Pierre Antoine Finck studied at the University of Geneva Medical School. After graduating in 1948 he spent two years at the Institute of Pathology in Geneva before moving to the United States where he continued his studies at the University of Tennessee Medical School.
In 1955 Finck was drafted into the United States Army. He was sent to Germany and became a pathologist at the U.S. Army hospital in Frankfurt. In 1959 Finck was sent to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington. The following year he was appointed Chief of the Wound Ballistics Pathology Branch of the institute.
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November, 1963, his body was taken to Bethesda Naval Hospital. Finck received a phone-call from Joseph Humes asking him to help him and Thornton Boswell with the autopsy of Kennedy.
Finck was interviewed by the Warren Commission where he testified that he believed Kennedy was "shot from the rear". He added "the bullet entered in the back of the head and went out on the right side of his skull." After further questioning from Arlen Specter, Finck claimed that Kennedy had been shot from behind and above.
In 1964 Finck appeared as an expert medical witness before the International Commission of Jurists in Panama. He argued that the gunshot victims were not killed by American soldiers. Finck also worked as a consultant to the FBI. According to Harold A. Rydberg Finck was involved in testifying in the William Pitzer and William Calley cases.
Finck was also associated with the International Police Academy (IPA). It had originally been established by the CIA in Panama. Later the IPA moved to Washington where it was engaged in training police forces from the Third World. Finck worked as a lecturer at the IPA.
On 24th May, 1996, Finck provided a deposition to the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). During his interview he could not explain what happened to the notes he made during the autopsy of John F. Kennedy. He also admitted that he did not carry out other procedures that were standard in autopsies such as recording the measurements in writing during the autopsy or removing and weighing the organs damaged by the bullets entering the body. Nor did he examine the clothing Kennedy was wearing. Finck also admitted that he did not speak with the doctors who had treated Kennedy in Dallas?
Finck's testimony conflicted with that of Joseph Humes and Thornton Boswell. As one newspaper pointed out: "Two doctors, J. Thornton Boswell and James Humes, told the review board that the brain exam occurred two or three days after Kennedy's death. Initially, Humes told the Warren Commission that he, Boswell and a third pathologist, Dr. Pierre Finck, were present when the brain was examined. But when he testified to the review board in 1996, Humes did not list Finck among those present. Boswell maintains Finck was not there. On the other hand, Finck says the brain exam did not occur until much later."
The conflicting testimony caused Douglas Horne, chief analyst for military records, to conclude in a 32-page memo that two separate brain exams may have been conducted, "contrary to the official record as it has been presented to the American people... If true, Dr. Finck's account of a brain exam separate and distinct from the first one would mean that Drs. Humes and Boswell were present at two different brain exams".
Mr. Specter. Relating then your evaluation of the situation with respect to President Kennedy, and turning to Commission Exhibit No. 388, what is your opinion as to whether point A is a wound of entrance or exit?
Colonel Finck: My opinion as regards Exhibit 388, letter A, is that this wound is the wound of entrance.
Mr. Specter: And what are the characteristics of that wound which lead you to that conclusion?
Colonel Finck: The characteristics were that seen from the inside of the skull, I could see a beveling in the bone, a beveling that could not be seen when the wound was seen from outside the skull.Mr. Specter: Are there any other individual characteristics that led you to conclude A was the wound of entrance?
Colonel Finck: No.
Mr. Specter: Based on your observations and conclusions, was President Kennedy shot from the front, rear, side or what?
Colonel Finck: President Kennedy was, in my opinion, shot from the rear. The bullet entered in the back of the head and went out on the right side of his skull, producing a large wound, the greatest dimension of which was approximately 13 centimeters.
Mr. Specter: And as to angle, was he shot from below, from level, from above, or what, in your opinion?
Colonel Finck: In my opinion, the angle can be determined only approximately due to the fact that the wound of entrance is fairly small and could give enough precision in the determination of the path, but the dimension of the wound of exit, letter B of Exhibit 388, is so large that we can only give an approximate angle. In my opinion, the angle was within 45 degrees from the horizontal plane.
Mr. Specter: Is that to say that there was a 45-degree angle of declination from the point of origin to the point of impact, from the point of origin of the bullet where the bullet came from a gun until the point where it struck President Kennedy?
The Chairman: In other words, you mean was he shot from above or below.
Mr. Specter: Yes.
Colonel Finck: I think I can only state, sir, that he was shot from above and behind...Mr. Specter.
Were the bullets used dumdum bullets, in your opinion, Dr. Finck?
Colonel Finck: In what wound, sir?
Mr. Specter: Well, start with the head wound, or the back wound, either one.
Colonel Finck: In all the wounds considered, on the basis of the aspect of the wound of entrance, dumdum bullets were not used.
Mr. Specter: And what characteristics of dumdum bullets were absent, in your opinion--in your evaluation of these wounds?
Colonel Finck: I would expect more jagged, more irregular and larger wounds of entrance than described in this case.
Representative Ford: With a dumdum bullet?
Colonel Finck: With a dumdum bullet.
Mr. Specter: With respect to the question of likelihood of Governor Connally having been wounded in the back and chest with the same bullet which passed through President Kennedy in 385, what reduction would there be, if any, in the velocity, considering the relative positions of the two men in the automobile as reflected in photograph, Exhibit 398?
Colonel Finck: Of course, to reach precise figures we would need experiments and similar circumstances with the same type ammunition at the same distance through two human cadavers, which I did not do.
On the basis that if we assume that this is one bullet going through President Kennedy's body and also through Governor Connally's body, the reduction of velocity would be of some extent after passing through President Kennedy's body, but not having hit bones, the reduction in velocity, after going through President Kennedy's body, would be minimal.
Mr. Specter: Would there be sufficient force then to inflict the wound which Dr. Humes described from the Parkland Hospital records as having been inflicted on Governor Connally's back and chest?
Colonel Finck: There would be enough energy to go through the body of the Governor.
Mr. Specter: In expressing your opinion on that subject, Doctor Finck, have you taken into account the assumptions on distance, that we are dealing here with a weapon that has a muzzle velocity in the neighborhood of slightly in excess of 2,000, and that the vehicle carrying these two individuals was approximately 150, about 150 feet away from the site of origin of the missile?
Colonel Finck: At this range, a bullet of this velocity loses very little velocity, and keeps upon impact a large amount of kinetic energy.
Q: Dr. Finck, have you ever testified before any government body on issues related to the assassination of President Kennedy?
A: Yes, I did.
Q: Approximately how many times have you previously testified?
A: Warren Commission, the Shaw trial, the Select Committee on Assassinations appointed by the House of Representatives, and in `67 when I was recalled from Vietnam to go to the Archives, I don't remember if it was a testimony. That is a total of four times...
Q: Okay. Do you have just a very rough estimate of how many autopsies you had been involved in at any time prior to the autopsy of President Kennedy?
A: Missile wounds or not missile wounds?
Q: All autopsies.
A: All autopsies? Hundreds of them...
Q: I would like to ask you some questions now related to documents that you may have had in your possess on at one time or another related to the autopsy of President Kennedy, so let me start out first by asking you, did you prepare any autopsy notes during the course of the autopsy?
A: I don't remember walking out of the autopsy room with notes. It was contribution, taking measurements and writing notes, but as far as knowing who wrote what, I don't know.
Q: But did you write some things down yourself during the autopsy?
Q: We are aware of prior statements that suggested that you did write down autopsy notes originally during the autopsy. Can you provide any clarification?
Q: Do you remember a discussion that you had with some other people at the lunch room of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology shortly after the autopsy where you said that your original autopsy notes had been or were missing and that you had had to recreate autopsy notes from memory?
A: I don't remember that.
Q: Do you remember ever saying to anyone that you gave to Commander Humes notes that you had taken during the course of the autopsy?
A: Can you repeat the question?
Q: Sure. Do you remember ever saying to anyone that you had given autopsy notes to Commander Humes following the autopsy?
A: In the autopsy room?
Q: Notes that you had taken during the autopsy and had given to Commander Humes after the autopsy was completed.
A: I don't remember.
Q: Dr. Finck, I would like to show you testimony that appears to be testimony that you offered to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, House of Representatives, marked for the purposes of this deposition as MD-30. I would like to draw your attention to page 82, lines 18 through 22, if you could take a look at that. And please feel free to read anything else in the document that you would like to read. [Handing document to witness]
A: [Perusing document] It is more accurate to determine an anatomic location when you have the wound itself on the dead body. That's what I just told you. Do you have a specific question regarding this?
Q: Yes. I would like to read for the record question from Mr. Purdy: "When did you write your notes that you gave the location of the wound?" "Dr. Finck. During the autopsy I took measurements, but all my notes were turned over to Dr. Humes, and after the autopsy I also wrote notes, but the notes I wrote at the time of the autopsy were turned over to Dr. Humes." Dr. Finck, do you recall having been asked that question by the House Select Committee on Assassinations and having given that answer?
A: I don't, and I agree with this.
Q: Does this passage help refresh your recollection as to whether you took any notes at the time of the autopsy?.
Q: You did take notes. Do you recall how many pages of notes you took during the autopsy?
Q: Do you have any recollection at all whether it was one or more than one page?
Q: Dr. Finck, I would like to show you another document that has been marked as Exhibit 74 to this deposition, and it is on its face an affidavit of Leonard D. Saslaw, Ph.D. And I wish that you would take a minute to read this affidavit. [Handing document to witness] [Discussion off the record.]
Q: Dr. Finck, have you had an opportunity to read the affidavit of Leonard D. Saslaw, Ph.D.?
A: Yes, I did.
Q: Let me quote from two paragraphs of the affidavit and then I will ask you if that helps refresh your recollection to any events. Paragraph 6 states: "I clearly heard Dr. Finck, who was speaking sufficiently loudly for his words easily to be overheard, complain that he had been unable to locate the handwritten notes that he had taken during the autopsy on President Kennedy. Dr. Finck elaborated to his companions with considerable irritation that immediately after washing up following the autopsy, he looked for his notes and could not find them anywhere. He further recounted that others who were present at the autopsy also had helped him search for his notes to no avail." Paragraph 7: "Dr. Finck concluded his story by angrily stating that he had to reconstruct his notes from memory shortly after the autopsy." The question, Dr. Finck, is do these two paragraphs help refresh your recollection first on the question of whether you took notes during the autopsy?
A: I don't know.
Q: Dr. Finck, would it have been your regular practice during the course of an autopsy in which you participated to take notes and measurements?
Q: Would that be a standard practice and procedure that most prosectors would engage in during the course of an autopsy?
Q: Dr. Finck, in 1963, did you keep any kind of diary or written record of events that you were involved in?
A: I don't know.
Q: Dr. Finck, you have no idea at all whether you kept something like a diary in 1963?
A: I don't remember.
Q: I am not trying to ask you to remember any details of what were in the notes, but just simply whether it was your regular practice and whether you have any knowledge about whether you did take notes at the time of the autopsy.
A: I took notes.
Q: Dr. Finck, prior to the deposition today, did you discuss the fact that you would be coming to the United States and having your deposition taken with anybody?
Q: Other than your wife, I should say.
A: Other than my wife, I don't remember. I don't know.
Q: Dr. Finck, when was the last time you spoke with Dr. Boswell?
A: I don't remember.
Q: When is the last time you spoke to Dr. Humes?
A: I don't remember. Years ago, but with no more precision.
Q: Have you spoken to either Dr. Boswell or Humes at any time during the last ten years?
A: Oh, I don't know if it was within the past ten years or not. It's a long time.
Q: When is the last time that you saw Dr. Boswell or Dr. Humes?
A: I don't remember. Not recently at least, I didn't see them. I don't remember the last time I saw them with precision. `67 when I was recalled from Vietnam, this is one of the times. But other than that I don't remember details over the years.
Q: Do you remember whether you saw either Dr. Boswell or Dr. Humes at the time that you testified to the House Select Committee on Assassinations?
A: I don't remember.
Q: Dr. Finck, did you ever receive any orders or instructions from anyone not to discuss the assassination or autopsy of President Kennedy?
A: At the time of the autopsy, yes.
Q: Can you tell me what the circumstances were around that, who gave you the order for example?
A: As far as I remember, it was in the autopsy room, and I may have recorded that somewhere, but now the name escapes. I don't remember specifically who told us not to discuss it.
Q: Did you ever receive a written order not to discuss the autopsy?
A: I don't remember receiving a written order not to discuss the autopsy. I don't remember.
Q: Did you ever receive an order from Colonel Stover, Captain Stover, not to discuss the autopsy?
A: I think this is recorded here somewhere, we read today that someone told us not to discuss it. [Perusing document]
Q: You are referring to Exhibit 28?
A: Page 23 of Exhibit 28 says: "After the completion of the post mortem examination, the Surgeon General of the Navy" - and that refreshes my memory - "told us not to discuss the autopsy with anyone, even among prosectors or with the investigators involved." I don't remember more than that.
Q: Do you have any recollection whether you received any similar orders from the Surgeon General of the Army?
A: No, I don't.
Q: Would you turn to page 3 of the document that you have in front of you, Exhibit 28. I would like to draw your attention to the paragraph numbered 2 and ask you if that helps to refresh your recollection of any other orders you may have received?
A: Before the Warren Commission, Warren report: "Before the Warren report was published in September `64, I received directives by telephone from the White House through" - something illegible - "through your office."
Q: Your office.
A: "And through the Naval Medical School in Bethesda not to discuss subject autopsy beyond the contents of the Warren report." I don't remember that.
Q: Do you remember receiving any telephone calls from the White House?
A: No, I don't.
Q: Do you remember receiving any telephone call in your life from the White House?
A: I don't.
Q: Dr. Finck, is there any order or promise or other kind of restraint on you today that would keep you from answering questions fully and honestly?
A: No. Can you repeat again?
Q: Sure. Let me try to rephrase it. Is there any order of which you are aware that currently restricts your ability to answer questions in this deposition fully and honestly?
A: Definitely not.
Q: Similarly, is there any promise that you have made to anyone that you feel would constrain your ability to answer questions fully and honestly here today?
A: Can you repeat this?
Q: Yes. Have you made any promise to anyone that would keep you from answering questions fully and honestly today?
Q: Were you ever told that the Kennedy family did not want you to discuss issues related to the autopsy of President Kennedy?
A: No. [Discussion off the record.]
Q: At the time that you completed the autopsy of President Kennedy, did you believe that the standards as set forth in the autopsy manual had been satisfied for the autopsy of President Kennedy?
A: You mean at the time the autopsy was completed?
A: I didn't - I did not ask myself the question. We examined the wounds and there were questions answered following the autopsy. It was clear that there was a wound of entry in the upper back, but it is, thanks to Dr. Humes, that next morning he found out there was a wound in the front of the neck. At the time of the autopsy, we did not see the exit in the front of the neck. For the head it was clear, but for the neck it was not. So this was clarified the next day. So to answer your question, at the time the autopsy was completed, there was still no answer. It shows once more that you have to wait for certain things to be put together.
Q: Do you believe that everything that was done, everything that should have been done during the time of the autopsy on President Kennedy was in fact done during the autopsy? Was there any procedure, for example, that should have been performed that was not performed?
A: The removal of the organs of the neck. In my training we were trained to remove the organs of the neck. And in this particular case, they were not removed.
Q: Isn't that particularly important in the autopsy of President Kennedy in the sense that there is believed to have been a wound that went through the neck?
Q: And isn't it important in a medical/legal autopsy to be able to track the course of a bullet through the body?
Q: When you were performing the autopsy of President Kennedy, did you make any attempts to track the course of the bullet...
Q: That you referred to as the upper back?
A: Yes. That was unsuccessful with a probe from what I remember.
Q: What kind of probe did you use?
A: I don't remember.
Q: Is there a standard type of probe that is used in autopsies?
A: A non-metallic probe.
Q: In using the probe, did you attempt to determine the angle of the entrance of the bullet into President Kennedy's body?
A: Yes. It was unsuccessful from what I remember.
Q: In the probes that you did make, did you find any evidence that would support a bullet going into the upper back and existing from the place where the tracheotomy incision had been performed?
A: From what I recall, we stated the probing was unsuccessful. That's all I can remember.
Q: My question is did you find any evidence during the course of the autopsy that would link the wound in the upper back to the exit wound in the throat?
A: I don't recall.
Q: Do you recall anyone during the course of the autopsy suggesting that the bullet wound in the upper back might have exited from the throat?
A: I don't remember.
Q: Dr. Finck, are you familiar with the term "fixed body landmark"?
Q: For example, would the midline in the cranium be considered to be a fixed body landmark?
Q: When one is attempting to determine the location of a wound, we'll say, in the thoracic cavity; would it be appropriate to use as a fixed body landmark a mastoid process?
Q: For purposes of identifying the wound in the back, the thoracic cavity.
A: An immobile bony structure is a fixed body landmark.
Q: Well, for the identification of the location of a wound in the thoracic cavity -
A: Thoracic cavity.
Q: Is a mastoid process a standard and understood fixed body landmark?
A: For the thoracic cavity, no. Because it is part of the head, and the head is moving, could move.
Q: So that the mastoid process would not be a standard fixed body landmark for the purposes of identifying the location of a wound in the thoracic region, is that fair to say?
Q: Dr. Finck, I would like to show you a document that has been marked as Exhibit 6, and I would like to ask you whether you have ever seen the document marked Exhibit 6? [Handing document to witness]
MR. GUNN: I will state for the record that Exhibit 6 appears on its face to be a certificate of death, signed it appears by Rear Admiral George Gregory Burkley, dated November 23rd, 1963. [Witness perusing document]
Q: Again, my question to you, Dr. Finck, is whether you previously have seen the document before that is now marked Exhibit 6?
A: I don't remember.
Q: Do you know who George Burkley was?
A: Physician to the President. Yes, I recall now that I see this.
Q: Do you recall whether Admiral Burkley was in the autopsy room at the night of the autopsy of President Kennedy?
A: I think he was.
Q: I would like to draw your attention to the second page of the document, the fourth line down. Do you see the reference there to the third thoracic vertebra?
A: I do.
Q: For the purpose of locating a wound in the back, would the third thoracic vertebra be considered to be a fixed body landmark?
Q: Was Dr. Burkley correct in identifying the posterior back wound as being at the level of the third thoracic vertebra?
A: I don't know.
Q: Did you make any attempt during the night of the autopsy to locate the upper back entry wound with any vertebra?
A: I don't recall.
Q: Is there any reason that you would not have attempted to locate the back wound in connection with a vertebra?
Q: During the course of an autopsy, what was the standards practice in the 1960's for recording measurements and information gathered during the course of an autopsy?
A: To locate the wound in reference to anatomic landmarks.
Q: Was it the general practice for somebody to record the measurements in writing during the autopsy?
Q: During the autopsy of President Kennedy, did anyone record the measurements?
Q: Who first made the measurements during the course of the autopsy?
A: I remember taking measurements.
Q: Do you recall anyone else taking measurements?
A: The other people, the two other prosectors probably.
Q: Was there one or more persons responsible for writing down the measurements?
A: I wouldn't know. More than one person responsible for?
A: I wouldn't know that.
Q: Do you consider it an important function to record measurements during an autopsy?
Q: What is the purpose for recording measurements in an autopsy?
A: To keep a record of the measurements. After the body is gone, it's too late to take measurements, so you have to keep records while the body is there.
Q: Were the measurements that were recorded during the autopsy of President Kennedy measurements that conformed to standard autopsy procedures in the 1960's?
Q: Dr. Finck, I would like to show you a document that is now marked Exhibit 1 to this deposition, which previously has been identified as the autopsy face sheet for President Kennedy, [Handing document to witness] My first question to you, Dr. Finck, will be whether you have previously seen the document that is now marked as Exhibit 1?
A: [Perusing document] I think so.
Q: Is any of the handwriting on Exhibit 1 your handwriting?
Q: Dr. Finck, the only record in existence which we are aware of notes taken during the course of the autopsy is Exhibit 1 that you have before you. Can you identify anything in Exhibit 1 that you believe is substandard in terms of reporting measurements from an autopsy?
A: [Perusing document] I don't know how to answer that.
Q: Could you look at the top part of the face sheet, the portion where it refers to weights [indicating]. Do you see that?
A: Yes, I do.
Q: Is there a weight that is recorded for the brain?
Q: President Kennedy was killed by a gunshot wound to the head, is that correct?
Q: Should the brain have been recorded as a relevant measurement in a medical/legal autopsy?
A: I don't think I can answer that question by yes or no, because when you perform an autopsy, you put the brain in formalin, which is a preservative, and that is what we did. And the brain was weighed later on. But it was severely damaged at the time of the autopsy and we put it in formalin, so I don't think I can answer that question simply.
Q: Should the brain have been weighed before it was put in formalin? Let me withdraw that question and ask another question. Is it standard autopsy practice when the brain is removed in an autopsy to weigh a brain...
Q: Before it is put in formalin?
Q: Is there a reason that that was not - the brain weight was not recorded for President Kennedy?
A: I don't know.
Q: Do you recall whether the brain of President Kennedy was weighed before it was put in formalin?
A: No, I don't.
Q: Is it correct to say that in the autopsy, it was concluded that President Kennedy had been killed or had been hit by two gunshot wounds, one to the head and one to the upper thoracic cavity?
A: The President was struck by two bullets.
Q: And it was the final autopsy conclusion that the bullet to the head was the fatal bullet? And that he was also shot by a bullet that entered in the upper thoracic cavity and exited from the throat?
Q: Are there any weights of any organs of the neck that appear on the autopsy face sheet?
A: I don't see organs of the neck on that autopsy face sheet. So you mean we removed organs of the neck?
Q: You removed organs...
A: Oh, they were not removed, the organs of the neck. I know so.
Q: So that I'm clear here, the two parts of the body of President Kennedy that were actually struck by the bullets were not weighed during the course of the autopsy, is that correct?
A: Oh, you don't weigh the organs of the neck. Even if you remove them, you don't weigh them.
A: Can you rephrase your questions?
Q: Sure. Would it be fair to say two parts of the body that were injured by the gunshot wounds were not analyzed at the time of the - let me withdraw that. Could you tell me what, in just a very brief way, the thyroid is...
A: Well, the thyroid is a gland in the front of the throat. Removed with the organs of the neck, it would be weighed separately.
Q: So it would have been possible to weigh an organ of the neck and that would have been a standard.
Q: Part of an autopsy?
A: But in that case, the weight of the thyroid would be irrelevant.
Q: Let me try asking you a question again that I posed to you before. As you now look at the autopsy face sheet, is there anything that you believe should have been present on the autopsy face sheet that is not on the autopsy face sheet with regards to measurements?
A: Measurements. [Perusing document] I can't answer that.
Q: Dr. Finck, are you surprised that the exhibit marked Exhibit 1 to this deposition is the only note or record currently in existence related to the autopsy of President Kennedy? Let me withdraw that. Are you surprised that the only document that we have of notes taken during the course of the autopsy is Exhibit 1? Would you have expected there to be more notes, or more complete notes?
A: Can't answer that...
Q: Are you able to identify any reason why the autopsy of the President of the United States has no more detail than we have in Exhibit 1?
Q: Let me ask again whether any of our recent discussion has refreshed your recollection on whether you yourself took notes during the course of President Kennedy's autopsy?
A: Some of the documents I have seen, I recognize, and signed. They refresh my memory.
Q: But my question is simply whether you have any kind of better recollection right now as to whether you took notes during the time of President Kennedy's autopsy?
A: Maybe so.
Q: When you say "maybe so," do you now recall that you took notes during President Kennedy's autopsy?
A: I must have when I see those documents, but I don't - after more than 30 years, I cannot recall details about it.
Q: Dr. Finck, in standard medical/legal autopsies during the 1960's, was it the standard practice to examine the clothing the victim was wearing at the time of the injury?
Q: During the course of the autopsy of President Kennedy, did you examine the clothing that he was wearing at the time that he was shot?
Q: During the course of the autopsy, did you or any other doctor ask to see the clothing President Kennedy was wearing?
A: I asked to see the clothing.
Q: What were you told?
A: That it was not available.
Q: Were you told why it was not available?
Q: Do you know where the clothing was?
Q: After you were told that it was not available, did you make any further inquiry as to where it was or what might be done to bring the clothing.
Q: Sure. During the 1960's, was it standard procedure for doctors performing an autopsy to attempt to speak with doctors who may have treated the victim before the death?
A: Yes. You need information at the time of the autopsy regarding the circumstances preceding death.
Q: And it would have been standard practice in the 1960's for autopsy physicians to attempt to contact the doctor who treated the patient before he died, is that correct?
Q: Was there any attempt made to contact any of the treating physicians of President Kennedy during the course of the autopsy?
A: I don't know.
Q: Should someone have attempted to contact one of the treating physicians of President Kennedy during the course of the autopsy?
Q: Were you aware during the time of the autopsy that one or more physicians who had treated President Kennedy had appeared in a press conference and described the wounds?
A: I don't know.
Q: Were you aware that during the time that you performed the autopsy of President Kennedy, the doctors who had treated President Kennedy in Dallas had already prepared written statements about what they observed during their treatment of President Kennedy?
A: I'm not aware.
Q: Should in the ordinary course, if doctors have prepared statements regarding treatment of a victim, should those statements have been made available to doctors performing an autopsy?
Q: That would have been standard procedure.
Q: In 1963? But as far as you are aware, that was not done in the case of President Kennedy?
A: As far as I know.
Q: Were you aware at the time that you performed the autopsy that there had been a motion picture camera that had filmed the assassination of President Kennedy? During the time that you were performing the autopsy; were you aware of that?
Q: In the ordinary course, if you had had available for your inspection a motion picture of an injury; would that have been useful or helpful in the course of performing an autopsy?
Q: But no one told you that there was a motion picture available of the assassination?
A: No one.
Q: Are you aware of anyone in the autopsy room having called Dallas to speak to either police or treating physicians regarding any observations that were made at the time of the assassination?
A: I am not.
Q: Were you aware of any calls that came to the autopsy room during the course of the autopsy from Dallas by either police or some other official related to the injuries sustained by President Kennedy?
Q: Were you ever informed, prior to the time that you signed the autopsy protocol, that the motion picture depicting the assassination of President Kennedy showed his body moving backwards after he was hit by the bullets?
A: At the time of the autopsy?
Q: Prior to the time that you signed the autopsy protocol, not during the autopsy but by the time you signed the autopsy protocol, had you ever been told that the motion picture showing the assassination of President Kennedy also depicted President Kennedy's body moving backwards after he was hit by a bullet?
Q: Would such information have been relevant to you in making and preparing the autopsy protocol?
A: A motion picture showing the movement from front to back?
A: Would it have been useful? That still does not indicate the position of the wounds, so that is why I don't think it would have been useful. The movement shown on the motion picture does not identify anterior exit. Is that your question?
Q: No, that was not my question. My question was whether knowing that the President moved backwards after being hit, would that information have been useful in the preparation of the autopsy protocol?
A: I don't think so.
Q: Is it relevant in determining cause of death in a gunshot case knowing whether the victim moved forwards or backwards after having been hit?
A: It's very difficult to answer a question like that, because the movement does not indicate necessarily the direction of the bullet path. That's my answer if I answer your question correctly.
Q: My question is not whether the direction of the movement necessarily shows anything. My question is whether the movement of the body is a relevant factor that should be taken into consideration when attempting to determine cause of death?
Q: No relevance whatsoever?
A: A movement seen on a motion picture does not specify a cause of death.
Q: Again, my question is not whether it specifies a cause of death, but whether that is information that is relevant along with other information in helping to determine circumstances surrounding a death.
A: By itself, no.
Q: Again, my question is not by itself. My question is whether that is one piece of evidence that is relevant and should be considered along with other evidence in helping to determine the nature of injuries?
A: I can't answer that. I don't know how relevant it can be.
Q: That's all for that. Dr. Finck, I would like to shift to another topic now and ask you about something of which there has been a great deal of controversy and I hope that you can help clarify some of the issues. Could you please tell us what your understanding is of who was in charge of the autopsy?
A: Of the autopsy itself? I would say Dr. Humes, who was the chief of the laboratory.
Q: Was there anyone during the course of the autopsy who gave Dr. Humes instructions regarding the scope of the autopsy?
A: Throughout the autopsy, we were told about the wishes of the family to limit the autopsy to the head, and then it was extended to the chest, but...
Q: Does that mean that Dr. Humes, Dr. Boswell and yourself were not free to perform a complete medical/legal autopsy on President Kennedy?
A: That's right.
Q: Who, to the best of your understanding, was the person who gave the instructions to Dr. Humes that limited the scope of the autopsy?
A: Well, there were several people around us, and that may have been recorded, I don't know, who relayed the wishes of the Kennedy family to us.
Q: Did you or any of the other prosectors respond that you believed that you needed to conduct a full medical/legal autopsy on President Kennedy?
A: Well, it would have been desirable to have a full autopsy. We were limited in our doing by the family.
Q: On what information do you base your understanding that it was the family, rather than somebody else, who was limiting the scope of the autopsy?
A: We were told during the autopsy about the wishes of the family.
Q: Would it be fair to say that you had no independent knowledge yourself of what the family's wishes were, other than what you had been told?
A: Can you repeat that, please?
Q: Sure. Let me try a different kind of question. I assume that you did not, you or Dr. Humes did not talk to the Attorney General, Robert Kennedy?
A: We did not.
Q: I assume that you did not personally speak to Jackie Kennedy?
A: We did not.
Q: Your understanding during the course of the autopsy about their wishes came from somebody else?
Q: Is that fair? Approximately how many people were in the autopsy room during the course of the autopsy?
A: I have a figure of 26. Because someone took notes in the autopsy room asking the people present who they were, and I found that out after the autopsy, that so many people were there. I know there were too many people at the time, but at the time, if I had been asked the question, I wouldn't have been able to answer. And now it's from printed documents that I have read after the autopsy that there were those 26 people. Correct me if I am wrong. Is it the number, 26?
Q: There are different numbers that have been given, and that is one of the numbers.
A: And that list is available, there was someone in the autopsy room, an official, who took those names and titles.
Q: During the course of the autopsy, did anyone in the room ask any questions about what was occurring during the autopsy? Just as an example, did somebody say, "Why are you doing that procedure?" Did you get any questions from anyone in the room?
A: I don't remember.
Q: Do you recall whether anyone in the room expressed any interest in the angle in which the bullets hit President Kennedy?
A: I don't.
Q: Did anyone in the room give any orders or instructions limiting what you could be doing regarding the autopsy other than what you have already mentioned?
Q: For the people who were present in the autopsy room, the observers, were they generally quiet during the autopsy, or were they talking? What were the conditions like?
A: I remember a large number of people. Quiet or not quiet, I can't answer that.
Q: For the wounds that were in President Kennedy's head, were those wounds more indicative of a jacketed or an unjacketed bullet from your experience?
A: Well, there were two different wounds. In the wound involving the upper back and the neck, the bullet did not disintegrate, which is very possible. In the case of the wound in the head, the bullet struck bone and did disintegrate.
Q: Based upon that evidence alone, can one make any inference regarding whether the bullets that struck the skull and struck the upper back were different bullets, or would one even know?
A: They could be the same type of bullet hitting different structures. When it strikes bones, it will disintegrate more than when it does not strike bones.
Q: Is an unjacketed bullet more likely to disintegrate than a jacketed bullet?
A: Well, it would depend.
Q: I'm sure it does depend, but is it more likely than a jacketed bullet would disintegrate or that an unjacketed bullet would disintegrate?
A: It depends upon the structure hit. I can't say more likely or less likely. Two identical bullets may disintegrate or not disintegrate depending upon the structures hit.
Q: Again, I'm sure that is true, but the question is, is an unjacketed bullet more likely to disintegrate than is a jacketed bullet, all other things being equal?
A: I don't understand how I can answer that. I really don't know. It is perfectly possible that these two wounds came from the same type of bullet, that one hit bony structures and the other one did not, and that explains the difference between the patterns of these wounds. I think this answers the question.
Q: You are reading from your testimony to the Warren Commission.
Q: Is that correct? Now, I notice that in your statement, you said it is perfectly possible.
Q: And again, I'm not questioning the possibility. My question relates more to the probability or the likelihood. So although I'm not questioning the testimony of the Warren Commission, I am asking for any further degree of scientific statement that you can make; that is, one is more likely to disintegrate than the other?
A: I have nothing to add or modify in relation to what I said there. Honestly.
Three military pathologists agree they conducted an autopsy of Kennedy's entire body at Bethesda immediately after it was flown back from Dallas. But the doctors offer conflicting recollections about the timing of a subsequent brain exam.
Two doctors, J. Thornton Boswell and James Humes, told the review board that the brain exam occurred two or three days after Kennedy's death. Initially, Humes told the Warren Commission that he, Boswell and a third pathologist, Dr. Pierre Finck, were present when the brain was examined. But when he testified to the review board in 1996, Humes did not list Finck among those present. Boswell maintains Finck was not there.
On the other hand, Finck says the brain exam did not occur until much later. In a memo he wrote to his commanding officer 14 months after Kennedy was assassinated, Finck said Humes did not call him until Nov. 29, 1963 - seven days after Kennedy's death - to say it was time to examine the brain. In the memo, Finck said all three pathologists examined the brain together and that "color and black-and-white photographs are taken by the U.S. Navy photographer."
The conflicting testimony caused Douglas Horne, chief analyst for military records, to conclude in a 32-page memo that two separate brain exams may have been conducted, "contrary to the official record as it has been presented to the American people."
"If true, Dr. Finck's account of a brain exam separate and distinct from the first one would mean that Drs. Humes and Boswell were present at two different brain exams," he writes.
Humes was ill and could not be interviewed. In a telephone interview, Boswell reiterated that the brain was examined at the initial autopsy of the body and only once more at a separate brain exam a few day later.
"I doubt very much that we would have called him (Finck) back over for that," Boswell said.
Boswell added that the only photos of the brain were taken at the autopsy.
This conflicts with testimony the board obtained from Navy photographer John Stringer, who said he took pictures of the brain two or three days after the autopsy. Stringer also testified that official photos of the brain preserved at the archives do not match those he remembers taking. He cites discrepancies in the angles from which they were shot and the type of film used.
In addition, former FBI Agent Francis O'Neill Jr., who watched doctors remove Kennedy's brain the night he died, told the review board that the archives' photos do not resemble what he saw. "I did not recall it (the brain) being that large," O'Neill said.
Throughout the years, doctors who treated Kennedy in Dallas said his head wound was about the size of a large egg at the back of the head, behind his right ear. The Dallas doctors told reporters then that they believed Kennedy was shot from the front -- a belief that conflicted with the Warren Commission's later conclusion of a single shooter firing from behind.
Humes, chief pathologist for the autopsy at Bethesda, agreed there was a wound to the right rear of Kennedy's head, but he told the board that it was a small entry wound, not an egg-sized exit wound. In contrast to observations in Dallas, Humes said there also was massive damage to the top of Kennedy's skull and right side forward of the ear.
Law: How were the doctors acting when you were alone with them? What was their manner?
Rydberg: They were quite comfortable. Boswell's always been like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs with its tail on the floor. Boswell's always been jumpy and quiet. Doesn't want to talk about anything. And Captain Humes saw me at Chapel Hill, because I had released another article. I looked up from my desk and here's Captain Humes. He's a civilian at this time, wanting to go to dinner. So, we went to dinner, and I had made sonic mention in another article about doing the drawings verbally, and that he had burned the notes and retyped them because he didn't want blood on the autopsy report.
Law: Did you believe that story?
Rydberg: I know Dr. Humes, and yes, I do. I believe Dr. Humes did retype them and his rationale was because they were messy And if you've been in an autopsy, you know that it is quite messy. But l really think Colonel Finck was definitely was the forensic ballistics expert. He was the only forensics expert who was there at the autopsy, wanted to make sure that that was an exit and an entrance wound (on the head). And not like I drew later.
Law: You know Dr. Finck a little?
Rydberg: Oh, yeah....
Law: Let's go to Finck.
Rydberg: The only thing I know about Colonel Finck - I did meet him, and he also reviewed these drawings - but I don't remember him being up there with Galloway and Captain Stover and Boswell and myself and Humes. But he was a very strong-armed do-it-my-way-or-no-way type colonel in the army. Special Forces and all the rest of this garbage. Intelligence, you know. That's an oxymoron (laughing). He was the one that they called to do the covers.
Law: The covers?
Rydberg: Well, look at him. He's in Calley. He's in Kennedy. He's in Pitzer.
Law: It does seem rather strange.
Rydberg. The denominator weaves a pretty strong cloth.
Law: He does seem to pop up in.
Rydberg: Any time you want it covered or you want somebody to blame, call Finck. Aptly named. He was a very deadly man, I'll put it that way. I've seen other officers like him, people in Special Forces. Like Liddy, that Nixon had put in his hand in a flame and burn it? That's about like him. He was one you wouldn't turn your back on. I wouldn't.
I served on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board for just over three years, from August 1995 through September 1998. During that period of time the Review Board granted permission for the staff to take the depositions of 10 persons involved in the autopsy on President Kennedy: as a result, today any American citizen can go to the “Archives II” facility in College Park, Maryland and obtain copies of the transcripts of the sworn testimony of the 3 autopsy pathologists; both of the official Navy photographers; both Navy x-ray technicians; a Navy photographer’s mate who developed some of the post-mortem photography; and both of the FBI agents who witnessed the autopsy.
The Review Board’s charter was simply to locate and declassify assassination records, and to ensure they were placed in the new “JFK Records Collection” in the National Archives, where they would be freely available to the public. Although Congress did not want the ARRB to reinvestigate the assassination of President Kennedy, or to draw conclusions about the assassination, the staff did hope to make a contribution to future ‘clarification’ of the medical evidence in the assassination by conducting these neutral, non-adversarial, fact-finding depositions. All of our deposition transcripts, as well as our written reports of numerous interviews we conducted with medical witnesses, are now a part of that same collection of records open to the public. Because of the Review Board’s strictly neutral role in this process, all of these materials were placed in the JFK Collection without comment.
I have been studying these records for 10 years now. The reason I am here today is because contained within our deposition transcripts and interview reports is unequivocal evidence that there was a U.S. government cover-up of the medical evidence in the Kennedy assassination, yet most members of the public know nothing about this. Let me sound a cautionary note here: no single statement of any witness stands alone. Before it can be properly evaluated, the recollections of each witness must be compared to all of his own previous testimony, and to that of other witnesses—before the Warren Commission, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and even with independent researchers—as well as all available documentary evidence.
Having said this, after considerable study of all of these records, I am firmly convinced that there is serious fraud in the medical evidence of the Kennedy assassination in three areas:
(1) The autopsy report in evidence today, Warren Commission Exhibit # 387, is the third version prepared of that report; it is not the sole version, as was claimed for years by those who wrote it and signed it.
(2) The brain photographs in the National Archives that are purported to be photographs of President Kennedy’s brain are not what they are represented to be; they are not pictures of his brain, but rather are photographs of someone else’s brain. Normally, in cases of death due to injury to the brain, the brain is examined one or two weeks following the autopsy on the body, and photographs are taken of the pattern of damage. Following President Kennedy’s autopsy, there were two subsequent brain examinations, not one: the first examination was of the President’s brain, and those photographs were never introduced into the official record; the second examination was of a fraudulent specimen, whose photographs were subsequently introduced into the official record. The pattern of damage displayed in these ‘official’ brain photographs has nothing whatsoever to do with the assassination in Dallas, and in fact was undoubtedly used to shore up the official conclusion that President Kennedy was killed by a shot from above and behind.
(3) There is something seriously wrong with the autopsy photographs of the body of President Kennedy. It definitely is President Kennedy in the photographs, but the images showing the damage to the President’s head do not show the pattern of damage observed by either the medical professionals at Parkland hospital in Dallas, or by numerous witnesses at the military autopsy at Bethesda Naval hospital. These disparities are real and are significant, but the reasons remain unclear. There are only three possible explanations for this, and I will discuss these possibilities today.
The Autopsy Report
The evidence that a draft autopsy report—as well as a first signed version—existed prior to the report in evidence today is both easy to understand, and undeniable.
The First Draft
On November 24, 1963 the chief pathologist at President Kennedy’s autopsy, Dr. James J. Humes, signed a typed statement he had prepared that read as follows:
“I, James J. Humes, certify that I have destroyed by burning certain preliminary draft notes relating to Naval Medical School Autopsy Report A63-272 and have officially transmitted all other papers related to this report to higher authority.” [Author’s emphasis]
On two occasions before the HSCA, in March of 1977 and in September of 1978, Dr. Humes maintained that he had destroyed notes. He repeated this claim in an interview published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in May of 1992. The reasons given in each case were that the notes were destroyed because they had on them the blood of the President, which Dr. Humes deemed unseemly.
The ARRB General Counsel, Jeremy Gunn, had reason to suspect that an early draft of the autopsy report had also been destroyed, based upon an analysis of inconsistencies between Dr. Humes’ previous testimony about when he wrote the draft report, and existing records documenting its transmission to higher authority. After extremely thorough and persistent questioning by the Review Board’s General Counsel in February of 1996, Dr. Humes admitted, under oath, that both notes from the autopsy, and a first draft of the autopsy report (which had been prepared well after the autopsy’s conclusion and had no blood on it), had been destroyed in his fireplace.
The First Signed Version
A simple study of the receipt trail for the transmission of the autopsy report reveals that the first signed report is missing as well.
On April 26, 1965 the Secret Service transferred the autopsy photographs and x-rays, and certain vital documents and biological materials to the custody of the Kennedy family at the request of Robert F. Kennedy. That receipt lists, among other things:
“Complete autopsy protocol of President Kennedy (orig, & 7 cc’s)—Original signed by Dr. Humes, pathologist.”
Evelyn Lincoln, secretary to the late President Kennedy, signed for receipt of all of the items the same day.
Incredibly, on October 2, 1967 the head of the Secret Service signed a letter transferring the original of CE 387, the autopsy report placed in evidence by the Warren Commission, to the National Archives; the National Archives signed a receipt for CE 387 the next day, October 3, 1967.
Warren Commission Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin, in a declassified transcript of a January 27, 1964 Executive Session of the Commission, discusses details of the content of “the autopsy report” which are not consistent with the details of the report in evidence today, CE 387, thus confirming that the first signed version contained different conclusions.
The dilemma presented here can best be summarized by the following rhetorical question: How could the U.S. Secret Service transfer the original JFK autopsy protocol to the National Archives (or to anyone else, for that matter) on October 2, 1967 when they had previously given it to the Kennedy family on April 26, 1965? The answer, of course, is that there were two separate reports. The first smooth, or signed version, was given to the Kennedy family at the specific request of Robert Kennedy, and has disappeared. The second signed version is in the National Archives today.
The destruction of both the first draft and the first signed version of the autopsy report are clear evidence of the ongoing malleability of the autopsy report’s specific conclusions during the initial 2 weeks following the conclusion of the post mortem examination. Furthermore, it is clear that when Dr. Humes testified under oath to the Review Board that there was only one autopsy report, and that he only signed one autopsy report, he committed perjury.
[For those interested in obtaining copies of the relevant documents in the receipt trail, or in studying the likely content of the first two versions of the autopsy protocol, I will make copies of the relevant research memo available at the end of the press conference.]
Two Brain Examinations
My most remarkable finding while on the Review Board staff, and a totally unexpected one, was that instead of one supplemental brain examination being conducted following the conclusion of President Kennedy’s autopsy, as was expected, two different examinations were conducted, about a week apart from each other. A thorough timeline analysis of available documents, and of the testimony of autopsy witnesses taken by the ARRB, revealed that the remains of President Kennedy’s badly damaged brain were examined on Monday morning, November 25, 1963 prior to the state funeral, and that shortly thereafter the brain was turned over to RADM Burkley, Military Physician to the President; a second brain examination, of a fraudulent specimen, was conducted sometime between November 29th and December 2nd, 1963—and it is the photographs from this second examination that are in the National Archives today.
Pertinent Facts Regarding the Two Examinations are as follows:
First Brain Exam, Monday, November 25th, 1963
Attendees: Dr. Humes, Dr. Boswell, and Navy civilian photographer John Stringer.
Events: John Stringer testified to the ARRB that he used both Ektachrome E3 color positive transparency film, and B & W Portrait Pan negative film; both were 4 by 5 inch format films exposed using duplex film holders; he only shot superior views of the intact specimen—no inferior views; the pathologists sectioned the brain, as is normal for death by gunshot wound, with transverse or “coronal” incisions—sometimes called “bread loaf” incisions—in order to trace the track of the bullet or bullets; and after each section of tissue was cut from the brain, Stringer photographed that section on a light box to show the damage.
Second Brain Exam, Between November 29th and December 2nd, 1963
Attendees: Dr. Humes, Dr. Boswell, Dr. Finck, and an unknown Navy photographer.
Events: Per the testimony of all 3 pathologists, the brain was not sectioned, as should have been normal procedure for any gunshot wound to the head—that is, transverse or coronal sections were not made. The brain looked different than it did at the autopsy on November 22nd, and Dr. Finck wrote about this in a report to his military superior on February 1, 1965. The color slides of the brain specimen in the National Archives were exposed on “Ansco” film, not Ektachrome E3 film; and the B & W negatives are also on “Ansco” film, and originated in a film pack (or magazine), not duplex holders. The brain photos in the Archives show both superior and inferior views, contrary to what John Stringer remembers shooting, and there are no photographs of sections among the Archives brain photographs, which is inconsistent with Stringer’s sworn testimony about what he photographed.
Further indications that the brain photographs in the Archives are not President Kennedy’s brain are as follows:
Two ARRB medical witnesses, former FBI agent Frank O’Neill and Gawler’s funeral home mortician Tom Robinson, both recalled vividly that the major area of tissue missing from President Kennedy’s brain was in the rear of the brain. The brain photos in the Archives do not show any tissue missing in the rear of the brain, only in the top.
When former FBI agent Frank O’Neill viewed the Archives brain photographs during his deposition, he said that the photos he was viewing could not be President Kennedy’s brain because when he viewed the removed brain at the autopsy, the damage was so great that more than half of it was gone—missing. He described the brain photos in the Archives as depicting a ‘virtually intact’ brain.
Finally, the weight of the brain recorded in the supplemental autopsy report was 1500 grams, which exceeds the average weight of a normal, undamaged male brain. This is entirely inconsistent with a brain which was over half missing when observed at autopsy.
The conduct of a second brain examination on a fraudulent specimen, and the introduction of photographs of that specimen into the official record, was designed to do two things:
(1) eliminate evidence of a fatal shot from the front, which was evident on the brain removed at autopsy and examined on Monday, November 25th, 1963; and
(2) place into the record photographs of a brain with damage generally consistent with having been shot from above and behind.
Until I discovered that the photographs in the Archives could not be of President Kennedy’s brain, the brain photos had been used by 3 separate investigative bodies—the Clark Panel, the Rockefeller Commission, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations—to support the Warren Commission’s findings that President Kennedy was shot from above and behind, and to discount the expert observations from Parkland hospital in Dallas that President Kennedy had an exit wound in the back of his head.
In my opinion, the brain photographs in the National Archives, along with Dr. Mantik’s Optical Densitometry analysis of the head x-rays, are two irrefutable examples of fraud in this case, and call into question the official conclusions of all prior investigations.
[For those who wish detailed verification of this hypothesis, the 32-page research paper on this subject that I completed in 1998 will be made available at the end of this press conference.]
The Head Wound in the Autopsy Photographs
I would like to conclude with some brief closing remarks about the autopsy photographs at the National Archives.
The images of the President’s head wound are inconsistent with both the Parkland hospital observations, and the Bethesda autopsy observations of almost every witness present in the morgue, as follows:
The blowout, or exit wound in the right rear of the head seen in Dallas is not present in the autopsy images, which show the back of the head to be intact except for a very small puncture interpreted by the HSCA as a wound of entry. Furthermore, the autopsy photographs of the head show extensive damage to the top of the head, and to the right side of the head, which was not seen in Dallas during the 40 minutes that the President was observed in trauma room one at Parkland hospital.
Bethesda Naval Hospital
Most witnesses from the autopsy also recall a very large wound at the back of the head, which, as stated above, is not shown in the autopsy photographs. The additional damage many autopsy witnesses recall at the top of the head, and on the right side, is present in the photographs—but not the damage they remember at the rear. One prominent witness, Dr. Ebersole (the radiologist at the autopsy), testified under oath to the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel in 1978 that the large head wound in the autopsy photos is more lateral and more superior than he remembered, and said that he recalled the back of the head being missing at the autopsy.
Three Possible Explanations
There are 3 possible explanations for these inconsistencies:
(1) Photographic forgery—i.e., “special effects”—to make the rear of the head look intact when it was not;
(2) Major manipulation of loose, and previously reflected scalp from elsewhere on the head by the pathologists, so as to make it appear that the back of the head was intact when it was not; or
(3) Partial reconstruction of the head by the morticians, at the direction of the pathologists, followed by photography that created the false impression that there was no exit defect in the back of the head.
Many JFK researchers have long suspected photographic forgery, but extreme caution is warranted here because all analyses of the autopsy photographs done to date have used “bootleg” materials, and not the original materials in the Archives. The “bootleg” photographs do represent the actual views of the body in the Archives collection, but they are badly degraded, suffer from contrast buildup, and are photographic prints—whereas any true scientific study of these images for authenticity should use the color positive transparencies and B & W negatives in the Archives as subjects, not multi-generational prints of uncertain provenance.
I personally examined magnified and enhanced images of the Archives autopsy photographs at the Kodak lab in Rochester, New York in November of 1997, and I saw no obvious evidence of photographic forgery; but I am the first person to admit that I am not an expert in photographic special effects techniques circa 1963.
I am of the opinion that it is likely that the back of the head appears intact in the autopsy photographs either because the loose scalp was manipulated for photographic purposes, or because the photos in question were taken after a partial reconstruction by the morticians. I was steered toward this opinion by the ARRB testimony of the two FBI agents who witnessed the autopsy. Both men found the images of the intact back-of-the-head troubling, and inconsistent with the posterior head wound they vividly remembered. Frank O’Neill opined under oath that the images of the back-of-the-head appeared “doctored,” by which he meant that the head had been put back together by the doctors. James Sibert testified that the head looked “reconstructed” in these images—he actually used the word “reconstructed” at his deposition.
No final conclusions can yet be drawn about exactly why a large defect in the rear of the head is not shown in the autopsy photographs, when one was seen by so many witnesses. It is sufficient to say that something is terribly wrong here, and that it is an area that requires more study with the original materials. Thank you for your attention.