March 9, 1964: Prizefighter

March 9, 1964: Prizefighter

Today is Monday, March 9, 1964. Jurors hear why Ruby was called Sparky as a teen, famous reporters are called to the stand, we learn Jack Ruby’s IQ, and a Yale Doctor gives jurors Ruby’s diagnosis. It’s the Defenses’ turn in this, The State of Texas vs. Jack Ruby – the Original Trial of the Century. Continue reading for this episode’s script.

Melvin Belli and his team of lawyers for Jack Ruby spent their day calling three types of witnesses. The first knew Ruby personally and talked about his personality and what he did in the hours leading to the murder. The second group of Ruby Witnesses were called specifically to rebut the trilogy of Dallas police officers – Archer, McMillon and Dean – who told jurors that Ruby said he hoped he killed the S. O. B. and other similar statements immediately after Oswald’s slaying. The Defense ended the day with a renowned clinical psychologist who told jurors that Ruby had Organic Brain Damage.

Barney Ross was former marine with a silver star, and the former welterweight champion of the world. He traveled in from New York and had to wear dark glasses in court as a result of an eye injury. He was also friends with the 14-year-old Jack Ruby back in Chicago. He described Ruby, a former servicemen, “as patriotic as all of us, as any red-blooded American could be.” He called Ruby a good handicapper, one who was good at making bets on college football games, baseball games, basketball and other sporting events. Ross said Ruby was known as “Sparky” because he was a real go getter, that he was a good hustler who could make money.

Of particular importance to the defense, Melvin Belli asked the former Welterweight champ about a fight in San Francisco attended by Jack Ruby. Ross told jurors this story: “I was knocked down in the first round, which I found out later, and the bell rang. My manager jumped into the right with a sponge soaked in water, in ice water, and he threw it into my face. I started to shake my head as I sat down, and he asked me what his name was, and I said, “Your name is Art Lynch.” He said, “I’ve been asking you for five rounds and this is the first time you were able to answer me.” Belli pointed out through his questioning that Ross was fighting through 5 rounds that he didn’t even remember.

According to Ross, Ruby didn’t swear; maybe only once or twice had Ross ever heard Ruby say the words S. O. B. Although Ruby was given to “fly into rages if people disagreed with him,” Ross told jurors that he was a “well-behaved quiet individual.” When asked to explain how he could be given to rage and also quote, “quiet”, Ross said, ” It was because after he got into these rages of his, he would become subdued completely, and he wouldn’t step on a fly or a caterpillar.

George Senator was Ruby’s roommate when they lived at 223 South Ewing Street. He was with Ruby the weekend of the assassination. When he told jurors that he saw a look on Ruby’s face that he had never seen before after the assassination, Ruby asked him, “Why did this thing have to happen to his wife and children?” Ruby was greatly concerned with the Anti-Kennedy ad published in the Dallas Morning News that said, “Welcome Mr. President.” A copy was introduced into evidence as Defendant’s Exhibit 1. It has a black border around the text. To Ruby, the black border was meant to be a death threat to the President. Ruby also was concerned with the Billboards on display around Dallas calling for the impeachment of Chief Justice Earl Warren.

Ruby connected the ad and the billboards to the Communist Party or perhaps the John Birch Society. At 3:00 in the morning after the President was killed, Ruby woke him up, got Senator out of bed, and made him drive downtown to pick up a worker who slept at the carousel club named Larry. The reason? Larry had a polaroid camera. The three of them drove to the billboard located at Central Expressway and Hall Street and took polaroid pictures of it. Ruby then wanted to go to the post office to check into the address listed at the bottom of the Welcome Mr. President ad: Bernard Weissman, Chariman, Post Office Box 1792, Dallas 21, Texas. When they arrived, they asked the night manager if he knew the identity of the owner of that P.O. Box. He did not. The three then went to the Southland Hotel Coffee Shop, where Ruby kept tearfully talking of the tragedy that befell the President’s wife and family. Senator told jurors that it was the next morning around 10:00 when Ruby was awakened by a call from Little Lynn – the one that sent him to the Western Union Office downtown. Senator was at the Eatwell Coffee Shop on Main street when he heard a waitress shout “Oswald was shot!” That’s when he found out that his roommate killed Lee Harvey Oswald.

Patricia Ann Burges Kohs, known as Penny, was employed by Jack Ruby as a dancer at his Carousel Club off Commerce Street. She testified she saw the aftermath of a fight Ruby had with a taxi driver at the Club. She told jurors that Ruby knocked the man down the stairs and through the door of the Club, spilling out on the street where she saw him beating his head on the sidewalk. And then, “All of a sudden, he stopped and said ‘Did I do This? Did I do this?'” According to Penny, Ruby acted like he didn’t know that he had done it. When asked by prosecutors if she thought he was mentally sick, she said “I think there was something wrong with him, yes. She also described Ruby as a man who liked to show off his muscles to the girls in the dressing room, a name dropper, a publicity seeker, and as a man who liked the limelight and wanted people to know him.

Next up for the Defense was Roy Pryor, a former employee of Ruby’s nightclub and who also worked at the Dallas Times Herald. He characterized Ruby as his friend. Ruby once took Christmas presents to children at the Dunn Memorial Home, a Catholic orphanage on West Davis in Oak Cliff. He described Ruby as highly emotional, and excitable. He told jurors Ruby had two chains of thought about the assassination. “Primary, I think was the fact that Mrs. Kennedy and the Kennedy children were left without a husband and father – that the country was left without a President and had lost a great man. Secondary was the fact that he had, to quote Jack, scooped his competitors in the night club business.” When asked to elaborate on how Ruby “scooped” his competitors, Pryor said Ruby was referring to the fact that he took out a newspaper ad announcing that he was closing his club down in honor of the fallen President – his competitors did not.

Pryor also relayed to jurors how proud of his interactions with District Attorney Henry Wade in and around Wade’s press conference following the assassination: Quoting from testimony here: “Jack said that Mr. Wade was talking to him on the telephone and that Jack was within earshot, and that Mr. Wade made a statement to this particular person that was on the phone and Jack corrected him. Jack was happy about being able to feel like he could assist the District Attorney in making that correction.” He also said Ruby was happy to know an influential person like Mr. Wade. On Cross Examination by Mr. Wade, he said that Ruby called Oswald a little weasel of a guy. Wade asked Pryor about Ruby’s participation in the press conference about Lee Harvey Oswald’s role and background in the assassination. Ruby was present during that press conference when the subject of Oswald’s ties to a Cuban Club. At the conference, someone mentioned the Cuban Freedom Club – that’s when Ruby corrected it and said he belong to the “Fair Play for Cuba Committee.” Finally, despite the testimony about Ruby closing his club down, Pryor knew that Ruby was advertising his club to the members of the press the night that the president was killed. Specifically, he knew Ruby passed out cards for his club at around 4:00 to 4:30 on the morning of November 23. What was on the cards? A suggestive picture of Jada (jaa-duh) on one side, and an invitation to visit his club and see her dance on the other.

A major part of the prosecution’s case against Ruby focused on statements he allegedly made immediately before and immediately after the shooting, and whether he knew when Oswald was set to be transferred. After lunch today, the Defense’s next 4 witnesses, 3 newsmen and 1 ambulance driver, focused on these two main themes. Ike Pappas with WNEW in New York was in the basement, who at the time of the shooting, was holding what he termed a pencil microphone. He told jurors he was 5 to 6 feet away. He identified himself for jurors from the motion picture films played in Court on Friday of the killing, as wearing a light raincoat. Pappas and Belli played the tape recording of Oswald’s shooting in Court. When it was completed, Belli asked him if he heard Ruby – before the shot – say anything – obviously referring to the S.O.B. Statements. Ike Pappas said, “I heard nothing before the shot went off.” The moans that can be heard? They were from Oswald. Wade asked him about the silent spots on the tape. Pappas told jurors that they were “erasures in the clumsy mishandling of this tape.” In transferring the tape to New York, he hit the wrong button causing parts of the tape to be deleted. Now, you can be the judge if you hear anything out of Ike Pappas’ recording. This was the recording played in Court. It is from WNEW reporter IKE Pappas as he was narrating the events as they unfolded. At the time of the shot, he is standing close to NBC Reporter Tom Pettit whose broadcast you heard on our March 7th Episode. This tape begins as Lee Harvey Oswald, handcuffed to Detectives Jim Leavelle and LC Graves walks off the elevator and into the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters. [Tape Played]

Freelance News Cameraman James Davidson was also at DPD headquarters, but was stationed inside the jail. He was present when Ruby was brought in immediately after Ruby killed Oswald, and was within earshot. Contrary to the testimony of some of the Dallas Police Officers who testified for the Prosecution, Davidson said he did not hear Ruby say “I am glad I shot the S.O.B.,” nor I hope the S.O.B. dies.” On cross examination, Davidson did agree that it was possible that the comments were made – but that he didn’t hear them.

And then there was the ambulance driver, Michael Hardin. He responded to the basement to pick up Lee Harvey Oswald. During his time around Ruby in the basement, and in and out of the jail, he told jurors he never heard Ruby say anything. If believed by jurors, Pappas, Davidson and Hardin could go a long way to proving the defense’s contention that Ruby didn’t know the consequences of his actions in support of his insanity defense.

Bob Walker is a newsman for WFAA – rumor has it that he will be interviewing some of the lawyers during and after this trial that you will get to hear in our broadcast. He was called by the defense today and told jurors that WFAA said on the air numerous times that the most visible prisoner in the United States, Lee Harvey Oswald, would be transferred at 10:00 AM. Mr. Walker’s testimony is being offered to prove that if Mr. Ruby planned on being in downtown Dallas for the transfer with murder on his mind, then he was late. The testimony thus far from defense witnesses is that Ruby was at his apartment at around 10:00 AM when he received a phone call from Little Lynn asking him to go down to the Western Union Store.

With the witnesses for Ruby who talked about his character, his statements and his whereabouts done at least for a little while, the Defense began their much talked about psychomotor epilepsy defense by calling Dr. Roy Schaffer, a clinical psychologist on the faculty of Yale University in Connecticut, former military man, and former professor at Harvard University. Dr. Schaffer came to Dallas in late December and early January at the end of 1963 and beginning of 1964 where he met with Jack Ruby for about 12 hours total. During that time, he gave Ruby a series of tests including an IQ test, and the Rorschach ink-blot test. He formed the conclusion that Jack Ruby has organic brain damage, the most likely specific nature of it is psychomotor epilepsy, a conclusion that he wrote in his report on January 7th, 1964. That condition, according to this doctor, is defined chiefly by an alteration in the state of consciousness which occurs on an episodic basis. What happens in one of these conditions? A person can be confused, disoriented, with no memory of what has occurred. It is also possible that a person with this condition can carrying on organized kinds of actions, including expressions of rage. When a person is having one of these episodes, Dr. Schaffer calls these “Fugue” States, and can last for a couple of seconds to a day or two. And, according to the Doctor, a person in a fugue state can commit a murder.

Dr. Schaffer also told jurors that other tests indicate that Ruby is self-absorbed with an abnormal need to be recognized, liked, appreciated, and even to take on the glory of the status of other people by associating with them. He found Ruby to be impulsive with an apparent tendency to act on slight or even absent stimulation with some kind of action rather than reflection. He explained to jurors that a test called an electroencephalogram or EEG for short, measures the electricity that comes from the brain. He told jurors that he suspected an EEG would support his finding of organic brain damage, but that at the time he made the diagnosis, those tests had not been completed.

And with that, it was Henry Wade’s turn to ask questions, and he began by asking him about the legal test of insanity. “Let me ask you, doctor, from all thee ink blots and pictures and all these questions, did you form an opinion as to whether or not Jack Ruby knew right from wrong at the time of the shooting of Oswald?” Answer by Dr. Schaffer: no. He also told jurors that he had not definite conclusions as to whether Ruby knew the nature and consequence of his act.

Jurors also learned that Jack Ruby’s IQ was 109 – exceeding the IQ’s of 73% of American men at his age, or in other words, Ruby has an IQ in the top 27%. According to the doctor, it is unusual for a person to have a very high IQ like 109 and to have organic brain damage. Additionally, Ruby scored highly on memory tests. Through this line of questioning, District Attorney Wade is hoping to convince jurors that Ruby was too smart to have organic brain damage, and had too good of a memory to claim he couldn’t remember what happened that morning in the basement like he told others. Wade finished by asking once again whether Dr. Schaffer formed an opinion was to whether Ruby knew the difference between right and wrong. The answer? “No sir.”

And with that, Day 4 of the Jack Ruby Trial is in the history books. Join us live tomorrow evening as we recap tomorrow’s testimony. The Defense is expected to call 2 renowned doctors in their quest to spare Jack Ruby. —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).

Ike Pappas Audio of the Lee Harvey Oswald Shooting is from Ike Pappas of WNEW New York as published on the album The Assassination of John F. Kennedy: Four Days that Shocked the World.