Evidence admissibility in court is centered upon an uninterrupted chain of custody. It is important to demonstrate that the evidence introduced at trial is the same evidence collected at the crime scene, and that access was controlled and documented. If the integrity of an item of evidence is uncertain, the use of items in legal proceedings could be jeopardized.
The FBI developed and reported a chain of custody for the bullet discovered at Parkland Hospital and identified as Exhibit 399 on June 7, 1964. Reportedly, Darrell C. Tomlinson found the bullet and gave it to O. P. Wright. Mr. Wright gave the bullet to Secret Service Agent Richard E. Johnsen. Johnsen gave the bullet to Secret Service Chief James Rowley. Chief Rowley gave the bullet to FBI Agent Elmar Lee Todd.
Later, the persons who handled the bullet were asked if they could identify the bullet marked as Commission Exhibit 399 as the bullet they had received and passed on to someone else. The FBI report indicated no one could positively identify the bullet. Not even the Secret Service Agents.
However, the FBI reported in Warren Commission Exhibit 2011, both Tomlinson and Wright stated to Special Agent Bardwell D. Odum, Exhibit
399 resembled the bullet found at Parkland Hospital. This is a problem since Odum states he “never, at any time, had any bullet” related to the Kennedy assassination in his possession.
One would expect one, or both agents, to state Commission Exhibit 399 looked like the same bullet, even if unable to make a positive identification. One would expect a Secret Service agent holding a bullet used in the assassination of President Kennedy to give special attention to the size, shape, and condition of the projectile. One would also expect a Secret Service agent to be cognizant of the importance of maintaining a proper chain of custody for physical evidence. Given the importance of this case, it seems one might even expect a Secret Service agent to initiate some chain of custody, which would include a physical description of the evidence being transferred, and the signatures of both parties with appropriate dates and times. But that didn’t happen.