THE SECRET SERVICE AND CE399


On September 23, 2012, I sent an e-mail to former Secret Service agent Gerald Blaine, co-author of the 2010 book "The Kennedy Detail". I sent the same exact e-mail message to former Secret Service agent Clint Hill as well (by way of Lisa McCubbin, who also co-authored "The Kennedy Detail"; I didn't have an e-mail address for Mr. Hill, so I asked Lisa if she could possibly forward my message to him).

The following text includes my original e-mail message, plus all answers I received and any follow-up correspondence and comments concerning the issues raised:

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Subject: Question About 1963 Secret Service Policy
Date: 9/23/2012 (11:30:14 P.M. EDT)
From: David Von Pein
To: Gerald Blaine


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Hi Jerry,

My name is David Von Pein. I've been interested in the JFK assassination for several decades and have written extensively on the subject on the Internet for the last few years.

I'm writing today to ask you a couple of questions. As you no doubt know, many JFK conspiracy theorists think that the stretcher bullet (CE399) found at Parkland Hospital after President Kennedy was killed is a "fake" or "planted" bullet. And part of the reason the theorists believe that it's a fake is because neither of the Secret Service representatives who handled the stretcher bullet on 11/22/63 marked it in any way.

While you were an active Secret Service agent, did you ever mark a piece of physical evidence that was connected to a criminal investigation? And what was the normal policy of the Secret Service in 1963 when it came to Secret Service agents marking pieces of evidence in criminal cases? Did they normally mark evidence themselves, or was evidence only marked by FBI agents and local police authorities? And do you have any knowledge as to whether any of your fellow Secret Service agents had ever marked any evidence in any criminal investigations?

Also:

If it was the policy of the Secret Service to mark evidence that went through their hands, then what would your explanation be for why SS agent Richard Johnsen and SS Chief James Rowley failed to mark CE399 when each man handled that bullet on 11/22/63?

Thanks very much for any information you can provide regarding these matters.

As a footnote to the above inquiries, I want to stress that I am definitely NOT a "conspiracy theorist". Quite to the contrary, in fact. I am a firm believer that President Kennedy was killed by one lone gunman (Lee Harvey Oswald). But the above questions suddenly popped into my head recently, so I decided to try to find out for myself if I could get an answer from somebody who would probably know. Hence the reason for this e-mail.

Best regards,
David Von Pein


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Subject: Re: Question About 1963 Secret Service Policy
Date: 9/27/2012 (11:09:25 A.M. EDT)
From: Gerald Blaine
To: David Von Pein


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David,

Sorry I was late on this but my wife and I were in Europe for a couple of weeks.

1. The bullet found on the stretcher was retrieved and marked by SA Richard Johnsen and submitted as evidence. The bullet was later identified as the bullet that went through Governor Connally. Jim Rowley observed the bullet but did not have it in his possession. In 1963 the Secret Service or any federal agent who found evidence marked it so that there was a clean trail. The evidence went to the FBI after Dick [Johnsen] handed it over to them.

Hope that this helps.

Regards

Jerry


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Subject: Re: Bullet CE399
Date: 9/27/2012 (8:14:23 P.M. EDT)
From: David Von Pein
To: Gerald Blaine


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Dear Mr. Blaine,

Thank you very much for your reply to my e-mail of September 23, 2012, regarding the stretcher bullet and Secret Service policy concerning marking items of evidence.

If I can impose upon you once more, I would certainly appreciate your time in answering this follow-up inquiry concerning stretcher bullet CE399, because your last reply contains some information that is completely contradictory to what we find in the official records of the Warren Commission and the FBI:

You told me that Secret Service agent Richard Johnsen actually "marked" the stretcher bullet (CE399). But the Warren Commission record is pretty clear that Johnsen did not mark the bullet, because we find these words in a July 1964 FBI report which appears as CE2011 in Warren Commission Volume 24:

"On June 24, 1964, Special Agent Richard E. Johnsen, United States Secret Service, Washington, D.C., was shown [FBI] Exhibit C1 [CE399], a rifle bullet, by Special Agent Elmer Lee Todd, Federal Bureau of Investigation. Johnsen advised he could not identify this bullet as the one he obtained from O.P. Wright, Parkland Hospital, Dallas, Texas, and gave to James Rowley, Chief, United States Secret Service, Washington, D.C., on November 22, 1963." -- Commission Exhibit No. 2011 (page 2)


Jerry, you also said that Secret Service Chief James Rowley "did not have" the bullet "in his possession" prior to the bullet being turned over to the FBI. And you said that it was Johnsen (not Rowley) who "handed it over" to the FBI on 11/22/63.

But those two statements you made are also contradicted by the official records, which clearly indicate that Rowley did take possession of CE399 and that it was Rowley himself who handed it over to the FBI on the night of the assassination. In CE2011, we find this:

"On June 24, 1964, James Rowley, Chief, United States Secret Service, Washington, D.C., was shown Exhibit C1 [CE399], a rifle bullet, by Special Agent Elmer Lee Todd. Rowley advised he could not identify this bullet as the one he received from Special Agent Richard E. Johnsen and gave to Special Agent Todd on November 22, 1963." -- CE2011 (pages 2 and 3)


In addition to CE2011, there is also Commission Document No. 7, which includes an FD-302 report filed by Elmer Todd of the FBI on the night of November 22, 1963. That report reads as follows:

"At 8:50 p.m. [on 11/22/63], Mr. JAMES ROWLEY, Chief, United States Secret Service, gave to SA ELMER LEE TODD an envelope containing a bullet. This envelope and its contents were taken directly to the FBI Laboratory and delivered to SA ROBERT A. FRAZIER. The envelope was opened and initials of both SA TODD and FRAZIER were etched on the nose of the bullet for identification purposes." -- CD7 (page 288)


Given the facts presented in the above documents, I'm wondering where you obtained your information concerning Special Agent Johnsen physically marking Bullet CE399 and the information about Chief Rowley never being in physical possession of the bullet?

Any additional information or documentation you can provide on these matters would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
David R. Von Pein


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DAVID VON PEIN ADDED THESE COMMENTS:

I'm just wondering what significance (if any) the envelope that is mentioned in Commission Document No. 7 might have with respect to the chain of custody of Bullet CE399?

Is it possible that the Secret Service men (Johnsen and Rowley) could have conceivably marked the envelope that CD7 says contained the bullet that was turned over to the FBI by Rowley on 11/22/63?

Such an explanation would, of course, explain why the initials of Johnsen and Rowley are not present on the bullet itself--it would be because they marked the envelope instead of the actual bullet.

But such an explanation doesn't really iron out any problems that exist in CE2011 though, because it's hard for me to believe that if SS agent Johnsen (and/or Chief Rowley) had, indeed, marked an envelope which held CE399, that such important chain-of-possession information would not have made its way into the FBI report we find in CE2011.

If the envelope had been marked by Johnsen/Rowley, we surely would find words to this effect in CE2011:

Secret Service agent Richard E. Johnsen and Chief James Rowley said they could not positively identify the bullet itself as the one they each handled on November 22, 1963, but each of those men have said they each marked an envelope with their initials on 11/22/63, and that inside this envelope was a bullet that was handed over to the FBI by Chief Rowley on the night of November 22.

Surely something similar to the above paragraph would have been supplied in CE2011 if Johnsen or Rowley had marked an evidence envelope.



A photograph of the envelope in question is pictured below. It contains the initials of three of the FBI agents who ultimately handled and examined CE399, and it has the signature and written words of FBI agent Elmer Todd at the very bottom (which really, in effect, is tantamount to having Rowley's initials on the envelope as well, since Todd is telling us on that very envelope that he received that exact envelope from Chief James Rowley on 11/22/63).

Plus, since there are obviously two sides to this envelope, how do the conspiracy theorists know if Johnsen and Rowley marked the other side of it or not?

Researcher John Hunt went to the National Archives and examined this envelope for himself on July 30, 2004. But from his investigation, there's nothing that would indicate that Johnsen and/or Rowley couldn't have put their initials or names on the other side of the envelope (the side that Hunt did not photograph).

Although, I'll readily admit, common sense would dictate that Mr. Hunt would have certainly examined both sides of this envelope while he had it in his very own hands at the National Archives in 2004, even if he didn't take pictures of both sides of it. And I have no reason to think that John Hunt is a person who would deliberately hide important evidence of the initials of the two Secret Service agents who handled CE399.

On the other hand, I suppose it is possible that Hunt overlooked some initials that might have been written on the other side of this evidence envelope, with Hunt's main focus with respect to the chain of custody of the stretcher bullet being a diligent search for initials on Bullet CE399 itself, and not necessarily on this envelope:



Anyway, the "envelope" theory was just a thought that entered my head as I re-read Commission Document No. 7. It's certainly not a very likely theory, in light of the words we find in CE2011, but it's more food for CE399 thought anyway.

As I await a (hopeful) second reply from Gerald Blaine regarding the contradictions I found in his first e-mail message to me, it would certainly appear to me that Mr. Blaine is very much ill-informed about some of the crucial evidence concerning the chain of custody of Bullet CE399.

And it would certainly appear, although I could be totally wrong here, that Mr. Blaine was making an effort in his 9/27/12 e-mail message to me to provide an airtight and firm chain of possession for the Parkland Hospital stretcher bullet by suggesting to me that the bullet did not go through the hands of Secret Service Chief James Rowley at all, and that the only SS representative who would have even needed to mark the bullet was Richard Johnsen, with Mr. Blaine stating that it was Johnsen and not Rowley who physically handed the bullet to the FBI on the night of November 22nd (which is a statement that is, by all official accounts, 100% dead wrong).

David Von Pein
September 27, 2012

[In a rather eerie coincidence, I received the e-mail below from Jerry Blaine within just minutes of my having written most of the above comments about the envelope.]


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Subject: Re: Bullet CE399
Date: 9/27/2012 (10:08:14 P.M. EDT)
From: Gerald Blaine
To: David Von Pein


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Dave,

Clint Hill talked to Dick [Johnsen] a month or two before he passed away and Clint told me that Dick had marked the evidence. Sounds like he must have put it in an envelope rather that initialing it [the bullet itself], so I apologize if I deceived you and I will recheck with Clint what he remembers.

It is very unusual for WHD [White House Detail] agents to get involved in investigative work, but Dick went to Cal and studied Criminal Justice so he should have known the rules of evidence.

James Rowley once worked for the FBI and he too should have understood the rules. I have no doubt that it was the bullet that came from the stretcher.

Jerry


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Subject: Re: Bullet CE399
Date: 9/27/2012 (11:26:29 P.M. EDT)
From: David Von Pein
To: Gerald Blaine


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Hi again Jerry,

Thanks for your latest reply.

There was, indeed, an envelope involved with the transfer of Bullet CE399 as it went from the possession of the Secret Service to the FBI lab in Washington on 11/22/63. That "envelope" fact is confirmed in Commission Document No. 7 (which I linked in an earlier mail I sent you).

So, if Richard Johnsen marked the envelope, rather than the bullet itself, it would certainly explain why he said he could not "positively identify" the bullet that was later shown to him by Elmer Todd of the FBI in June of 1964. Because in such a circumstance, Johnsen wouldn't have placed his initials on the bullet itself, but instead would have marked only the container (envelope) that Johnsen put the bullet into.

However, if Dick Johnsen (and possibly James Rowley too) had marked the evidence envelope containing the bullet, I'm wondering why the FBI (in CE2011) didn't mention something about Johnsen and/or Rowley marking that envelope in the text of the report we find in CE2011?

Do you think Johnsen and Rowley, in the intervening sevens months between November 1963 and June 1964, had just forgotten about marking the envelope? And therefore they never even mentioned it in June when the FBI showed them the bullet? Or is it possible that they did mention marking the envelope, but the FBI just failed to note that important fact in CE2011?

From the way it stands in the official record of CE2011, we are unquestionably left with the impression (to the delight of many conspiracy theorists around the globe) that neither Johnsen nor Rowley could complete any kind of chain of possession or chain of custody for Bullet CE399 at all. Is that the way it appears to you by reading CE2011, Jerry?

In addition, do you have any more information you can supply me regarding your previous statement about Richard Johnsen himself being the person who handed the bullet over to the FBI on 11/22/63 (instead of it being James Rowley)?

The official documents clearly indicate that it was Rowley, and not Johnsen, who gave the bullet (and envelope) to FBI agent Elmer Todd on the night of the assassination.

If you acquire any additional information about this matter, please drop me a line.

I thank you very much, Jerry, for the answers you have given me today. I greatly appreciate it.

And, by the way, I completely agree with you that the bullet which was turned over to the FBI by the Secret Service on November 22 was positively Bullet CE399. I have absolutely no doubt about that fact (for a variety of reasons), as I have said in many articles and posts on the Internet in the past several years.

Regards,
David Von Pein


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DAVID VON PEIN ADDED:

In addition to the envelope, there is also an often-overlooked document pertaining to the chain of custody of the Parkland stretcher bullet that appears on Page 800 of Warren Commission Volume 18. It's a copy of a typewritten note from Secret Service agent Richard Johnsen. In the note, Johnsen says the following:

"The attached expended bullet was received by me about 5 min. prior to Mrs. Kennedy's departure from the hospital. It was found on one of the stretchers located in the emergency ward of the hospital."

The note is not signed with a handwritten signature, but is "signed" in typewritten form in this manner:

"Richard E. Johnsen
Special Agent
7:30 p.m.
Nov. 22, 1963"


The original note, typed on White House stationery, was photographed at the National Archives by John Hunt in 2004 (pictured below).



Logic and common sense would therefore indicate that the note written by Agent Johnsen concerning the Parkland bullet was physically attached to the previously discussed envelope which contained stretcher bullet CE399. Hence the words "the attached expended bullet" at the beginning of the note. And take note of the staple hole at the top of Johnsen's original note, which would indicate it was stapled to something when it left the White House on 11/22/63, which fits in nicely with the staple holes (or possibly the staples themselves) which are seen in the envelope as photographed by John Hunt in 2004.

And since that very same envelope is telling us, via the handwritten words of FBI agent Elmer Todd, that James Rowley was most certainly in possession of that envelope (with or without Rowley's own initials being present on the envelope), it would indicate that there is documentation in the official records of this case that shows a complete chain of custody of the stretcher bullet -- from Tomlinson/Wright....to Johnsen....to Rowley....to Todd....to Frazier.

Conspiracy theorists will, of course, argue that my "chain" shown above is still extremely weak and that it doesn't constitute a "chain" of custody at all--particularly since the Johnsen typewritten note is not signed with his handwritten signature or initials and is not still physically attached to the envelope that contains Todd's remarks about receiving the bullet from Rowley.

So, yes, maybe this issue about the chain of possession of the bullet will always provide fertile ground for continued debate and argument. It seems quite obvious that it will. (No issue in this case seems to ever go unchallenged by conspiracists, even the ones that have been thoroughly debunked by lone-assassin proponents over the years.)

But if a person digs into the records deep enough, that person can and will find documentation to support the idea, which is totally foreign to most conspiracy theorists, that Bullet CE399 was the bullet that made its way from Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas to the FBI laboratory in Washington on November 22, 1963.

David Von Pein
September 28, 2012


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DAVID JOSEPHS SAID:

Marking an envelope supposedly containing evidence DOES NOT AUTHENTICATE THAT EVIDENCE, it only authenticates the envelope.


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DAVID VON PEIN SAID:

Bullshit. Marking the envelope is tantamount to marking the piece of evidence itself.

By your standard of evidence identification, then, anything that is too small to be physically marked can never be authenticated in any way whatsoever -- such as the tiny fragment(s) from Connally's wrist in CE842, in which the ENVELOPE holding the evidence was marked and not the tiny pieces of metal.

Do you want to call Jim Leavelle a liar too, David? .....

"[J.M.] Poe did not mark them [the Tippit bullet shells]. There was no reason to mark them. There is an evidence bag that is marked with the offense number along with your initials. The evidence goes to the crime lab where it is checked and returned to the bag and kept there until trial. I have run hundreds through that way with no trouble and have never been contested on it." -- James R. Leavelle (In the book "With Malice" by Dale K. Myers; Pp. 263 and 265)

Furthermore, the photo that exists of the Q1/CE399 envelope (taken by John Hunt in 2004), although it doesn't show Jim Rowley's initials (maybe those initials are on the other side of the envelope, along with Richard Johnsen's--who knows), is confirming that Rowley had this envelope on Nov. 22, with the "Q1/CE399" bullet in it, and Rowley gave it to Todd. The writing we find on this envelope written by Elmer Todd is exactly the same as having ROWLEY'S own mark on it too. And anyone saying otherwise is just plain goofy:




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ROBERT HARRIS SAID:

David, I cannot believe the liberties you take with statements by witnesses who are no longer alive and able to correct your endless embellishments. This is what Blaine told you that Johnson [sic] said: "The bullet found on the stretcher was retrieved and marked by SA Richard Johnsen and submitted as evidence."


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DAVID VON PEIN SAID:

Sigh.

Bob [Harris] apparently didn't read (or comprehend) anything beyond just Mr. Blaine's first e-mail to me.

It's quite obvious, however, that Gerald Blaine wasn't exactly sure WHAT item was "marked" by SA Richard Johnsen (the bullet itself or a container that the bullet was put into), because after I reminded Blaine that CE2011 says that Johnsen couldn't positively I.D. the bullet, Mr. Blaine said this to me:

"Clint Hill talked to Dick [Johnsen] a month or two before he passed away and Clint told me that Dick had marked the evidence. Sounds like he must have put it in an envelope rather that initialing it [the bullet itself], so I apologize if I deceived you and I will recheck with Clint what he remembers."

And if Secret Service agent Johnsen had "marked" an envelope in some manner (or if, as I suggested previously, in lieu of marking the envelope itself, he had attached a note to the Q1/CE399 evidence envelope, which he almost certainly DID do, as I pretty much proved previously via this picture and CE1024), that is tantamount to marking the bullet itself, in my view. And I think any reasonable person, who isn't prone to screaming "it was fake" at the drop of a hat, would agree with me on that.


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Subject: Re: Bullet CE399
Date: 10/9/2012 (11:19:06 A.M. EDT)
From: David Von Pein
To: Gerald Blaine


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Hi again Jerry,

Anything new to add regarding Richard Johnsen and the stretcher bullet? Did you get a chance to re-check some things with Clint Hill?

Thanks.

Regards,
David Von Pein


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Subject: Re: Bullet CE399
Date: 10/9/2012 1:05:33 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time]
From: Gerald Blaine
To: David Von Pein


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Dick [Johnsen] told Clint [Hill] the evidence was marked. Since I was not in Dallas and did not talk to Dick, I have no idea. All I know is that President Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald.

Jerry Blaine


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Subject: Re: Bullet CE399
Date: 10/9/2012 (1:09:45 P.M. EDT)
From: David Von Pein
To: Gerald Blaine


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Thanks, Jerry.


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BULLET ADDENDUM #1:


The memo seen below was written by Secret Service Chief James Rowley on December 19, 1963. I found it in Warren Commission Document No. 320 today.

It could be of some use (at least in a small way) to firm up the chain of possession a little bit for Stretcher Bullet CE399, via Rowley's written confirmation that the bullet went from O.P Wright at Parkland to Secret Service agent Richard Johnsen and then to FBI agent Elmer Todd (apparently with Rowley himself handling the bullet between Johnsen and Todd, although Rowley doesn't mention that fact in this memorandum, but Elmer Todd definitely confirms it via Todd's written remarks on the envelope).

This memo is the first piece of evidence I think I've ever seen that was written by James Rowley himself concerning the handling of the stretcher bullet:




David Von Pein
June 27, 2014


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BULLET ADDENDUM #2:


ANTHONY MARSH SAID:

Do you really think Rowley was telling the truth when he said the bullet "was found amongst the clothes on one of the stretchers"?


DAVID VON PEIN SAID:

You're just nitpicking here, Tony, and you know it.

James Rowley's memo in CD320 corroborates the chain of custody of ONE bullet found on a stretcher at Parkland Memorial Hospital --- from Wright....to Johnsen....to Rowley/Todd (although, as I mentioned before, Rowley never says in CD320 that he HIMSELF [Rowley] ever took possession of the bullet, but Todd confirmed that fact in other documents).

But Tony Marsh would rather nitpick Rowley's use of the word "clothes" rather than admit that Commission Document No. 320 does a nice job (at least in printed/document form) of shoring up the chain of custody for the Parkland Stretcher Bullet.


ANTHONY MARSH SAID:

One candidate is Ronnie Fuller, whose clothes had been left on his stretcher.


DAVID VON PEIN SAID:

Got a source link for that claim regarding Fuller's clothes being left on a stretcher, Tony? Never heard that one before.

In fact, come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen any official documents that prove that the stretcher occupied by the young boy named Ronald Fuller was actually in the same corridor of Parkland Hospital with that of Connally's stretcher.

As far as I am aware, it has never been confirmed or proven that it was young Mr. Fuller's stretcher that was in the Parkland first-floor corridor on November 22, 1963. And "Reclaiming History" author Vince Bugliosi doesn't think such a thing has been proven either.

Quoting Mr. Bugliosi....

"Author Josiah Thompson wrote in his 1967 book 'Six Seconds in Dallas' that the bullet was “very likely found on a stretcher used for a cut and bleeding two-and-one-half-year-old child” (Thompson, 'Six Seconds in Dallas', p.161), a reference to Ronald Fuller, who was admitted to Parkland’s emergency room fourteen minutes after the president and governor.

Fuller, who was bleeding profusely from a fall, was treated briefly on a stretcher in a hallway near the nurses’ station before being carried into Major Medicine for further attention.

Whether Fuller’s bloodied stretcher was then rolled thirty feet into the elevator corridor, where Tomlinson might have encountered it, is unknown. Thompson, who three pages earlier considers the act “very likely,” is forced to acknowledge, “We do not know for certain that it was Ronnie Fuller’s stretcher on which CE399 subsequently was found. . . As with most aspects of this case, final certainty again eludes us” (Thompson, 'Six Seconds in Dallas', p.164).

Thompson doesn’t address the issue of why a 6.5-millimeter Mannlicher-Carcano bullet, the exact type used to kill Kennedy and injure Connally, would have any conceivable reason for ending up not on Kennedy’s or Connally’s stretcher, but the stretcher of an infant.

Indeed, he doesn’t ask himself why any kind of bullet would end up on the child’s stretcher when the child wasn’t shot, unless, that is, Thompson wants us to believe that the sophisticated framers of Oswald goofed on a rather mundane duty, planting the bullet on the wrong stretcher."
-- Vincent Bugliosi; Page 431 of Endnotes in "Reclaiming History"


ANTHONY MARSH SAID:

But I think that all of that doesn't matter, because the Magic Bullet wasn't found on any stretcher. It was found on the floor, not on a stretcher.


DAVID VON PEIN SAID:

Dead wrong. The bullet never fell to the floor. That fact was confirmed when Darrell Tomlinson was asked that exact question ("The bullet didn't actually fall to the floor, did it?") by Raymond Marcus on July 25, 1966 (see Page 2 of the Marcus/Tomlinson transcript linked HERE).

And Nathan Pool's story doesn't debunk or override Tomlinson's version of events.

David Von Pein
July 5, 2014


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