Warren Commission

Conflicting Evidence of Bullets and Shells

In The Shooting of J.D. Tippit


Winchester/Western

CE 602 (FBI Q-13)

From Tippit's Body

 

Dallas police say exhibit 602 is the only bullet in their possession.

Volume III, page 474

?
   

Winchester/Western

CE 603

From Tippit's Body ?

 

Cunningham later went back to the Dallas Police Department at the request of the Commission and found three more bullets.

Volume III, page 474

?

Winchester/Western

CE 605

From Tippit's Body ?
 

 

Remington/Peters

CE 604

From Tippit's Body ?
 

 

   

Remington/Peters?

Eddie Kinsley bullet?

 

"And this one that they missed hit him in the button. And it fell off the ambulance still in this button. And I would give a million dollars if I had never kicked that thing out."

Ambulance driver Eddie Kinsley 1978 Golz interview

 


 

Winchester/Western?

Hill vs. Poe testimony?

 

". . . and POE showed me . . three spent jackets."

DPD officer Gerald Hill ~ Volume VII, page 48

 

   
   

Winchester/Western

Q 75

(DPD officer) J.M. Poe told the Commission he had only two shells.

Volume VII, pages 68 to 69

 

       

Remington/Peters

Q 77

Poe indicated he marked the two shells with "JMP" but could not find his identification on any of the shells.

Volume XXIV, page 415

 

   
   

Remington/Peters

Q 74

"Later in the day each woman (Tippit crime scene witnesses Virginia and Barbara Davis) found an empty shell on the ground near the house."

Internet Warren Report, page 97

 

       

Winchester/Western

Q 76

Barbara and Virginia Davis could not identify their shells when asked to do so.

Volume XXIV, page 414

 


Cortlandt Cunningham was the FBI's firearms expert.  

"The bullet, Q-13 (CE 602). . . is so badly mutilated that there is not sufficient individual microscopic characteristics present for identification purposes."

Volume XXIV, page 263

Joseph D. Nicol was the firearms identification expert for the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, Illinois Department of Public Safety.  

"He (Nicol) declared that this bullet (CE 602) was fired from the same weapon that fired the test bullets to the exclusion of all other weapons."

Internet Warren Report, page 99

 

Compare Nicol's observation to Cunningham's and it is easy to see why the Warren Commission used Nicol's conclusion.

 
Additional Comments
 
On July 14, 2004 Dale Myers e-mailed me with his observations concerning my Additional Comments discussed below. In an attempt to have the reader get the whole picture, Dale's remarks appear in blue after each section. This is followed by my remarks and conclusion..

You may wish to review Chapter 8 of Dale K. Meyer's, With Malice Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer JD Tippit printed in 1998 by Oak Cliff Press. This chapter, entitled Proof Positive (pages 250 through 274), reviews the ballistics evidence. I find some of Dale's discussion points in need of amplification.

From page 255 ~ "The broken chain of possession, coupled with the mismatched shells and bullets, is considered by supporters of the theory (that an unknown gunman shot Tippit) as a clear evidence of a sloppy frame up." Actually this writer never concluded there was a frame up. My point has been that, all things considered, the prosecution would have had difficulty proving Oswald guilty of the Tippit assassination.

In my opinion, while Dale is honest in pointing out some of the unresolved issues, several comments in this chapter tend to gloss over problems related to the chain of custody. What follows are a couple of examples:

1) The Bullets

From page 250 ~ "The bullets removed from Tippit's body during the autopsy were marked and turned over to the FBI, along with the bullet and police button removed earlier at Methodist Hospital."

If this statement is accurate then what are we to make of the comment found in Warren Commission Volume III, page 474?

"Cunningham later went back to the Dallas Police Department at the request of the Commission and found three more bullets."

The truth is no bullets were ever turned over to the FBI. Cunningham returned to Dallas months later, went through some file cabinets and came up with the bullets. As far as I'm concerned a clear break in the chain of custody.

Your statement that "no bullets were ever turned over to the FBI" is incorrect.

One bullet and a uniform button were turned over to the FBI for testing on the night of 11-22-63. The three other bullets were turned over to the FBI on 3-13-64 after the first bullet proved insufficient to determine the source weapon. All of this information is detailed in With Malice (pp.641-42, endnote 697)

The Cunningham remark is a small part of how the FBI came to possess all of the bullets. (See endnote 697)

As far as "a clear break in the chain of custody," all of the bullets were identified by the markings placed on them. The bullet and button removed at Methodist was marked by R.A. Davenport and the three bullets removed at Parkland during the autopsy were marked by Earl F. Rose. (24H415 CE2011, p.9)

2) The Shells

From page 263 ~ In 1996 Dale interviewed Tippit shooting lead investigator, Jim Leavelle. "'Poe did not mark them,' Leavelle said of the shells recovered at the Tippit scene. 'There was no reason to mark the [hulls]. There is an evidence bag that is marked with the offense number along with your initials.'"

From page 265 again referring to Poe ~ "'Sometimes officers think they are doing the right thing and get in over their heads,' Leavelle sighed."

At Volume XXIV, page 415 we find "Poe indicated he marked the two shells with 'JMP', but could not find his identification on any of the shells."

So 32 years after Poe's testimony an attempt is made to soften another problem with the evidence. We now discover that Poe in trying to do the right thing gets in over his head and as a result decides to perjure himself before the Warren Commission?

Jim Leavelle indicated there was no reason for the police to initial the hulls. What then of the shells discovered by the Davis sisters? When the Commission counsel asked that they look for their marks they claimed they couldn't find any. (Volume XXIV, page 414) For Jim Leavelle's opinion to hold up I would have thought they would say, "We were never asked to mark the shells."?

In essence the Warren Commission counsel's questions and the responses of the witnesses would lead one to believe that Poe and the Davis sisters were asked to mark the shells. With all this last minute obfuscation I can see where some might concluded there was a frame up.

You state that the Commission counsel asked the Davis sisters to look for their marks in the shells and that upon doing so they couldn't find them. You cite 24H414 as the foundation for this claim. Later, you conclude that the WC counsel's "questions and the responses of the witnesses would lead one to believe that ... the Davis sisters were asked to mark the shells."

In fact, Dave, the WC never showed either of the Davis women the shells in question and did not ask them to look for their marks. (See their WC testimony)

Your citation of 24H414 is part of an FBI report dated 7-7-64 in which the FBI exhibited the shells to the Davis women on 6-18-64. The FBI reported "[Barbara Davis] cannot identify the cartridge case she found as being one of those exhibited to her," and "[Virginia Davis] advised she was unable to identify the cartridge case she found as being one of the four exhibited to her."

The FBI report, contrary to your webpage, does not indicate that the Davis women marked the shells and then later couldn't find them, or in any way suggests that they ever marked them. If anything, the only conclusion one could come to after reading the report is that neither of the Davis women put any kind of an identifier on the shells before turning them over to police (who, BTW, in this instance did mark the shells). Nor would we expect the Davis women to have a reason to mark the shells.

What remains is Joe Poe's testimony that he marked the shells and the fact that his mark is not on them. I agree that Leavelle's more recent comment could be an attempt to soften problems with the evidence, but Leavelle has known Poe for a number of years (through the retired police officers association) and I got the sense that Leavelle, who was very reluctant to tell me this, knew first hand that Poe never marked the shells and wanted the issue to be put to rest. Are his comments to me the truth, or an effort to cover-up? I guess it's a matter of opinion. But, to me, Leavelle's remarks are the only thing that makes any sense when all things are considered.

My Response To Dale

I was trying to show that more than likely a competent defense attorney could put forward a case of reasonable doubt with respect to Oswald's shooting of Tippit based upon the evidentiary trail. That attorney could argue the case based upon my chart of Tippit evidence that appears above the "Additional Comments" segment of my report.

My exhibit shows the FBI did receive one bullet (CE 602/FBI Q-13) within hours of the Tippit shooting. Your note to me indicates that the remaining bullets were retrieved by Cunningham on 03/13/64. This is in opposition to your statement in the book that "The bullets removed from Tippit's body during the autopsy were marked and turned over to the FBI, along with the bullet and police button removed earlier at Methodist Hospital." That remark implies that all the bullets were turned over to the FBI at the same time. The truth is the missing bullets were somewhere in Dallas police custody for three and a half months before being collected by Cunningham.

To me this is the crux of the chain of possession issue. At this point the fact that the authorities were dealing with a bullet not as claimed bullets is something an attorney could easily challenge. The attorney would argue - If the FBI had all the bullets why was Cunningham dispatched back to Dallas?

And specific to that bullet, it was the one that FBI employee Cunningham claimed "is so badly mutilated that there is not sufficient individual microscopic characteristics present for identification purposes."

Volume XXIV, page 263

However, the attorney handling the case, when reading The Warren Report would find the following: "He (Nicol) declared that this bullet (CE 602) was fired from the same weapon that fired the test bullets to the exclusion of all other weapons."

The attorney could use this as an affirmative defense showing both the chain of possession and testing flawed. You say as much yourself with "the first bullet proved insufficient to determine the source weapon." Since you statement is accurate why wasn't this point brought out in The Warren Report?

You indicate "The Cunningham remark is a small part of how the FBI came to possess all the bullets." I disagree - it's a major point in proving problems with the chain of possession. If I were a defense attorney, such as Gerry Spence, here is what I would say in summation.

"Cunninghan could not show the only bullet in the FBI's possession was from the Oswald pistol because it was 'so badly mutilated.' So what does the FBI do to set up my client? First they bury the Cunningham report, then they hire a new 'expert' from the Illinois Department of Public Safety. I should think the FBI expert is more qualified but let's face it he couldn't come up with the result the government wanted. In a complete reversal of the Cummingham report Mr. Nicol indicates 'this bullet (CE 602) was fired from the same weapon that fired the test bullets to the exclusion of all other weapons.' Well now my friends the Warren Commission has what they want but they still see the potential for problems on appeal with two reports that contradict each other - so what do they do - they send Mr. Cunningham down to Dallas with a 'Son see if you can find us more evidence.' The dutiful Mr. Cunningham, the very expert whose report was dismissed, rummages through some file cabinets and well look at that - he finds some more bullets! Of course there is no record of who had access to the cabinet but never mind the government finally got what they wanted."

The situation with the shells is one of confusion but I certainly don't think anybody was trying to cover up anything. At trial the defense attorney would only have to show that under oath Poe claimed he marked two shells with "JMP" but could not find the marks when shown the shells.

And no matter how, when and where Special Agents Albert and Wulff contacted, on different days, both of the Davis sisters and showed them four cartridge cases - neither sister could identify the casings as the ones they discovered. Additionally, the later in the day discovery of the shells by the Davis sisters could be construed and argued by the defense as a compromise of the crime scene.

Conclusion

Over the years I came to believe that Oswald was responsible for Tippit's death. Taking it one step further it was something I set out to prove or disprove for Unsolved History. In my opinion I showed it was likely that Oswald shot Tippit to death. However, no matter what I came up with, during any criminal trial, the defense attorney would demand the bullet and the shell evidence be thrown out for lack of proof. To me there is no question that if the court refused to comply the case would be appealed. On appeal the case would be sent back to be re-tried without the bullet and shell evidence. That was and still is the only point I was trying to make.

 
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