not apparent.) And then he says "aw shucks I wouldn't know how to plant a print on the rifle anyhow"--when the problem was not that the print he'd lifted had been planted on the rifle, but that there was no real proof it had ever been on the rifle.
Well, okay. I know some will argue with this last complaint. They believe that, at the request of the Warren Commission, just before its report was heading to print, the FBI was able to match the lift of the palm print to the exact location where Lt. Day claimed he found the print on the gun.
But, as we've seen, this is a pipe-dream. Perhaps even literally....
There is, after all, no evidence whatsoever that the FBI matched the defects and rust spots on the rifle where Day said he found the print with the marks on the lift. The FBI's lift could have been pulled from a pipe, or even a table top, anyplace where five marks could be added in the same relative alignment in which they appeared on the lift, CE 637.
My concern about this issue, moreover, led me to read all I could on the detection of fingerprint fabrications and forgeries.
Fibers and Bubbles
While reading through two articles about fingerprint forgery and fabrication, moreover, I heard a couple of ding-ding-dings. As shown above, the 1994 article Detection of Forged and Fabricated Latent Prints by Pat Wertheim (published in the Journal of Forensic Identification) made note that prints lifted from a fingerprint card or another piece of paper may have fibers trapped under the lift tape. Well, voila!, researcher James Olmstead had long taken note of a fiber trapped under the tape on CE 637.
And that wasn't the last voila! I had a second voila! years later while reading through Forgeries of Fingerprints in Forensic Science, a chapter by Christophe Chambod in a book entitled Handbook of Biometric Anti-spoofing. I noticed an air bubble present on Figure 11 of this chapter. This air bubble looked exactly like a previously unidentified anomaly on CE 637. The kicker, though, was that this air bubble was presented as evidence the lift tape had been lifted from one glass and then placed onto another.
So...does the fiber and/or air bubble mean anything? Do they suggest CE 637 was lifted from a fingerprint card (i.e. that the print was "fabricated"), or that a print on a glass from which Oswald was allowed to drink was later planted on the rifle (i.e. that the lift was "forged")? I don't know.
But I do feel certain some expert will eventually tackle this subject, and that the fiber and bubble will be explained, one way or another.
At one point, for that matter, I tried to enlist such an expert.
E-mail from Pat Wertheim to Pat Speer (2009)
Sent: Sun, 29 Mar 2009 12:05 pm
Subject: Oswald gun palm print
Dear Mr. Speer,
You had sent an enquiry to my ex-wife regarding whether I might be interested in reviewing the fingerprint evidence in the JFK assassination to see if it was "planted."
I met Carl Day in the early 1990's and had the privilege of sitting in on a conversation between him and Bob Hazen regarding the print on Oswald's gun. At the time of the assassination, Bob Hazen was training in fingerprints at the FBI and was present when the packages arrived from Dallas. Both were retired when they talked about the case and both have since died. In their conversation, Mr. Day explained how he developed the latent print with black powder and Bob confirmed that when the package was unwrapped in his presence at FBI, it was visible in black powder. I can assure you there is no possibility of that print having been planted.
I have neither the desire nor the time to get involved in a re-examination of this evidence. Thank you for contacting me.
Pat A. Wertheim
Now this is curious. I asked Wertheim if he was willing to take a look at the fingerprint evidence and determine if the palm print on the lift could have been faked or planted, and he responded with a story suggesting an FBI fingerprint examiner (Bob Hazen, a trainee in '63) had told him he'd observed the palm print Day claimed was still apparent on the rifle...just where Day said one could see it, on the rifle. While this sounds well and good, Hazen's boss Latona would have had a big big problem with this, seeing as he testified in direct opposition to what Day, and apparently Hazen, claimed occurred. I then re-contacted Wertheim to see if he was willing to stand by Hazen's claiming he saw the print on the rifle, and he backed down, and admitted he could very well have been mistaken about the specifics of the conversation he'd witnessed between Day and Hazen. In any event, this exchange with Wertheim left me a little more confused, yes, even more confused, than before. I mean why did he "assure" me there was no chance the print had been planted, when he apparently didn't know very much about the case, and should have volunteered that the palm print could have been faked in other ways?
Is there a good ole' boy network among fingerprint examiners, that continues to conceal the shenanigans of Day, Latona, Mandella, Scalice, etc?
I suspect so, but hope to hell not.
The Day Who Cried Wolf?
In summing up these last few chapters, for that matter, one can't help but think of Aesop's fable of the boy who cried wolf. Day lied about so much of the evidence that one can't help but assume he lied about the rifle print as well.
But what if he didn't?
This re-booting of one's thinking leads in a surprising direction. Even IF, and that's a big IF, Lt. Day really did lift a palm print from the underside of the barrel on 11-22, but failed to do a thorough comparison with Oswald's prints, or even tell the FBI about this print, prior to releasing this print to the FBI on 11-26, Day's story is a disaster for the Oswald did-it crowd.
Let's recall that Day said the print was, to all appearances, an old print.
Let's recall that he initially insisted the print was entirely covered by the wooden stock, and not visible on the exposed part of the barrel.
Let's recall that this suggests a part of this print or even additional prints had been wiped off the exposed part of the barrel.
Let's recall that Day said there was a second print that was visible both under the stock and on the exposed barrel.
Let's realize, then, that, if true, this print was most probably a more recent print than the print Day lifted.
Now recall that the FBI supposedly found NO signs of either of these prints.
Well, this suggests something unpalatable to many if not most of those claiming Day DIDN'T Lie about the lift--that the FBI, after examining the rifle and finding two prints on the barrel, one of which could be matched to Oswald, and a newer one that could not be matched to Oswald--opted to pretend NO prints at all were found.
Or, should that be too much of a reach, simply that the FBI screwed up bigly and failed to notice not one but two presumably identifiable prints on the rifle barrel.
In either case, the circumstantial evidence regarding the barrel print is more damaging to the Oswald-did-it scenario than helpful.
Well, then what about the trigger guard prints? Scalice's ID of these prints as Oswald's is undeniably damaging to the position Oswald was innocent, no?
Not necessarily. Implicit in Scalice's claim the prints belonged to Oswald is that the FBI missed this fact, even though they had the DPD's negatives of the trigger guard photos, their own trigger guard photos, and the rifle itself. Such a claim by Scalice, if true, undermines the entire investigation conducted by the FBI. What else did they miss? How are we to know?
Six Quick Summaries
A. A quick summary of what we know about fingerprints.
The Myth of Fingerprints (1963)
1.No two are alike.
2.Fingerprint examination is a precise science, and fingerprint examiners rarely make mistakes.
3.Having one’s prints found at a crime scene is a sure sign of guilt.
The Reality of Fingerprints (2018)
1.Fingerprints are sometimes so alike that experienced finger-print examiners have trouble telling them apart.
2.Fingerprint examination is a highly subjective science, if it’s a science at all, and fingerprint examiners frequently make mistakes.
3.Law enforcement officers have been known to fabricate fingerprint evidence.
B. A quick summary of the literature on fingerprint fabrication and forgery
Signs of Fabrication (i.e. that the print was not photographed or lifted from where it was purportedly discovered)
2.Fibers under lift (if taken from card)
3.Card marks (apparent on lift or photo)
4.Black ink instead of powder (on lift)
Signs of Forgery (i.e. that the print had been transferred from another location prior to its being photographed or lifted at the crime scene, or from an incriminating piece of evidence)
1.Sharp cut-offs to the ridge lines
C. A quick summary of the fingerprint evidence against Oswald
The Warren Commission used 6 latent prints to suggest Lee Harvey Oswald’s presence in the sixth floor sniper’s nest on 11-22-63. These were discovered on four pieces of evidence.
1. Box D—There are NO photographs of Box D as first observed. There are NO photographs of a right palm print as discovered on Box D. There is, however, a photograph of a right palm print on a piece of cardboard torn from Box D, which was taken on the evening of 11-22. This print was identified as Oswald’s print that evening, and the FBI confirmed this identification on 11-23.
2. The paper bag—There are NO photographs of this bag as first observed in the building. There are NO DPD photographs of this bag from 11-22. The bag was sent to the FBI on 11-22. The FBI ID’ed a left fingerprint and right palm print on this bag as Oswald’s prints on 11-23.
3. Box A—There is one photo of Box A as first observed in the building, but it only captures part of one side of the box. There are other photos from 11-22 of Box A after it was moved and stacked up in the sniper's nest. Although the box was purportedly left in the building until 11-25, photos from 11-23 show the box to be missing, and photos from 11-25 show a different box entirely. The box was not sent to the FBI until after Oswald's death, on 11-26. The FBI identified a left palm print and right index fingerprint on Box A as Oswald's prints on 11-27.
4. The rifle—There are photographs of the rifle as first observed in the building. There are photographs from 11-22 of three prints on the right trigger guard. The rifle and at least one of these photos were sent the FBI on 11-22, but the FBI claimed the photos were of no value, and there were no identifiable prints on the rifle. The Dallas Police were not to be denied, however. A card bearing a palm print purportedly lifted from the rifle on 11-22 was sent the FBI on 11-26, along with the negatives to the photos the DPD had taken of the left trigger guard. The print on this lift was identified as Oswald’s print on 11-29. There are NO photographs of this right palm print on the underside of the barrel of the rifle, however. There are also NO records regarding the lift of this palm print prior to 11-26.
D. A quick summary of the changes in Lt. Day's story about the rifle lift
1. 11-29-63--4-22-64 Lt. Day's initial story regarding the rifle is that he removed the wood stock after noticing a print going under the wood stock down at the bottom of the barrel near the trigger guard, and that he then discovered a print that had been completely covered by the wood stock near the firing end of the barrel. He says he then lifted this print, and was pressured into turning the rifle over to the FBI before he could photograph both what remained of this print and the other print on the barrel he hadn't even started to work on.
2. 9-9-64 Lt. Day stops claiming he removed the wood stock from the rifle after noticing a print on the barrel by the trigger guard. As this print was not lifted by Day nor developed by the FBI, the FBI's failure to observe or document this print was quite a problem, and its disappearance from Day's story within days of the FBI's telling the Warren Commission they found evidence supporting Day's claim CE 637 was lifted from the rifle... is quite the coincidence.
3. 9-9-64 Lt. Day names the person he claims pressured him into discontinuing work on the rifle, and it's Chief of Police Jesse Curry.
4. 10-18-77 Lt. Day begins claiming it was the print down by the end of the barrel--the print he claimed he lifted--that he observed before removing the wood stock. This is quite the change considering he originally claimed this print was completely covered by the wood stock.
5. 10-18-77 Lt. Day also begins claiming it was Capt. Will Fritz, as opposed to Chief Jesse Curry, who pressured him into discontinuing work on the rifle.
6. 10-18-77 Lt. Day also begins claiming he told FBI agent Vincent Drain about the print on the underside of the rifle barrel before handing him the rifle on 11-22-63.
7. 1993 Lt. Day begins claiming it was Capt. George Doughty who pressured him into discontinuing work on the rifle, as opposed to Curry and Fritz.
8. 1993 Lt. Day also begins claiming he not only told Vincent Drain about the print on the underside of the barrel, but pointed out its location.
E. A quick summary of a circumstantial argument for one or more of the prints attributed to Oswald being fakes
1. Books on fingerprinting reflect that identifiable latent fingerprints are more commonly found at crime scenes than identifiable latent palm prints.
2. This was even admitted by Vincent Bugliosi, on page 806 of Reclaiming History. He asserted "Latent fingerprints (as opposed to a fingerprint exemplar, which is the model for comparison taken in in k at the police station) is the technical term for fingerprints left on everyday objects. These prints are transmitted to the surfaces of objects by a residue of oil secreted from the body, and are eventually "lifted" from the objects by fingerprint specialists. Contrary to popular belief, the perspiration from one's fingers and palms contains no such oily substance. The fingers and palms acquire that residue of oil when they come into contact with parts of the body that do have such secretions, such as the hair and face. Fingerprints are more popularly known than palm prints, most likely because people generally touch objects with their fingers rather than their palms."
3. Now consider that of the 25 non-Oswald prints discovered on the sniper’s nest boxes by the FBI, 19 were fingerprints and 6 were palm prints, and that this is in keeping with expectations.
4. And yet...4 of the 6 prints linking Oswald to the crime scene—1 each on the seat box, paper bag, rifle, and rifle rest—were palm prints, while only 2—one on the paper bag, and one on the rifle rest box—were fingerprints, of Oswald’s right index finger and left index finger, respectively.
5. Yes, that's right. Oswald, who was purported to have moved the 4 boxes removed from the sniper's nest while they were full of books and Rolling Readers, supposedly left but 2 fingerprints on these 4 boxes, while Studebaker and Lucy, who were purported to have moved these boxes while they were empty, left 19 fingerprints on these boxes.
6. This statistical anomaly would normally be taken, moreover, as an indication Oswald's hands were relatively free of the oily perspiration necessary for the deposit of fingerprints.
7. So then why the 4 palm prints?
8. Also intriguing is that 2 of these palm prints—the palm print on the bag and on the rifle—were of the same small area of the right palm, and that a third palm print—the palm print found on Box D—was of an area just adjacent to this area.
9. Were 1 or more of these palm prints lifted from another source?
F. A quick summary of an argument for cynicism about the fingerprint evidence
It's as simple as this.... Consider: the President of a third world country is murdered and the crime scene investigator tasked with building a case against his suspected assassin fails to take pictures of not one but three important pieces of evidence (the box the assassin supposedly sat on, the bag supposedly used by the assassin to smuggle his weapon into the building from which the fatal shots were fired, and the palm print on the underside of the weapon supposedly used in the assassination), and instead gives tours of the crime scene to the media, and parades key evidence before the cameras. He then takes a few days off, during which he fails to perform any of the comparisons or tests he knows can shed further light on the case.
And not only that, in the investigation that follows, he tells numerous lies about the evidence, and pays no price for his dishonesty.
Do you then give both him and those backing him the benefit of the doubt, and assume the supposed solution to the crime--that a weirdo got up one day and decided to shoot the President--is correct?
Or do you think the whole thing smells to high heaven?
It's maddening, isn't it? Every bit of evidence against Oswald seems tainted by strange circumstance or misrepresentation. It 's hard to get beyond it.
Still...is there any evidence he didn't shoot Kennedy, beyond that so much of the evidence supporting that he did shoot Kennedy is questionable, or worse?
Chapter 4f: Casts of Contention