Just after midnight one evening a few years ago, some detectives asked me to review a search warrant for some devices that they hoped might lead to the discovery of a missing person. After reading the warrant, I could tell I might someday be confronted with a rare legal question – can you prove a murder case without ever finding the body of the victim? Too curious to sleep, I poured a cup of coffee, fired up Westlaw, and started looking, totally unaware that by sunrise I would stumble across a treatise that altered my career. Here’s how.
Dan Abrams has written a book called “Kennedy’s Avenger” about the Jack Ruby trial. I can’t wait to read it when it comes out on 6/1. I’ve spent a lot of time studying that case, and along the way got to meet Dallas Detective Jim Leavelle. He survived Pearl Harbor, testified in the “Trial of the Century,” retired a legendary detective, and attained the age of 99. While researching a presentation Toby Shook and I did for the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza called “The Assassin’s Assassin,” the tall man in the light suit wearing the Stetson hat in Bob Jackson’s famous, Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph told me all about his experience with Jack Ruby, the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald. Links to follow.
I turned 18 the week Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols planted McVeigh’s getaway car near the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and commenced to building a weapon of mass destruction out of a Ryder Truck like the one pictured above. I’ve never forgotten that Wednesday morning. Maybe it’s the indelible image of that smoky brown bite mark, or the realization that the war scene from downtown Oklahoma City was on the news, not in a movie. Why study this trial? I couldn’t see the blast from Dallas, but even at 18 I felt it. America changed.
His case file looked like all the others in the storage facility for the DA’s Office in Dallas: a collection of a dozen or so dusty brown and white banker boxes. The difference? The name written on the outside: Jack Ruby. Read More
He was tall, handsome, and raised in a religious house. As a youth he worked in his father’s grocery store. He was a star athlete at Farmersville high school in Denton, a Texas state record holder in the hurdles. He pledged Pi Kappa Alpha at UNT. And if he hadn’t hitchhiked down Sunset Blvd. in the summer of 1968, he might never have become Charlie Manson’s Chief Lieutenant. His name is Charles Denton Watson. His friends called him “Tex,” and 50 years ago today, he set out on a two-day mission of murder called “Helter Skelter.”
When now Dallas County District Judge Brandon Birmingham started working in the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office’s cold case unit, one set of files that was forbidden fruit, even for the highest ranking members of the office.
“There, in the warehouse of the DA’s office in a corner, was the file that we were never allowed to touch, the file of Jack Ruby,” Birmingham said Wednesday night at Dallas’ Sixth Floor Museum. “I was always very curious about why that was, what was in there. There was just this mystique about it.” Read More
DALLAS, TX – July 10, 2017: America watched as Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, was shot point-blank by Jack Ruby on November 24, 1963, at the Dallas Police headquarters as he was being transferred to the Dallas County Jail. This was the first murder broadcast live on American television. In the emotional aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, Ruby’s case was rushed to trial. Held just months later, Ruby’s trial was hailed by news media as “the trial of the century.”
Listen: We begin the way the Government began their case: with the stories of the survivors. Mike Shannon’s story appears next on the show, though he didn’t actually testify until much later in the trial. The same with the detailed analysis of the type of weapon used. From there, we follow an axle from the crime scene to Elliott’s Body Shop. The Script for the show, including some pictures introduced at the trial follow.1Like all trial lawyers, I steal good phrases from other trial lawyers. The title of this episode comes from McVeigh Prosecutor Larry Mackey who declared in closing arguments, “The hands of time fell to rest that morning at 9:02 A.M.” All quoted statements in the script came directly from the testimony of the witness. Read More
Listen: After Investigators tie the name Robert D. Kling from a rental agreement for a Ryder Truck, the nationwide manhunt descends upon the Noble County, Oklahoma Jail, and a man arrested in a Mercury Marquis for failing to display a proper license plate. The world learned his name for the first time: Timothy James McVeigh. Who was he? Where did he come from? What does he stand for? Continue reading to find out, including a few pictures introduced at the trial. Read More