Jack Ruby: Voices from History

All Exhibits

Trial of the Century, continued

Media Still
Bill Winfrey Collection

Media Frenzy

The pretrial hearings were held in Brown's courtroom, which was large enough to hold the local news media. However, the much publicized trial attracted reporters from all over the world. Judge Frank Wilson offered Brown the use of his much larger, 194-seat courtroom. The Sam Bloom Advertising Agency accommodated the media and worked out a pool system for attendance in Wilson's courtroom. More than 370 agents representing 111 news organizations and 14 countries documented the trial. Another courtroom was used as a pressroom, filled with about 20 teletype machines and as many telephone lines. Only a few seats were left for the general public.

Two Magic Words

To obtain a guilty verdict, prosecutors had to prove the charge, which was murder with malice, or premeditation. To acquit Ruby, the defense's strategy tried to establish that he suffered from psychomotor epilepsy and shot Oswald subconsciously. Psychomotor epilepsy is a very rare form of epilepsy that does not manifest itself in convulsive seizures but in loss of consciousness and amnesia during an episode or event.

Damaging Testimony

On Friday, March 6, Sergeant Dean testified that shortly after his arrest, Ruby told Secret Service agent Sorrels that he wanted to kill Oswald on Friday night after seeing Oswald's sneering face at a police lineup. Sorrels told the Warren Commission two months later that Ruby made no such admission. Dean also testified that Ruby wanted to prove that "Jews had guts." Ruby did make this statement, but it should not have been admissible because he said it more than 40 minutes after his arrest. Under the rule of res gestae, at the time, only spontaneous statements made during the event are admissible. Both declarations by Dean were strong evidence for the prosecution that Ruby premeditated his killing of Oswald. (The improper admittance of Dean's testimony led the court to grant Ruby a new trial two years later.)

Psychiatrists battled over whether Ruby knew right from wrong when he pulled the trigger. A crushing blow for Ruby came with the testimony of Dr. Frederic A. Gibbs, the American pioneer in brain-wave tests. Gibbs was no help to the defense, which depended on the testimony of this final witness.

Closing Arguments

Closing arguments began on Friday, March 13, at 8:00 p.m. and ended five hours later at 12:50 a.m. on Saturday, March 14. The jurors, who were sequestered for the trial, retired to their sleeping quarters and returned at 9:00 a.m. to deliberate Ruby's fate.