Pat Speer has written an interesting article on Bugliosi's
(mis)handling of the paraffin evidence.
Speer says that Bugliosi neglected the testimony of FBI agent John
Gallagher who told the Warren Commission that Oswald's cheek casts
tested negative by Neutron Acitvation Analysis, suggesting Oswald had
not shot a rifle.
But Speer's piece speaks for itself.
Iv'e pasted it below and it's also available on-line at:
lJuly 24, 2007
Bugliosi Fails the Paraffin Test
by Pat Speer
On Page 964 of Reclaiming History, as part of his list of evidence
proving Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy, Vincent Bugliosi
"Dallas Police performed a paraffin test on Oswald's hands at the time
of his interrogation to determine if he had recently fired a revolver,
and the results were positive, indicating the presence of nitrates
from gunpowder residue on his hands."
This statement is incredibly deceptive. By including this statement
in his list, Bugliosi is clearly suggesting that this evidence is
indicative of Oswald's guilt, even though he readily admits 800 pages
earlier that "the paraffin test is not conclusive...mere handling of a
weapon may leave nitrates of the skin, even without firing it." (p.
164) Even worse, when one looks at the results of another test,
performed on the paraffin casts of Oswald's cheek, one can only
conclude they suggest that Oswald did not fire the shots that killed
Kennedy. You see, while the tests of Oswald's hands were positive,
the tests for Oswald's cheek were negative. This suggests that he did
not fire a rifle on November 22, 1963.
Bugliosi tries to tackle this problem. In a footnote on page 165,
Bugliosi states "Predictably, the paraffin cast for Oswald's right
cheek showed no reaction." Predictably? He explains by asserting that
there is no gap through which residue from a rifle could leak onto the
cheek. He then cites the Warren Commission testimony of FBI Special
Agent Cortlandt Cunningham to support this supposition. On page 79 of
his endnotes (available on a separate cd-rom) he acknowledges that
former FBI agent William Turner reported that he'd spoken to Dr.
Vincent Guinn about tests performed by Guinn, and that Guinn had found
nitrates in abundance on casts of the cheeks of men who'd fired rifles
like the one owned by Oswald. Bugliosi dismisses Turner's assertion,
however, essentially calling him a liar, by stating "There is simply
no way to square this with the testimony and experience of the Dallas
Police and FBI." Bugliosi then explains that two Dallas Police
officers testified that they didn't think a test of the cheek would
read positive for a man firing a rifle, and that Cunningham testified
that an FBI agent had fired the rifle three times but that tests for
his cheek had come up negative. Bugliosi begs of his readers "Why in
the world would these two Dallas officers lie under oath about
something like this?" and that "No one could really believe this is
perjured testimony, if for no other reason that no professional would
lie under oath on a matter that he knows other experts could easily
refute him on." (endnotes, p. 80)
But what Bugliosi misses, or simply chooses to ignore, is that these
men were discussing the standard paraffin test performed in the
1960's, and that Turner asked Guinn about a different test entirely
involving neutron activation analysis of the paraffin casts.
Bugliosi, who elsewhere cites conversations with Guinn, never mentions
discussing this with Guinn himself, nor of Guinn denying that he'd
conducted such tests. He never mentions that, as exposed in Professor
Gerald McKnight's Breach of Trust, Guinn called the FBI in 1964
suggesting they conduct these tests (McKnight, Breach of Trust, p.211)
and that, per the testimony of the FBI's John Gallagher-the last
testimony taken by the Warren Commission-the FBI had indeed conducted
neutron activation analysis on the paraffin cast of Oswald's cheek.
It seems more than a coincidence that Bugliosi keeps the results of
this test from his readers Gallagher testified that there was more
gunshot residue on the outside of the paraffin cast than on the side
exposed to Oswald's cheek and that he could therefore reach no
conclusion as to whether Oswald had fired a rifle. He stated
furthermore that "I found that there was more barium and antimony on
the inside surface of the cast than you would find on the cheek of an
individual who had recently washed his cheek" without explaining why
anyone should assume Oswald had just washed his cheek. (While the
casts had reportedly been washed, nothing was offered to substantiate
that rinsing a wax cast would have nearly the effect on the levels of
residue as Oswald's washing his face.) (15WH751)
This unexpected result, which suggests that the gunshot residue levels
were too low to conclude Oswald had recently fired a rifle, becomes
even more intriguing when one considers that researcher Harold
Weisberg, through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, received the
controls for this test and found that gunshot residue was always
present on the cheeks of those firing a rifle like Oswald's (Weisberg,
Post Mortem, p. 437). These controls, moreover, confirmed what Guinn
had told the FBI in his phone call, (the FBI document describing this
phone call is listed in McKnight's book as R.M Jevons to Conrad
2/27/64 memo), what Guinn told an August 1964 conference (Lane, Rush
to Judgment, p. 153), what Guinn published in an October 1964 article
in the Journal of the Forensic Science Society (p. 189), and what
Guinn later told Turner (Turner, Invisible Witness, p. 76).
Also of significance is that, unlike the paraffin tests originally
performed on Oswald, the Neutron Activation Analysis performed by
Gallagher only gained in respectability in the years following the
assassination (Scientific Evidence in Criminal Cases, 1986, p.255),
and is considered to be a reliable indicator of whether a suspect has
fired a rifle. Larry Ragle, a retired Director of Forensic Sciences
for Santa Ana, California, in his 1995 book Crime Scene, explains: "By
design, revolvers can leak...Rifles, depending on their construction and
wear, can also leak. There is only one way to determine the leakage
capacity of any weapon and that is to collect samples from the hands
or face firing the weapon under controlled conditions while using the
corresponding ammunition." (Ragle, Crime Scene, p. 172) Of course,
this is precisely the kind of test performed by Guinn and Gallagher in
In sum, the gunshot residue tests conducted by Guinn and Gallagher
create real doubt that Oswald fired the rifle found in the Book
Depository. Rather than acknowledge this, Bugliosi dismisses these
tests as a William Turner pipe dream. That he is outraged that anyone
might think FBI agent Cortlandt Cunningham a liar, while
simultaneously implying that William Turner-a man who left the FBI
after he'd had enough of J. Edgar Hoover's misuse of the agency-is a
liar, is outrageous. Perhaps Bugliosi's blind hatred of all
suggestions of Oswald's innocence has blinded his thinking. In any
event, his research simply can not be trusted.
For more information on the paraffin tests and their significance, see
chapter 4 at www.patspeer.com.
From page 560 of the WCR below
The paraffin test on Oswald's hands were Positive.
Nitrates can be obtained from any number of sources.
i.e, Paper, Wood, Cardboard Paint & Urine to name a few.
The problem with the positive nitrates on Oswald's hands is that most nitrates
were on the "Palm Side"
When obtaining nitrates from a weapon, the nitrates are on the back side of
the hand due to the palm side being ON the weapon.
Paraffin tests of Oswald's hands are below from the Dallas Police website.
Notice that the nitrates are on the Palm side of Oswald's hands.
When firing a weapon the nitrates are on the Back side of the hand because
the Palm side is covered by the weapon.
Nitrates are caused by several other sources such as, Paper, Cardboard, wood,
Paint & Urine.
Oswald's job was to handle Cardboard boxes of paper books on the 6th floor
which was getting a New floor laid on 11/22/63.