2 – FACT vs. FINCHER – Scene by Scene – 11 thru 20

Scene 11 – Proof

At the offices of the San Francisco Chronicle, a secretary holds an envelope addressed to the editor. She opens the envelope and discovers a bloody scrap of Paul Stine’s shirt. Her scream echoes throughout the building. The new letter states that the Zodiac killed Stine and threatens to shoot schoolchildren.

FINCHER: The same secretary was shown discovering and opening the first Zodiac letter mailed to the Chronicle. In fact, she immediately walked into the editorial meeting and delivered the letter to the editor.

FACT: If the same woman handled the second letter in the manner depicted in the film, it is clear that members of the Chronicle staff had little regard for the evidence in an ongoing murder investigation.

Scene 12 – Handling the Letter

Armstrong and Toschi arrive to collect the letter and reveal to Avery that police discovered a partial bloody fingerprint on the cab. After promising Toschi that he would not reveal this secret, Avery immediately tells Graysmith about the fingerprint. Graysmith thinks the Zodiac will send another code. The publisher then admonishes the Chronicle staff not to reveal the killer’s threat to assassinate children.

Scene 13 – Get Off The Bus

Graysmith is reluctant to put his son on the school bus and decides to drive the boy to school himself.

Scene 14 – Sherwood Morrill

Toschi consults Sherwood Morrill, Questioned Documents Expert for the California State Department of Justice. Morrill is stiff and unfriendly, even hostile as he essentially scolds Toschi and asks him to leave the room. Outside, Toschi and Armstrong realize that they are involved in a massive manhunt.

FACT: Sherwood Morrill was a respected professional who served as Questioned Documents Expert for the Department of Justice until the mid-1970s. He continued to provide analysis of the Zodiac’s letters at the request of investigators, and he even defended David Toschi amid rumors that the inspector had forged a Zodiac letter in 1978. Like most intelligent and even eccentric experts, Morrill had critics who sometimes considered his conclusions controversial. Morrill concluded that the Zodiac was responsible for several writings connected to an unsolved crime in Riverside, California, including a poem written on the surface of a wooden desk. Some handwriting experts and investigators questioned Morrill’s conclusions concerning these writings while others agreed with his findings.

Scene 15 – Chaos at the SFPD

FINCHER: Mulanax tells Armstrong that witness Michael Mageau has vanished. The detective also complains about a lack of cooperation from the San Francisco investigators.

FACT: Mulanax had sent photos of suspects to Mageau for his examination and the witness had returned the photos just two weeks prior to the time of the phone call depicted in the film. In fact, Mulanax knew the whereabouts of Mageau at the time in question and authorities could have located the witness at any time in the weeks and years following the shooting.

As a member of the Vallejo Police Department, Mulanax had access to the same information available to Armstrong. The SFPD and the VPD were in constant contact with the FBI, and the many pages of reports in the bureau’s files demonstrate that the Vallejo police department had access to all analysis and results concerning the handwriting of the Zodiac communications.

Scene 16 – The Cops Who Let Zodiac Escape

Inspectors Armstrong and Toschi confront two patrolmen, officers Donald Fouke and Eric Zelms, who were on duty in Presidio Heights on the night of the cabdriver killing. The patrolmen confess that they had seen a white man matching the killer’s description as he fled the scene but did not stop to talk to him because the description broadcast identified the suspect as a Negro Male. Toschi and Armstrong are incredulous and question the stunned officers.

Scene 17 – Master criminal?

FINCHER: This scene casts doubt on the fingerprint evidence used to exclude the various suspects identified during the investigation.

FACT: In interviews with the media as late as 1978, Inspector Toschi declared his confidence that the fingerprint belonged to the killer and would identify the Zodiac. When asked for his opinion in 1988, Inspector Armstrong told a television producer that the fingerprint evidence would identify the Zodiac.

The hundreds of pages of police reports, FBI files, and other documents demonstrate that police believed that the fingerprint was a valuable piece of evidence that could help exclude suspects and identify the killer. Although investigators retained a healthy and logical position regarding the fingerprint and considered all the evidence when examining a suspect, the location of the fingerprint matched the movements of the killer as described by the witnesses, and traces of blood indicated that the print most likely belonged to the Zodiac.

Those who question the validity of this evidence usually do so while accusing a suspect whose fingerprints did not match the fingerprint found on the cab. In the film, the character of Ken Narlow cites the standard line of those who dismiss the value of the fingerprint evidence and speculates that clumsy cops or curious onlookers somehow left the fingerprint on the cab.

Officer Armand Pelissetti, first on the scene that night, stated that he saw the so-called “bloody” fingerprint on the driver’s side of the cab when he arrived. Pelissetti, Toschi, Armstrong and others had stated in previous interviews that officers preserved the crime scene and obtained elimination fingerprints from those at the scene that evening.

Scene 18 – Melvin Belli and Sam

Inspector Armstrong once again awakens his partner with a late-night phone call, and news that a man claiming to be the Zodiac telephoned the Oakland police department with his demand that famous attorneys F. Lee Bailey or Melvin Belli appear on a local television program. Belli, a San Francisco celebrity and self-promoter linked to many sensational cases, agrees to appear on the air with local TV host Jim Dunbar.

A man calls the television station and introduces himself as the Zodiac. When Belli asks for a less ominous moniker, the caller says that his name is “Sam.” Belli questions Sam, who complains of painful headaches that drive him to kill. After Sam hangs up, Dunbar states that the police are unable to trace the calls. The line rings and Sam once again complains of his headaches and says he is going to kill children. Belli pleads with the caller and eventually convinces Sam to meet him in person. A media circus ensues as reporters follow Belli to the agreed upon location and the sinister Sam fails to keep the appointment.

Shortly thereafter, surviving victim Bryan Hartnell sits in the television station and listens to a tape of Sam’s voice. He tells Inspector Armstrong that the voice is not similar to the voice of the man he encountered at Lake Berryessa.

Armstrong then informs the audience that police had “pulled off the trace” and located the mysterious “Sam,” who proved to be a patient at a mental hospital.

FINCHER: Armstrong states that police had identified “Sam” by tracing the calls to the television station.

FACT: Police were unable to trace the phone calls placed to the television station and could not identify or locate “Sam.” Bryan Hartnell and the police dispatchers who had spoken to the Zodiac all listened to the tapes of Sam’s voice in the days after the television spectacle. All agreed that “Sam” was not the Zodiac.

When “Sam” called Belli’s home several months later, police traced those calls to a mental hospital and identified the caller as a patient. Armstrong’s dialogue in this scene gives viewers the false impression that police had identified “Sam” and that the real Zodiac was most likely responsible for the subsequent calls to Belli.

Scene 19 – Déjà vu, Again

Avery, Graysmith, Toschi, Armstrong and others sit in the newspaper offices as the publisher reads the newest communication from the killer. The news that the Zodiac sent another coded message leads Avery to invite Graysmith for a drink. Toschi angrily scolds the staff for touching and contaminating yet another piece of evidence.

Scene 20 – Graysmith, Avery and Male Bonding

Over drinks, the reporter and the cartoonist shares thoughts on the Zodiac case. Avery mentions that the seemingly obsessive Graysmith has been going through his trash. Graysmith explains how the killer constructed his ciphers as Avery snorts cocaine and watches in disbelief.

FINCHER: The two men continue to “work” together.

FACT: Graysmith and Avery had no contact with one another at this time and the scene depicted in the film never occurred.


IntroductionPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8 – Conclusion