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1964: Jack Ruby sentenced to death

Jack Ruby has been sentenced to death after being found guilty of the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F Kennedy.

Ruby's defence team is to launch an appeal after the jury in the Dallas court returned the guilty verdict and decided he should die in the electric chair.

The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for two hours and 19 minutes.

Oswald, who was accused of firing the gun that killed the president, was shot two days later by Ruby in the basement of the Dallas police headquarters.


"This was a kangaroo court"

Melvin Belli, defence lawyer

There was uproar in court and Ruby's defence said the verdict was "a victory for bigotry".

Melvin Belli, chief defence counsel, said: "This was a kangaroo court, a railroad court and everyone knew it."

At 1223 local time, Judge Brown read out the verdict: "We the jury find the defendant guilty of murder with malice as charged in the indictment and assess his punishment as death."

When the judge asked if this was a unanimous decision, all the jurors raised their right hand to signal that it was. They were then discharged.

Ruby, who pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, was quickly led away to prison, where he will remain as his appeal gets under way.

The district attorney said after the trial that he thought the jury had been persuaded by Dallas police officers who reported that Ruby had planned to kill Oswald for two days and had meant to shoot him three times instead of once.

The jury had been asked to consider its verdict after hearing more than five hours of summing up by prosecuting and defence barristers.

Prosecutors argued that Ruby should die in the electric chair "because he mocked American justice while the spotlight was on Dallas".

Defence lawyers had suggested that the prosecution wanted Ruby to go to the electric chair to compensate for their frustrations due to their inability to try Lee Harvey Oswald.

They also argued that there was medical evidence to suggest that Ruby suffered from epilepsy and was subject to seizures and mental blackouts.

In Context
Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested after John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, in 1963, but he was murdered before facing trial.

Following Jack Ruby's trial for killing Oswald, three psychiatrists recommended that he should have a "sanity hearing" amid reports that he was mentally ill.

In an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, Ruby's lawyers argued that he could not have received a fair trial in Dallas due to the excessive publicity.

The 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 hospital on 3 January, 1967.


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