The Education Forum

# Summary of Results from Oswald's Paraffin Tests

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For Sandy and Bob,

Can you make any sense out of this table from Mr. Spear? There's no attribution to anyone else, so he must have made it himself.

Looking at the Ba levels on LHO's left hand (column 3):

Back+Palm+Thumb=3.15 Inside Total: This is mathematically correct. However, it includes the "Back" of the hand as part of the "Inside Total" as well as the thumb.

Row 5 subtracts the palm which=1.14: This is mathematically correct. If you exclude the "palm" then you are calculating the "outside" of the hand. Yet this value includes the same "thumb" value used for the "inside" total.

What does "Outside Surface=.28" refer to when the "back" and "thumb" are ALREADY included?

Doesn't "Inside" refer to the inside of the hand (palm and inside of the fingers), and "Outside" to the back (back of hand and back side of fingers) of the hand?

Tom,

I think I have it figured out.

The Outside Surface reading is from the outside of the cast, and it acts as a control. It should be very low. A high reading indicates contamination of the cast.

The Inside Total reading might be better named as Inside Surface, so as to be consistent with the Outside Surface name. It is, of course, from the inside of the cast. And that is why it includes all the (non-outside) readings, including Back.

The Outside/Inside ratio is like the Outside Surface reading in that it gives an indication of contamination. But it is normalized relative to Inside Surface reading to "put it in context," so to speak. It gives the "contamination reading" a more meaningful unit of measure (percentage).

The Excluding Palm reading is, of course, the Inside Total reading minus the Palm reading. I imagine that this is the "important" reading, because the distribution of GSR on a hand that has fired a gun (and in particular a revolver) will be primarily on the back of the hand and on the thumb, not the palm.

It seems to me that an even more useful number would be the ExcludingPalm/InsideTotal ratio (which is a concoction of my own making), because it normalizes the Excluding Palm number thus giving it a more meaningful unit of measure (percentage). The closer to 100% this is for the FIRING HAND, the higher the likelihood that the hand fired a gun.

I'm curious to see what the ExcludingPalm/InsideTotal ratio is for each of Oswald's hands.

BARIUM ExcludingPalm/InsideTotal Ratio

Left: 36.2%

Right: 44.9%

Ratios close to 50% or so would mean nothing other than the front and back of the hand have about the same amount of GSR on them. So these ratios here should be considered negatives. Of course the WC didn't report that. Rather, it reported that the GSRs detected by the NAA test MAY have been introduced to Oswald's hands by his handling of his guns. And this leaves open the possibility that the GSR was indeed introduced by firing the weapons.

Now, get ready for the interesting part. Let's look at the Inside Total barium levels. If no gun was fired (which would raise the level of GSRs on the firing hand), one might expect the levels of barium on the two hands to be similar. But they aren't:

BARIUM InsideTotal

Left: 3.15

Right: 6.32

Even though a gun was not fired, the right hand has twice the barium level that the left hand does. How can that be? Well, that could happen if somebody were to "pepper" the inside of the right cast with barium without paying any attention to a distribution of GSR indicative of a gun being fired.

Or it could be that Oswald just happened to have handled more "common substances" with his right hand than his left. Or perhaps he was tricked into doing so.

Edited by Sandy Larsen

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The Outside Surface is the outside of the cast, and it acts as a control. Its reading should be very low. A high reading indicates contamination of the cast.

This is something I had considered, but according to the test evaluation, the outside of the cast was HIGH due to contamination and this chart states that it was VERY low.

The ratio of palm to back of hand is not given. If you are looking to exonerate the subject the ratio of palm to back of hand is the best indicator of gun shot v. contamination from paint for example.

Or it could be that Oswald just happened to have handled more "common substances" with his right hand than his left. Or perhaps he was tricked into doing so.

Oswald was right-handed. The left hand of most right-handers does very little except when BOTH hands are required for lifting something large. Therefore he very probably touched much more 'stuff' with his right hand than with his left, acquiring more contamination in the process. This is reflected in the chart numbers.

Keeping in mind that the FBI itself conducted the tests, and although they DESPERATELY wanted a positive, they rendered a verdict of INCONCLUSIVE due to excessive contamination. When EVEN the FBI was *unwilling* to lie to achieve a positive, it is impossible to dismiss the specter of evidence tampering.

Sandy,

Check your mailbox for a PM...

Tom

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Did the FBI deliberately mean this to be obfuscatory?

I mean from the start? Or did they see it going to much towards being exculpatory for Oswald and so they contaminated the casts.

I mean it is hard to buy that they would not know the casts were contaminated when they got them.

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Did the FBI deliberately mean this to be obfuscatory?

I mean from the start? Or did they see it going to much towards being exculpatory for Oswald and so they contaminated the casts.

I mean it is hard to buy that they would not know the casts were contaminated when they got them.

I think it's pretty well spelled out in my chapter. The FBI didn't want to do the NAA tests. They then set up the tests in such a way that Guinn--who performed the controls--would never know the results of the tests on Oswald's casts. They then failed to tell the WC about the tests. An AEC scientist who'd been cut out of the loop started talking about the value of the tests, however, and this led the AEC to fess up about the tests.. The FBI then kept the test results out of the WC's records. The test results were, in fact, never released by the FBI, but by the AEC, as it had no desire to become entangled in a long drawn-out lawsuit with Weisberg and Lesar.

The contamination on the cheek cast with barium is actually just a red herring, IMO, as the cast needed to be positive for both barium and antimony to be considered positive for gsr, and the antimony level was too low to be considered a positive. (Now, this, of course, is my opinion, based on the available documents. No expert on gsr analysis has ever commented on the actual test results.)

Edited by Pat Speer
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Did the FBI deliberately mean this to be obfuscatory?

I mean from the start? Or did they see it going to much towards being exculpatory for Oswald and so they contaminated the casts.

I mean it is hard to buy that they would not know the casts were contaminated when they got them.

Jim,

The FBI did not want to do the NAA tests at all. The AEC pushed hard to convince them to do it, and eventually they agreed to "assist" the FBI in performing the tests. I posted a memo to this effect from the AEC who stated that it "NEVER" wrote up a report on the results. The FBI only agreed to do the tests when they were guaranteed "complete" control of the results. I haven't had time to go through Harold Weisberg's stuff in the archive, but he has a lot of stuff on it published in the most recent version of Post Mortem.

More than once I have asked Mr. Speer to post the reports he has so the "raw data" can be seen by all for evaluation. I have also posted several questions regarding his 'essay' but he has chosen to ignore them.

Tom

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Did the FBI deliberately mean this to be obfuscatory?

I mean from the start? Or did they see it going to much towards being exculpatory for Oswald and so they contaminated the casts.

I mean it is hard to buy that they would not know the casts were contaminated when they got them.

At the moment, below is my best guess as to what happened with the NAA tests. (If you don't wish to read the whole thing -- which ties everything together -- just read the final paragraph.) Note that what I have here doesn't deal with the possible tampering of the tests.

The DPD performed the nitrate tests. The nitrate tests on the hands showed positive (or at least they felt a positive result could reasonably be argued). But the nitrate test on the right cheek showed negative.

This was a big problem because the cheek test was the important one, as it was directly tied to the shooting of the president, whereas the hand tests were more tied to the shooting of a policeman.

So they set out to "prove" that the nitrate test was unreliable. Problem solved.

Unfortunately for them, the AEC pushed hard for the NAA tests to be performed. The FBI ultimately agreed, but only if they could control the results.

So the NAA tests were performed. As with the nitrate tests, the NAA tests on the hands showed positive. But, due to low antimony levels, the NAA tests on the cheek showed negative. So again, the all-important cheek test came back wrong... not what they wanted.

What was the FBI to do this time? Prove that the NAA test was unreliable just as they had supposedly done with the nitrate test?

There was no need to go that far, as they controlled the numbers. And besides, the NAA test was now their test of choice for GSR detection. They surely couldn't trash that! But they could trash the results of the NAA tests for Oswald alone. Simply by making them inconclusive.

Still, not wanting to lose the positive NAA results on Oswald's hands, the WC didn't go so far as to declare them inconclusive. They did so only indirectly, in a way that requires careful reading of the Warren Report. In one place the report states:

"....there was more barium and antimony present on the casts than would normally be found on the hands of a person who had not fired a weapon or handled a fired weapon...."

which gives the impression that Oswald's hands tested positive. But elsewhere they say:

"Since barium and antimony were present in both the rifle and the revolver cartridge cases, their presence on the casts were not evidence that Oswald had fired the rifle."

which downplays the positive result. (Correctly so.)

As for the NAA test on the cheek, the WC did report that it was inconclusive. Even though in reality it was negative.

So why didn't the WC use the full force of the positive NAA tests on Oswald's hands against him? Because if they did, critics would have likely demanded to see the missing antimony numbers for the cheek test. But since the Warren Report essentially said that all the paraffin tests were inconclusive, there was no motive for critics to question them.

Edited by Sandy Larsen
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I agree with most of what you wrote, Sandy, but you had one detail wrong.

The nitrate tests were performed by the DPD.

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Has anyone seen any ACTUAL documentation on the NITRATE test results? Not just the "evaluation" that the hands tested "positive." Looking at some legal sites and what the response of a defense lawyer should be, it is clearly stated that they should:

1. require a TOTAL particle count of each hand including front and back

2. require a SEPARATE particle count for the front and the back of each hand

3. require particle count of any specific areas that have a higher than average concentration

4. produce the REQUIRED documents outlining the procedure followed to take the casts, the procedure used to analyze and evaluate the results, a timeline from the moment the subject was apprehended until a conclusion was reached, and the name and qualifications of ALL persons involved.

AFAIK, not one of the above has ever been produced. Without this info, any conclusion reached is relying solely on information from the DPD and FBI who have unquestionably lied repeatedly regarding these test results in a concerted ongoing effort to convict LHO.

Edited by Tom Neal
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This is a DRAWING done on 11-23-1963 by the DPD, of the Nitrates present on the paraffin casts of LHO's RIGHT HAND. Note the BACK of his hand as depicted in the drawing on the left:

The only nitrates grouping present is located at the base of his thumb. Note how much more is located on the underside of his thumb! After 5 shots with a .38 revolver this is the amount of nitrates that is considered a "Positive" result?

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Do you see now how a suppressed shot from the Dal-Tex Building could sound like it originated from the Triple Underpass?

Yes, I do.

I believe this is why so many of the witnesses stated the shots they heard were either from the TSBD or from down near the rail yard. When you think of it, it was a brilliantly executed plan that allowed for the escape of a shooter from the Dal-Tex Building.

Interesting. Do you have any other evidence that points to the use of the Dal-Tex building by a sniper?

I'll probably be booed for saying this, but I haven't discounted the possibility of James Files being one of the snipers. (I should note that I haven't yet put much time into studying Files' story.) His own involvement (if there was one) might contradict what your saying. But what he says about Charles Roselli shooting from the Dal-Tex building supports it.

Not really, except the Dal-Tex Building would make for a much better shot, with no trees in the way.

http://www.prayer-man.com/sniper-position-in-daltex-building-by-shell-hershorn/#

If there was any doubt as to the origin of the first suppressed shot, most witnesses would believe it came from above them or further down Elm St., as I believe was the intention. If the last shot was a frontal shot and it was unsuppressed, this would likely convince the witnesses that all of the shots had come from further down Elm St.

Why the conspirators would do this, if the plan was to frame a shooter on the 6th floor, is unfathomable in the context of normal thinking, just as the final shot from the front was unfathomable, as it clearly showed shooters in different locations. I believe the original plan was either nothing like the lone nut story, or the shooter that fired the final shot was, as Files claimed, only there as a last resort if everyone else missed.

I suppose the shooters were more concerned with not getting caught than they were with framing someone else. They used silencers so they could just walk away.

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The Outside Surface is the outside of the cast, and it acts as a control. Its reading should be very low. A high reading indicates contamination of the cast.

This is something I had considered, but according to the test evaluation, the outside of the cast was HIGH due to contamination and this chart states that it was VERY low.

When you say "test evaluation," are you thinking of the following sentence in which the word "casts" is plural?

" ....the results were inconclusive....because of earlier contamination of the casts...." (From General Atomic Report GA-6152 to the AEC, page 11.)

If you are, then I'm inclined to conclude that the word "casts" in the sentence should have been "cheek cast." Because I'm pretty sure that "Outside Surface" in the NAA-hands-test table you posted is referring to the outside of the cast, which should be (nearly) GSR-chemical free.

Or, maybe the plural word "casts" in that sentence is correct, but the contamination for the hand cast was contained within its inside surface, whereas the contamination of the cheek cast extended to the outside surface.

Edited by Sandy Larsen
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Or it could be that Oswald just happened to have handled more "common substances" with his right hand than his left. Or perhaps he was tricked into doing so.

Oswald was right-handed. The left hand of most right-handers does very little except when BOTH hands are required for lifting something large. Therefore he very probably touched much more 'stuff' with his right hand than with his left, acquiring more contamination in the process. This is reflected in the chart numbers.

Keeping in mind that the FBI itself conducted the tests, and although they DESPERATELY wanted a positive, they rendered a verdict of INCONCLUSIVE due to excessive contamination. When EVEN the FBI was *unwilling* to lie to achieve a positive, it is impossible to dismiss the specter of evidence tampering.

Sandy,

Check your mailbox for a PM...

Tom

I think it's possible that the FBI tampered with the casts with the intention of showing, with the NAA tests, that Oswald fired the guns, and then later ditched that plan. Or they tampered with them with the intention of having the test show inconclusive... because they didn't want to deal with the same problem they had with the nitrate tests, which was a positive for the hand test (revolver/policeman) yet a negative result for the more-important cheek test (rifle/president).

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I agree with most of what you wrote, Sandy, but you had one detail wrong.

The nitrate tests were performed by the DPD.

Thanks for pointing that out, Pat. I've corrected it.

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Tom, keep pushing for that stuff from Weisberg.

Doesn't Tom R a Who Killed JFK actually have the diagrams of the hands from the DPD nitrate test.

And yes I agree with you Tom on the more definite information.

I don't know why its so hard to come by.

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There's nothing secret about the DPD drawings of the hand casts. They are in multiple locations on the Mary Ferrell site and in the Dallas PD archives. The Weisberg stuff was stuff he got through a FOIA case. It was pretty much ignored until I purchased a CD-rom of that stuff from Hood College in 2007. A few years later they started the Weisberg Archives website. I'd assumed they'd put everything online, but in looking through the archives the other day, I couldn't find all of it. (It's a very difficult website to navigate.)

In any event, at the risk of upsetting Hood College, I've decided to go ahead and put some of the documents I received online. That way this stuff--if it isn't already up on the Weisberg site-won't get lost forever. And while I'm at it, I've decided to put up a lot of the WC documents I downloaded from Howard Willens' site, which have been unavailable for quite some time now. (I think he got upset when I started using things in his journal to cast doubt on the commission's conclusions.)

P.S. The thought occurs that some of you think official reports were written on the NAA tests. The FBI writes memos in which they state their overall conclusions, but they put no hard data in these memos. This is by design...that way they can never be second-guessed. When Weisberg tried to get the FBI to give up its notes and hard data on the NAA tests, the Nixon Administration invoked National Security to shut it all down. But Weisberg persevered, and eventually got a few hundred pages on the tests themselves from the successor to the AEC, who'd conducted the tests under the guidance of the FBI. These were dumped at Weisberg's house. Which is really kind of sneaky, when you think of it. If it ever came down to it--they could always deny they were real. I mean, it's not as if any of this stuff was ever sent to NARA. In any event, most of these notes are illegible computer print-outs, followed by pages and pages of hand-written calculations, and the occasional hand-written note describing what these print-outs supposedly show.

Still, mixed in with all this are some nuggets. There are a few hand-written summary sheets of the various tests performed on the bullet fragments and paraffin casts. I relied upon these sheets to create the slides I present on my website. In looking back through these pages today, however, something caught my eye, and I realized one of the calculations on the sheet was in error. They had 90/2883 as .003 when it should have been .03. This was a significant mistake. This was the measurement for antimony on the one FBI control for a cheek cast. They fired one shot from the M/C rifle after cleaning it thoroughly, and measured the residue. And it left twice as much antimony as was found on Oswald's cheek cast, after he'd supposedly fired the rifle three times. This .03 measurement was more in line with the results Guinn received for his controls, moreover. It solves one of the mysteries surrounding the test results and makes a heckuva lot more sense.

Edited by Pat Speer

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