Today is Wednesday, March 11th, 1964. The Defense Rests, The State offers an explanation for Ruby’s Claw handed shooting, Margeurite Oswald mother demands a posthumous trial for her son. Continue reading for this episode’s script.
After unsuccessfully offering documents related to Jack Ruby’s mother’s stay in a hospital, the Defense surprised everyone when, at approximately 9 AM, they rested their case. Then, outside the presence of the jurors, they asked that Judge Brown find the Defendant Not Guilty, pointing to the medical evidence they say proves that Jack Ruby did not know the difference between right and wrong. Judge Brown denied their request. District Attorney Henry Wade then called witnesses in rebuttal to the Defense’s case.
First up was Ira Walker with WBAP. He was downtown in his capacity as a newsman on the morning Oswald was set to be transferred. At approximately 10:30 AM, Jack Ruby approached him outside of the police station and asked him, “Have they brought him down yet?” If believed by jurors, this may prove that Ruby was downtown looking for Oswald. Prosecutors also called Frank Johnston, a photographer for United Press International News Pictures, who was in the basement taking pictures of Oswald coming out of the elevator. When asked by Wade whether Ruby said anything just before he shot Oswald, he answered, quote I heard him yell, “You S.O.B” and then the gun went off. However on cross examination by Joe Tonahill, he admitted that he never actually saw Ruby speak those words, and couldn’t tell the Jury that Ruby actually ever said them.
Next Up for the state was Doctor Sheff Olinger – a neurologist who maintains an office at 712 North Washington – the laboratory where Jack Ruby was administered the EEG tests. Dr. Olinger interprets EEG’s for his patients and for patients at Balor Hospital and at the Timberlawn Sanitarium. On January 29th, he tested Ruby’s blood, skull, liver and urine: all were normal. And then the District Attorney asked him if he reviewed Jack Ruby’s EEG’s that were introduced into evidence. He said that he did. He then told jurors that they do NOT Indicate any organic brain damage. In sum, he disagrees with the first major defense expert, Dr. Towler. Dr. Olinger would not diagnose Ruby as having psychomotor epilepsy.
Prosecutor Jim Bowie next called Doctor Robert Stubblefield, a physician, psychiatrist, and professor at the Southwestern medical school at Parkland Hospital. He examined Jack Ruby on January 27th at the Dallas County Jail. He first asked Ruby to recall for him any of the events that occurred down at city hall on November 24th. Ruby declined to do so on the advice of his attorney. Because he refused to discuss these events, Dr. Stubblefield said he could not form an opinion as to whether Ruby was insane at the time of the killing. However, once he was supplied a hypothetical set of facts by Prosecutor Bowie based on the testimony jurors heard about Ruby’s actions and words, Dr. Stubblefield told jurors Ruby was not insane. Of Course, the defense pointed out through their cross examination that if jurors disbelieved the testimony offered by the State about Ruby’s actions and words, then his opinion might be the exact opposite. Perhaps tipping their hand, the defense also brought up Dr. Gibbs, who discovered psychomotor epilepsy. Through questioning, Belli got Dr. Stubblefield to agree that psychomotor epilepsy was a real thing – in the same way that America was always here until it was discovered. Epilepsy was always here, until Dr. Gibbs discovered it. Finally, Dr. Stubblefield could not rule out the possibility that the EEG showed a slowing down in the brain waves of Jack Ruby to 5 or 6 per second, a finding consistent with psychomotor epilepsy.
Bill Alexander was up next for the Prosecution, calling Dr. John Holbrook, a graduate of Texas Christian University for undergraduate studies, then earning his Medical Degree at Southwestern University Texas Medical school. He first saw Jack Ruby the day after Ruby was arrested for killing Oswald. He met him on numerous times thereafter, and told jurors that in his opinion, Jack Ruby was sane at the time of the killing, and that he knew the nature and consequences of his acts. He ruled out schizophrenia, epilepsy and all functional mental psychoses. He proved to be the third doctor to testify today that Ruby was sane.
You will recall the testimony from earlier in the trial from the defense that Jack Ruby must have been in a fugue state as supported by the fact that he shot his .38 Colt Cobra with a “claw hand.” Jim Bowie then called Alfred Breninger, a civil service employee the city of Dallas, and a retired Colonel from the United States Army. While in the Army, he became an expert in the field of pistol shooting, having been an instructor and competitive shooter in national matches. He told jurors this afternoon that pistol shooters will use their middle finger – as opposed to their index finger – when shooting in a hurry. Breninger said, “We call it instinct shooting, or shooting in a hurry where you don’t have time to use the sights. It’s point shooting.” He explained that the shooter in this scenario would extend his index finger down the barrel of the gun, knowing that wherever his finger was pointed, that’s where the barrel would be pointed. You could point and shoot at the same time. On cross examination, Mr. Belli asked the competitive shooter how quickly he could get off three shots, even asking him to demonstrate it twice for jurors. Belli apparently making the point that three shots could have come quote “almost as quickly as you could do one by taking aim.” Belli then showed him the historic Bob Jackson photograph and asked him to comment about the way Ruby’s hands looked when he was shooting: he appears to be “tense and under a terrific strain, rather than relaxed as we try to get a normal target shoot to be.” he characterized Ruby’s acts as “abnormal for a target shooter.”
The back and forth battle over experts regarding Jack Ruby’s EEG’s continued late into the day. Two Doctors, Kelloway and Walker, both testified that they reviewed Ruby’s EEG’s, and both testified that they do not show that Ruby has either organic brain injury or psychomotor epilepsy. Perhaps sharing with us what we will hear during closing arguments, Melvin Belli asked Dr. Walker whether Ruby’s EEG are unusual, and that with enough time, study and information, these undisputedly unusual readings may later be called “Smiths” disease or Jones disease or some as yet unnamed affliction that we have yet to identify. Dr. Walker said he agreed in principal with this assertion.
The State rested their case after Dr. Walker. The Defense wasn’t finished. The pace of the questioning has definitely quickened by this point in the trial. Do you all recall the testimony Officer McMillon? He told jurors during the State’s case that he was looking at Ruby when he heard him say you “Rat S.O.B. you shot the president” and I hope I killed the SOB”. Chief Ruby Attorney Melvin Belli called Jack Revill back to the stand to identify McMillon and Archer in one of the photographs taken at the instant of the shooting. The person identified by Revill as McMillon is clearly not looking at Ruby during the shooting. Archer was identified as being approximately 20 feet. Belli intimates through this line of questioning that neither officer was in a position to see or hear what they claim.
The Defense rounded out the day by calling his sister, Eileen Kaminsky to prove that Ruby could be eligible for probation if he was convicted of a lesser charge since he had never been convicted of a serious crime. Their second to last witness was Eleanor Pitts, a woman who did housework for Jack Ruby. She saw him the morning of the killing and said he was acting very strange. So strange in fact, she said she had to ask him whether he really was Jack Ruby.
The final witness for the defense today was B.H. Combest. Throughout the trial, the defense has contended that if the words S.O.B. were uttered even though none of microphones in the basement that day picked it up, someone else must have said it. And that’s why they called a Dallas Police Detective named B.H. Combest, one of the officers assigned to city hall the morning of the killing. He said he was 3 feet behind Oswald, Leavelle and Graves. He saw Ruby coming out of the crowd and exclaimed, Quote, “Jack you sonofabitch, Don’t!” he said these words just as the shooting happened.
Outside the Courtroom, Mrs. Maraguerite Oswald toured the scene of the assassination of President Kennedy, saying she would spend several days investigating. Quote: If this means I’m going to be a nuisance, I’ll be a nuisance. She demanded that her son be tried posthumously because he was innocent. She also told reporters that it is quite possible that her son knew Jack Ruby, and that her son, “an Intelligence Agent,” was investigating Ruby. She said that three or four people were involved in the assassination.
And with that, Day 6 of the trial is in the history books. Tomorrow morning, the defense may call more witnesses or rest. Join us and Find out everything that happened tomorrow evening. —End of Episode–
The transcript of the trial on the merits of the Jack Ruby trial is publicly available online from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Texas Digital Archive in the Court of Criminal Appeals Centralized Court Case Files Collection (each volume corresponds to 1 day of testimony).
From the Dallas Times Herald on location at the Sixth Floor Museum as donated by Dallas Times Herald Reporter Bob Fenley, Wednesday March 11, 1964, evening addition:
- Oswald’s Mother Sees Slaying Site, March 11, 1964 evening edition.