March 12, 1964: Final Witness

March 12, 1964: Final Witness

Today is Thursday, March 12, 1964. We get an update on the escaped prisoners, we hear Jack Ruby’s peculiar conversation with his Rabbi, and a very famous witness volunteers for Jack Ruby. Continue reading for this episode’s script.

Before we begin with the trial, we first bring to you an update on the jail break that happened during the Jack Ruby Trial: Federal Charges have been filed against escapees Hudnall and Brock. They were two of the 7 prisoners, whom we’ll refer to as the Dallas 7, a phrase coined by Hulking Toby Tonahill – who escaped Friday afternoon during the Jack Ruby trial. Hudnall was charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution since he was awaiting trial. Brock was charged with unlawful flight to avoid confinement. 2 of the 7 remain on the run, and are being chased by hundreds of law enforcement officers. Sheriff Decker describes the men as “desperate and dangerous.”

The Defense continued with their barrage of experts by calling DR. Walter Bromberg, the Clinical Director of the Psychiatric Hospital in New York, who also consults in the field of neurology. He has examined over 3000 people suspected, charged or convicted of crimes. He examined Jack Ruby in just before Christmas last year and again in January. He told jurors that Ruby was mentally ill – that he did not know the nature and quality of his acts, and that his acts in the basement of city hall were done in a state of suspended consciousness. Following a strategy we’ve seen him use before, District Attorney Henry Wade asked the Doctor if his opinion would change if he believed certain facts to be true. Dr. Bromberg said he would. The real test, however, will be whether the jurors believe those facts to be true.

Jack Ruby’s Rabbi, and Yale graduate Hillel Silverman testified after Dr. Bromberg. He hosted a memorial service at his synagogue the night of the assassination, one attended by Ruby. The Rabbi testified that he Ruby was in a trance, and was not acting like himself. Since the assassination and killing of Oswald, Rabbi Silverman has visited Ruby approximately 80 times. He also relayed to jurors a very peculiar conversation he had with Ruby on a Sunday last March or April. Ruby came by his home, and parked his car. There were at least 6 dogs with him. He wanted to talk to Rabbi Silverman about his family in Chicago – when suddenly he began to cry for no reason at all. And he began to tell the Rabbi that he was unmarried, with no children. And that his wife was Sheba, and that the other 5 dogs there that day were his kids. Then, according to Rabbi Silverman, in 5 or 10 minutes, he forgot all about it and moved to another subject.  He told jurors that based on what he knows of Jack Ruby and based on how he acted that fateful weekend the President was killed, that Ruby was insane at the time of the killing.

Other witnesses were called by the defense to establish Jack Ruby’s state of mind. He complained to some about the ad in the Dallas Morning News that said, “Welcome Mr. President.” An ad that Ruby took as a death threat against the president the day before the assassination. He told his friend Arnold Gadash he was worried that someone might look at the ad and the name Bernard Weissman at the bottom, and think that the Jews wanted the president dead. Ruby told lawyer Stanley Kaufman the he thought the black border indicated that the author of the ad knew JFK would be killed.  Jewelry shop owner Frank Belloccio told jurors that Ruby showed him a picture of the Impeach Earl Warren Sign, and was acting irrationally about it. American Airlines Pilot T. R. Apple was with Belloccio and agreed the Ruby was agitated and upset when talking about the ad.

Last up for the Defense in this series of rebuttal witnesses was Russell Moore – you might know him better as Russ Knight or Weird Beard, DJ for KLIF. The DJ was at the press conference the night of and early morning of the assassination. He was looking for an interview with District Attorney Henry Wade. Ruby apparently overheard him, and pointed to weird beard to where Wade was, and the DJ got the interview. Belli asked him whether that was the interview in which Wade said that he wanted the death penalty for Oswald? The question brought objections from the prosecution, but the question is hard to forget. After all, the defense seemed to imply that Oswald’s life was unworthy of living or protecting. And with that the Defense rested this round of rebuttal. But Henry Wade wasn’t finished yet.

That’s right – he called 3 experts. All three of whom reiterated the common theme from all of the state’s experts: There is nothing significantly abnormal about Ruby’s EEGs, his neurological exam, his blood work up, his spinal tap or his x-rays. Additionally, the EEG’s don’t support a diagnosis of psychomotor epilepsy. One of the doctors, Dr. Forrester even conducted a blind EEG Review of sorts. She was sent 5 EEG Tracings, and was told that one of the tracings belonged to Ruby, but she wasn’t told which one. She analyzed all 5. She told jurors this afternoon that 2 were normal, 2 were normal with slight variances, and 1 was abnormal. Which one was Jack Ruby’s? 1 of the 2 that were normal. No slight variances, no abnormality. Finally, Dr. McKay told jurors that a person in a psychomotor state could not pick out a moving target and shoot at it and then recall what he did like Ruby apparently could. And with those three witnesses, the State rested. The defense quickly called a former girlfriend of Ruby’s named Alice Nichols, whom Ruby called after the assassination, who related to jurors that Ruby was quite was quite upset.  And then Melvin Belli called the father of the EEG’s himself, Frederick Gibbs. The man who invented the tests.

Dr. Gibbs first worked on EEG’s in America in 1932 at Harvard Medical School, and first wrote about the psychomotor variant epileptic discharge – like the one he saw in Jack Ruby’s EEG’s – in 1952. His book is based on 50,000 consecutive EEG’s to get a sample of those showing epilepsy. Dr. Frederick Gibbs came to the trial to testify for free after seeing some of the reports of the testimony in the newspapers. Hearing there was some debate, he came to give jurors his opinion. He told jurors that Ruby DOES have psychomotor epilepsy, and can tell it from the EEG tracings. He explained to the jurors in very specific language the notches and shapes of the tracings from Ruby’s EEG that tell him Ruby is suffering from this very rare type of epilepsy that manifests itself in only 1/2 of a percent of epileptics. Additionally, he told jurors that he frequently finds a personality instability in psychomotor epileptics, traits he saw in Jack Ruby.

On Cross Examination, Henry Wade finished with a very simple question, and got an answer that some did not expect. Doctor, Wade asked, from this EEG tracing, even you cannot say whether Jack Ruby knew the difference between right and wrong or understood the nature and consequences of his act? Dr. Gibb’s response? No, I cannot. And that was the last question Henry Wade in this trial. Melvin Belli asked him a few follow up questions, and he too asked his final question on behalf of Mr. Ruby.

Today, March 12, 1964, both sides have rested their cases once and for all. Judge Brown ordered the sheriff to retire the jury so that he could get with the lawyers and prepare the Court’s charge. It is nightfall here  in Texas, and the jurors have been sequestered. As we said in the first broadcast all the way back on March 3rd, the process of finalizing the charge may take some time. The highpoint of the trial will happen sometime tomorrow. Jurors can expect to hear from 7 total lawyers from the State and the Defense. We will have the only recordings of these 7 Closing Arguments ever made, and we will bring them to you tomorrow.

Join us tomorrow evening when we bring you unprecedented coverage of the historic closing arguments from some of the best lawyers in the world. Our very own Eric Bushman will be inside the courtroom, and will make the only recordings of the closing arguments of the Jack Ruby Trial you’ll ever hear. —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).

“2 Escapees Charged in Jail Break,” March 12, 1964, p. 14 (Online NewsBank).