Ruby v. Texas

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Rubinstein v. Texas
Court Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Decided October 5, 1966

Rubinstein v. Texas was a decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal appellate court in the State of Texas, that Jack Ruby (whose real name was Jacob Rubenstein; "Jack Ruby" was his nickname), accused killer of Lee Harvey Oswald had been denied a fair trial. The decision ordered his conviction reversed, but Ruby died before he could be retried.

The crime[edit]

The arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald for the murder of President John F. Kennedy and Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit was widely televised in Dallas. News of Oswald's transfer, from the local jail to a county facility, on Sunday November 24, 1963, had been announced the night before. At 11:21 am CST while authorities were preparing to transfer Oswald by car from the basement of police headquarters to the nearby county jail, Jack Ruby, in full view of witnesses and in front of TV cameras, pulled out a pistol and fired a snub-nosed Colt Cobra .38 into the 24-year-old Oswald's abdomen. Unconscious, Oswald was put into an ambulance and rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital, the same hospital where JFK had died two days earlier. Oswald was pronounced dead at 1:07 pm.

The trial[edit]

The trial was widely covered by local, national and international media. The defendant, represented pro bono by famed attorney Melvin Belli, requested that the trial be moved out of the Dallas area because of the enormous publicity. This request was denied.

Some observers thought that the case could have been disposed of as a "murder without malice" charge (roughly equivalent to manslaughter), with a maximum prison sentence of five years. Instead, Belli attempted to prove that Ruby was legally insane and had a history of mental illness in his family (the latter being true, as his mother had been committed to a mental hospital years before).

On March 14, 1964, Ruby was convicted of murder with malice, for which he received a death sentence. The verdict was captured on film, including Belli's statement to the court that the trial had effectively been a sham.

The appeal[edit]

Following Ruby's March 1964 conviction for murder with malice, Ruby's lawyers, led by Sam Houston Clinton, appealed, arguing that he could not have received a fair trial in the city of Dallas because of the excessive publicity surrounding the case.

The decision[edit]

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on October 5, 1966 that the refusal of the trial court to grant the motion for change of venue made it impossible for Ruby to obtain a fair trial, overturned his conviction and death sentence, and ordered that he be retried in some location other than the Dallas area. Arrangements were under way for a new trial to be held in February 1967, in Wichita Falls, Texas, when, on December 9, 1966, Ruby was admitted to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, suffering from pneumonia. A day later, doctors realized he had cancer in his liver, lungs, and brain. He died on January 3, 1967.