Review of Randich and Grant's article on the NAA

    Erik Randich and Patrick Grant published an article in the the July 2006 issue of Journal of Forensic Sciences that purports to debunk the claim that the five fragments of lead recovered from the JFK assassination fell into two clear groups. Their article is entitled "Proper Assessment of the JFK Assassination Bullet Lead Evidence from Metallurgical and Statistical Perspectives." Its reference is J. Forensic Sci., July 2006, Vol. 51, No. 4, pp. 717728. The previous claims about the two groups came first from Dr. Vincent P. Guinn in his work for the HSCA, and more recently in two articles by Larry Sturdivan and me that appeared in Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, October 2004. This is the review that Randich and Grant's article should have been given by the journal but obviously wasn't.
    The Randich-Grant article (RG) contains two main themes, each by one of its authors. The metallurgical theme comes from Erik Randich, who is known for his recent work critiquing the FBI's procedures for relating bullet fragments from a crime scene to off-scene boxes of bullets possessed by one or more suspected perpetrators. He and a colleague from the FBI pushed very hard for the idea that the FBI had been overreaching and claiming chemical matches where there were none. A 2004 report by the National Research Council supported this general conclusion, and recommended that the FBI tighten its procedures. In the face of intense adverse publicity, however, the FBI decided to drop the procedure altogether. Fresh from what he perceived as a major victory, Dr. Randich thought he could similarly debunk the conclusions from the JFK fragments. He failed.
    The statistical theme comes mainly from Dr. Grant, who knew Dr. Guinn while a graduate student at UC Irvine (but was a student of F. Sherwood Rowland). He is proposing that the effective uncertainties on the elemental concentrations measured in the JFK bullet fragments are considerably larger than those reported by Dr. Guinn, to the point that the "groups" can no longer be considered distinct.
    This review contains three parts. The first is the introduction given above. The second part is a review of the article itself, with the the metallurgical and statistical parts considered separately. The third part deals with comments of the "followers," the people on the newsgroups that gloat over certain general statements in the article but don't understand the lack of support provided for them. I refer collectively to Randich/Grant and their followers as the "Latter-day NAA Revisionists," which can be abbreviated as LDNAARs, or pronounced as "Eldenaars."
    As always, comments on this review are welcome, particularly from Eldenaars. I will post those that I receive. Send E-mail messages to (As of 2 October 2006, no comments have been submitted directly to me.)
    For the record, these are my comments, not Larry Sturdivan's. I alone am responsible for them.

Kenneth A. Rahn
Narragansett, Rhode Island
31 August 2006
Updated 6 July 2007

Review of the article
Review of comments by the followers
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