Boxes, Bags and Barrels (The Finger and Palm Print Evidence in the Kennedy Assassination)
By Judy Mickle and Michael Russ. (Note: this page is still under construction)
The Warren Commission reported at 11:40 a.m., CST, on Friday, November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy arrived at Love Field, Dallas, Texas. The motorcade left Love Field shortly after 11:50 a.m. In the Presidential Limousine on the right rear was the President with Mrs. Kennedy to his left. In the jump seats were Governor Connally, who was in front of the President, and Mrs. Connally at the Governor's left. Agent William R. Greer of the Secret Service was driving, and Agent Roy H. Kellerman was sitting to his right. As the President's car approached the intersection of Houston and Elm Streets, Agent Rufus W. Youngblood of the Secret Service who was riding in the Vice-president's car, noticed that the clock atop a building later identified as the Texas School Book Depository indicated 12:30 p.m., the scheduled arrival time at the Trade Mart. The President's limo made the sharp turn onto Elm Street and a few seconds later shots were heard.
This Commission was created by President Johnson on November 29, 1963 Executive Order No 11130:
"to examine the evidence developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and any additional evidence that may hereafter come to light or be uncovered by federal or state authorities; to make such further investigation as the Commission finds desirable; to evaluate all the facts and circumstances surrounding such assassination, including the subsequent violent death of the man charged with the assassination, and to report to me its findings and conclusions."
The summary of their conclusions lists the fourth reason as:
"shots which killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald. This conclusion is based upon the following:
The Mannlicher_Carcano 6.5_millimeter Italian rifle from which the shots were fired was owned by and in the possession of Oswald. Oswald carried this rifle into the Depository Building on the morning of November 22, 1963. Oswald, at the time of the assassination, was present at the window from which the shots were fired. Shortly after the assassination, the Mannlicher_Carcano rifle belonging to Oswald was found partially hidden between some cartons on the sixth floor and the improvised paper bag in which Oswald brought the rifle to the Depository was found close by the window from which the shots were fired."
Appendix Ten of the report is a summary of the finger print and palm print evidence.
It is this evidence found in the TSBD, or more specifically the finger prints and palmprints found on three pieces of the evidence found in the TSBD that will be reconsidered here. The three pieces are:
A) The boxes that were found in the Sniper's nest.
B) The bag reportedly to have been found in the southeast corner of the snipers nest.
C) The MC Rifle reportedly recovered on the sixth floor of the Texas School book Depository.
Lt. J. C. Day assigned to the Crime Scene Search Section of the Identification Bureau of the Dallas Police Department testified to the Warren Commission that:
"Shortly before 1 o'clock I received a call from the police Dispatcher to go to 411 Elm Street, Dallas I arrived at the location on Elm about 1:12."
He was accompanied by Detective R. L. Studebaker. Together they collected many of the prints and took photos of the evidence in the TSBD. While Lt. Day had 23 years experience with the DPD and the last 15 years in the Identification Bureau, Studebaker had only been in the crime lab for two months.
This is the New Orleans Arrest Fingerprint card on Aug 9, 1963 of Lee Harvey Oswald's prints but unfortunately it lacks clarity.
These refer to the three boxes, one large, two smaller (Rolling Readers) and the fourth large box sitting on the floor away from the window. The two larger boxes weighed approximately 55 pounds. The two smaller weighed around 8 pounds.
Box A, CE641, is the top smaller box of the stack of two. It had the left Palm Print of LHO.
Box B, CE653, is the box that is leaning on the windowsill. It had 7 fingerprints and 2 palmprints. None of the identifiable prints on Box B were Oswald's. All but one of the prints belonged to either Studebaker or Lucy. The WC noted there was one palmprint on Box B that was not matched.
Box C, CE654, is the bottom larger box of the stack of two. It had 2 fingerprints that were identifiable and 1 palmprint. All of these prints were either Studebaker's or Lucy's.
Box D, CE648, is the large box away from the window. It had the right Palm Print of LHO. Box D had 2 fingerprints, both of which belong to Lucy and the right palmprint of LHO.
On the 4 boxes a total of 25 prints were found that was clear enough to make identification matches. Other possible prints were also found but were too fragmentary to be of value for identification purposes. On Box A there were 9 identifiable fingerprints and 4 identifiable palmprints. Of these, 1 right index fingerprint and 1 left palmprint were identified as Oswald's. These identifications were made by Sebastian F. Latona of the FBI and agreed to by Arthur Mandella, fingerprint expert with the New York City Police Department and Ronald G. Wittmus, another FBI fingerprint expert. All of the remaining fingerprints and palmprints belonged to either Studebaker or Forest Lucy an FBI Clerk.
Part of the conversation concerning the boxes also includes the positioning. As noted in Studebaker's testimony the boxes were moved in the investigation, which has led to speculation about the positions of the boxes in the so called sniper's nest.
Jim Moore in his book, CONSPIRACY OF ONE, include the above photo.
This is what James K. Olmstead (Jim), unpublished author and researcher had to say about the Moore Photo ....."
It is a good image because the testimony indicates that the bottom box was on it's "edge" however there are few photographs showing this position. I have no major problem with how Moore shows the boxes from this angle.....I think that it is a good one.
Jim Olmstead first posted on 8/6/01 an idea on the
alt.assassination.jfk Newsgroup that suggested a possible conflict in
Studebaker's statements and the fingerprint evidence collected. On
8/17/01, James again expressed his concerns as related to an
unidentified print highlighted here on the CE632 image :
Subject: Re: Fingerprint Update CE 632
From: "James K. Olmstead" Thpa2d@onecom.com
Date: 8/17/01 11:18 AM Central Daylight Time
To those interested this image is critical since it is not mentioned it is indication of perjury before the commission unless it was discussed in closed session or off the record which I believe is the case. I don't believe anyone has presented this conflict at any time in the past. I consider this work "new" and would welcome comments.
This is not a "smudged" image in fact portions of the image are of better quality then the image circled.
Another factor of consideration is that the print was left in the construction of the bag since a portion of the image "seems" to be UNDER THE TAPE which would be the very first consideration to compare the image to Lee's I see no reason why it was not persued in relationship to Lee.
This image is a cornerstone image in relation to this investigation and the "cross examination" of the evidence in a manner I relate to questions that would be on the minds of the jury looking at the presented evidence.
Although Mr. Olmstead's fingerprint and palmprint research is continuing and it may be awhile before results are known, it seemed reasonable to present the documented information from the original resources concerning the prints on these three items.
Latona developed a latent palmprint on the bottom of the bag, the part that was closed. The palmprint was of LHO's heel of his right palm near the wrist on the little finger side. And he developed a fingerprint that matched the left index finger of LHO.
There was no other identifiable prints found on the bag per the report. But as noted above Jim thinks CE632 may offer a different account.
The WC reports
"At 1:22 p.m. Deputy Sheriff Eugene Boone and Deputy Constable Seymour Weitzman found a bolt-action rifle with a telescopic sight between two rows of boxes in the northwest corner near the staircase on the sixth floor. No one touched the weapon or otherwise disturbed the scene until Captain Fritz and Lieutenant Day arrived and the weapon was photographed as it lay on the floor."
Lt. Day examined the rifle with a magnifying glass and finger print powder and noticed traces of two prints on the side of the metal housing near the trigger. Day did cover the area with cellophane tape to protect the prints.
The above photos show the latent palmprint found on the magazine housing of the MC rifle.
The rifle was released to the FBI at 11:45p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963. When it was examined by Sebastian F. Latona on Nov. 23, he concluded
"the formations, the ridge formations and characteristics, were insufficient for purposes of either effecting identification or a determination that the print was not identical with the prints of people. Accordingly, my opinion simply was that the latent prints which were there were of no value."
Latona also found no other prints during his examination. However, Lt. Day testified that before he had turned the rifle over on Nov. 22, 1963 he "had lifted" a palmprint from the underside of the gun barrel "near the firing end of the barrel about 3 inches under the woodstock when I took the woodstock loose" However, Day did not send this to the FBI until November 26, when he received instructions to send "everything that we had" to the FBI. The print arrived in the FBI Laboratory in Washington on November 29, mounted on a card on which Lieutenant Day had written the words "off underside gun barrel near end of grip C2766." C2766 was the identification number given to the MC rifle found on the sixth floor of the depository.
The FBI confirmed that the print had been lifted from C2766 when they established that the adhesive material bearing the print also bore impressions of the same irregularities that appeared on the barrel of the rifle. Latona testified that this palmprint was the right palmprint of Lee Harvey Oswald. This finding was also confirmed by Arthur Mandella, and Ronald G. Wittmus.
A more recent study of the latent fingerprints found on the trigger housing was reported by Gary Savage in his book, JFK FIRST DAY EVIDENCE, 1993. Gary's uncle is R. W. (Rusty) Livingston who was a detective in the Dallas Police Crime Lab at the time of President Kennedy's assassination. Det. Livingston had kept copies of many of the photos taken that day, including five photographs taken by Lt. Day of the latent fingerprints on the trigger housing of the MC rifle.
In addition to researching the trigger housing fingerprints this book is loaded with many first day crime scene photos that is well worth the read. However, for this article the summary of the results concerning the housing fingerprints is split. Two experts looked at the better photographs and methods to enhance the images and gave different opinions. Captain Jerry L. Powdrill, Expert Fingerprint Examiner stated there was not sufficient evidence to conclude that the prints were Oswald's even though there were enough similarities to suggest that it is possible they are one in the same. But Vincent J. Scalice, A Certified Latent Print examiner, after using different enhancement techniques with all of the photographs, he made a positive identification of Lee Harvey Oswald in a letter to Savage.
The Warren Commission Report discussed The Rifle in the Building and Oswald at Window and concluded that the
shots that killed President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally were fired from the sixth floor window at the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository. It based its conclusion on eyewitness testimony, physical evidence found on the sixth floor of the depository, medical evidence and the absence of credible evidence that the shots were fired from any other location." Also ..."Photographs of Oswald holding a rifle were also recovered from among his personal possessions, and the Commission concluded that the rifle in the photograph was the one found on the sixth floor of the book depository. A palm print taken from the barrel of the rifle was identified as a latent palmprint of Oswald. Finally, the Commission ....."treated as significant evidence a brown paper sack on which was identified a latent palmprint of Oswald" and "In determining whether Oswald was actually present on the sixth floor of the depository, the committee paid primary attention to scientific analysis of physical evidence. Materials were examined for fingerprints, including a long, rectangular paper sack that was discovered near the southeast corner window and cartons that were found stacked adjacent to the window. The paper sack, which was suitable for containing a rifle, showed a latent palmprint and fingerprint of Oswald; one of the cartons showed both a palmprint and fingerprint identified as belonging to Oswald, and the other showed just his palmprint. The determination that Oswald's prints were on the sack and cartons was originally made in the investigation that immediately followed the assassination."
The House Select Committee on Assassination
In the Summary of Findings and Recommendation of the HSCA Report their conclusion concerning these three items were:
"3. Lee Harvey Oswald owned the rifle. that was used to fire the shots from the sixth floor window of the southeast comer of the Texas School Book Depository building.
4. Lee Harvey Oswald, shortly before the assassination, had access to and was present on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building."
One of the reports used by the HSCA in reaching their conclusions was the expert testimony of VINCENT J. SCALICE, FBI. Quote:
(153) The inked fingerprint and palm prints of Lee Harvey Oswald appearing on exhibits 1-5 are identical and are those of Lee Harvey Oswald.
(154) In addition, the following latent impressions were examined and compared with the inked fingerprint impressions of Lee Harvey Oswald at the latent print section, Federal Bureau of Investigation, on June 8, 1978.
(155) 6. Latent fingerpoint designated 4a recovered from brown paper container (wrapping) and developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I identified it as the left index finger (no. 7) of Lee Harvey Oswald.
(156) 7. Latent palm print, designated 4b, recovered from brown paper container (wrapping), developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I identified it as the right palm of Lee Harvey Oswald.
(157) 8. Latent fingerprint recovered from the trigger guard of a 6.5-millimeter, Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, serial no. C2766, processed at the Dallas Police Department. It is of no value for identification purposes.
(158) 9. Lift from rifle (designated commission exhibit 139) from the underside of the foregrip at t. he gun barrel end of the foregrip of a Mannlicher-Carcano, serial no. C2766. I identified five characteristics or points of identity which match the lift.
(159) 10. Latent palm print lifted from the underside of the gun barrel near the end of the foregrip, developed by the Dallas Police Department. I examined enlarged negatives which I identified as being identical to the right palm print of Lee Harvey Oswald.
(160) 11. Palm print recovered from small cardboard box A (commission No. 641), by Federal Bureau of Investigation. I identified it as the left palm of Lee Harvey Oswald.
(161) 12, Latent print (designated 2a) recovered from a cardboard box and processed by Federal Bureau of Investigation. I identified it as the right index finger (No. _0) of Lee Harvey Oswald.
(162) 13. Latent palm print recovered from the bottom of a cardboard carton marked D. developed by Dallas Police Department. I identified it as identical to that of right palm print of Lee Harvey Oswald.
In my attempt to gather as much of the known evidence concerning the finger prints found on the Boxes, Bag and Barrel evidence from the Sixth Floor of the TSBD, it would seem an almost impossible task to find something today that would negate the previous studies. However, if such tasks were never undertaken, then new discoveries would be limited and we all would be worse for it. I also think it takes a dedicated person to seek out such tasks for themselves. James Olmstead is such a person. His work may reveal a complete new pathway for all of us to take or it may only confirm what this article has attempted to reveal what is known. I will let the readers decide how well we both have done.
1) Memo from Jevons to Conrad about the material the FBI received.
2) Memo from Jevons to Conrad about the progress of the testing done on the material the FBI received.
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