Press/Journalists
Press Release
January 21, 2000
Lab Tests on Kennedy Assassination Evidence Now Complete

Washington, DC. . . A report on laboratory analyses of evidence from the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy was released today by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). ( The report follows this press release).

The evidence analyzed was Warren Commission Exhibit (CE) #567 containing the nose portion of a bullet recovered from the limousine in which the President was riding. The exhibit, which has been in NARA custody since 1966, consisted of five fragments: one copper and lead fragment with adhering fibrous debris, and four smaller pieces of organic material. Tests were made of the debris and the organic material to determine their composition for possible relevance to the Commission's conclusion that alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

In requesting such tests, the Department of Justice said that if "alleged fiber evidence embedded in the bullet nose recovered from the front seat of the limousine" was "consistent with the President's shirt collar, tie, and tie liner," then there might have been a "different trajectory than that previously identified" by the Warren Commission. Scientists concluded from the test that the fibers were of a non-textile origin and did not come from the clothing of John F. Kennedy, nor of John B. Connally. The Department of Justice also had speculated that the organic fragments might shed light on the assassination, but DNA analysis of them proved inconclusive.

Most of the analysis was accomplished on site at NARA. Instrumental analysis of a portion of the fibrous material was undertaken at the FBI Laboratory (Washington, DC); histological preparations of samples taken from the four organic fragments were processed at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (Walter Reed Complex); and mitochondrial DNA examinations of samples taken from the four organic fragments were conducted at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (Rockville, MD).

The final report on the investigation, entitled "Further Scientific Examination of JFK Assassination Evidence," describes the scientific decision-making process, summarizes the findings, and appends the individual laboratory reports. The three investigative agencies that cooperated on the project were the FBI Laboratory, The Armed Forces Medical Examiner, and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory. The Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine of the Maimonides Medical Center and the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education supplied independent participants in the testing.

For press information or a COMPLETE copy of the report, please contact Susan Cooper of the Public Affairs Staff of the National Archives and Records Administration at (202) 501-5526 (1/21/00 only) or at (301) 837-1700 thereafter.

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Further Scientific Examination of JFK Assassination Evidence

Mary T. Baker, Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education

Margaret Ann T. Kelly, NARA Document Conservation Research and Testing Laboratory

December 14, 1999

Summary:

On August 12, 1998, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) announced that it was working with the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) to arrange for the further scientific examination of physical evidence from the assassination of the former president, now in the custody of NARA. That examination process, outlined in Chapter 6, Part II, of the Final Report of the ARRB (September 1998), and described therein as "ongoing…at the time of this writing," is now complete.

The evidence under consideration has been Warren Commission Exhibit (C.E.) 567, the nose portion of a bullet recovered from the front seat of the limousine in which the President was riding. This exhibit actually consisted of five fragments: one larger copper and lead fragment with adhering fibrous debris, and four smaller pieces of organic material. The specific purpose of additional scientific examination has been to determine the composition of the adhering fibrous material and of the smaller nonmetallic fragments.

During September 1998, a panel of experts in the areas of histology, DNA analysis, organic materials, and fibrous trace evidence met in the offices of the National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, Maryland, in order to evaluate C.E. 567 and to develop and implement an appropriate course of analysis. Participants included the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory, The Armed Forces Medical Examiner, The Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine of the Maimonides Medical Center, the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL), and the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE).

Most of the examinations recommended by the panel were accomplished on site at NARA. Instrumental analysis of a portion of the fibrous material was undertaken at the FBI Laboratory (Washington, DC); histological preparations of samples taken from the four organic fragments were processed at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (Walter Reed Complex); and mitochondrial DNA examinations of samples taken from the four organic fragments were conducted at AFDIL (Rockville, MD).

The fibrous debris recovered from the bullet fragment of C.E. 567 was determined to consist of paper fibers and unidentified proteinaceous material of non-textile origin; and accordingly, did not originate from the clothing of John F. Kennedy or John B. Connally.

The four smaller fragments of organic material were determined on microscopic examination to consist of human skin and tissue, but it was not possible to establish the precise body area of origin. DNA analyses of these tissue fragments yielded inconclusive results; accordingly, no comparison of the questioned human tissue with known sources is currently possible.

Background:

In its August 1998 recommendations to ARRB regarding proposed testing of JFK assassination evidence, NARA advocated the involvement of a technical coordinator, independent of the FBI or other primary examining agency, whose role would be to ensure that the contemplated examinations were undertaken in a logical, concerted sequence. As implemented, this function has been shared: Dr. Mary T. Baker (SCMRE) has provided expert scientific oversight, review, and continuity to the examination process; while the NARA Document Conservation Research and Testing Laboratory has coordinated the associated technical record-keeping and reporting.

Scope:

This report outlines the scientific decision-making process which evolved as a result of deliberate multi-agency collaboration and consensus, and summarizes the results and conclusions reached as a result of the examinations undertaken. These findings are based on the work of the experts consulted, and do not constitute independent opinions of NARA staff.

Specific Examinations (following):

Fibrous Trace Evidence Examination and Comparison . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Examination of Suspected Biological Tissue and /or Organic Material. . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

Appendices:

Participants. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7

Schedule of Testing Procedures. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

Objects Examined . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Attachments (Individual Reports):

Adobe Acrobat PDF Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory Report of microscopic and instrumental fiber analysis dated September 18, 1998

Adobe Acrobat PDF(Joint) Maimonides Medical Center and Armed Forces Medical Examiner Report of histological examinations dated September 16, 1998

Adobe Acrobat PDFArmed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory Report of mitochondrial DNA analysis dated November 2, 1999



Fibrous Trace Evidence Examination and Comparison

The bullet nose fragment recovered from the front seat of the presidential limousine on November 22, 1963, and ultimately designated Commission Exhibit (C.E.) 567, was apparently placed, on collection, into a seamless metal can lined with cotton batting.

As observed during the evaluations reported here, adhering to the surface of the lead portion and partially obscured by the copper jacket portion of C.E. 567 bullet fragment were off-white colored fibers of likely vegetable origin. The apparent firm adherence of these fibers to the substrate rendered them of greater interest than the "ambient debris" and loose fibers observed over other surfaces of this exhibit.

A review of available records indicated that the following textiles in the vicinity of the limousine interior were likely disrupted or perforated by bullet(s): C.E. 393 (Kennedy jacket), C.E. 394 (Kennedy shirt), C.E. 395 (Kennedy necktie), C.E. 683 (Connally jacket), C.E. 685 (Connally shirt), and C.E. 687 (Connally trousers). No such damage to the textile or leather component(s) of the limousine interior itself was reported.

On microscopic examination of C.E. 567 fibers in situ, the panel scientists agreed to the following consensus statements:

The questioned fibrous material could not be identified and compared without removal from the substrate.

The fibrous material should be removed for further examination and comparison.

The fibrous material could be removed and examined microscopically on-site at NARA for preliminary characterization prior to obtaining known samples for comparison.

Accordingly, the questioned fibrous material was removed en masse from C.E. 567 and mounted on a glass microslide for further examination. As initially placed on the slide, a portion of the material was observed to appear similar to tissue-paper: a thin sheet of randomly oriented wood pulp paper fibers. The material was then teased apart using a dissecting needle to better distribute the fibers for microscopic identification.

An additional, distinctly different fibrous material was then noted: a few long, slightly crimped, transparent, yellowish bundles with fibrils which appeared "plastic-like" to some observers and "leather/collagen-like" to others.

It was the consensus of the panel scientists that this unidentified material, which on microscopic examination did not appear to be of textile origin, should be referred for instrumental analysis.

Accordingly, the unidentified fibrous material was examined at the FBI Laboratory (Washington, DC), where instrumental analysis using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) enabled classification of the material as protein and its exclusion as a synthetic polymer.

A portion of the fibrous batting present in the seamless metal can of C.E. 567 was mounted on a glass slide, and on microscopic examination was found to be dissimilar to the fibrous materials recovered from C.E. 567 bullet nose fragment. It cannot be determined from available records whether this particular batting was in the seamless can on original collection of C.E. 567, but it was observed that the current batting bears no visible trace of blood or other body fluid.

On stereomicroscopic examination of the known perforated textiles, the panel scientists agreed to the following consensus statement:

With respect to C.E. 393 (Kennedy jacket), C.E. 394 (Kennedy shirt), C.E. 395 (Kennedy tie), C.E. 683 (Connally jacket), C.E. 685 (Connally shirt), and C.E. 687 (Connally trousers), the materials in the areas of perforation can be eliminated as sources of the questioned fibers recovered from C.E. 567 bullet fragment without the need for further sampling and microscopic comparison.

Accordingly, no samples of the known clothing articles were taken.

The fibrous debris recovered from the bullet fragment of C.E. 567 was thus determined to consist of paper fibers and unidentified proteinaceous material of non-textile origin, and did not originate from the clothing of John F. Kennedy or John B. Connally.



Examination of Suspected Biological Tissue and/or Organic Material

A review of the handwritten work sheets of the U. S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) Firearm Examination Panel revealed that in 1978, examiners noted the presence of "apparent beeswax" [John S. Bates, Jr.] and "what appears to be wax" [Monty C. Lutz and Andrew M. Newquist] along with the metallic portion of C.E. 567 bullet nose fragment.

As observed during the evaluations reported here, four fragments of suspected biological tissue and/or organic material were present with C.E. 567. On microscopic examination, the panel scientists agreed to the following consensus statements:

    The bio/organic material(s) cannot be identified and compared without sampling.

    The material(s) cannot be eliminated as biological tissue without sampling.

    Each of the four fragments should be sampled for further examination and comparison.

    The examination sequence should be: (1) Histology, to determine if the material is biological tissue; and if so, whether it is human; (2a) DNA analysis of human tissue, if present; and if successful, comparison with known sources; and/or (2b) Instrumental analysis of organic material of non-tissue origin, if present.

Accordingly, each of the four fragments was aseptically cut in half, with one half referred for histological examination. The remaining half of each fragment was aseptically cored, with the inner portion reserved for possible DNA or instrumental analyses (pending the outcome of histological examinations) and the remainder saved "for the future."

The four samples of bio/organic material taken for histological examinations were re-hydrated and fixed on-site at NARA. Dr. Michael R. Zimmerman (Maimonides Medical Center), an expert in the histological examination of old and degraded human tissue (having undertaken field work involving the University of Innsbruck Iceman Project and the paleopathology of Egyptian and Aleutian mummies) provided the chemical solutions for this initial work-up. Further processing to paraffin-embed, section, mount, and stain the preparations was undertaken at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (Walter Reed Complex) at the direction of Dr. Jerry D. Spencer, Armed Forces Medical Examiner.

On microscopic examination of the resulting histological slides, the four nonmetallic fragments of C.E. 567 were determined to consist of human skin and tissue in varying states of preservation, but it was not possible to establish the precise body area of origin (e.g. scalp, torso, limb). One of the samples was reported to include small black non-tissue-related particles which were suggested to be ammunition residue, but further testing of this debris was not undertaken. Another of the samples was reported to include possible fungal or insect fragments, but further mycological or entomological identification of this invasion was not sought.

On microscopic examination by the panel pathologists and DNA scientists, the unidentified proteinaceous material recovered from the bullet nose fragment C.E. 567 was deemed unsuitable, due to its fibrous aspect, for either histological sectioning or DNA analysis.

    It was the consensus of the panel scientists that the four fragments identified as human tissue should undergo mitochondrial DNA examinations. The age and apparent degradation of the tissue were deemed to likely preclude the success of nuclear DNA analyses.

    With respect to mitochondrial DNA examinations, it was the consensus of the panel scientists that the issue of obtaining known samples for comparison, whether from the bloody clothing or from maternally-related family members, should not be considered until after it could be determined whether such a comparison were even possible, based on analysis of the questioned material.

Accordingly, no samples of the known clothing articles were taken.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analyses of the four core samples of human tissue were conducted at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (Rockville, MD), where scientists have developed considerable expertise in the examination of older, degraded samples (military remains). Although mtDNA was successfully extracted and amplified from the specimens, inconclusive sequence information was obtained for these four core samples. Additional amplification and sequencing attempts using the four paraffin-embedded samples remaining from the histological examination also proved inconclusive. As a result, no comparison of the questioned tissue with known sources is currently possible.



Participants in the Evaluation of JFK Assassination Evidence at NARA

September 1998

Baker, Dr. Mary T. Polymer Chemist, Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE)

Blumenfeld, Ms. Laura R. Assistant General Counsel, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

Burmeister, Mr. Steven C. Chief, Chemistry Unit, FBI Laboratory

Constance, Mr. John A. Director, Congressional Affairs, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

Deedrick, Mr. Douglas W. Chief, Trace Evidence Unit, FBI Laboratory

DiZinno, Dr. Joseph A. Chief, DNA-II Unit, FBI Laboratory

Fram, Mr. Robert B. Forensic Examiner, Trace Evidence Unit, FBI Laboratory

Grover, Mr. William D. Archivist, Special Access and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Staff, NARA

Hamilton, Mr. Steven L. Archives Specialist, Special Access and FOIA Staff, NARA

Hastings, Mr. James J. Director, Textual Archives Services Division, NARA

Holland, Dr. Mitchell M. Chief, Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL)

Kelly, Ms. Margaret Ann T. Research Chemist, Document Conservation Laboratory, NARA

Lindsey Smith, Dr. Jenifer A. Chief, DNA-I Unit, FBI Laboratory

Nisbet, Ms. Miriam M. Special Counsel for Information Policy, Office of General Counsel, NARA

Shycoff, Ms. Tracy J. Deputy Director, Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB)

Sibert, Mr. Robert W. Deputy Chief, Scientific Analysis Section, FBI Laboratory

Spencer, Dr. Jerry D. The Armed Forces Medical Examiner

Tilley, Mr. Steven D. Chief, Special Access and FOIA Staff, NARA

Tunheim, Hon. John R. U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Minnesota; and Chair, Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB)

Zimmerman, Dr. Michael R. Director of Clinical Laboratories, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Maimonides Medical Center


Off-Site Examiners

Huffine, Mr. Edwin F. Chief DNA Analyst, Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL)

Menold II, Mr. Ronald E. Forensic Chemist/Examiner, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory

Wilson, Mr. Richard E. Supervisory DNA Analyst, AFDIL



Scientific Examination of JFK Collection Evidence Schedule of Testing Procedures

Thursday, September 3, 1998

10 am - 4 pm

NARA Special Access and FOIA Unit: Samples taken of bio-organic material for histology and DNA/instrumental analysis by Drs. Holland, Smith, Spencer, and Zimmerman; fibrous material removed from bullet fragment and mounted in Permount medium on glass microslide by Mr. Fram, with Dr. Baker participating.


Friday, September 4, 1998

4 pm

NARA Special Access and FOIA Unit: Rehydration/fixation fluids (histology samples) exchanged by Dr. Spencer.


Tuesday, September 8, 1998

9 am

from NARA: Dr. Spencer, NARA, and ARRB representatives deliver histology samples to Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) Histology Laboratory, Walter Reed Complex. Samples placed in dedicated, secured tissue processor for overnight paraffin embedding procedure.


Wednesday, September 9, 1998

8 am - Noon

AFIP Histology Laboratory (Walter Reed Complex): NARA and ARRB representatives observe preparation of histological slides from paraffin tissue blocks. NARA/ARRB representatives take possession of prepared slides and remaining paraffin blocks for immediate return to NARA Special Access/FOIA.

2 - 5 pm

NARA Special Access and FOIA Unit: Further microscopic examination of fibrous material by Messrs. Deedrick and Fram, with Drs. Baker and DiZinno participating. Sample taken from fibrous batting material and mounted in Permount medium on microslide. Known clothing articles examined without sampling. Examination of histological slides by Drs. Spencer and Zimmerman, with Drs. Baker, DiZinno and Holland participating; bio-organic samples selected for mitochondrial DNA analysis on the basis of histological identification.

5 pm

Dr. Holland, NARA and ARRB representatives deliver selected tissue samples for mitochondrial DNA analysis to Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL), Rockville, MD.


Thursday, September 10, 1998

Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (Rockville, MD): Mitochondrial DNA analysis of tissue samples begun by Mr. Huffine.



Friday, September 11, 1998

9 am

FBI Laboratory Chemistry Unit (Washington, DC): Microslide bearing fibrous material delivered by NARA/ARRB representatives for instrumental analysis by Mr. Menold II, with Dr. Baker participating.


Tuesday, September 15, 1998

8 am - Noon

AFIP Histology Laboratory (Walter Reed Complex): NARA and ARRB representatives deliver prepared histological slides for further immunochemical processing, followed by immediate return of materials to NARA Special Access/FOIA.

3 pm

NARA Special Access and FOIA Unit: Further examination of histological slides and proteinaceous fibrous material by Drs. Spencer and Zimmerman.

4:30 pm

NARA and ARRB representatives deliver additional tissue samples for mitochondrial DNA analysis to AFDIL (Rockville, MD).


Tuesday, October 13, 1998

11 am

NARA and ARRB representatives deliver additional tissue samples (paraffin blocks) to AFDIL (Rockville, MD) for mitochondrial analysis by Mr. Wilson.


Objects Examined

C.E. = Commission Exhibit

C.E. 393 John F. Kennedy jacket

C.E. 394 John F. Kennedy shirt

C.E. 395 John F. Kennedy necktie

C.E. 567 Bullet nose fragment from front seat of presidential limousine, bearing fibrous trace evidence; with associated fragments of suspected biological tissue or other organic material

with C.E. 567 Seamless metal can containing fibrous batting material

C.E. 683 John B. Connally jacket

C.E. 685 John B. Connally shirt

C.E. 687 John B. Connally trousers

Referred for Instrumental Analysis

from C.E. 567 Fibrous trace evidence recovered from bullet nose fragment

Referred for Histological Examination

from C.E. 567 Samples from each of four fragments of suspected biological tissue or other organic material: 01A, 02A, 03A, 04A

from C.E. 567 Proteinaceous fibrous trace evidence recovered from bullet nose fragment (examined microscopically in Permount mounting medium but not subjected to further histological processing)

Referred for Mitochondrial DNA Analysis

from C.E. 567 Samples from each of four fragments of biological tissue: 01B, 02B, 03B, 04B

from C.E. 567 Paraffin block samples of biological tissue remaining after histological examination: 01A, 02A, 03A, 04A

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