Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald
Jacob Leon Rubenstein, who later changed his name and was known as Jack Leon Ruby (March 25?, 1911 - January 3, 1967), a Dallas nightclub owner, shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24, 1963, two days after Oswald was arrested for the assassination of President Kennedy.
Family and Early Life
Jack Ruby was born to Joseph Rubenstein (1871 - 1958) and Fannie Turek Rutkowski or Rokowsky in Chicago in 1911. His parents were Polish immigrants and their religious beliefs were Orthodox Jewish.
Joseph Rubenstein was born in the town of Sokolov, located near Warsaw, Poland, Imperial Russia. He was a carpenter as was his father. He joined the Russian army in 1893, serving in the artillery. He married early during his service. Later Joseph was reportedly assigned to forces positioned in China, Korea and Siberia. He grew to detest army life and reportedly "walked away" from it in 1898. The Rubensteins left the Russian Empire about four years later. They briefly lived in the United Kingdom and then Canada. They entered the United States in 1903. They settled on Chicago's West Side in 1904.
Various conflicting birth dates for Jacob Rubenstein, from March to June of 1911, are quoted in various sources and were given by Ruby at various times. The fifth of his parents' eight living children, he had a troubled childhood and adolescence, marked by juvenile delinquency and times in foster homes. Young Ruby worked selling horse-racing tip sheets, then for a scrap-iron collectors union.
Organized Crime Links
He also had links to organized crime while working for the Al Capone Mafia organization. He served in the United States Army during World War II without seeing combat. After being discharged he moved to Dallas in 1947 where he shortened his surname from Rubenstein to Ruby and worked managing nightclubs, strip clubs, and dance halls, and also working as manager for entertainers and prostitutes. Ruby went to Cuba in 1959 on one of his gun-running ventures and to visit a mafia friend, Lewis McWillie, whom Fidel Castro had put in prison. McWillie was also connected to leading mafia Godfathers Meyer Lansky and Santo Trafficante, Jr..
Ruby (a.k.a. "Sparky") often carried a handgun and witnesses saw him with a handgun in the halls of the Dallas police department on several occasions after November 22, 1963. In addition, it is known for certain that Jack Ruby impersonated a reporter and was at the police station on the night of November 22, though the reason he did this is unknown. Ruby came to national attention when he murdered Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24, 1963 at 11:21 AM CST while Oswald was being transferred via car to a nearly next-door jail.
Ruby later claimed he shot Oswald on the spur of the moment when the opportunity presented itself, even though, when Ruby was first arrested, he stated to several witnesses that killing Oswald would show the world that "Jews have guts" and Oswald's murder would spare Jacqueline Kennedy the ordeal of appearing at Oswald's court trial. Millions watched the silencing of Lee Harvey Oswald on television. It was the first time in television history that a murder was captured live. The gun used by Ruby was a Colt Cobra .38 Special revolver, serial number 2744 LW.
The route that Ruby took to get down into the basement of the Dallas jail has been disputed. Some routes would have suggested that Ruby had to have had help from authorities inside the building, though plenty of journalists entered the building that day without having their credentials checked. Ruby stated he entered the jail that day via the entrance ramp and a former policeman, Napoleon Daniels, stated he saw Ruby use the ramp.
In a later polygraph test he insisted on taking, one of several questions Ruby showed signs of lying about (despite the polygraph operator having turned-down the sensitivity mechanism of the polygraph machine) was when he answered "no" to if he ever knew Oswald.
There has been debate about Ruby's motives. Some people believe that Ruby carried out mafia orders with a mafia "hit", and/or that he was part of the conspiracy to assassinate the president and so Ruby silenced Oswald to prevent Oswald from testifying. Much suspicion was aroused by the fact that he was able to freely enter a supposedly secure area, armed with a pistol. Other persons have suggested that Ruby was an unstable man and a Democrat who revered Kennedy and was seeking vengeance on his own.
Prosecution and Conviction
Prominent attorney Melvin Belli agreed to represent Ruby for free. Some observers thought that the case could have been disposed of as a "murder without malice" charge (roughly equivalent to manslaughter) with a maximum sentence of five years. Instead, Belli attempted to prove that Ruby was legally insane and had a history of mental illness in his family. On March 14, 1964, Ruby was convicted of "murder with malice" and later received a death sentence.
Ruby asked, verbally, and in writing several times over the 6 months following the Kennedy assassination to speak to the Warren Commission. Only after Ruby's sister wrote letters to the Warren Commission (and after her writing the letters to the commission became publicly reported) did the commission agree to talk to Ruby. In mid-1964 Earl Warren, Gerald R. Ford and others finally came to Dallas. While there, they met with Ruby. Ruby begged Warren several times to take him to Washington D.C. because he feared for his life, and that of his family members. Warren refused.
After Ruby's 1964 conviction for "murder with malice," in an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, Ruby's lawyers argued that he could not have received a fair trial in the city of Dallas due to the excessive publicity surrounding the case. The appellate court agreed and ruled that his motion for a change of venue before the original trial court should have been granted, and so Ruby's conviction and death sentence was overturned. While awaiting a new trial, Ruby died of a pulmonary embolism in Parkland Hospital on January 3, 1967. Ruby died, legally, an innocent man while he was awaiting the new trial. He is buried in the Westlawn Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.
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