The Clay Shaw trial testimony of Pierre Finck, continued
THE WITNESS: I would like to explain to you the drawing labeled "D" as in Delta, -27. In the upper half of this letter-sized paper it represents the right side of the head, upper chest of President Kennedy. The arrow you see behind his neck indicates that the projectile entered, E-N-T-E-R-E-D, in the back of the neck, and the arrow you see in front of the neck, in the front of the neck of the drawing indicates that the projectile came out in the front of the neck. You will notice that the position of the head and upper chest is along a vertical line as compared to the horizontal line. You will notice that the wound of entry in the back of the neck in relation to the wound of exit in the front of the neck and in relation to a horizontal line, you will notice that the entry in the back of the neck is higher than the exit in the front of the neck.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: All right, Doctor. Now, Doctor, I will ask you whether this sketch to which you have referred for the Jury purports to represent the actual vertical position of President Kennedy at the time that he was hit by this bullet, or is this an aribitrary vertical sketch? What I mean is, could he have been leaning further backward when he was hit, could he have been leaning further forward when he was hit, or does this purport to be the exact position in which he was at the time that he was hit?
A: As regards the position of the President at the time of the wounding, the Zapruder film shows that the President was sitting in the presidential limousine in a straight- up position looking in a generally forward direction.
Q: Now, upon examination of the Zapruder film, Doctor, was it possible for you to determine the actual moment at which the President was hit by the first projectile?
A: The great value of the Zapruder film to us was that it established, as I said, the position of the President and also the sequence of the shots. I remind you that at the time of the autopsy we stated that we could not determine the sequence of the shots. You can seldom do so by looking at wounds, so we could describe them, interpret the direction, have an opinion, a firm opinion about the direction, but as far as the sequence of the shots is concerned, this was established by the Zapruder film.
Q: Now, Doctor, as an expert, do you have a firm opinion as to whether the wound which you have just described was inflicted by a shot from the rear or from the front?
A: It was definitely inflicted by a shot from the rear.
MR. DYMOND: If the Court please, with the Court's permission, I would like to exhibit this to the Jury for examination.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Now, Doctor, with respect to wounds in body matter such as skull, would you tell me whether the terms coning, cratering, beveling and shelving are synonymous?
A: In the field of describing wounds by projectiles through structures such as bones, the terms are synonymous, I would say it is cratering and not crating.
Q: I thought I said "cratering."
A: C-R-A-T-E-R-I-N-G, cratering, from a crater.
Q: Now, Doctor, in connection with the autopsy performed on our late President Kennedy, did you have occasion to examine and analyze a head wound which appeared upon his remains?
A: Yes, I did.
Q: Would you describe for the benefit of the Jury the extent and nature of the examination which you made on this part of the remains of President Kennedy.
A: I saw in the back of the head of President Kennedy, at the right side at approximately 1 inch, 25 millimeters, from a bony prominence you can all feel in the back of your head, it's called the external occipital protuberance, I saw that wound slightly above this protuberance.
Q: Doctor, if I come forward, will you be able to point on my head the approximate location of the wound which you have just described?
A: Yes, I will be.
Q: I won't ask you to mark this one.
A: This is the approximate position of that wound which was in the scalp on the right side at approximately 1 inch to the right of that protuberance and slightly above it.
Q: Now, Doctor, will you describe to the Jury the nature of this wound which you found on President Kennedy's head and the location of, which you have pointed out on my head?
A: This wound had slightly irregular edges in contrast to the first wound I described in the back of the neck, and I would like to explain at this time the reason for that. The tissue underlying the skin, I have described in the back of the neck is soft tissue, and when the bullet strikes the skin in such an area it does not meet the resistance it meets when there is bone underneath, and this explains the difference in character of those two wounds of entry. The wound in the back of the head showed irregular edges because there was bone close to the scalp corresponding to that scalp wound in the back of the head I just demonstrated, there was a hole in the bone, in the skull of President Kennedy, and I examined it, that hole, from outside the skull and from inside the skull. When examining from outside the skull, I did not see a crater, I saw a hole but there was no crater around it. When I looked at that wound from inside the skull, I saw a definite crater, C-R-A-T-E-R, and this is a certain factor to identify positively the direction of a projectile going through a flat bone such as the skull. To take a practical example, I have seen similar craters in wood, when a bullet goes through and through a pane of wood, and in glass, and it is the difference of the examination between the outer surface and the inner surface that allows the examiner to determine the direction of the bullet. Police officers do that all the time when they examine panes of wood or panes of glass, and I have done so myself. It is an accepted fact.
Q: Doctor, I show you a sketch which has been marked for identification "D-28," and I ask you what this represents?
A: This letter-sized black and white illustration labeled "Delta-28," entitled "Perforating, P-E-R-F-O-R-A-T-I-N-G, Missile, M-I-S-S-I-L-E, Perforating Missile Wound of the Skull" shows a scheme, S-C-H-E-M-E, prepared at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology according to my instructions and based on the factors I just described.
Q: Doctor, was this prepared under your instructions before or after the assassination of President Kennedy?
A: It was prepared before the assassination of President Kennedy to demonstrate the pattern of wounds in bones in a through and through wound by a projectile. I did this for teaching purposes because I have to give many lectures in this field.
MR. DYMOND: If the Court please, in connection with the testimony of this witness, we would like to offer, file, and introduce into evidence the exhibit marked for identification "D-28."
MR. OSER: No objection.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Now, Doctor, with the aid of Exhibit D-28, could you better explain to the Jury what you mean by coning, cratering, beveling or shelving of the bone?
Q: Would you kindly let me get the microphone and step down and do it, please.
A: This is A, Alpha in white, the cavity within the skull, what we call the cranial cavity, C-R-A-N-I-A-L, labeled B as in Bravo, and the cavity shown in black, C as in Charlie is the wound of entry, D as in Delta is the wound of exit, and you see the title of this, "Perforating Missile Wound of the Skull," perforating is synonymous with through and through, it means the projectile goes all the way through a structure producing a wound of entry and a wound of exit. There may be fragments left by the projectile in between, but as far as the wounds are concerned, it is still a through and through or perforating missile wound by a missile, here a bullet or any projectile. You will notice that at the level of C, Charlie, when you examine this wound from outside you see a hole which is smaller than the hole observed when you look at that wound from inside the skull. You see the diameter outside in Charlie is smaller than the inside diameter of Charlie. When you look at this wound from inside, you see a crater, C-R-A-T-E-R, or cone, and this finding is called cratering, coning, shelving, or beveling. When that projectile goes through the bony structure of the skull, it produces a wound of exit, and here again by looking at the wound from inside of Delta and outside of Delta, you will see a larger diameter when examined from outside as compared to the diameter of the wound when examined from inside the skull. It is on the basis of such factors that the direction of the bullet path, P-A-T-H, is determined.
MR. DYMOND: If the Court please, at this time in connection with the testimony of this witness, we would like to offer, file, and produce into evidence "D-28." I think it has been offered already.
MR. OSER: No objection.
MR. DYMOND: May we show this to the Jury at this time?
THE COURT: Yes.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Dr. Finck, in addition to what you have described as a bullet hole of entrance, the location of which you have indicated on my head, would you describe any other damage which you might have found to the skull of the late President Kennedy?
A: In addition to the wound of entry I have discussed in the back of the head, there was a very large wound, irregular, star-shaped, what we call stellate, s-t-e-l-l-a-t-e, approximately five inches in diameter. It was 13 centimeters in diameter, which is approximately five inches and one-eighth. During the course of the autopsy we received from Dallas portions of bone which have the same appearance as the general appearance of the remaining skull of President Kennedy, and on one of the fragments which we could match inside this wound, approximately five inches in diameter, occupying the right side and the top of the head of the President, I saw the beveling I described to you. First identified the outer aspect of the specimen and the inner aspect, I-n-n-e-r, of the specimen to orient the specimen in relation to the wound. After having oriented the specimen as far as the outer and inner surfaces are concerned, I saw this crater when the specimen was viewed from outside which identifies a portion of the wound of exit. You realize that when you have a bullet going through a head at high velocity, the wound of entry may be entire, complete, as in this case, but because of the shattering, s-h-a-t-t-e-r-i-n-g, shattering and explosive force produced by that bullet, the wound of exit is very irregular and very often you don't have all the portions of bone to make a complete skull, some portions are missing, so you cannot do what you do with a complete puzzle, to take the complete pieces and make a complete image. In that case the fragments were matching the wound in a general way, and I could make a positive determination of a wound of exit, of a portion of a wound of exit, in a bone fragment submitted to us during the course of the autopsy, and it was, I would say, between approximately 11:00 o'clock at night -- I can give you the time, it was during the course of the autopsy this fragment was brought to us and allowed us to determine that this was the wound of exit.
Q: Approximately 11:00 o'clock on what date?
A: On the 22nd of November, 1963, the date of the assassination.
Q: Now, Doctor, were any skull fragments delivered to you which were incompatible with your opinion as to the exit area having been on the side of the head?
A: There were none.
Q: There were none. Now, having examined the skull particle which you have testified contained evidence as to which direction the bullet was traveling, and as an expert in the field of Pathology, do you have a definite opinion as to whether the projectile which caused the bone damage exhibited by that particle entered from the front or from the back?
A: I have a definite opinion. I would like to add that that bony specimen brought to us was X-rayed and contained metallic fragments which corroborates the finding of metallic fragments seen at the time of the autopsy on the X-ray film of the head of the President, and the X-ray film was taken before the autopsy of the head, I saw the X-ray film, there were metallic fragments on the X-ray, there were metallic fragments in that bony fragment brought to us during the course of the autopsy, and I have a firm opinion that the bullet entered in the back of the head and exited on the right side of the top of the head producing a very large wound.
Q: Doctor, did you find any evidence which would indicate that the President was hit by more than one shot in the head?
Q: Doctor, as a result of your examination of the head, the head of the late President, what, if you have one, is your opinion as to the direction from which the bullet which inflicted the head wound came?
A: The bullet definitely struck in the back of the head, disintegrated, which is often the case when such a bullet at high velocity goes through bone, producing numerous fragments, many of them seen on X-ray of the head, and of the bony portion of the exit, and also recovered by us, we found fragments in the brain of the President, and that projectile produced that wound of exit on the right side and top of the head.
Q: Doctor, having examined the entire body of the late President Kennedy, did you detect other than the two wounds which you have described to me any other wounds on the body of the late President?
A: I did not, no other bullet wounds.
Q: Doctor, I exhibit to you a sketch which has been marked for identification "D-29," and I ask you whether you drew this sketch or whether it was drawn by someone else?
A: It was drawn by someone else.
Q: I further ask you whether this sketch depicts the path of the bullet into and out of the head of the late President Kennedy in accordance with the professional opinions which you have given.
A: It does.
MR. DYMOND: If the Court please, in connection with the testimony of the witness, I would like to offer, file, and produce into evidence the sketch marked for identification "D-29."
MR. OSER: No objection.
THE COURT: Let it be received.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Now, at this time, Dr. Finck, we will ask that you step down, step before the Jury and with the aid of this sketch demonstrate to them what in your professional opinion happened when the President was hit in the back of the head with the bullet?
A: Gentlemen, you are looking at a letter-sized paper reproduction of a drawing labeled here "D-29," D as in Delta. It represents the right side of the head and the right shoulder and upper chest of President Kennedy. For demonstration purposes, the drawing shows the wounds in a general way, arrows indicate the direction of the missile, the arrow behind the back of the head has the word "in," i-n, and the arrow you see in front of the wound on the right side and top of the head is labeled "out," o-u-t. You see a relatively small wound of entry in the back of the head and you see a much larger wound of exit irregular on the right side of the head. This indicates the direction of the bullet striking the back of the head coming out on the right side. If you take the middle of this wound of exit, the general direction of this missile path, p-a-t-h, is from the rear to the front going downward.
Q: Please return to the stand, Doctor.
MR. DYMOND: We now ask that we be permitted to exhibit this to the Jury.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: Now, Doctor, in view of the small size, what was according to your testimony the hole of entrance in the President's skull and the relatively large size of the hole of exit, was it possible to determine with any degree of preciseness the angle at which this projectile struck the head of the President?
A: Not with precision because the wound of exit is quite large, and this is very difficult, a very difficult thing to do, determine the angle based on such findings. It is the best interpretation we could make based on such large wound of exit and the small wound of entry.
Q: Now, what was the best interpretation that you could make in view of the relative sizes of these wounds, Doctor?
A: That the bullet, that the projectile entered in the back, came out on the right side, and that the direction was from above down.
Q: Now, Doctor, is your opinion, is it not a firm one as to the direction of this projectile?
A: My opinion regarding the direction of the projectile is firm.
Q: Now, Doctor, from the --
A: As far as the entry and exit are concerned.
Q: Do you have any doubt about that?
A: I have no doubt that the bullet entered in the back of the head, disintegrated, came out on the right side of the head.
Q: Doctor, have you seen the Zapruder film?
A: I did.
Q: From the standpoint of a Pathologist, would it be possible to render a proper or accurate pathological opinion as to the point of entrance and the point of exit of this bullet without having viewed the remains of President Kennedy and by only having seen the Zapruder film and conducted some independent experiments with cadavers or bodies other than that of President Kennedy?
A: I would not do so.
Q: Why, Doctor.
A: As I said, the film was of a great value because of the motion aspect of it, because it was of a great value to determine the sequence of shots, it showed the position of the body, it showed the movements of the body during the shooting, I have seen on the movie President Kennedy moving forward, rising his hand to his throat, and then he was struck by the second bullet that hit in the back of the head.
Q: Now, Doctor, at the time that you co-authored the Pathological Report in connection with the autopsy performed on the late President Kennedy, had the Warren Commission yet been formed?
A: Would you repeat that question, please.
MR. DYMOND: Strike that question.
BY MR. DYMOND:
Q: At the time you performed this autopsy, had the Warren Commission yet been formed by Executive Order of President Johnson?
A: I don't think so. The date is available, and to my recollection I don't seem -- I don't think the Commission was formed.
Q: When did you form your opinions as to the directions of the projectiles which hit President Kennedy and the number of wounds which had been inflicted upon his body?
A: At the time we signed the autopsy report, the autopsy report, I had a firm opinion that both bullets struck in the back, one in the back of the neck and the other in the back of the head. When we signed the autopsy report, we did not know the sequence of shots.
Q: I see. Now, Doctor, your opinion as to the direction of these bullets and the other matter which you have testified to here today, is that an honest, professional opinion on your part, or was it in any way affected by the desires or requests of anybody of Government or any individual?
A: My opinion is an honest, professional opinion.
MR. DYMOND: We tender the witness.
THE COURT: Just a minute. It is about 10:28, we are going to take a recess at 10:30, so take the Jury upstairs and we will take a ten-minute recess.
(Whereupon, a ten-minute recess was taken.)
Back to the top
Back to Shaw trial testimony
Search trial database chronologically
Additional resources on the trial of Clay Shaw
Back to JFK menu
Dave Reitzes home page
people have visited this site!