Testimony of Gary Aguilar

Dallas, Texas -- November 18, 1994 Hearing
MR. MARWELL: Dr. Aguilar.

DR. AGUILAR: I would like to thank the Review Board for allowing me the opportunity to speak and explain my friend. I often find it is useful, two heads are better than one for the purposes of my presentation today, and I would also like to apologize for a copy of a letter that I sent to Mr. David Marwell. My secretary did that.

In any case, my name is Gary Aguilar. I am a practicing pathologist in San Francisco. I am on the faculty of the University of California in San Francisco, and on the faculty of the Stanford University Medical Center. I am the Chairman of the Department of Surgery at St. Francis Memorial Hospital, and have, I think, more of an academic interest in this than anything else.

I campaigned against Jack Kennedy, as young as I may seem, my parents were very staunchly opposed to him, and I carried the placard in hand. In any case, I come here before you today to request something which should be in a letter that I have sent on numerous occasions. I have to make a couple of amendments to it, if only because some other information has become available.

The first issue that I care to raise, and it is under Title Number I -- I don't know if you have copies of it, I have one copy here, but I have my laptop with me and I could runoff copies for everyone -- is a agency file, restricted file, pertaining to Pierre Finck. It is Agency File Number 06165. I hold it in my hand here, and for reasons that baffle me, Pierre Finck, it should be known by all, is one of the autopsy pathologists and is the only forensically trained autopsy pathologist. It is baffling to me that a document pertaining to anything that he has done or said would be restricted. It is apparently six pages in length and the requesting authority that it be restricted was the CIA, as I understand it, according to this document here.

Should I leave this with you? I think I already sent a full copy of all of these. I think I sent copies of everything, but if you didn't have them I thought I would bring additional copies.

The specific puzzling issue to me from an academic standpoint and from a medical standpoint is that the original autopsy report insists that the wound that killed Jack Kennedy, the bullet that killed Jack Kennedy entered the skull to the right and just above the external occipital protuberance. I thought I would bring the skull because it would most nicely explain exactly where that location is. The knob in the back of the head is the external occipital protuberance. It is right here. That is the knob that you feel at the base of your skull.

To the right of the occipital protuberance and slightly above is about this location and before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Dr. Humes, Boswell and Finck labelled a skull and labelled dots in these three locations. That was to identify the external occipital protuberance, and they basically marked it this.

It was then determined on the basis of photographic and X-ray evidence which have been called into question that, in fact, the wound was not here, it was at the parietal bone here. The difference in size here is 10 centimeters, and it is a huge error for even a first year resident to have made on a skull location. It places it in a different bone, and it is the kind of thing that a first year pathology would have been failed by one of his professor pathologist for having made, a professor like Finck, who was, in fact, a Director of the Forensic Section at the AFIP at that time. In any case, I would like to request that this document be released if that is possible to do so.

Number two is, and I do not have a copy of this with me. I covered my files. I know I have it some place. I am moving files, but in any case there was an incomplete transcription of an interview with Pierre Finck, and I have the case record or the record number here, it is an Agency file. The copy of the interview which I have received, and I have reviewed this with other people, they have exactly the same thing, it appears incomplete. The last sentence of my copy appears in the middle of page 12 and it reads: Do you think it is possible that in the course of preparing this report, recognizing the limitations that you had without photographs, things like that, do you think it is possible that that measurement relative to the occipital protuberance that is contained within the -- and it trails off, that is it, right in midsentence.

So there must be something there that might -- and presumably Dr. Finck was at that point going to answer this question, something about the occipital protuberance and, of course, that has great relevance to the findings of the autopsy report.

There was Audrey Bell, Item Number 3, Parkland nurse Audrey Bell. I have the HICA record number for you. Apparently she prepared a diagram diagraming fragments of bullets which she saw. That has never been seen. It is a small matter, I think. If that was available anywhere it would be nice to track that piece of information down if we could.

Item Number 4, possible incomplete photographic record of the autopsy, and I have listed this under 4A and 4B in the remarks that I sent along to you. Number 4A refers to agency record number wherein on page 8, Dr. Finck notes, "I helped a Navy photographer to take photographs of the occipital wound, internal and external aspects as well as," and it goes on, but there is no such photograph of a wound.

Now it has been argued by some that the photographs of the back of the head which show the scalp intact are, in fact, the photographs that he was directing be taken, but Finck didn't think that and it only became apparent in recent released documents, in fact, that Finck was convinced that those photographs were not the photographs that he had taken, raising questions about at least the completeness of the photographic record, if nothing else.

I have been, incidently, to the Archives and seen the original autopsy photographs, and so I have seen what it was that he was being shown before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, the originals.

Now just to go on here, he had an exchange with Dr. Petty regarding the photographs to the back of the head in which he said, Dr. Petty asked him, because they were looking at these photographs, well, aren't these the ones, Dr. Petty asked him. Dr. Petty: If I understand you correctly, Dr. Finck, you wanted particularly to have a photograph made of the external aspect of the skull from the back to show that there was no cratering to the outside of the skull.

Dr. Finck: Absolutely.

Did you ever see such a photograph?

Finck: I don't think so, and I brought with me memorandum referring to examination to the examination of photographs in 1967 when I was recalled from Vietnam. I was asked to look at the photographs and as I recall there were two blank four-by-five transparencies, in other words to photographs that had been exposed but with no image, and as I can recall I never saw pictures of the outer aspect of the wound of entry in the back of the head and the inner aspect of the skull in order to show the cratering, although I was there asking of these photographs, I don't remember ever seeing those photographs.

Now this went on again in another exchange which I think was even more to the point. The point about the photographs is that when a bullet enters it causes beveling, and that is like a BB hitting a window, you have a very tiny point of entry and then the exit side on the other side of the window or the other side of the skull, as the case may be, you have a much larger wound, and that helps to establish the direction of the shot. It would also presumably, if such photographs were available, help identify whether they were actually talking about the external occipital protuberance or whether the wound was higher than that.

Counsel Andy Purdy asked him, he said: We have here a black and white blowup of the same spot. At that time he was showing the back of the scalp with the scalp intact. You previously mentioned that your attempt here was to photograph the crater, I think that was the word you used.

Finck answered: In the bone not in the scalp, because to determine the direction of the projectile, the bone is a very good source of information. So I emphasized the photographs of the crater seen from the inside the skull, what you are showing me is soft tissue wound in the scalp. So it is clear that he is talking about having taken photographs that weren't there when he was shown the photographs.

Under 4B I go on into a lengthy listing of individuals, and I don't think I will recount it here for the time constraints that you have. Suffice it to say that John Stringer who is the autopsy photographer, Floyd Reeby who was his associate, Commander Humes, Boswell and Dr. Carne all recalled having taken photographs of the interior of the chest. Now these were mutually corroborated photographs, and presumably they would have taken two black and whites at a minimum and two colors at a minimum, there are four images there, and probably they would have taken more than that. One would guess that there are many more photographs from that section. That has relevance as to whether one can see the point of entry if they were indenting the interior of the body with a probe while they are taking the photograph as Dr. Carne suggests, who was a pathologist who was there, and may have some relevance to the path of the bullet.

Under Item Number 5, Dr. Humes testified to the Warren Commission, yes, sir, these are various notes in longhand, or copies rather of various notes in longhand made by myself in part during the performance of the examination of the late President and, in part, after the examination when I was preparing to have a typewritten report made.

Now what he is referring to are notes of the autopsy that he had at the time. Now he has said, and the amendment that I need to make here is that he has said both to the Journal of American Medical Association and to the House Select Committee on Assassinations that he did destroy some autopsy notes. So we don't know which ones he had and which ones he didn't have. But presumably he had some autopsy notes and, in fact, Dr. Carne, under something which I will submit to you separately, also recalled their having had autopsy notes. These autopsy notes have never been seen.

The only autopsy note we have is Dr. Boswell's face sheet diagram and a face sheet diagram, in fact, tends to prove that the entrance point was low in the skull. The way that it proves that is easily seen in the skull, and that is, the autopsy diagram that Finck prepared shows something that says, 17 centimeters missing, with the words "missing" on it. If one takes a skull, and disarticulates it as I have here and shows the most anterior portion for the exit to have been was just above the hairline. In other words, you would have seen it. There is a bullet hole coming out here. And the autopsy photographs, even in the books that any of you may have seen, you don't see a bullet hole coming out. So presumably it was right about the hairline and, of course, Jack Kennedy fortunately had a lower hairline than I do. In any case, it was at about this point.

Now if one measures from the lowest point that that could have been for the exit to have been four centimeters above the ridge backwards, he said 17 centimeters missing. Now I have talked to Dr. Boswell about this, and you put a centimeter ruler back there, 17 centimeters back of this point puts you spot on the external occipital protuberance. I can demonstrate it with a ruler, if anybody cares to see it, but I have done it many times.

Now if, in fact, the entrance wound and a defect was that much higher, this distance from here to that exit point is only about 12 to 13 centimeters. So he basically has biangulated the wound to this low point, but the photographs are missing that would help establish that it was there, and since that was a contemporaneously prepared diagram --

Now the confusing thing here is that in the autopsy report it describes the defect as being 13 centimeters, not 17 centimeters. Well, Dr. Boswell told the House Select Committee on Assassinations, told Harrison Livingstone and told me on the phone on March 30th of this year that it was 17 centimeters when the body arrived, and then he found or got -- they got a bone fragment in, and he put the bone fragment back in place, and with the bone fragment the defect was, in fact, then 13 centimeters.

Now to illustrate what I am talking about, here is a photograph. These are the diagrams from the Warren Commission, and they are in color, very nice ones. Here is the way that they diagramed that. This is 13 centimeters across here but, in fact, when the body first arrived, according to what he told me on the phone, and I have a recorded conversation of this, this fragment of bone was not there. This fragment of bone was absent and, in fact, there was a hole extending all the way from the entrance point forward 17 centimeters which would have to place the wound, the defect, quite low in the rear of the skull, placing some forensic problems for the reconstruction of the shooting.

In any case, under Item Number 6, there is a segment from Dr. Finck in which -- in the last page of the gross examination of a formal and fixed brain, and I have the Agency file number there, there are on the fifth page of this document, which is titled Personal Notes Used for the Tech Sent With Letter of 1 February 1965 to Brigadeer General Blumberg, AFIP Director. There are five lines blocked out of Dr. Finck's first paragraph.

Now I have that to show you, and I will hold it up for others to see. Here we have that document, and here it is. It is all medical, and here are all these lines are blocked out. Dr. Humes called me on the 29th of November, it is basically dealing with how he was called, and so on and so forth, but those lines are blocked out. I can't think of a national security reason for excluding that.

One final issue that I would like to raise

DR. HALL: DR. AGUILAR, I wonder if I might, Mr. Chairman, before you go on, could I see that particular document?

DR. AGUILAR: Sure. Some of this might have been released in the meantime, I don't know. These are the copies that I have of it, and I would be happy to show it to you.

DR. HALL: Thank you.

DR. AGUILAR: If, in fact, anything has been released that I am requesting, I apologize for not knowing. By the time it gets out to San Francisco, information gets out to San Francisco --

Do you have any questions regarding that, Mr. Hall?

DR. HALL: No, you can just proceed. I am going to listen and read at the same time.

DR. AGUILAR: You remind me of me.

Under Item Number 7, there were some recent revelations, and for this I have brought copies to give to you. I have three copies for you, and I could make more if they are needed, but three copies I will pass to you. As I mentioned, JFK's pathologist James Humes, J. Thornton Boswell described the entrance to the President's skull wound as being to the right and just above the external occipital protuberance in the original autopsy report. They repeated that assertion in an interview published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on May 27th, 1992.

On November 17th, 1993, author Gerald Posner, the author of the book Case Closed reported to the Congress Committee that he had interviewed both Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell at apparently the same time they were interviewed by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1992. Mr. Posner reported that Drs. Humes and Boswell told him that JFK's skull wound was not low and near the rear, near the external occipital protuberance, but rather it was high in the President's skull.

Mr. Posner indicated during his testimony to the Representative of Congress that he would ask Dr. Humes and Boswell for permission to release information on his interviews with them, but he has not done so to my knowledge.

On March 30th of this year, I, myself, called both Drs. Humes and Boswell to inquire about Mr. Posner's report of their surprising turnabout on this important question. Dr. Humes indicated to me that he stood firmly by his statements in JAMA. Dr. Boswell also told me that he had never changed his mind about the low location of JFK's skull wound and, moreover, Dr. Boswell told me that had never spoken with Mr. Posner. I have a recording of this and I would be happy to leave it with you, if you would like. As I spoke with both pathologists four-and-a-half months after Mr. Posner's claim, I am baffled at this discrepancy.

In any case, that Jack Kennedy's pathologists might be inconsistent and reliable about the President's skull wounds is of enormous evidentiary significance, I believe. Their claims about JFK's fatal wound which contradict Mr. Posner's assertions have been published in a peer review medical journal and the Journal of the American Medical Association, and if JAMA's representations are not reliable, much light is shed on the ambiguity of the autopsy findings.

I respectfully request that you ask Mr. Posner, as he has already offered to do before Congress, to produce the copies of all records that he possesses in his interviews with Drs. Humes and Boswell.

As a physician who has an interest in this case, I think from an academic standpoint, I thank you very much for the time you have allowed me, and if you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them for you.

Could I give you a copy of this, I have highlighted them. In fact, just for the purposes of -- can I read from this one, and then I will give it to you as I leave. I would like to read, in fact, from Mr. Posner's testimony so that there are no ambiguities about precisely what he said.

On the bottom of page 112 of his document, and I need to explain the pages that follow page 112 and 113, on the bottom of page 112 it was during the testimony of a Dr. Randy Robertson, Mr. Posner essentially interrupted that testimony of Dr. Robertson's because Dr. Robertson was discussing the fact that the autopsy pathologists had placed the skull wound low. Mr. Posner interrupted to say: I have interviewed the autopsy doctors -- this a quote now -- I have interviewed the autopsy doctors. I have interviewed Mr. O'Neill. What is left here on the record today should not be allowed because it is not correct, which is the implication that the autopsy doctors agree with their original drawings in 1963 -- that they agree with the original drawings in 1963 and, of course, they do -- which were made without the benefit of X-rays -- that's not true, they had X-rays, they looked at X-rays -- photographs. To the credit of the House Select Committee on Assassinations and Congressman Stokes, that Committee did a superb job on the forensics of this case. It was the work of that Committee that had the two autopsy physicians change their minds that they had been mistaken about the placement of the wound here.

In fact, it is equivocal that Dr. Boswell told me he doesn't believe that Humes caved in on the question of the wound being higher, but reading Humes testimony after having been harangued and harangued and harangued, Boswell would never change his mind, Finck would never change his mind, but Humes came back and said, well, maybe that is what it is on the photographs, but still has never said that the wound was any place other than low.

In any case, he says here, and I quote again: I have spoken to them -- and he had just mentioned Humes and Boswell -- about this and they have confirmed their change of testimony that they gave before the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

Now they had just told the Journal of American Medical Association presumably that the wound was low, and now he is saying that they confirmed to him that they had changed it and made this wound high, an enormous error.

James Lesar asked a question about Mr. Posner's releasing these documents, and Mr. Posner says, and I quote again: I would be happy, Mr. Chairman, to ask Drs. Humes and Boswell if they would agree for their notes to be released to the National Archives.

This occurred on November 17th. I called Dr. Boswell on March 30th, four-and-a-half months later, and at that time he had not yet spoken to him for the first time, so presumably he had not asked him to release notes. Now I don't know, and I am not accusing Mr. Posner of misrepresenting the truth here, I don't know what the truth is, but I think that if Mr. Posner could convincingly demonstrate that the doctors are unreliable about this, I think it would have some great value to this.


Are there questions for DR. AGUILAR?

[No response.]

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you. We appreciate your testimony today.

DR. AGUILAR: Thank you very much.

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