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The Conspirators

From the November-December, 1995 issue (Vol. 3 No. 1)

Pierre Finck & the Secret Team

In the following pages Probe explores an area of the medical evidence that has been virtually untouched. Many articles and books have been written about the facts of the autopsy. Very little has been revealed about who the medical doctors are. Of late, some interesting facts have come to light about Dr. Luis Alvarez which helps explain his findings and involvement on the Kennedy case. Full disclosure is key in this regard since, as Fletcher Prouty wrote in his milestone book The Secret Team, "there are other military personnel working with the CIA who are really Agency employees" and "who for special reasons" assume a "military uniform" but "are really Agency employees." This possibility has yet to be explored in relation to the medical practitioners on this case. It should be.

John McCarthy is a former Army Special Forces Captain who served in various parts of the globe over a long period of time in the service of his country. John's career encompasses Eastern Europe, China, Okinawa, Vietnam and Cambodia. These last two spots furnish the backdrop for this part of his four hour interview videotaped by a friend of CTKA.

In Southeast Asia in the mid-sixties, John was involved in the latter stages of a top secret project aimed at destabilizing Vietnam's neighbor, Cambodia. While John was decommissioning a Cambodian asset, the ally was shot and killed by sniper fire. Inexplicably, John was accused of the killing and forced to undergo a court-martial.

In a very strange proceeding, of which McCarthy maintains a transcript, John was convicted of the crime. Upon appeal, and the surfacing of new evidence dealing with the autopsy, the government decided to dismiss the charges.

The case is highly relevant to everyone, including those who care about the Kennedy case since it involves the ubi-quitious Dr. Pierre Finck. At about the same time McCarthy's appeal process was going on, Finck was prepping to appear at the Clay Shaw trial where, as readers know, he underwent a withering, historic cross-examination by Garrison's assistant Al Oser.

With McCarthy's never before printed revelations, Finck's background in the accompanying sidebar, and the reproduced withheld HSCA document, we now have enough evidence to truly question who Pierre Finck is. We would also like to ask Robert Blakey why the HSCA did not dig into his background so they could question him on it under oath. The Review Board, which gets Probe, should now reserve his seat and start readying the questions.

The following is the transcript by Dave Manning of Jim DiEugenio's interview with John McCarthy concerning McCarthy's court martial trial for murder, in South Vietnam, January 29-31, 1968 and the involvement of Colonel Pierre Finck in a cover-up of exculpatory evidence. This interview took place on August 17, 1995.

JD: The Pentagon would actually try and "booby-trap" or sabotage a Special Forces operation because they knew they weren't in control of it?

JM: Yes.

JD: Can you remember any examples?

JM: Well, my court martial to begin with. There was such glee that there was going to be a court martial for premeditated murder of a captain, Special Forces, that was facing the death penalty, that these people were bending over backwards to get this to trial. And then they went through all the efforts they did to fabricate information in order to obtain a conviction. Then they modified that information to maintain the conviction. We can talk about the way we found out about these things a little later. McKernan's object in trying to close any or all of the portions of the trial to the public was designed to prevent the exposure of "Project Cherry." In fact, when the trial did start and the government witnesses mentioned "Project Cherry," McKernan about had a heart attack. And the judge noticed this and there were many side-bar conferences to discuss what was and what was not classified. And the judge threatened to close even the prosecution side of the case, on numerous occasions. Fortunately, a portion of it was left open.

JD: So, in other words the truth would have been too terrible.

JM: Well, the truth in the government's argument, that it would seriously affect further prosecution of the war, means that had the truth come out, the war in Vietnam may have stopped in January of 1968 and would have inevitably saved thousands of lives on the allied side and hundreds of thousands of lives on the Asian side.

JD: So, they had to limit the trial to make the case against you stick?

JM: They had to limit what was held in open court. Fortunately, enough information was held in open court that it showed how little was necessary for a military conviction under the United States military judicial system.

JD: Let's talk about Mason's actual testimony. Mason testified in court that his autopsy showed that the bullet fired into Jimmy had to be either a .22, or at the outside limits a .25. Correct?

JM: That's correct.

JD: If those were his findings, how could they possibly pin it on you?

JM: By Mason's expert testimony that the wound was a contact wound. Even though there was an absence of powder burns or powder tattooing at the wound periphery or the entrance wound, there was nothing but microscopic particles that were in the wound track, which we have no idea how they got there. Since Mason didn't perform a nitrate test (for his own reasons) we don't know what those black spots were that were in the wound track itself. But, this information allowed Mason to conclude that a weapon firing a .22 was held tightly or loosely against the back of Jimmy's neck.

JD: How did they ever connect you with a .22?

JM: They didn't ever connect me with a .22.

JD: How did they try and connect you with a .22?

JM: By reason of association. The government assumed that since there were .22 caliber devices known as "stingers" that were available, that I most likely must have had one.

JD: Did you?

JM: No, I did not have one!

JD: What was a "stinger?"

JM: It is an assassination weapon which the Agency contracted an American manufacturer of firearms to construct. It looks like a pipe lighter or a large tube of lipstick. It's silver in color. It has a threaded barrel which can be unscrewed and a .22 caliber short round is inserted and when the barrel is screwed back on, the whole thing can be held in the palm of the hand and utilized for an assassination at a public place where a lot of noise is occurring, such as a sporting event. It's an assassination weapon that is provided by the CIA. I didn't have one.

JD: Did you ever have one?

JM: No. I've never had one, I've never owned one. I saw one in 1969 at Fort Holabird when I went to visit some people who were on "Project Cherry" during 1967. That was the first and only time I've ever seen one in my life.

JD: Did the government ever produce a witness who testified that you had one or who would testify to seeing you with one?

JM: No.

JD: So, in other words, Mason's contention, his theory was basically always just a theory?

JM: Mason's theory (for whatever motivation he had) was only that. But, he was an expert. The court, in no uncertain terms recognized that he was an expert witness In fact, when Mason finished his testimony, rather than withdrawing from the courtroom, he took a seat in the spectator section. That was noted by Captain Davis who brought it to the attention of the judge. The judge said, "Well, do you expect him to be brought back to the witness stand?" He asked this question of the prosecutor, Captain Lee and Captain Lee said he did not. Then the judge said (in the presence of the jury), "Well, I consider Dr. Mason a friend of the court. We've been on many courts martial before. As far as I'm concerned, he can stay and listen to this the rest of the trial, if he wants to." And that was that! So, Mason in effect, listened to every other testimony that came about as a result of that court martial.

JD: Why do you think Mason decided to stay in the courtroom?

JM: I think he was caught up in this theory of his and was trying to justify it in his own mind. After the trial, there were certain elements taking place by the post-trial review board, which was handled by the Judge Advocate General's office (the lawyers who worked for USARV). Mason's theory didn't work. The post-trial review countermanded Mason's expert testimony. Captain Lee, in summarizing his case before the jury, said, "It is the position of the United States government that a weapon employing a .22 was used to kill Inchin Lam." [Note: Inchin Lam or "Jimmy" refers to the victim. - Ed.] The post-trial review said, "Science cannot say under any facts or circumstances, that a .38 could not have caused the wound in question." Now, which position of the government had we been defending against? The investigator who test-fired my weapon had presented his results before the court. Mason had presented his theory before the court. People of common sense know that you can't put a .38 through a 5 millimeter hole or a 9mm through a 5mm hole. So, that's where this thing stood-in limbo-until three or four months after the trial.

JD: So, Mason was step-by-step, tailoring his testimony to fit the circumstances.

JM: Tailoring his testimony to fit a theory which provides for my guilt, even though it's contrary to all of the other evidentiary testimony that's taking place at trial.

JD: You don't think he was under orders to stay there, do you?

JM: I think he was under some strong influence to come up with this theory to make a conviction possible. I think he was told to come up with something much more substantial, other than a .22 and a 5mm hole, which are not conducive to the .38 that I had, in order to obtain a conviction. Now, who he got this directive from (if he got such a directive) I don't know.

JD: What was the excuse overheard outside the courtroom, for convicting you on such flimsy evidence?

JM: Well, Colonel Entrekin was discussing the fact that this was the first time in history that anybody had been sentenced under those particulars. He made the statement, "We don't know how he did it but we think he did it." During this conversation Captain Mason (who testified as an expert witness) the pathologist, was overheard to say to Stewart Davis, "Well, you should have asked me certain questions that you didn't ask!" And Davis said, "Are you playing word games with me, when we're talking about a man's life being at stake?!" And Mason said "Well, you should have talked a little bit more about "formalin." This is a fixative that is used on these thin slices of tissue that were excised from the wound track. Mason also brought out at court, that he had excised a bullet fragment from the left nasal pharynx of Inchin Lam and he had shipped that to the FBI laboratory in Washington, D.C. for analysis.

JD: Your attorney did not know that at the time, correct?

JM: He knew as a result of testimony in court, but he had never been advised before the court that that bullet fragment had been transferred to Washington, D.C.

JD: As far as you and lawyer Stewart Davis knew, at the time of the trial there was no FBI report?

JM: That's true, there wasn't. It was issued on the 9th of February, 1968.

JD: Did the prosecution know about the report?

JM: The prosecution couldn't have had knowledge about it because it wasn't issued until the 9th of February, which was ten days after the trial.

JD: What is the purpose of having the FBI examine the bullet, if their analysis is not going to be introduced at trial?

JM: Well, they didn't know what the response was going to be from the FBI. As it turned out, the FBI report could not conclude the type, manufacturer, make or size of bullet that this fragment came from. The report further states, that a particle of quartz was stuck to the tip of the bullet fragment. The FBI shipped this bullet fragment with the particle of quartz attached to it back to Captain Mason, in Vietnam. He, in turn, shipped it to the chief of forensic pathology for the United States military, at Bethesda naval hospital, which was under the command of Colonel Pierre Finck. [Note: Finck's precise title appears in his backstory posted after this article.] But, when Richard Mason received this report from the FBI on the 12th or 14th of February, 1968, he didn't think that report was important enough to let the defense counsel know about it or the fact that there was some quartz on the tip of this bullet fragment.

JD: So, even after the report is in the hands of the army, neither you nor Stewart Davis see it, right?

JM: That's correct. Neither Davis nor myself were aware that the report even existed.

JD: But, Mason and his commanding officer, Pierre Finck do see it.

JM: It was in Pierre's file.

JD: What was Pierre Finck's position at this time?

JM: He was chief of forensic pathology for all the military services of the United States. [Again, note correct title in his backstory.]

JD: In 1967 Finck is actually in Vietnam so, he has to know about your case. Then, he has the entire case file (which includes the pathologist's report) after your trial, correct?

JM: Mason's autopsy report and the complete medical file with regards to the testimony was later located in Pierre Finck's office, under very unusual circumstances.

JD: And you were not able to see this during the entire time of the trial, during your incarceration, up until the time of your appeal?

JM: The FBI report which was sent to Mason in Vietnam was then sent to Colonel Finck, by registered mail. Somehow, that bullet fragment with the particle of quartz stuck on the tip of it, was lost. My lawyers were never able to have that fragment tested or analyzed. That information would have been exculpatory. What it really means is that that bullet hit something before it hit Inchin Lam and that fact would have cleared me. This report was found in Pierre Finck's office files in February of 1970! Two years after my conviction! Also included in this file, was a recantation (in writing) by Dr. Richard Mason wherein he says he was mistaken about the contact wound theory, during his expert testimony at trial.

JD: And so now he had changed his story to what?

JM: He had now changed the story to say that the .38 that I had carried could have caused the wound in question, fired from several inches away into the back of Inchin Lam's neck and that the size of the wound was due to the fact that the epidermis had shrunk between the time that he was killed and the time that Mason viewed the remains.

JD: As far as you know, is that possible?

JM: No, as far as I know it is not possible. And those two documents were in a file which also contained copies of letters from Pierre Finck back to Richard Mason in Vietnam, asking Mason to get on board with this .38 theory because the post-trial review had found that a .38 could have caused the wound in question.

JD: In essence, as Mason's commanding officer, Finck was directing him to change his story.

JM: Yes. And to change his story by recanting his sworn testimony which compelled the jury to convict me!

JD: Now, if there had been a second trial, wouldn't Mason have had to explain the two different stories or theories?

JM: Yes, he would have had to explain why he flip-flopped on his theory. Now, a year after the trial Stewart Davis contacted Pierre Finck in an attempt to ascertain the whereabouts of Richard Mason. The last information we had about him was that he was in the San Francisco Bay area. Finck told Davis he had no idea where Mason was, but that he had left the service.

JD: But Finck had been Mason's commanding officer, right?

JM: Yes, he was Mason's commanding officer.

JD: And Mason, had been involved in a very important case, about which Finck had recently communicated with him, correct?

JM: That's correct.

JD: So, does Finck's story about not knowing Mason's whereabouts make sense?

JM: Finck's denial of any knowledge of Mason's whereabouts or of knowledge of any other information which would have been useful to the defense, is a flat-out lie. A year later, after Davis had left Vietnam and gone back to the Pentagon, I requested he be reassigned to my defense again, because he was so familiar with all the aspects of my case up to that point. Charles Morgan, who was then my civilian attorney agreed, because by that time Davis had been reassigned to the prosecution side of JAG at the Pentagon.

JD: So, Finck had declared to Davis both that he was unaware of Mason's location and that there was nothing in the case file which would have been helpful to the defense?

JM: There was no file!

JD: He denied the existence of a file?

JM: He denied the existence of a file. As a forensic pathologist, Pierre Finck had to know and understand the significance of expert testimony at trial, the ramifications of a recantation of that expert testimony and its impact on the judicial system. In the meantime, I was sitting in Leavenworth. In November of 1969, I was released under the first opportunity to exercise military "bail." I was still under a conviction and I was reassigned to another military post in Arizona. In March of 1970, Stewart Davis was having coffee in the cafeteria at the Pentagon and a lawyer who worked in the forensic pathology department (Colonel Finck's department, still), approached Davis and asked him if he had seen the McCarthy file. Davis was surprised to say the least, in as much as he had been told no file existed. This attorney escorted Davis over to Finck's office. He was shown where the file was and then he was told that the copy machine was just down the hall but, that he should be careful because there was also a sergeant there.

JD: Was Davis then left alone?

JM: Stewart Davis was left alone with the file.

JD: A file that Pierre Finck said did not exist?

JM: That's correct.

JD: He's left alone and the copy machine is pointed out to him?

JM: Exactly. As he opened the file the first page was Mason's recantation of his testimony, dated August, 1968. The next pages in the file were letters from Finck to Mason suggesting that he get on board (with the .38 theory) and another letter congratulating him for recanting his testimony. Also in the file was the FBI report dated the 9th of February, 1968, which was exculpatory evidence. So, the FBI knew there was exculpatory information, Pierre Finck knew there was exculpatory information, the prosecutors knew there was exculpatory information and nobody did a damn thing about it.

Finck Backstory

Pierre Finck is not the only one in his family to have done high-profile work. His grandfather, a professor of legal medicine, performed the autopsy on Elizabeth, Empress of Austria in 1888. Finck himself gained noteriety as the only professional to attend the autopsies of both President Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy.

Finck served in the US Army Medical Corps from 1955-1975. He was a member of the Academy of Forensic Sciences and at the time of the autopsy was an Army Lieutenant Colonel and Chief of Wound Ballistics Pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP).

His background shows a deep connection to the national security establishment. He appeared as an expert medical witness before the International Commission of Jurists in Panama, 1964. His role there was to show that the gunshot victims were not killed by American soldiers. In Germany he testified in a case involving the killing of an American officer. He was also a consultant to the FBI.

The most curious association is Finck's connection to the International Police Academy (IPA), formerly the Inter-American Police Academy, founded in Panama by the CIA's station there. Later, the Academy moved to Washington. CIA-controlled and using AID cover, the International Police Academy was engaged in training police forces from the Third World. Finck was a lecturer there. 

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