March 6, 1964: The State Rests, The Drama Begins

March 6, 1964: The State Rests, The Drama Begins

Today is Friday, March 6th, 1964: Jurors watch a historic Motion Picture Film, We Learn about Ruby’s”CHILDREN”, and, well…..Dallas Just Can’t Win. Day 3 is in the history books. Keep Reading for this episode’s script.

Today at the Dallas County Criminal Courts’ building, the first murder in the history of the world caught on live television was shown to Jurors in the Jack Ruby Trial. District Attorney Henry Wade showed the 8 men and 4 omen two motion picture films of the events that took place at the City Hall on the 24th of November, last year. The first was taken by the United Press International, the second by George Penick, Station KRLD. The presentation of the films includes some slow frames, too. DPD Officer Jack Revill identified from the film the members of the press, the Dallas Police Department, Lee Harvey Oswald and the balding slayer currently on trial, Jack Ruby. Jim Underwood, a KRLD-TV photographer, ran the projector.

During the dramatic presentation, the lights in the courtroom were dimmed. Lt. Jack Revill supplied a running commentary of the images, sometimes using a ruler to point out various figures in the basement of city hall during the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald. Said Lt. Revill, “Now we see Detective Leavelle, handcuffed to Oswald, and now more of Ruby’s hat. Now Oswald is in the frame…..Here we see Ruby moving toward Leavelle, Oswald and graves who was also guarding the Marxist.”  Spectators could not see Ruby actually fire the shot, but they could get a glimpse of Oswald slumping towards the floor. And then Bedlam. Judge Joe Brown denied Chief Defense Attorney Melvin Belli’s request to allow jurors to ask questions while the motion picture films were displayed.

Ruby chewed gum and appeared tense as the pictures flickered on a screen within 10 feet of his chair. He gnawed at his nails, fidgeted in his chair, and rubbed his chin. Ruby kept his eyes fixed on the screen during the first showing of the motion picture films, but when they were re-run for the jury, Ruby frequently looked down and closed his eyes.

After the motion picture films were shown, 2 police officers told jurors the statements they say they hear Jack Ruby make after the killing in the basement of city hall. Glenn King, a Captain with the Dallas Police Department, told jurors that no more than a minute or so after the shooting, Ruby said, “You didn’t think I was going to let him get by with it, did you?” The statement was made, according to the Captain, as Ruby was being led into the elevator. When asked by District Attorney Henry Wade if he said anything to Ruby, Captain King said to Ruby, “You dirty scum, you’re the scum of the earth.” The testimony brought the lawyers from both sides out of their chairs in a slew of objections. However, Judge Brown ultimately allowed Captain King to testify about all of the statements he either heard or made in the bedlam following the killing.

Judge Brown also allowed into evidence notes that Officer Archer and McMillon made in the days immediately following Oswald’s murder. Jurors will be allowed to compare what these officers wrote with what they heard these officers say yesterday in Court. Ruby’s lawyers – Melvin Belli and Joe Tonahill – have intimated on numerous occasions through their questioning that the officers added the statements they attribute to Ruby – for example that Ruby said he “intended to shoot him three times,” or that Ruby said, “I meant to kill him.” Belli contends that since neither of these quotes appear in the original notes made back in November, that the officers made them up before trial.

We now know what Dallas police found when they searched Jack Ruby. Captain Dean also told jurors about the amount of money Jack Ruby possessed at his apartment and in his car, as well as the amount of money he had in his pocket when he killed the alleged presidential assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Police found a total of $837.50 in his apartment and in his car. When he was searched at the jail, Ruby possessed 2015.33 in cash. In addition to the cash in his pocket, police recovered 3 photographs of a sign in town that said “Impeach Earl Warren.” Earl Warren is a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.

After Captain King testified, the Prosecution called its 18th and final witness, Dallas Police Officer Patrick Dean, a Sergeant in the Patrol Division. 2 days after Ruby shot and killed Oswald, Sgt. Dean asked him, “Jack, why did you do it?” Dean said Ruby replied that he was, “emotionally shaken and  since the assassination of the president and the shooting of Officer JD Tippit. Further, Ruby said he could see no sense in a long and lengthy trial for the presidential assassin. Finally, Ruby said he did want Jacqueline Kennedy to have the emotional strain of a trial, either. And then, according to Sgt. Dean, Ruby gave a reason why he killed Oswald, “I guess I wanted to let the world know that Jews have guts.” And perhaps the most devastating to the defense  of temporary insanity came next: Dean quoted Ruby as saying he first thought about killing Oswald on November 22 – two days before he actually did kill him. Dean said, “Ruby said that when he noticed that sarcastic sneer on Oswald’s face, that’s when he decided to kill him. The Damaging testimony brought lawyers Belli, Tonahill and Phil Burleson all out of their chair. In what will most assuredly be a point raised on appeal, they claimed that since all of these statements were allegedly made in response to questioning and not “Spontaneous,” the statements are inadmissible. Judge Brown disagreed, and let the jurors hear all of the statements. This will most assuredly be a major point on appeal judging by the reactions of the Defense lawyers.

Sgt. Dean was one of the first members of the DPD questioned by reporters after Oswald was killed. In this audio clip, Dean is questioned by Bob Huffaker of KRLD TV and Tom Pettit of NBC within 15 minutes of Oswald’s being shot as chaos continued to unfold in the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters. [Clip of Officer Pat Dean after the shooting is played.]

Over the lunchbreak today, Ruby’s Lawyers Melvin Belli and Joe Tonahill walked down the block from the Courthouse to the Texas Schoolboard Depository building. There, they visited the sixth floor and looked out the window where Lee Harvey Oswald was accused of firing the fatal shots. They also confirmed that the cell in which Ruby has been housed is not visible. The attorneys told reporters that they, “Just wanted to look at history.”

And with those 18 witnesses called, the State Rested. Melvin Belli stood and gave an opening statement on Behalf of Ruby, and our very own Eric Bushman, was in court to listen. Here is part of Belli’s opening remarks: I say this not in argument, but in fact, that the fates conspired against Jack Ruby. That he went right out here where the wreaths for the president were, and he went on up to the Western Union Office, left his little Dog Sheba in his car, and told her that he would be coming back for her. We’ll show you the influences, the impulses on Jack Ruby’s mind. We’ll show you what happened to this tragic man. And we’ll ask you to find him not guilty.” Although we are not able to bring microphones in the courtroom for the opening statements or any of the questioning, we have it on good authority that we will be able to bring you recordings of the closing arguments when they happen. More on that at the end of the trial.

Mr. Belli began Jack Ruby’s Defense by calling Karen Bennett. She is better known as Little Lynn, an exotic dancer for Jack Ruby. Appearing in a white dress and 9 months pregnant. She testified that Ruby was very upset after the assassination of the president, and was in tears when he spoke to her. He refused to open his club the night after the assassination out of honor and respect for the fallen president. She also said that Ruby told her he may never open it again. Finally, she spoke to jurors of Ruby’s intense affection for his 5 dachsunds. One in particular, Sheba, went everywhere according to Ms. Bennett. This is the same Sheba that Dallas Police found in Ruby’s car. It was Ms. Bennett who was to receive the money from Jack Ruby, and that’s the reason he went to the Western Union Store. A Southwestern Bell Employee was next called to prove that a phone call between Ruby and happened at 10:18 AM.  The call was unplanned, and therefore, according to the emerging defensive theory, so was Ruby’s plan to come downtown the day he killed Oswald.

Next, The next two defense witnesses both knew Jack Ruby and told jurors about him. Both characterized Ruby as emotional, unstable, quick tempered, attention seeking and unpredictable. They both also said he was extraordinarily fond of his dogs. Ruby referred to his dogs as his “children.” As a matter of fact, Ruby would not allow anyone to refer to them as dogs – they were to be called his “children.” One witness testified that Ruby let one of the dogs lick blood off of his hand. After these witnesses finished their testimony, Court shut down for the evening, and for the day. Testimony in the Defense’s case will resume Monday.

All the action wasn’t just in the Courtroom – In what must be the most well photographed and witnessed jail break in the world happened today At 3:30. 7 prisoners broke out of the Dallas County Jail, took a hostage and escaped. And all of it happened during Jack Ruby’s trial. Using razor blades and  a fake pistol fashioned out of a bar of soap, the prisoners burst out of the locked door leading to the jail elevator and scattered among the crowd gathered to watch the Ruby trial. All of the prisoners were either convicted of or awaiting trial for Aggravated Robbery. Charles Gregory, 20, was identified as the man holding the pistol, and as the man who grabbed a woman hostage named Mrs. Ruth Thornton. He was captured moments later by Deputy Sheriff Charles Player. As of right now, 4 of the 7 have been captured. The 3 that remain at large are Billy Brock, Randoph Hudnall and Leonard Driggers. Let’s go to Eric Bushman who has more details about how this escape all began.

According to Sheriff Bill Decker, the 7 men overtook a jailer named A.S. Greer as he worked was distributing bars of soap  next to the jail elevator. Using the guards as hostages, they then beat jailer Leroy Hunt and took his keys. That allowed them to escape into the public areas. Group charged into the office of Judge Mead and threw a chair through the window, apparently planning to get out of the building through the window that faced Elm Street. Once they realized that Elm Street was two floors up and not street level, they grabbed Mrs. Thornton, the sister in law of the late mayor R. L. Thornton, and started out the front of the courthouse. Along the way, they came into contact with Melvin Belli’s wife, and what would turn out to be Jack Ruby’s first witness, Little Lynn. An Investigator with the District Attorney’s Office named Harold Carr and Dallas Police Sergeant Dean – the man who just finished testifying – overpowered one of the escapees named Johnny Jenkins. They couldn’t have done it without CBS Reporter Leon Davis, a small-built newsman covering the Ruby trial. Upon hearing the commotion as Jenkins moved through the crowd, he came face to face with the escapee. Davis Said, “He tried to push me aside, but I grabbed him. I’m just glad the officers got there when they did.” Meanwhile, Mrs. Thornton and her captor were apprehended in a parking lot at Elm and Record Street By Deputy Sheriff Player, who also collected the fake gun. The prisoners fashioned the gun out of soap, wax a scrap of metal and rolled paper for a barrel. Syrup had been used to glue the pieces together.

“It couldn’t have happened at a worst time, right in the middle of the Ruby trial when I’ve got the international press here,” said Dallas County Sheriff Bill Decker. The sheriff personally took the blame for the break even as the immense pressure from the eyes of the world focused on him. In speaking to reporters, he said, “Well boys, a New York Paper has just hit the streets with a banner headline “Oh, Dallas, Oh, Dallas.” Decker said they will soon have the other 3, adding with the “help of 1,700 deputies and policemen looking for them. And I’m going to call in the FBI For some help.” —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).

Sergeant Says Ruby Indicated Slaying Plotted for Two days, Dallas Morning News, 7 Mar. p. 6 (Online NewsBank).

Don Millsap, B 1964 ‘7 Break out of County Jail, Creating Havoc Outside Ruby Trial Courtroom, Dallas Morning News, 7 Mar. p. 1 (online NewsBank)

John Rutledge, B 1964, World’s Press on Hand as Prisoners Bolt Jail, Dallas Morning News, 7 Mar. p. 9 (online NewsBank)

Woman Deputy Was First to Realize Jailbreak On, Dallas Morning News, 7 Mar. p. 9 (Online NewsBank).

Reporter Got in on Action, Dallas Morning News 7 Mar, p. 9 (online NewsBank).

Carl Freund and Hugh Aynesworth, B 1964, State Rests Case Against Jack Ruby, Dallas Morning News, 7 Mar. p. 1.

From the Dallas Times Herald on location at the Sixth Floor Museum as donated by Dallas Times Herald Reporter Bob Fenley:

  • Defense Lawyers Look at History, March 6, 1964
  • Ruby Mulled Slaying Earlier, Officer Says, March 6, 1964
  • Ruby Actions After Shooting Related by Witnesses, March 6, 1964
  • Belli Tries to Break Habit, March 6, 1964