Vince Fosters "suicide" note

Sam Teel sam.teel at SFWMD.GOV
Mon Apr 22 07:41:06 MDT 1996

Anthony, I hope this helps.

WARNING!  This is long!

> Mr. Teel said
> >How do you account for the FACT that his suicide note is a fake?  EVERY
> >expert
> >who had looked at the note has called it fake.
>    Who are the "experts"?  This matters to me.  It has been my experience
> that so-called "experts" will often say what they are paid to say, regardless
> of the "FACTS".
> >I hit a web site that had a
> >copy of the note digitized and also a letter that he DID write.  Hell, I
> >could tell the difference. (Of course, I AM the father of a teenager ;)
> >I have asked people and thought about it, but I cannot remember a case where
> >a suicide note was faked and the motive was not either to hide a murder or
> >insurance fraud.  Have any of you?
> Assuming the note is fake, I absolutely agree with you.  There would be no
> other logical reason to fake a suicide note.
> Tony
Experts: Foster note fake

By Christopher Ruddy


WASHINGTON - At a press conference in Washington today, an international

panel of forensic handwriting experts - including one from Oxford

University - will announce its findings that a torn note, said to have been

Vince Foster Jr.'s "suicide" note, is a forgery.

Strategic Investment, a Baltimore-based financial newsletter, and its

editor, James Dale Davidson, have called the conference to issue the

written findings of three experts that analyzed a copy of a note.

Twenty-seven pieces (the 28th piece was missing) of the note were claimed

to have been found in the late Deputy White House Counsel's briefcase

almost a week after his sudden death on July 20, 1993.

If the forensic panel's assertions are true, it could indicate that someone

engaged in a major cover-up of Foster's death and obstructed justice by

hindering the investigation of the matter. The U.S. Park Police originally

determined that the note was written by Foster, and ruled his death a

suicide. At the request of former Special Counsel Robert Fiske, the FBI lab

examined the note and concluded it was authentic.

The methodology used by both the FBI and Park Police to certify the note,

however, has been challenged. Fiske relied on the note to help make his

case that Foster was depressed in the last days of his life, particularly

over apparent improprieties in the White House Travel Office.

The note begins, "I made mistakes from ignorance, inexperience and

overwork", and from there rambles on about legal, personal and office

concerns on a single sheet of 81/2 by 11 legal paper.

Foster's wife, Lisa, told the FBI that she believed her husband had written

the note in the weeks before his death after she had advised him to

document "everything `they' did wrong." She told the FBI that she "did not

view or read the note" until it was pieced together and shown to her.


The three forensic reports obtained by the Tribune-Review indicate that the

experts came to independent conclusions that Foster did not write the note.

Reginald E. Alton indicated that, based on his comparison of a photocopy of

the note with a dozen photocopied documents known to have been written by

Foster, the torn note "is a forgery."

Alton has for 30 years lectured on handwriting, manuscript authentication,

and forgery detection at England's Oxford University. In recent years he

led a panel of experts that ruled on the challenged diaries of noted

English author C.S. Lewis. Alton's opinion has been sought by British

police agencies and, according to his biography, he has testified in

British courts as an expert witness relating to questioned documents.

Alton is currently Dean of Degrees at Oxford's St. Edmund Hall, its oldest

undergraduate institution. In his report Alton noted eight major

discrepancies between the torn note and Foster's known handwriting. He

described Foster's natural writing as "firm, open, rounded, with a

consistent slight backward slope and an easy currency that joins letters

with scarcely an interruption. ..." The torn note, he said, is written in a

less open style with an inconsistent slope, and with letters drawn in a

characteristic arched style.

Coming to a similar conclusion, Vincent Scalice notes that the "execution,

form and style of the writing ... is not consistent with (Foster's)

writings. ..."

Scalice, a former homicide and identification expert with the New York City

Police Department, has 22 years experience handling questioned documents

and is a certified document examiner with the American Board of Forensic

Examiners. He has testified in numerous court cases relating to documents

and has consulted for major firms and banks, including Citibank and

Chemical Bank, as a document examiner.

"Look at the note, and just compare it with the flow of the letter the Park

Police used to authenticate," Scalice said in an interview. "Even a lay

person can see it's not a match." Scalice added that he also analyzed the

challenged document for specific letter characteristics and other patterns

that indicate the note to be a forgery.

Offering a third opinion of forgery, Ronald Rice heads New England

Investigations of Boston and has 18 years experience examining documents

and is board certified. A consultant to the criminal unit of the

Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, Rice has worked on a number of

celebrated cases, and recently was asked by CNN to examine notes written by

O.J. Simpson.

Rice told the Tribune-Review that the note is "an artistic forgery." The

forger, Rice suggests, took known writings of Foster and "either drew them,

used a cut-and-paste method, or used a highly sophisticated computer

scanning method."

Alton and Scalice also agreed that the forger created the torn note from

known writings. "A good forger always wants to mimic the real thing, rather

than create a word," Scalice explained. "This is probably why the note

never makes a reference to suicide. Foster likely had never written any

such words."


"The flimsy investigation into the note parallels still the flimsy

investigation of the death," Davidson said. Davidson and his newsletter

have criticized the handling of the Foster case by federal authorities.

Given the political overtones of the Foster matter, Davidson noted he

strongly supported President Clinton in the past, having donated the

maximum amount allowable to his 1992 presidential campaign, and has

attended "renaissance weekends" and inaugural balls for then-Gov. Clinton.

He said he hired the experts after he received information that the FBI and

Park Police did not adequately review the note. In his report, homicide

expert Scalice said the torn note is "not consistent" with a suicide note,

since it makes no mention of intentional harm, suicide, death, farewell, or

expressions of departure.

Scalice, also an expert in the identification of latent fingerprint

impressions, said if the note was torn into 28 pieces without leaving any

fingerprints, this "would be consistent with someone having worn gloves."

"Otherwise there should have been numerous latent impressions," he said.

Scalice and Alton both said finding of the note "torn" should have been a

red flag for investigators that a forger may have been attempting to make a

comparison of the document more difficult. "Anytime a document is torn,

mutilated, something spilled on it, suspicion should be aroused," Scalice


The White House says that the note was found in Foster's briefcase as it

was being packed almost a week after his death. Then-White House Counsel

Bernard Nussbaum admitted he searched the briefcase two days after Foster's

death and that he did not detect the torn pieces.

The Park Police in both private and public interviews have claimed that the

briefcase was searched properly, and that the torn note was not in it

during the official search conducted by Nussbaum.

Earlier this year Park Police detective Pete Markland told the Washington

Post that Nussbaum searched the briefcase twice, declaring "It's empty."

Markland told the New York Post in April that he became suspicious when the

note was later found in the same briefcase. "Nobody could have missed that

note in there," Markland told the Post. Markland never testified at Senate

hearings this past summer.


Despite apparent suspicions about the note, police apparently took a rather

casual approach to its examination. On July 29, 1993, the Park Police had

Sgt. Larry Lockhart, an expert in handwriting for the U.S. Capitol Police,

examine the note. Lockhart concluded that Foster wrote it.

Lockhart told the Tribune-Review that he has no certification as a

handwriting examiner, but has developed his skill over a 15-year period. He

admitted that he used only a single document of Foster's known writing - a

curt letter that Foster had written shortly before his death - to make the


"According to the federal rules of evidence you need at least four known

writings to compare a questioned document, but usually an examiner wants as

many as he can get," explained Ron Rice, who wrote the course on

handwriting examination for the American Board of Forensic Examiners.

Scalice noted that in a homicide investigation police "would not normally

accept a single document (for comparison purposes) from a family member.

You'd want documents from several sources to make sure the police aren't

given a forged document to compare another forged document."

Asked how many known writings he typically wants to make a comparison,

Lockhart said his rule is "the more the better." He said he made his

opinion based on one document in this case because that "was all the police

gave me."

Lockhart said when he examined the torn note he did notice a wavering in

the writing "which could have been a tremble." He said that although he

noted it to himself, "I didn't say anything at the time to investigators.

There was something in the writing that indicated the individual could have

been a manic depressant."

He said he later read in the paper that Foster was on medication and saw

that as a possible reason for the "tremble." He was unaware that Foster is

said to have gone on medication for insomnia the night before he died, and

that the note was said to have been written days or weeks earlier.

Other experts say that a "tremble" could be a sign of hesitation - a forged

document lacks the free-flowing style of the actual writer. The Park Police

say that they did not use the FBI lab to examine the document because

Foster had criticized the FBI by stating in the torn note: "The FBI lied in

their report to the AG."

According to the report of former Special Counsel Robert Fiske, the FBI lab

subsequently was brought in and "determined that the torn note was written

by Foster." Fiske used, like the Park Police, a single page document

offered by the family, adding only two checks written by Foster, for

handwriting comparison purposes.

But a source close to the Starr probe said Fiske was imprecise in his

report: the FBI lab found the two checks to be an "inconclusive match" to

the torn note. The FBI lab matched the note to the single page document.

The lab's reliance on so few documents in the case contradicts normal FBI

procures. "The general guidelines is to have more (known writings) rather

than less," explained John Hicks, recently retired FBI assistant director

and head of the FBI Crime Lab, which oversaw the Document Unit.

"If I had to come up with a minimum number of (known writings) I'd want,

I'd say 10," James Lyle said. Lyle, a former special agent and unit chief

for the Question Document Section who retired in 1993, said there "is no

rule of thumb" except that analysts "usually want as many as you can get."


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