Thursday, 29 November 2012 13:16

Dead Men Talking: An Update

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Author James DiEugenio corrects several assertions made in his original review of Dead Men Talking.


Pat Speer alerted me to the fact that I might have made an error in my review of Dead Men Talking. He said that I had misinterpreted the fingerprint evidence that was given to Nathan Darby for analysis. He further added that Vincent Bugliosi had not been accurate in how he represented this evidence and episode. So for me to use him to criticize Dean Hartwell was rather imprudent.

Taking Speer's advice, I went back and reconsidered the data about this issue of Bugliosi vs. Darby on the Warren Commission's fingerprint evidence. It appears Speer was right. I came to two unrelated conclusions after my review of this evidence.

First, Barr McClellan's book Blood, Money and Power, where Darby's work appears, is still a piece of pulp. McClellan has Oswald killing Tippit, shooting at Walker, and on the sixth floor with Mac Wallace firing two shots.(pgs. 211, 268, 205) Wallace casually approached Oswald in 1962 outside a print shop. (pgs. 264-65) Why Oswald would be frequenting such a place far before his New Orleans undercover assignment is not asked or explained. McClellan has Lyndon Johnson's attorney Ed Clark in attendance at the ever evolving Murchison gathering the night before Kennedy's murder. Clark announces to cheers and applause that there would be a change in government the next day. (p. 270)

My opinion of McClellan as an empty confidence man is the same.

But part of my mistake was I let my impression of McClellan color my judgment about Darby's work in the appendix. The other thing that led to this error was this: because I had gone after Bugliosi for so long on so many different angles, I felt I had to give him credit for something. I shouldn't have felt that way.

Let me summarize the problem. On August 27, 1964 Wesley Liebeler alerted Warren Commission senior counsels Howard Willens and Norman Redlich that, although Oswald's prints had been identified, there were still over 20 unidentified finger and palmprints from the sixth floor. (HSCA Vol. XI, p. 213) On September 18th, the FBI reported back that of those leftover markings, all but one palmprint had been identified as belonging to Dallas Policeman Robert L. Studebaker or FBI clerk Forest Lucy. And this was noted in the Warren Report. (p. 566) Yet the actual data used in the comparisons was not available. (McClellan,p. 324) Though the Bureau stated a palmprint was left unidentified, if you read this page closely, you will see the Bureau is equivocating. They are leaving out what seems to be one identified fingerprint. I should add that there are three other prints, which they disguise by labeling "not identifiable" or having "indistinct characteristics". (See Richard Bartholomew's monograph "Conflicts in Officials Accounts of the Cardboard Carton Prints"). As Bartholomew notes, another trick the Commission used in disguising the actual information about the prints was using reporting numbers that differed from those on official itemized lists.

Some of these prints are in Warren Commission Volume XVII. (See especially CE 656) The late Jay Harrison, a former Dallas police officer, ordered copies of all of these from the National Archives. He also discovered that either the FBI or the Commission hid one print exhibit with another. In other words, two prints were under one exhibit number. (Print 22, Box B).

What Bugliosi tried to say was that all Darby worked with is the one unidentified palmprint mentioned in the WR. (p. 566) This is clearly the impression given in his book as to his conversation with Darby. (Reclaiming History, pgs. 922-23) Bugliosi tries to state that Darby mistook a palmprint for a fingerprint. Or that he was only supplied with a palmprint and didn't know the difference in that he was comparing it with a Mac Wallace fingerprint.

It is clear now that 1.) Numerous unidentified prints were given to Darby. 2.) He did not mistake a palmprint for a fingerprint. 3.) No one tried to trick him that one was the other. Darby matched a fingerprint the FBI attributed to Studebaker to Wallace. (McClellan p. 327) After talking to both Richard Bartholomew and Dawn Meredith, who knew Darby and Harrison well, Darby was not duped, neither was he a dunce. And in fact, Harrison obtained exhibits on this matter that are not even in the Commission volumes. (Like Arthur Mandella's original inventory of the prints.) All of this seems evident in rereading the long appendix and exhibit section in the McClellan book. So evident that it is hard to believe Bugliosi could not have understood it correctly.

Whatever one thinks of the value of Darby's work here in identifying both previously identified and unidentified prints to Wallace, the problems are not the ones that Bugliosi represents in his book.

Bugliosi's work on this aspect was so circumspect I wanted to call Darby to ask him about the call the author describes in his book. (op cit) Unfortunately, Darby has since passed away.

My apologies to Darby, Dean Hartwell, and the late Jay Harrison.

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 05:11
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and Reclaiming Parkland (2013/2016), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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