The Clay Shaw trial testimony of Pierre Finck





1426 (30)

February 24, 1969


THE COURT: Bring the Jury down. I trust you gentlemen had a nice weekend. Is the State and Defense ready to proceed?

MR. DYMOND: Ready.

MR. OSER: We are ready, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Proceed.

MR. DYMOND: We now call Dr. Finck.

PIERRE A. FINCK, M.D., having been first duly sworn by the Minute Clerk, was examined and testified as follows:

Q: Dr. Finck, for the record, would you kindly state your full name.

A: My first name is Pierre, P-i-e-r-r-e, A is my middle initial, and my last name is Finck, F-i-n-c-k.

Q: Now, Dr. Finck, what is your profession, sir?

A: I am a full Colonel in the United States Army Medical Corps, I am a physician in the Army, a specialist in pathology.

Q: Are you the holder of a medical degree, Dr. Finck?

A: Yes, from the University of Geneva Medical School, Switzerland, I obtained a Federal Degree of Physician in 1948 in Switzerland.

Q: Now, what has been your experience in the medical profession since having obtained your degree in 1948?

A: I had four years of formal university training in Pathology, two of them at the University of Geneva Institute of Pathology, and two of them at the University of Tennessee Medical School in Memphis, Tennessee.

Q: Now, may I interrupt you one moment and ask you whether or not this specific training in pathology came after your having obtained a regular medical degree?

A: I stated that I had four years of formal Pathology training after my M.D. degree, and I was an instructor of Pathology at the University of Tennessee, Memphis.

Q: Now, Doctor, of what have your duties consisted in the Army?

A: I was drafted by the Doctor's Draft of the United States Army in 1955. I was sent to Germany where I was a Pathologist of the United States Army Hospital, Frankfurt, F-r-a-n-k-f-u-r-t, and there I performed autopsies, many of them of a medical- legal nature, involving trauma, violent deaths, bullet wounds, accidents, and then in 1959 I was sent to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C., on the grounds of Walter Reed Medical Center. The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology is the central repository and consultation facility for the Federal Military Services, the Veterans Administration, and we have some 2,000 civilian contributors in the United States and throughout the world who send cases to us for consultation of a pathological nature. In brief, pathology is the study of disease but in my particular field, the field of forensic pathology, f-o-r-e-n-s-i-c, it is the interpretation of medical-legal cases as they pertain to the law, cases of violent deaths, of unexplained deaths, unexpected deaths, poisonings, manners of deaths, such as homicide, suicide, accidents, undetermined deaths. The adjective "forensic" comes from the Latin Forum, f-o-r-u-m, which means the public place, the market place, so forensic indicates a public interest. It may relate to criminal matters, insurance cases, claims, lawsuits, litigation in general, and in November of 1960 I was appointed Chief of the Wound, W-o-u-n-d, Ballistics Pathology Branch at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology hereafter abbreviated AFIP, I repeat AFIP. In 1961 I applied to take the examination in forensic pathology, the American Board of Pathology on the basis of my interest in this field as a medical student, as a physician, as a pathologist during my training, and in the Army in Europe. I had letters, for example, from the Provost Marshal, who is the Chief of Police, that is the title of the Chief of Police in the United States Army, who stated that I had contributed to the interpretation of violent deaths, medical-legal cases in several instances. On that basis the American Board of Pathology accepted my training and my qualifications to take the examination of the American Board of Pathology in the specialty of Forensic Pathology. I had taken already -- this is a requirement, I had taken the examination to be certified in anatomic pathology in 1956. On the basis of the requirements I mentioned, the Anatomic Pathology Board and my qualifications to take the examination, I was certified in 1961, in 1961 by the American Board of Pathology in the special field of Forensic Pathology. Going back to your question about my duties except a tour of duty of one year in Vietnam as Commanding Officer of the Ninth Medical Laboratory, I have been in charge of the Wound Ballistics Pathology Branch of the AFIP since November, 1960 and I am still in charge of it. This branch is part of the division of which I am also in charge and which includes medical-legal areas such as accidents, poisonings, aircraft accidents, ground traffic accidents, et cetera.

Q: Now, Doctor, have you had any additional special training or experience in connec- tion with missile wounds?

A: I have carried out experiments on missile wounds in Washington, D.C., and at Edgewood, E-d-g-e-w-o-o-d, Arsenal, Maryland, on wounds produced by bullets fired by rifles.

Q: Doctor, did you have any training or experience while stationed in Panama, and, if so, what?

A: In March, 1964, while stationed in Washington, D.C., I was called at home by a military aide of the Deputy Secretary of Defense who requested that I go to Panama, the Republic of Panama, on behalf of the United States as an expert medical witness. I had to provide an opinion based on some 20 autopsy reports written in Spanish, autopsies performed by the Panamanian Coroner on victims of the riots, r-i-o-t-s of January, 1964. I had to state whether or not the wounds of these victims were consistent with the ammunition --

THE COURT: We need general qualifications, not special cases. I would prefer you not going into any one special case.

MR. DYMOND: All right, sir. At this time we submit the Doctor as a duly qualified expert in the field of Anatomic Pathology and Forensic Pathology.

THE COURT: Does the State wish to traverse?

MR. OSER: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: I will certify the witness concerning his qualifications in the field of Anatomic and Forensic Pathology, and he can give us his opinions in that field. You may proceed.

Q: Did you have occasion to participate in the autopsy which was performed on the late President John F. Kennedy?

A: Yes, I did.

Q: Now, with whom else did you participate in the performance of this autopsy?

A: The Pathologist in charge of the autopsy of President Kennedy was Dr. Humes, H-u-m-e-s, he called me at home to come to the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, and I went there. I found Dr. Humes and also Dr. Boswell, B-o-s-w-e-l-l, who was the Chief of Pathology in the same hospital. Dr. Humes was the Director of the Laboratory, the three of us were pathologists.

Q: Now, Doctor, are you one of the co-authors of the pathology report in connection with the autopsy which was performed on our late President?

A: Yes, I am.

Q: Doctor, will you describe for the Court and for the Jury the nature of the examination of the body wound other than the head wound which had been inflicted upon President Kennedy?

A: I would like to refer to my notes and use the small table.

Q: Yes.

THE COURT: I think they have a table set up for you.

MR. OSER: I object to the use of the notes unless it is ascertained what notes these are and were they made by the Doctor.

MR. DYMOND: He said his notes, we must assume he made them.

THE COURT: He may refer to them, as we covered previously, but he cannot read from them and testify, he cannot read from the notes already made and testify.

Q: It is permissible for you to refer to your notes for the purpose of refreshing your memory; however, you may not read your notes to the Jury.

A: I understand.

Q: All right, sir.

A: I saw on the right side in the back of the neck of President Kennedy a small wound.

Q: May I interrupt you one moment, Doctor, and ask, Doctor, let's have Mr. Wegmann step forward, and I ask you whether you can point out on his anatomy the approximate location of the wound to which you refer?

A: Yes.

THE COURT: Can you do this, sir, rather than doing it right here, can you do it in that area so the Jury can see?

MR. DYMOND: Would you kindly step down, Doctor, and do it in full view of the Jury.

THE COURT: I don't believe the Jury can see what you are doing, Doctor.

MR. DYMOND: I think that is better now.


MR. DYMOND: Would you mark that with this pen, Doctor.

THE WITNESS: I would like to call your attention at this time to the fact that I have made this mark on the shirt, and I apologize for it, but on the skin of President Kennedy I saw on the right side at approximately five inches from the right mastoid process, which is a bony prominence behind the right ear, the tip of it is at the bottom of the bony prominence, at approximately five inches from it down, a wound. This wound is approximately five inches from the right acromion, which is the upper extreme bony prominence of the shoulder, and approximately two inches from the midline. When examining this wound, I saw regular edges pushed inward what we call, what we call inverted. I saw a regular wound with regular edges pushed inward. This is what we call inverted, i-n-v-e-r-t-e-d.

Q: Now, Doctor, did you make --

A: May I add one thing?

Q: Surely.

A: This edge showed what we call an abrasion, a-b-r-a-s-i-o-n, which is usually seen when a projectile rubs against the skin and then goes through, it rubs it off and this is called an abrasion.

Q: Now, Doctor, did you make a minute examination of this wound in the back of President Kennedy that you have just pointed out on Mr. Wegmann?

A: I looked at it very closely and I had the opinion based on the character I mentioned, regular edges, with abrasion, and turned inward, that this was a wound of entry, e-n-t-r-y, which is a synonym for entrance, e-n-t-r-a-n-c-e.

Q: From the nature of this wound and your examination thereof, could you give a professional opinion as to what had entered that wound?

A: It was compatible with a wound caused by a bullet.

Q: Doctor, did you find anything in the nature of that wound which was incompatible or inconsistent with its being a wound of entry of a bullet?

A: No.

Q: Now, Doctor, did you examine on the remains of the late President Kennedy a wound in the frontal neck region?

A: At the time of the autopsy I saw in the front of the neck of President Kennedy a transversal, which means going sideways, a transversal incision which was made for the purpose of keeping the breathing of the President, and this is called a tracheotomy, t-r-a-c-h-e-o-t-o-m-y. I examined this wound made by a surgeon, it is very commonly found in unconscious patients, the incision is made to allow them to breathe. I did not see a wound of exit at that time, but the following day Dr. Humes called the surgeons of Dallas and he was told that they --

I object to hearsay.

Q: You may not say what the surgeons in Dallas told Dr. Humes. That would be hearsay evidence.

A: I have to base my interpretation on all the facts available and not on one fact only. When you have a wound of entry in the back of the neck and no wound of exit at the time of autopsy, when the X-rays I requested showed no bullets in the cadaver of the President, you need some other information to know where the bullet went. At the time of the autopsy there was a wound of entry in the back of the neck, no exit, no X-rays showing a bullet, that bullet has to be somewhere, so that information to me is of great importance. I insist on that point, and that telephone call to Dallas from Dr. Humes --

THE COURT: You may insist on the point, Doctor, but we are going to do it according to law. If it is legally objectionable, even if you insist, I am going to have to sustain the objection. Do you understand me, Mr. Dymond?


Q: You say the X-rays showed no bullet or projectile in that area of the President or in any area?

A: In the entire body we saw X-rays of, I requested whole body X-rays for the reasons I mentioned, that when I arrived in Bethesda, there were only X-rays of the head showing fragments due to another bullet wound.

Q: Now, Doctor, let me ask you this: Was the location of the scar, that is, the tracheotomy incision which you saw, was this medically consistent with that area as having served as a point of exit of the bullet which entered the back of the President?

A: Entirely.

Q: Medically, was there anything inconsistent with its having been the point of exit?

A: No.

Q: As an expert, then, do you have an opinion as to what was the point of exit of the bullet which entered the President's back?

A: Yes, I do.

Q: Would you indicate, would you kindly tell us what that is and upon what you based it.

A: I have seen the shirt of President Kennedy.

Q: Would you tell us what you observed in connection with this shirt of President Kennedy?

A: In connection with the exit I am now asked to testify on, I have seen in the front of the shirt of President Kennedy a small wound at the -- approximately the level of the tie know below the button of the shirt, and this was two holes going through the superimposed hems of the shirt, the fibers at the edge of that hole showed coagulated blood and the fibers were turned outward, indicating an exit hole. The position of that exit hole in the shirt of President Kennedy is entirely compatible with the level of the incision I saw in the front of the neck at the time of autopsy.

Q: Dr. Finck, I show you what purports to be a likeness of a human body on a sketch. I have marked this for identification "D-27," and I ask you whether that would be a likeness of the human body for the purpose of the medical material to which you have testified?

A: It is. And --

Q: Before you go further, let me ask you whether you yourself drew this sketch which appears in the Warren Report or whether it was drawn by someone else?

A: It was drawn by someone else.

Q: Go right ahead, sir.

A: This drawing was made by a Navy enlisted man when we were preparing our testimony before the Warren Commission. Dr. Humes supervised the making of this drawing.

Q: Doctor, I ask you whether with the aid of this drawing which I will now offer, file, and produce in evidence, marking same for identification "D-27," whether you can exhibit to the Jury what in your professional opinion was the course taken by the bullet which entered the President's back.

THE COURT: Before he answers that, I wan to see if there is an objection to the offering.

MR. OSER: The Doctor stated that was drawn by somebody else.

THE COURT: It is received in evidence and he can show it to the Jury.

Q: Are you able to do that, Doctor?

A: To explain this to the Jury?

Q: That is correct.

A: Yes.

Q: Would you kindly step down here before The Jury and do it.

A: Gentlemen, I would like to --

THE COURT: May I suggest, sir, we have fourteen men, why don't we let him use the microphone and stand over there. You have to be in a position where all of them can see and hear you.


THE COURT: All right, proceed.


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