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Warren Commission Hearings: Vol. III - Page 485« Previous | Next »

(Testimony of Cortlandt Cunningham)

Mr. Eisenberg.
S&W's which you discussed, plus the possibility of Spanish homemade weapons, but also to those weapons, that subcategory of weapons within those 2 1/2 million, which does not produce microscopic characteristics such that you can identify bullets fired from them?
Mr. Cunningham.
No, sir; you cannot, due to the fact that there was also the possibility that the inability to identify consecutive tests from that weapon could be caused from an accumulation of lead or from barrel wear--the barrel was actually physically changing.
Mr. Eisenberg.
That is not quite what I meant. Out of every ten S&W .38 Specials, on the basis of your experience, how many do you think would produce rifling characteristics such that you could identify bullets fired from them?
Mr. Cunningham.
Well, you could tell if the rifling characteristics are similar. But as far as the individual characteristic marks, that would be on an individual basis. Much depends on the imperfections in the barrel. Now, if you have some real deep imperfections in a barrel, it would be possible to pick them up each time. Even though you would have a lot of dissimilarities, the similarities would be so distinctive that there is always a possibility you could identify them. But not this weapon.
Mr. Eisenberg.
Mr. Rhyne asked before whether it was usual or unusual to get this type of weapon not producing microscopic characteristics such that you could identify the bullet to the gun. You said it was not unusual.
Mr. Cunningham.
It is not unusual.
Mr. Eisenberg.
Now, I say out of every 10 such weapons, how many would you expect to be in this condition--that is, in a condition such that you cannot make an identification?
Mr. Cunningham.
I would have no way of knowing that.
Mr. Eisenberg.
On the basis of your experience, the experience that led you to say it is not unusual to have this condition?
Mr. Cunningham.
I can only say that you find them, that you cannot identify them, so it is not unusual. But as to numbers, I could not say. When you go back and you take all the hundreds and hundreds of examinations I have made, it is not unusual. But I also will not say that it is usual. I will go to the negative, I will say it is not unusual.
Mr. Eisenberg.
Would you agree that out of the 2 1/2 million possible weapons it could only have been fired from a gun which will not produce microscopic characteristics such that you can identify the bullet to the weapon?
Mr. Cunningham.
There is a good indication of that; yes. However, there is mutilation on all four of the bullets. But the three we are talking about, the ones that had marks for comparison purposes, now, even though the possibility is remote, it is still possible that there is mutilation in different areas of each bullet, so you would not be able to identify them. Even if the bullets--even if they had not been mutilated, you maybe still could not identify them. In other words, your mutilation on different parts of each bullet would preclude the possibility of identifying them with each other. So I cannot answer your question positively.
Mr. Eisenberg.
Well, Mr. Chairman, I have one subject remaining with this witness. Mr. Cunningham, are you familiar with the paraffin test?
Mr. Cunningham.
I am.
Mr. Eisenberg.
Have you administered this test?
Mr. Cunningham.
I have.
Mr. Eisenberg.
Can you give us the approximate number of times you have administered it?
Mr. Cunningham.
I don't know the exact number, but I must have performed this test at least 100 times, and probably more.
Mr. Eisenberg.
Now, I will state for the record--I know you do not know of this of your own knowledge, Mr. Cunningham--but a paraffin test was performed on Lee Harvey Oswald by the Dallas Police. Three paraffin casts were made, one of the right cheek, one of the right hand, and one of the left hand. There was no reaction on the paraffin test of the right cheek. There was a reaction on the paraffin test of each of the right and left hands.
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