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Dallas Reacts to Ruby Sentence

Mar. 14, 1964 - The people of Dallas did not want Jack Ruby back among them, boasting of his crime and acquittal. Neither did they want him sentenced to death.

“This verdict was almost as shocking to everyone as Ruby’s own shooting had been,” a Dallas newspaper editor said after the jury (pictured) returned with a guilty verdict and death sentence for the slayer of Lee Harvey Oswald, accused assassin of President Kennedy.

Inside the courthouse, as sheriff’s deputies held back reporters until the jury could leave by a side exit, one deputy turned to another and remarked: “Too strong.”

The other deputy raised an eyebrow.

“Prison would have been better,” the deputy explained. “This won’t stand up.”

This view was widely shared around the courthouse this afternoon. The Court of Criminal Appeals will review a capital punishment case more rigorously than it would a case with a long-term prison sentence, many observers believe.

Ruby’s attorneys had based their case almost exclusively on the argument that the 52-year-old nightclub owner was insane when he shot Oswald.

Visitors to Dallas in the last month expressed surprise at the number of people Ruby knew there. “I know Jack Ruby,” taxi drivers, policemen, and local businessmen often said, “and he’s no crazier than I am.”

“He used to come in often,” a waitress said last night at an all-night diner near the Carousel, Ruby’s nightclub. “The defense asked me if I’d testify for him. I told them that I’d known him 15 years, and I just didn’t have anything good to say about him.”

But for whatever ill will Ruby engendered in 15 years in Dallas, few persons were expressing satisfaction today at the prospect of his execution.

“In the last few months, Ruby has become a household name in Dallas,” one man said. “He’s like a television performer whom you feel you know, just from hearing so much about him. You can’t kill someone like that with a clear conscience.”

A.C. Greene, editor of The Dallas Times Herald editorial page, said after today’s verdict: “The town’s a little bit shaken.”


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