First Televised Verdict Makes National News


Famous Killer Gets Sentenced to Death

Jacob Leon Rubenstein was convicted of homicide on March 14, 1964 and sentenced to death.  It was the first verdict and sentencing televised in American History.  Why did Jacob get this notoriety?  He was better known by friends, acquaintances, and history as Jack Ruby.

On November 24, 1963 Ruby had shot Lee Harvey Oswald.  Oswald was being brought out of the Dallas Police Headquarters after two days of investigation into the murder of President Kennedy and Police Officer JD Tippet when Ruby shot him.  The perp walk was heavily guarded and had a massive police presence.  Ruby didn’t even try to escape. 

Conspiracy theories started right away.  Ruby may have had some vague association with his hometown organized crime syndicate in Chicago.  He grew up there and had been involved in crime since his juvenile days.  He also claimed to know people involved in supplying arms to Cuban rebels.  There didn’t seem to be any direct link to these associations and the murder of Oswald. 

Ruby was as a kook.  To say he was spontaneous was an understatement.  Having a short fuse, would often lose his temper over perceived slights and fight patrons in his own club.  Ruby was know to take his shirt or other clothes off in social gatherings, and then either hit his chest like a gorilla or rolled around the floor.  During conversations, he regularly changed topics suddenly in mid-sentence for no apparent reason.  Associates described him as a psycho or suffering from some sort of disturbance.  The fact that he admittedly took phenmetrazine, a stimulant drug, on the morning he killed Oswalt probably didn’t help his demeanor.   His defense was that he was rendered inculpable due to a psychomotor epilepsy.  It didn’t work. 

In 1966, Ruby was granted a new trial based on an appeal.  A judge ruled that one of his statements that indicated premeditation should have been inadmissible.  The court also found that his request for a change of venue should have been granted.  Before his new trial could get underway, Ruby was diagnosed with advanced cancer, including brain tumors. 

Ruby died on January 3, 1967 at the same Parkland Hospital where Kennedy and Oswalt died.  Earl Rose, the famous Dallas County Coroner, conducted an autopsy.  He found tumors throughout Ruby’s body including 8 brain tumors.  Rose stated that he could not definitively say whether or not the tumors were present on November 24, 1963.  He also stated that he found no evidence of the epilepsy that Ruby had based his failed defense on. 

Always an eccentric figure, Ruby remains one of the great enigmas in American history.  On his deathbed, he again affirmed that he had acted alone, but Ruby as a conspirator is a theory that persists to this day. 

Christopher Flanagan


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