Category Archives: Covert Ops
Rose Cherami at forty was employed as a stripper at Jack Ruby’s Dallas nightclub, the Carousel, at the time of Kennedy’s murder. She was a narcotics addict with an arrest record two-and-a-half pages long from jails in San Antonio, Amarillo, Dallas, Shreveport, Angola, Houston, New Orleans, Austin, Galveston, Los Angeles, Tucson, Deming, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Montgomery, Jackson, and South Gretna, mostly on vagrancy and narcotics charges, though the charge filed in Jackson was “criminally insane.”
On November 20, 1963, she and two unidentified men were driving through Louisiana on a dope run – so she later said – for Jack Ruby. An argument turned violent. The men threw her out of the moving car and abandoned her on a state highway outside Eunice.
She was found hurt and dazed by Lt. Francis Fruge of the Louisiana State Patrol. Fruge took her for treatment to a hospital, then brought her back to the jail and held her on a suspected narcotics connection. Her withdrawal symptoms grew violent. She stripped off her clothing and slashed her ankles. Fruge committed her to the Jackson Mental Hospital, where she was confined until November 26.
During her confinement, after the Kennedy assassination but before Ruby killed Oswald, she told the house psychiatrist at Jackson, Dr. Victor J. Weiss, Jr. (in the words of Frank Meloche), “that she knew both Ruby and Oswald and had seen them sitting together on occasions at Ruby’s club.”
“Information was also received,” says Meloche, “that several nurses employed at Jackson Mental Hospital who were watching television along with Rose Cherami the day Kennedy was assassinated stated that during the telecast moments before Kennedy was shot Rose Cherami stated to them, ‘This is when it is going to happen,’ and at that moment Kennedy was assassinated. Information states that these nurses had told several people of this incident.
On November 26 Rose Cherami was returned to prison in Eunice for questioning. She gave Lt. Fruge information about a narcotics ring operating between Louisiana and Houston. Lt. Fruge told Meloche this turned out to be “true and good information.”
She was then flown to Houston for further questioning on the narcotics angle. “While in flight,” said Meloche,
Rose Cherami picked up a newspaper with headlines of Ruby killing Oswald and further on down in the newspaper it stated where Ruby denied ever knowing or seeing Oswald in his life. Rose Cherami laughed ans stated to Lt. Fruge that Ruby and Oswald were very good friends. They had been in the Club (Ruby’s) together and also stated that Ruby and Oswald had been bed partners. Upon arrival at Houston she again repeated this story to Captain Morgan. When asked to talk to the federal authorities about this, she refused and stated that she did not want to get involved in this mess.
Meloche and Fruge tried to track Rose Cherami down in 1967 in connection with Garrison’s case but found that in September of 1965 she had been killed in a peculiar auto accident outside Big Sandy, Texas. Reads Fruge’s report:
The accident was reported to Officer Andrews by the operator of the car after he had taken the subject to the hospital. Andrews stated that the operator related that the victim was apparently lying on the roadway with her head and upper part of her body resting on the traffic lane, and although he had attempted to avoid running over her, he ran over the top part of her skull, causing fatal injuries. An investigation of the physical evidence at the scene of the accident was unable to contradict this statement. Officer Andrews stated that due to the unusual circumstances, namely time, location, injuries received and lack of prominent physical evidence, he attempted to establish a relationship between the operator of the vehicle and the victim to determine if any foul play was involved. This resulted negative. It should be noted that Hwy #155 is a farm to market road, running parallel to US Hwys #271 and #80. It is our opinion, from experience, that if a subject was hitch-hiking, as this report wants to indicate, that this does not run true to form. It is our opinion that the subject would have been on one of the U.S. Highways. Andrews stated that although he had some doubt as to the authenticity of the information received, due to the fact that the relatives of the victim did not pursue the investigation, he closed it as accidental death.
We wish to further state that fingerprint identification shows that deceased subject, Melba Christine Marcades, is the same person as subject Rose Cherami, who was in custody, by us, from November 21, 1963, through November 28, 1963, at which time she stated that she once worked for Jack Ruby as a stripper, which was verified, and that Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald were definitely associated and known to be, as she stated, “bed partners.” She further referred to Ruby as alias “Pinky.”
The fate of Julia Ann Mercer, another Ruby witness, was much better but still bad. As she deposed in New Orleans in January 1968 to Garrison:
On the morning of the President’s assassination, in the vicinity of 11:00 o’clock, I was driving west on Elm Street toward the Triple Underpass. There was a green pickup truck parked on the right-hand side of the road, with its two right wheels up on the curb. I was delayed by traffic congestion long enough to observe a man remove from the back of the truck a rifle wrapped in paper.
Because the delay caused by traffic I happened to see the face of the driver of the truck quite clearly. While I was stopped there he looked at me twice. This man was, as I later recognized from the papers, Jack Ruby.
The next morning FBI agents showed me photographs. This was on Saturday – the day after the assassination and the day before Ruby shot Oswald. The FBI then showed me some photographs to choose from. One of the men I picked out was Jack Ruby. When one of the FBI agents turned the picture over I saw Ruby’s name on the back….
The next morning I was looking at television with my family and when I saw Ruby shoot Oswald, I said, “That was the man I saw in the truck.” Form the view the television screen gave of Ruby – especially when they showed it again slowly – I recognized him as the man who was at the wheel of the truck on Friday and as the man whose picture the FBI showed me on Saturday.
But what happened to her information in the hands of the FBI is just another of the countless reasons serious investigators of the JFK death are driven to the conclusion that the FBI was in some way creatively involved in whatever foul play happened in Dallas. Her testimony was turned completely upside down in the FBI report filed by Special Agent Louis Kelley. Kelley reported that she was “shown a group of photographs which included a photograph of Jack Ruby. Mercer could not identify any of the photographs as being identical with he person she had observed….She was then shown a photograph of Ruby, and she advised the person in the truck had a rather large round face similar to Ruby’s, but she could not identify him as the person.”
Four years later, Garrison showed Julia Mercer a copy of this FBI report. “This is not an accurate statement,” she deposed, “because I did pick out Ruby’s picture. Also, this report does not mention the fact that the FBI showed me Ruby’s picture on November 23rd, the day before he shot Lee Oswald.”
I have also been shown a separate FBI report….[which states] that I only felt able to identify the man with the gun and not the driver. Contrary to this identification, I had no doubts about what the driver’s face looked like. This was on the same day they showed me Ruby’s picture, among others, and the day when I picked him and three similar pictures as looking like the driver of the truck. I do not know whether the other three pictures shown me were other men who looked like Ruby or whether they were three other pictures of Jack Ruby. But they definitely showed me Jack Ruby and I definitely picked him out as looking like the driver.
Another funny thing. The FBI report of November 23 says that Mercer described a sign on the door of the green truck made up of the words “air conditioning” in a crescent design. Half the force was sent looking for a green Ford pickup with a sign like that on its door. “This is not true,” deposed Mercer to Garrison. Every time I was interviewed-and at least two of the interviews were by the FBI- I stated that there was no sign of any kind on the side of the truck. The words ‘air conditioning’ were not painted on the truck, nor were any other words. It was a plain green truck without any printing on it and I made this clear from the outset.”
She goes on to depose that her signature as it appears on a document put out as her affidavit by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department is a forgery; that a notary public has signed this document, whereas there was no notary present at her interviews; that like the FBI statement, the sheriff’s affidavit also has her describing the nonexistent sign. “That is not the way it was at all,” she deposed to Garrison: “The truck was plain and had no letters whatsoever painted on it.”
And her coda: “That ‘affidavit’ also has me stating, with regard to the driver, that I could not see him too clearly.’ That is not true. I saw the driver very clearly. I looked right in his face and he looked at me twice. It was Jack Ruby.
“I was not asked to testify before the Warren Commission.”
The Warren Report tells us that “Ruby was unquestionably familiar, if not friendly, with some Chicago criminals” (p. 790). A partial list of Ruby’s organized-crime connections as they were known to the Warren Commission, would include:
Lewis McWillie, a “gambler and murderer” who had managed the Lansky Syndicate’s Tropicana in Havana before 1959 and by 1963 was an executive at the Thunderbird in Las Vegas, another prime Lansky holding. Ruby traveled to Cuba with McWillie, received two phone calls from him from Cuba, and shipped him a pistol, all in 1959.
Dave Yaras, an intimate of Ruby’s from Chicago childhood days, a Syndicate mobster operating out of Chicago and Miami. Yaras told the Warren Commission that Ruby was also close to:
Lenny Patrick, another Chicago-based hood also known to Ruby’s sister Eva as a friend of her brother’s. Yaras and Patrick are both prominently identified in congressional crime hearings as important figures in the Chicago Syndicate.
Paul Roland Jones, Paul “Needlenose” Labriola, Marcus Lipsky, Jimmy Wienberg, Danny Lardino, and Jack Knappi, the Chicago Syndicate group that moved into Dallas in 1947 (the year Ruby moved to Dallas). Jones, an opium smuggler in the forties, told the Warren Commission that “if Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald on orders, the man to talk to would be Joe Savella [properly Civello], then head of Syndicate operations in Dallas. Chicago Daily News crime reporter Jack Wilner also told the commission that Ruby was involved in 1947 in the Chicago Syndicate takeover of Dallas gambling. “The Commission finds it difficult to accept this report,” said Warren.
Robert “Barney” Baker, a Teamster hood convicted by RFK. His phone number was in Ruby’s address book.
Milt Jaffe, also in Ruby’s address book, a point holder in the Stardust of Las Vegas with Cleveland Syndicate heavy Moe Dalitz.
Ruby told the commission that he had once dined with the “Fox brothers” who “ran the Tropicana” in Havana and were “the greatest that have been expelled from Cuba” by Castro. The “Fox brothers,” as the Commission might easily have established, were Meyer and Jake Lansky.
At the age of fifteen Ruby already belonged to a gang of Chicago youths who ran messages for Al Capone. This gang produced such other notables as Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, Capone’s successor as head of the Chicago Syndicate, and his associate, Charles “Cherry Nose” Gior, busted in 1943 with John Roselli who is later associated with the CIA-Syndicate scheme to assassinate Castro.
Peter Dale Scott (whose citations I gratefully borrow here) has identified three independent reports to the Warren Commission strongly suggesting that Ruby was “in fact a pay-off or liaison man between organized crime and the Dallas police department (over half of whose policemen Ruby knew personally).”
1: In 1956, the Los Angeles FBI advised the Dallas FBI that Mr. And Mrs. James Breen, “acting…as informants for the Federal Narcotics Bureau,” had become involved with “a large narcotics setup operating between Mexico, Texas and the East….In some fashion, James [Breen] got the okay to operate through Jack Ruby of Dallas.” In 1964, reinterviewed by the Chicago FBI, Mrs. Breen confirmed her 1956 story.
2: After the assassination, a prisoner in an Alabama jail told the FBI that a year previous to the assassination, when he had tried to set up a numbers game in Dallas, he was advised “that in order to operate in Dallas it was necessary to have the clearance of Jack Ruby…who had the fix with the county authorities.”
3: Again after the assassination, another prisoner in Los Angeles, Harry Hall, contacted the Secret Service (who vouched for his reliability) with the information that in his days as a Dallas gambler he had turned over 40 percent of his profits to Ruby, who “was supposed to have influence with the police.”
The Warren Commission’s conclusion was that “the evidence does not establish a significant link between Ruby and organized crime.”
The commission also failed to investigate a communication received on June 9, 1964, only two days after Ruby’s testimony, from J. Edgar Hoover, in which Hoover disclosed that Ruby may have been and FBI informant for several months in 1959. Nor did it seek to reconcile its picture of Ruby as a small time psychotic with evidence that Ruby was on good terms with such powerful Texas millionaires as H.L. Hunt, his son Lamar (whose office Ruby visited the day before the assassination), Billy Byars, and Clint Murchison, a power behind Johnson and involved heavily in the Bobby Baker scandal.
All the testimonies in the twenty-six volumes of the Warren Commission Hearings begin with conventional courtroom punctilio, except for that of the second lone assassin of Dallas. In Ruby’s act, the hero himself if the first to break the silence.
“Without a lie detector on my testimony,” he blurts out of nowhere, “my verbal statements to you, how do you know if I am tell[ing] the truth?”
His lawyer Joe Tonahill jumps: “Don’t worry about that, Jack.”
Ruby persists: “Just a minute, gentlemen.”
Warren turns: “You wanted to ask something, Mr. Ruby?”
Ruby: “I would like to be able to get a lie detector test or truth serum of what motivated me to do what I did at that particular time, and it seems as you get further into something, even though you know what you did, it operates against you somehow, brainwashes you, that you are weak in what you want to tell the truth about, and what you want to say which is the truth.”
I offer her that Ruby’s tortured phrase, “you are weak in what you want to tell the truth about,” is monumentally expressive of the situation in which he found himself. He was too weak to tell the truth that he wanted to tell. But we must come the long way around to this in order to see it.
We pick Ruby’s testimony up a few sentences later as he continues struggling to explain why he wants a lie-detector test.
As it started to trial – I don’t know if you realize my reasoning, how I happened to be involved – I was carried away tremendously emotionally, and all the time I tried to ask Mr. [Melvin] Belli [his first lawyer], I wanted to get up and say the truth regarding the steps that led me to do what I have got involved in, but since I have a spotty background in the nightclub business, I should have been the last person to ever want to do something that I had been involved in. In other words, I was carried away tremendously. You want to ask me questions?
Yes, Mr. Ruby, I would have said. Take this last sentence, “since I have a spotty background in the nightclub business, I should have been the last person to ever want to do something that I had been involved in.” Can you straighten that out? Are you trying to say that since you have a Syndicate-linked background, it doesn’t make sense for you to have killed Kennedy’s assassin in order to protect the beloved widow from the mortifications of a trial? Is that what you are trying to say through your clenched teeth?
But Warren said no such thing. Instead he said, “You tell us what you want, and then we will ask you some questions.”
And Ruby says, “Am I boring you?”
The more closely one reads the some hundred pages of Ruby’s testimony to Warren (the second two-thirds of which are spoken from a polygraph harness to the FBI’s top interrogator), the harder it is to avoid seeing something very brave in Ruby. The exasperated pugnacity of that “Am I boring you?” for example, couldn’t be better: Warren, he is saying, if you want to understand me, you are going to have to pay close attention to what I say. It would seem a fair enough proposition from a key witness to the chief commissioner of a big public probe. But of the seven august commissioners only two were present, Warren and the ubiquitous Gerald Ford, and they were not overly inclined to probe. And Warren had not even wanted to talk to Ruby. Ruby had to fight his lawyers and send the messages to Warren through his family. The hearing took place with a handful of lawyers hostile to Ruby present, plus the court recorder, and a Dallas policeman at the door. They were all I the interrogation room of the Dallas County Jail at Houston and Main looking out on Dealey Plaza. It was 11:45 A.M., June 7, 1964. The Warren Commission Report was at this point virtually complete. For that reason in itself, perhaps, the commission members were disinclined to pursue distant echoes in Ruby’s difficult but suggestive language.
Against the commission’s passivity, what Ruby most wants to tell them is that he wants a lie detector test. The reason for this, he says, is that the story he is telling about why he shot Oswald is inherently implausible. How can the commission believe he is telling the truth if he is not put in a polygraph harness? But why is his story inherently implausible? We will come across that, too, in his own words.
We skip through a half-dozen pages of meandering but tense discussion of Ruby’s activities on November 22, 1963, mainly bearing on an anti-JFK ad placed in one of the Dallas papers. Then at last Ruby comes to the events of that night. He tells Warren how he remembered that it had been a hard day for his friends, the police (he was on personal terms with virtually the entire force), and how he decided to take them a snack:
RUBY: ….I had the sandwiches with me and some soda pop and various things, and Russ Knight opened the door and we went upstairs.
(Mr. Arlen Specter, a staff counsel, entered the room.)
WARREN: This is another man on my staff, Mr. Specter. Would you mind if he came in?
(Chief Justice Warren introduced the men around the room.)
RUBY: Is there any way to get me to Washington?
WARREN: I beg your pardon?
RUBY: Is there any way of you getting me to Washington?
WARREN: I don’t know of any. I will be glad to talk to your counsel about what the situation is, Mr. Ruby, when we get an opportunity to talk. [Ruby has been intermittently begging a chance to talk to Warren alone.]
RUBY: I don’t think I will get a fair representation with my counsel, Joe Tonahill. I don’t think so. I would like to request that I go to Washington and take all the tests I have to take. It is very important.
TONAHILL: Jack, will you tell him why you don’t think you will get a fair representation?
RUBY: Because I have been over this for the longest time to get the lie detector test. Somebody has been holding it back from me.
WARREN: Mr. Ruby, I might say to you that the lateness of this thing is not due to your counsel….It was our own delay due to the pressures we had on us at the time.
Ruby carefully summarizes his story up to this point, starts into a skirmish with Tonahill, then abruptly, “throwing pad on table,” as the commission stenographer notes (a stage direction preserved) he turns abruptly to his main idea and desire, to get out of Dallas somehow.
RUBY: ….Gentlemen, unless you get me to Washington, you can’t get a fair shake out of me. If you understand my way of talking, you have got to bring me to Washington to get the tests. Do I sound dramatic? Off the beam?
WARREN: No; you are speaking very, very rationally, and I am really surprised that you can remember as much as you have remembered up to the present time. You have given it to us in great detail.
RUBY: Unless you can get me to Washington, and I am not a crackpot, I have all my senses – I don’t want to evade any crime I am guilty of. But Mr. Moore, have I spoken this way when we have talked?
MOORE: Yes. [Elmer W. Moore is a Secret Service agent.]
RUBY: Unless you get me to Washington immediately, I am afraid after what Mr. Tonahill has written there…
An argument ensues with Tonahill, Tonahill trying to stop him from saying things a prosecutor could use to show he had prior intention of killing Oswald. Unmindful of Ruby’s apparent belief that his best interest lay in getting the truth out, Tonahill as defense attorney wants at least to be able to argue that the killing was an unpremeditated act, motivated by an errant burst of emotion. Ruby had the same complaint against Belli, his first lawyer. Belli could only think in lawyerly terms, that is, in terms of conviction and acquittal. Ruby, on the other hand, wanted to tell his story to a lie detector. Why?
Exasperated with Tonahill, he turns back to Warren: “Well, it is too bad, Chief Warren, that you didn’t get me to your headquarters six months ago.”
We skip a few pages of intense but repetitive discussion on the question of premeditation and the lie-detector and truth-serum tests Ruby wants to take, with Ruby hurling obscure shafts to Tonahill, such as “it is a greater premeditation than you know is true,” which sends Tonahill up the wall. “I don’t say it is premeditation,” says the lawyer, “I never have. I don’t think it is.” And Ruby, discounting a certain story helpful to the spontaneous-act-of-passion theory: “You would like to have built it up for my defense, but that is not it. I am here to tell the truth.”
The question turns to why Ruby was not dealt with earlier and Warren promises a no-delay lie-detector test. Ruby pushes for speed and discovers that Warren is leaving in the morning. And at that point, Dallas County Sheriff J.E. (Bill) Decker, unbidden, enters the dialogue.
RUBY: Are you staying overnight here, Chief Warren?
WARREN: No; I have to be back, because we have an early session of Court tomorrow morning.
RUBY: Is there any way of getting the polygraph here?
DECKER: May I make a suggestion? Jack, listen, you and I have had a lot of dealings. Do you want my officers removed from the room while you talk to this Commission?
RUBY: That wouldn’t prove any truth.
DECKER: These people came several thousand miles to interview you. You have wanted to tell me your story and I have refused to let you tell me. Now be a man with a bunch of men that have come a long way to give you an opportunity to –
RUBY: I wish the President were right her now. It is a terrible ordeal, I tell you that…. [he subsides for a moment to his pat narrative, then turns back to Decker.] Bill, will you do that for me that you asked a minute ago? You said you wanted to leave the room.
DECKER: I will have everyone leave the room including myself, if you want to talk about it . You name it, and we will go.
RUBY: All right.
DECKER: You want all of us outside?
DECKER: I will leave Tonahill and Moore. I am not going to have Joe leave.
RUBY: If you not going to have Joe leave –
DECKER: Moore, his body is responsible to you. His body is responsible to you.
RUBY: Bill, I am not accomplishing anything if they are here, and Joe Tonahill is here. You asked me anybody I wanted out.
DECKER: Jack, this is your attorney. That is your lawyer.
RUBY: He is not my lawyer. (Sheriff Decker and law enforcement officers left room.) Gentlemen, if you want to hear any further testimony, you will have to get me to Washington soon, because it has something to do with you, Chief Warren. Do I sound sober enough to tell you this?
WARREN: Yes; go right ahead.
RUBY: I want to tell the truth, and I can’t tell it here. I can’t tell it here. Does that make sense to you?
WARREN: Well, let’s not talk about sense. But I really can’t see why you can’t tell this Commission.
RUBY: But this isn’t the place for me to tell what I want to tell.
MOORE: The Commission is looking into the entire matter, and you are part of it, should be.
RUBY: Chief Warren, your life is in danger in this city, do you know that?
WARREN: No; I don’t know that. If that is the thing that you don’t want to talk about, you can tell me, if you wish, when this is all over, just between you and me.
RUBY: No; I would like to talk to you in private.
WARREN: You may do that when you finish your story. You may tell me that phase of it.
RUBY: I bet you haven’t had a witness like me in your whole investigation, is that correct?
WARREN: There are many witnesses whose memory has not been as good as yours. I tell you that, honestly.
RUBY: My reluctance to talk – you haven’t had any witness in telling the story, in finding so many problems.
WARREN: You have a greater problem than any witness we have had.
RUBY: I have a lot of reasons for having those problems.
WARREN: I know that, and we want to respect your rights, whatever they may be. And I only want to hear what you are willing to tell us, because I realize that you still have a great problem before you, and I am not trying to press you….
RUBY: When are you going back to Washington?
WARREN: I am going back very shortly after we finish this hearing – I am going to have some lunch.
RUBY: Can I make a statement?
RUBY: If you request me to go back to Washington with you right now now, that couldn’t be done, could it?
WARREN: No; it could not be done. It could not be done. There are a good many things involved in that, Mr. Ruby.
RUBY: What are they?
WARREN: Well, the public attention that it would attract, and the people who would be around. We have no place for you to be safe when we take you out, and we are not law enforcement officers, and it isn’t our responsibility to go into anything of that kind. And certainly it couldn’t be done on a moment’s notice this way.
RUBY: Gentlemen, my life is in danger here. Not with my guilty plea of execution [i.e., not because of killing Oswald]. Do I sound sober enough to you as I say this?
WARREN: You do. You sound entirely sober.
RUBY: From the moment I started my testimony, have I sounded as though, with the exception of becoming emotional, haven’t I sounded as though I made sense, what I was speaking about?
WARREN: You have indeed. I understand everything you have said. If I haven’t, it is my fault.
RUBY: Then I follow this up. I may not live tomorrow to give any further testimony. The reason why I add this to this, since you assure me that I have been speaking sense by then, I might be speaking sense by following what I have said, and the only thing I want to get out to the public, and I can’t say it here, is with authenticity, with sincerity of the truth of everything and why my act was committed, but it can’t be said here.
It can be said, it’s got to be said amongst people of the highest authority that would give me the benefit of doubt. And following that, immediately give me the lie-detector teast after I do make the statement.
Chairman Warren, if you felt that your life was in danger at the moment, how would you feel? Wouldn’t you be reluctant to go on speaking, even though you request me to do so?
WARREN: I think I might have some reluctance if I was in your position, yes; I think I would. I think I would figure it out very carefully as to whether it would endanger me or not. If you think that anything that I am doing or anything that I am asking you is endangering you in any way, shape, or form, I want you to feel absolutely free to say that the interview is over. [A prize specimen of Warren integrity: If telling us the trugh in Dallas would hurt you, cost you your life, we’d rather you just left it unsaid than go to the trouble of getting you to a place where you could feel safe to say it.]
RUBY: What happens then? I didn’t accomplish anything.
WARREN: No, nothing has been accomplished.
RUBY: Well, then you won’t follow up with anything further?
WARREN: There wouldn’t be anything to follow up if you hadn’t completed your statement.
RUBY: You said you have the power to do what you want to do, is that correct?
RUBY: Without any limitations?
WARREN: Within the purview of the Executive Order which established the Commission….
RUBY: But you don’t have a right to take a prisoner back with you when you want to?
WARREN: No; we have the power to subpoena witnesses to Washington if we want to do it, but we have taken the testimony of 200 or 300 people, I would imagine, here in Dallas without going to Washington.
RUBY: Yes; but those people aren’t Jack Ruby.
WARREN: No; they weren’t.
RUBY: They weren’t.
WARREN: Now I want you to feel that we are not her to take any advantage of you, because I know that you are in a delicate position, and unless you had indicated not only through your lawyers but also through your sister, who wrote a letter addressed either to me or Mr. Rankin saying that you wanted to testify before the Commission, unless she had told us that, I wouldn’t have bothered you….
RUBY: The thing is, that with your power that you you have, Chief Justice Warren, and all these gentlemen, too much time has gone by for me to give you any benefit of what I may say now.
Warren protests that it is not so. Ruby names his family, says they are all threatened; and for a moment he seems to give up and revert to the basic story of his motive, the unpremeditated-murder story, namely, that he saw in that Sunday morning’s newspaper “the most heartbreaking letter to Caroline Kennedy…and alongside that letter a small comment in the newspaper that…that Mrs. Kennedy might have to come back for the trial of Lee Harvey Oswald. That caused me to do what I did; that caused me to go like I did.” Then continuing in this new tone, Ruby goes almost singsong: “…I never spoke to anyone about attempting to do anything. No subversive organization gave me any idea. No underworld person made any effort to contact me. It all happened that Sunday morning.”
So Sunday morning he drives downtown on an errand taking him to the Western Union office near the ramp of the county jail, where Oswald was being removed that morning. The errand had to do with a call he received that morning from “a little girl – she wanted some money – that worked for me” at the Carousel. The next day was payday, but he had closed the club.
It was ten o’clock when he got downtown. He tells us he noticed the crowd at the jail but assumed Oswald had already been moved. He carried out his errand at the Western Union office, “sent the money order, whatever it was,” and walked the short distance to the ramp. “I didn’t sneak in,” he says, “I didn’t linger in there. I didn’t crouch or hide behind anyone, unless the television camera can make it seem that way. There was an officer talking – I don’t know what rank he had – talking to a Sam Pease in a car parked up on the curb.” Thus he underscores the fact that the police saw him and let him pass freely into the closed-off ramp area. Then to the killing: “I think I used the words, You killed my President, you rat.’. The next thing I knew I was down on the floor.”
In the murkiest passages of his testimony, Ruby then proceeds to tell (as he calls it) “a slipshod story” in which he insinuates at least a part of the background information he feels he cannot directly give out. We will not try unraveling it here because it would take a lot of unraveling and we are interested in the coming climax of the Warren-Ruby confrontation. But in his slipshod story, Ruby develops a quite detailed and potentially verifiable picture of his underworld past, but as though to deny that it existed. For example, he names as a “very close” friend one Lewis J. McWillie as typical of “Catholics” Ruby knew who would be especially “heartbroken” over Kennedy’s murder. Which is a joke. “Catholic” McWillie was even then a prominent Syndicate gambler with big interests in pre-revolutionary Cuba. “He was a key man over the Tropicana down there,” says Ruby. “That was during our good times. Was in harmony with our enemy of the present time.” In August 1959, Ruby tells Warren, McWillie paid his plane fare down to Havana. “I was with him constantly,” Ruby says, strongly suggesting a professional relationship if only because McWillie was such an important Syndicate executive, and as of August 1959, had concern for the future of its Havana games.
Ruby also mentions another important racketeer with whom he had an association, but in a strangely concealing way, as though he were preparing for subsequent denials, “As a matter of fact,” he says, “I even called a Mr. – hold it before I say it – headed the American Federation of Labor – I can’t think – in the state of Texas – Miller.” Warren says, “I don’t know.” Then Ruby gets it: “Is there a Deutsch I. Maylor? I called a Mr. Maylor here in Texas to see if he could help me out” in an obscure situation involving nightclub competition, i.e., Syndicate vice arrangements, some years before. This person, whom Ruby first calls Miller and then, ever so deliberately, changes into Deutsch I. Maylor, is actually Dusty Miller, head of the Teamsters Southern Conference. Peter Dale Scott made this identification first, but blamed the Warren stenographer for the distortion of Dusty Miller into Deutsch I. Maylor, even though Ruby had just shown that he could pronounce Miller perfectly well and the stenographer had shown he could spell it. I think it is a precious detail in the reconstruction of Ruby, and I submit to common sense whether Deutsch I. Maylor could have been anything other than an intentional and purposeful distortion on Ruby’s part. He is hiding something in order to reveal it. Chief Council Rankin forces the testimony back to other questions, but Ruby tirelessly weaves in his stories of Cuban gambling and bigtime crime, his relationship to McWillie and other Syndicate people like Dave Yaras and Mike McLaney, and his general awareness of Syndicate networks.
When Rankin asks him point bland, “Did you know Officer Tippit?” he responds with another intriguingly indirect and suggestive answer, thus: “I knew there was three Tippits on the force. The only one I knew used to work for special services.” This last refers to the Dallas Police Department’s Special Services Bureau. The SSB was working closely with the FBI and was responsible, as Scott indicates, for both the world of subversives and the world of organized crime, the worlds of the cover-story Oswald and the underlying Ruby. (Scott adds that another responsibility for the SSB was taking care of intelligence preparations for visiting VIPs like the president.) Ruby says he is “certain” his Tippit and the dead Tippit are not the same, but then perhaps the “wrong” Tippit was the dead one after all, and the “right” Tippit was this other one that Ruby did indeed know, the Tippit of the SSB whom Vice-Chief Gilmore elsewhere testified was “a close friend” of Ruby’s and visited his club “every night they are open.”
The above came out when Warren confronted Ruby with the story with which Mark Lane had already confronted the commission some time earlier, that shortly before the assassination Ruby had seen at a booth in his nightclub with Officer Tippit and a “rich oil man” otherwise not identified. Above is Ruby’s denial of any such Tippit relationship, that is to say, his nondenial of it (“I knew there was three Tippits,” etc). On the score of the “rich oil man”, he only volunteers it migh thave been the man who then owned the Stork Club, William Howard. Warren observes that Lane’s informant had not given Lane permission to reveal this story. It was before them after all as groundless hearsay. They had decided nevertheless to put it to Ruby in the bigness of their intellectual curiosity. They had now put it to him. He had now answered it. “So we will leave that matter as it is,” which elicited from Ruby another of his remarkable improvisations: “No, I am as innocent regarding any conspiracy as any of you gentlemen in the room….”
Warren grows restless and turns to Ford and the lawyers. “Congressmen, do you have anything further?”
Ruby, one imagines quickly, says: “You can get more out of me. Let’s not break up too soon.”
And Ford, perhaps startled, comes up with a good question: “When you got to Havana, who met you in Havana?” This gives Ruby an opportunity he obviously relishes to spin a little thicker his web of insinuations that his Havana relationship to Syndicate executive McWillie was a serious one. But Warren again tires: “Would you mind telling us anything you have on your mind?” Ruby falters, then starts a line that suddenly swerves to the heart of the matter: “If I cannot get these tests you give [the truth tests], it is pretty haphazard to tell you the things I should tell you.”
Rankin decides he must test the slack:
RANKIN: It isn’t entirely clear how you feel about your family and you yourself are threatened by your telling what you have to the Commission. How do you come to the conclusion that they might be killed? Will you tell us a little bit more about that, if you can?
RUBY: Well, assuming that, as I stated before, some persons are accusing me falsely of being part of the plot – naturally, in all the time from over six months ago, my family has been so interested in helping me.
RANKIN: By that, you mean a party to the plot of Oswald?
RUBY: That I was party to a plot to silence Oswald.
In other words, this is the inference which he has all along been begging them to make. The commission does not respond. The stenographer then moves Ruby to a new paragraph. He stumbles through several hundred murky words on the impact of the affair on his family and notes that he has the sympathy of a good many people for killing the President’s assassin. But he says, “That sympathy isn’t going to help me, because the people that have the power here, they have a different verdict. [Get this:] They already have me as the accused assassin of our beloved president.” The commission must have given him a blank look as this new idea tried to register: Ruby shot Kennedy? Ruby says, “Now if I sound screwy telling you this, then I must be screwy.”
Warren rallies his senses and moves into the breech:
WARREN: Mr. Ruby, I think you are entitled to a statement to this effect, because you have been frank with us and have told us your story.
I think I can say to you that there has been no witness before this commission out of the hundreds we have questioned who has claimed to have any personal knowledge that you were a party to any conspiracy to kill our President.
RUBY: Yes, but you don’t know this area here. [They squabble about the point. Warren really wants to evade this.]
WARREN: Well, I will make this additional statement to you, that if any witness should testify before the Commission that you were, to their knowledge, a party to any conspiracy to assassinate the President, I assure you that we will give you the opportunity to deny it and to take any tests that you may desire to so disprove it.
But how does he know this is what Ruby is talking about, or that Ruby would necessarily want to “deny and disprove” it? And above all, why should Warren be so blazingly uninterested in this man? Ruby maybe said it all back in the first minute: “Am I boring you?”
It is the beginning of summer, the report is in, the presses are about to cook, the awful part of this thing in Dallas is about to be wrapped up, and now this hangnail, Ruby, with his weird way of talking, his ominous and portentous airs, his impenetrable, melodramatic double-meanings:
RUBY: ….And I wish that our beloved President, Lyndon Johnson, would have delved deeper into the situation, hear me, not to accept just circumstantial facts about my guilt or innocence, and would have questioned to find out the truth about me before he relinquished certain powers to these certain people….consequently, a whole new form of government is going to take over our country, and I know I won’t live to see you another time. Do I would screwy in telling you these things?
WARREN: No; I think that is what you believe or you wouldn’t tell it under your oath.
RUBY: But it is a very serious situation. I guess it is too late to stop it, isn’t it?…
Ruby seems to struggle against this insight later, but I think that at just this point in the text he is about to see into the heart of darkness. He is coming to think that, indeed, it is too late, because not only are the Dallas police and the Dallas sheriff in on it, but so is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. And unknown to everyone but Ruby the ones actually in on it, as a consequence of this, “a whole new form of government is going to take over the country.”
FORD: Are there any questions that ought to be asked to help clarify the situation that you described?
RUBY: There is only one thing. If you don’t take me back to Washington tonight to give me a chance to prove to the President that I am not guilty, then you will see the most tragic, then you will see the most tragic thing that will ever happen….
RUBY: ….Now maybe something can be saved. It may not be too late, whatever happens, if our President, Lyndon Johnson, knew the truth from me.
But if I am eliminated, there won’t be any way of knowing.
Right now, when I leave your presence now, I am the only one that can bring out the truth to our President, who believes in righteousness and justice.
But he has been told, I am certain, that I was part of a plot to assassinate the President. [!]
I know your hands are tied; you are helpless.
WARREN: Mr. Ruby, I think I can say this to you, that if he has been told any such thing, there is no indication of any kind that he believes it.
RUBY: I am sorry, Chief Justice Warren, I thought I would be very effective in telling you what I have said here. But in all fairness to everyone, maybe all I want to do is beg that if they found out I was telling the truth, maybe they can succeed in what their motives are, but maybe my people won’t be tortured and mutilated. [That is, Ruby begs forgiveness from the assassination conspiracy, having failed in his effort to rat on it through double meanings tossed into Warren’s ear.]
WARREN: Well, you may be sure that my President and his whole Commission will do anything that is necessary to see that your people are not tortured.
WARREN: You may be sure of that.
RUBY: No. The only way you can do it is if he knows the truth, that I am telling the truth, and why I was down in that basement Sunday morning, and maybe some sense of decency will come out and they can still fulfill their plan, as I stated before, without my people going through torture and mutilation.
WARREN: The President will know everything that you have said, everything that you have said.
RUBY: But I won’t be around, Chief Justice. I won’t be around to verify [!] those things you are going to tell the President.
TONAHILL: [Who never left the room] Who do you think is going to eliminate you, Jack?
RUBY: I have been used for a purpose, and there will be a certain tragic occurrence happening if you don’t take my testimony and somehow vindicate me so my people don’t suffer because of what I have done.
WARREN: But we have taken your testimony. We have it here. It will be in permanent form for the President of the United States and for the Congress of the United States, and for the courts of the United States, and for the people of the entire world.
It is there, it will be recorded for all to see. That is the purpose of our coming here today. We feel that you are entitled to have your story told.
RUBY: You have lost me though. You have lost me, Chief Justice Warren.
WARREN: Lost you in what sense?
RUBY: I won’t be around for you to come and question again.
WARREN: Well, it is very hard for me to believe that. I am sure that everybody would want to protect you to the very limit.
RUBY: All that I want is a lie-detector test, and you refuse to give it to me.
Because as it stands now – and the truth serum, and any other – Pentothal – how do you pronounce it, whatever it is. And they will not give it to me, because I want to tell the truth.
And then I want to leave this world.
Warren again promises the test, and soon, and then again starts trying to wrap things up. But then again Ruby asks for more:
“Hold on another minute,” Warren says, “All right.” Ruby says, “How do you know if the facts I stated about everything I said, statements with reference to, are the truth or not?” Ruby’s overburdened syntax is finally crumbling. Ford and Warren repeat their promise of protection and speedy tests and again seem half out of their chairs.
RUBY: How are we going to communicate and so on?
WARREN: We will communicate directly with you.
RUBY: You have a lost cause, Earl Warren. You don’t stand a chance. They feel about you like the do about me, Chief Justice Warren.
I shouldn’t hurt your feelings in telling you that.
Remarking that he knows he has his enemies, Warren adjourns the session. It has consumed three hours and five minutes.
Ruby got his lie-detector test six weeks later, not exactly right away in the Warren scheme of all deliberate speed. Against all standard procedures, the test was a marathon, some eight hours long with only short breaks. Other people were in the room, some of whom Ruby insisted were his enemies (for example, his lawyer, Joe Tonahill). Little wonder that the chief FBI expert in lie-detection polygraphy, Bell P. Herndon, who gave the test, testified later that its results were too ambiguous to support any conclusive interpretation.
Yet Ruby’s session with the lie-detector is as rich with suggestive details as the session before Warren and Ford. We are anxious to press on to a statement of our conception of Dallas, but the person of Ruby has been ignored too long, and the special volatility of the JFK issue as a whole just now begs for special awareness of the importance of Ruby’s role. Ruby’s gangland situation makes him a direct link between the Bay of Pigs and Dallas.
The text of this interview must be read in its entirety to be appreciated, something we cannot begin to do here. We must be satisfied with the key points from the interview itself. Then we go to the sequel, the psychiatrist’s on-the-spot analysis of what Ruby was up to in his “psychotic delusional” state, and the examiners explanation of the ambiguity of the test.
The basic problem of the lie-detector test surfaces as soon as Ruby comes into the Dallas City Jail interrogation room at 2:23 p.m., July 18, 1964. His lawyers and family have taken the position that he must not give the prosecuting attorney (William Alexander, present in the room) a way to prove his murder of Oswald was a premeditated act. His lawyers want to argue that it was total coincidence he drifted into the basement of the jail just as Oswald was being moved, and that it was only when he happened to see Oswald before him that he was overwhelmed by the idea of taking out the pistol, which he was packing by another coincidence, and shooting him down on the spot, without stopping to think about it.
But the story Ruby seems careless in telling is that his motive began to form early that morning when he saw a press item about Caroline Kennedy in the Sunday paper and realized that the widow would have to return to Dallas for the trial of Oswald. Ostensibly to show that Jews like himself (so runs his story) could act in a patriotic and brave way, he seized the time.
It is true that Ruby never says he started planning to kill Oswald that morning before he went downtown. He says clearly he went downtown to send money to a stripper who complained that morning by phone from Fort Worth that she needed money since Ruby had closed the Carousel for three days including the regular payday. He went down to the Western Union office to send her a money order, then went in a very straight line over to the jail, eased down the ramp, was confronted at once with Oswald, and stepped into the experience that killed both of them.
The polygraph testimony opens with Ruby offstage, his lawyers laying what ground they can to keep the results of the lie-detector test closed up. The Warren people are sympathetic to that. Assistant Counsel Specter loses no opportunity to make it clear tha the test is not happening because of any desire of the commission’s: it’s members have never entertained the least doubt of Ruby’s basic story.
Ruby is not long on stage before this comes up. He at once moves to make his position plain, lawyers or no lawyers. “I want to supersede the attorney…in stating that I want everything to come out immediately, as soon as possible, and whoever wants to know the results – what the results are – I want it to be known, regardless of which way it turns.”
A little later he tries unsuccessfully to get one of his lawyers out of the room:
RUBY: Did you get your pants sewed up, Joe?
TONAHIL: It went through to my leg.
RUBY: That was a pretty rough brawl we had, wasn’t it, Joe?
RUBY: Joe, I’d appreciate it if you weren’t in the room. Can I ask you to leave, Joe?
TONAHILL: I’ll be glad to leave, if you want me to, Jack.
RUBY: As a matter of fact, I prefer Bill Alexander to you, you’re supposed to be my friend.
TONAHILL: Let the record show that Mr. Ruby says he prefers Bill Alexander being herd during this investigation, who is the assistant district attorney who asked that a jury give him the death sentence, to myself, who asked the jury to acquit him, his attorney.
HERNDON: May we proceed?
And they do, and no one leaves the room. From this point on, no doubt, it is absurd to think the polygraph could prove anything whatsoever. The atmosphere is demonstrably too unsettling; conditions are too controlled from the standpoint of forensic polygraphy to support any meaningful interpretation of Ruby’s responses. The test is being run purely to satisfy Ruby, and no one shows any intention of treating at as a serious probe for a difficult truth.
Finally comes the test proper, the long, emotionally grueling examination covering exactly those aspects of the event that Ruby specified, touching on such issues as the Cuban connection, the Syndicate connection, the Communist angle, and his intentions toward Oswald. Herndon first walks Ruby through each test series, adjusts the questions to make sure they are exactly the questions Ruby wants to answer and that ht understands them completely, then goes through them again with the polygraph switched on. The sixty-six pages of testimony are shot through with haunting and suggestive exchanges, such as the following, as Herndon reads through the question that comes closest to the heart of the premeditation issue:
HERNDON: Did you tell anyone you were thinking of shooting Oswald before you did it?
HERNDON: Is that question all right, do you understand it?
RUBY: Yes – I take that back. Sunday morning – I want to elaborate on that – before I left my apartment – it evidently didn’t register with the person [he may mean his roommate, George Senator] because of the way I said it. In other words, the whole basis of this whole thing was that Mrs. Kennedy would have to come back for trial.
Whereupon Tonahill’s partner, Fowler, stages a demonstration to stop Ruby from saying such a thing with his prosecutor present.
For the purposes of our summary, Ruby’s key statement in this lie-detector testimony is the following. It comes toward the end, when he is tired and seems to feel the situation slipping away.
RUBY: Let me put it this way: Here I run a nightclub. I run a nightclub and on Friday this tragic event happens, and I get carried away more so than anyone else. Why? Why was I so sick mentally or so carried away?
I immediately replace my newspaper ads so that I would be closed for those 3 days. This is the ironic part of it, that wouldn’t it be a tremendous hoax, or certain people would probably believe it that way, a that here’s a fellow that didn’t vote for the president, closes his clubs for 3 days, made a trip to Cuba, relayed a message from a person – from Ray Brantley – look at circumstantially how guilty I am. If you want to put these things together. Then I happen to be down there [the ramp], which is a million to one shot, that I should happen to be down there at that particular second when this man comes out of whatever it was, an elevator or whatever it was. All these things. Plus the fact of the post office box and some other rumors that they saw us together at the club. How can we give me the clearance that the ads I put in where authentic, my sincerity, my feeling of emotionalism were sincere; that that Sunday morning I got carried away after reading the article, a letter addressed to Caroline and then this little article that stated Mrs. Kenned might be requested to come back and face the ordeal of the trial.
Also, if there was a conspiracy, then this little girl that called me on the phone in Fort Worth then is part of the conspiracy. Do you follow me?
If I follow Ruby, he is giving us here a perfectly serious lead – who was “this little Fort Worth girl?” – as well as a powerful list of reasons why he should not be taken at his work about killing Oswald out of love for Kennedy and sympathy for the widow. (a) He was not a Kennedy man. (b) It was verifiable that he was in Cuba on Syndicate business just before the Revolution took power, and that he relayed an important Syndicate business message in 1959, i.e., Ruby was on the exact opposite side of the fence from the anti-Syndicate Kennedys. (c) It was a million-to-one shot that he should have been on the ramp just as Oswald appeared. (d) There are traces of a prior Ruby-Oswald-Tippit relationship, or of some such thickening of the story underneath. But this excited no great interest in the commission or Assistant Counsel Specter, who believed already that these were innocuous coincidences and acceptable doubts.
Three minutes after Ruby left the room, at 9:10, the commission reconvened to question Dr. William Robert Beavers, a psychiatrist who had been examining Ruby, on his reaction to Ruby’s behavior under the long questioning.
Specter was trying to get Beavers to say that Ruby was out of his mind, and technically at least Beavers does that. He says that when he first examined Ruby late in April, “he had briefly what I call a psychotic depression, that is, he had evidence of auditory hallucinations and a poorly defined but definite delusional system which waxed and waned during the time of the interview, and he had evidence of a severe degree of depression….”
Asked if he has now a different view in light of the interrogation just concluded, Beavers answers, “Yes, I do. I think that as I have seen him, the depressive element has diminished, and that the delusional system has become less open and obvious….”
What struck him as indicative of Ruby’s unsoundness of mind was “the relationship he has with his attorneys [Tonahill and Fowler]. There are certain kinds of actions and behavior in these two relationships which fit better in my opinion with the continuation of a covert delusional system concerning threats to his race, his family, based on his presumed activity in a conspiracy, than it would with rational realistic appreciation of the factors in his environment.”
A few lines later, Beavers backs a little closer to it:”….It seemed to me, because he was fairly certain in his answers during the trial run, and then following this during the actual run of the polygraph, there was so much hesitation and uncertainty which resulted in no answers, that we were seeing a good deal of internal struggle as to just was reality.
Then speculating on the possible reason for this “hesitation and uncertainty,” Beavers almost puts his finger on it: “It possibly could have been his trying to protect in some way an answer from the polygraph.”
Protect? Meaning to conceal? This Ruby who has given us a hundred tips that he is concealing something which he does not wish to conceal? An who could have concealed everything by simply not demanding this test at the top of his voice against the wishes of all the other parties?
Maybe on the contrary, Ruby was trying to say something. As he said when Herndon asked him why he closed his eyes in answering the questions, “I’m trying to be more emphatic with the truth when I close my eyes – more than the truth.”
The more Beavers goes on, the more he dissolves his own original picture of Ruby as a depressive- delusional psychotic. “In the greater proportion of the time that he answered the question,” he says, “I felt that he was aware of the question and that he understood them, and that he was giving answers based on an apprehension of reality.” And again: “In short, he seemed to behave like a man with a well-fixed delusional system in which whole areas of his thinking and his behavior are not strongly interfered with by the delusion.”
That is, Beavers thought Ruby was sane in all respects except his belief that there had been a conspiracy in Dallas.
But now Ruby’s hated attorney Joe Tonahill comes on and poses a preposterous but fascinating question. First he sums up what they have all seen about Ruby’s attitude towards himself and Alexander, the prosecuting attorney in his murder trial. Tonahill notes that Ruby has been consistently antagonistic to himself and yet has shown “tremendous faith and confidence in Mr. Alexander.” Now comes the question: “Have you an opinion as to what goes on with reference to Ruby’s mental illness that causes him to put faith in Mr. Alexander and no faith in me?”
Beavers first accepts the premise of that question, i.e., that Tonahill’s view of Ruby’s best interests is correct, and that if Ruby’s view does not coincide with this view, then Ruby must be crazy. But then Beavers starts to go beyond that assumption and comes as close as anyone I know of to the conception of Ruby I am working out here. Like Icarus he soars and then falls:
….in fact there is a considerable body of people, the district attorney’s office and district attorneys included, who do feel that he is party of a conspiracy, and that in fact either past, present and/or future actions toward loved ones and toward members of his race are going to be taken against these people because of this presumed conspiracy. If this were the case, then it would make extremely good sense that he would want Mr. Alexander here, and he would want him here very definitely, because…he is much more concerned with getting the truth out so that a whole host of terrible things won’t happen.
Ten days later, Specter interviewed Herndon on the interpretation of Ruby’s polygraph. Herndon took note of the others who had been present in the room, acknowledged the irregularity of that and the length of the test, and said outright that during the latter prat of the test Ruby’s fatigue had probably “desensitized” his reactions. Within that limit, Herndon’s general conclusion was, “if in fact Ruby was mentally competent and sane, that there was no indication of deception with regard to the specific relevant pertinent questions of this investigation.”
But then even under the incurious questioning of Specter, Herndon seemed to cast doubt on his own judgment, or more exactly, on the polygraph’s ability to support a solid interpretation of any kind.
For example, he says that Ruby’s negative answer to the question, “Did you assist Oswald in the assassination?” could be interpreted [as suggesting] that there was no physiological response to the stimulus of the question,” and yet when Specter asks him what he means by “could be interpreted,” it develops that the polygraph showed “a slight impact of the GSR” (galvanic skin response) to that question. Or again, to the question, “Between the assassination and the shooting, did anybody you know tell you they knew Oswald?” Herndon says Ruby answered with “a noticeable change in the pneumograph pattern,” but waves it off as owing to the relatively long length of this particular question.” Then consider Herndon’s explanation of Ruby’s response pattern to one of the most significant sequences of questions:
HERNDON: This particular series, 3a [Exhobit 4], was what would be called a modified peak of tension series [i.e., all questions are “significant” and not interspersed with insignificant ones]. Ruby was carefully instructed prior to the series that four relevant questions were going to be asked in a consecutive order.
Question No. 3: “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald on Friday night?” He responded “No.”
Question No. 4: “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald Saturday morning?” He responded “No.”
Question No. 5: “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald Saturday night?”. He responded “No.”
Question No. 6: “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald Sunday morning?” He responded “Yes.”
These are the only relevant questions in this series. A review of the chart with regard to his responses in this series reveals that the Ruby’s blood pressure continually rose from the question No. 3 until it reached a peak just as question No. 6 was asked. In addition it was noted that there was a rather noticeable change in his breathing pattern as question No. 6 was approached. There is a slight impact in the GSR tracing as question No. 6 was approached. This would mean to me in interpreting the chart that Ruby reached a peak of tension as the question No. 6 was about to be asked in which he responded “Yes” to “Did you first decide to shoot Oswald Sunday morning?” This particular type of series cannot be interpreted with regard to whether or not there was any deception, but it does indicate that Ruby built up a physiological peak of tension to the time of Sunday morning with regard to his shooting Oswald.
SPECTER: Is there any correlation between the building up of a peak of tension and the accurate answer to the series?
HERNDON: In normal usage of polygraph technique where a peak of tension is used, if the series is effective, the party will usually respond to a particular item which happens to be the most pertinent with regard to the offense. In this case it appears that Ruby projected his entire thoughts and built up a physiological peak of tension at the point of Sunday morning.
SPECTER: Are there any other significant readings on Exhibit No. 4?
HERNDON: There is no other significant reading on series 4.
Decoded and straightened out, what Ruby was trying to say to Warren comes down to the following main points:
Because of threats against his family emanating from the Dallas Police Department primarily, he could not tell his story in Dallas or indeed to anyone not powerful enough to secure his family once he did talk.
Failing in his plan to escape to Washington with Warren, Ruby opts for the shrewd but naïve strategy of telling his lie to a lie detector. But thanks to Herndon, that didn’t work either.
His story is a long way yet from reconstruction, but he gives us leads and fragments, the most spectacular of which is a whole rich set of suggestions tying him variously into high-level Syndicate figures operating in pre-revolutionary Cuba, and as we know today, involved later in attempts against the Castro government in covert operations connected with elements of the CIA and stemming from the Bay of Pigs, operations which Kennedy used force to extirpate two months before his death. This makes the Ruby case totally of a piece with the over-all affair of the Bay of Pigs/Dallas reactions. The world of Ruby, of the Carousel, and of the Dallas cops was also the world of the Bay of Pigs and of the secret staging bases outside Miami and New Orleans.
Ruby asks us as directly as he can to entertain the hypothesis that he was a member of the JFK assassination cabal, that his purpose in liquidating Oswald was to satisfy the cabal’s need to keep the patsy from standing trial, and that something happened to him in the Dallas jail between the time he killed Oswald and the time he began demanding to come before Warren, something to change his mind. Of course I don not press this speculation, but I do say that it better fits the few facts we have than the Warren theory that Ruby too was just another lone nut of Dallas. Thanks to the providential bust at Watergate, we are now too ferociously educated about our government to dismiss as inherently crazy Ruby’s fear of covert reprisals from the police or his warnings that “a whole new form of government” was being installed as a result of Dallas.
For this is indeed the direction in which our current discoveries and insights about the assassination and its cover-up are propelling us, namely, that what happened in Dealey Plaza was a coup d’etat. The motive of this coup no one could have foreseen at the time without access to the innermost closets of the group that engineered it. As Johnson began shouldering Yankee advisers aside (see the Pentagon Papers), meanwhile mystifying his relationship to Kennedy to make himself seem merely the continuation of Kennedy by other means, it was hard for many to see the coming of a radically new war policy in Vietnam, though the big war was very soon upon us (two-hundred thousand troops by the time of the first national March on Washington against the war in April 1965). As we have noted, Johnson also set in motion plans to carry out a for-good invasion of Cuba, the so-called Second Naval Guerrilla, abandoned only because of the outbreak of the Dominican revolt in early 1965 and Johnson’s decision to suppress it with the invasion forces assembled originally for Cuba. Now we see these under-the-table moves quite clearly and see them as radical departures from Frontier Camelot policy lines, not as the continuations which Johnson and Nixon and all the other chauvinists found it convenient to pretend they were. The Johnson administration was not the fulfillment of Kennedy policy; it was its defeat and reversal.
Among the witnesses who testified to Warren, few more than Ruby make us feel the presence of these momentous themes. He is garbled, murky, incomplete, and as his friend and roommate George Senator says, apolitical in any conventional sense. Yet something about what happened to him after killing Oswald makes him more fully in touch with the situation’s underlying realities than anyone else who testified – or who listened from the bench.
In late 1965, Washington post columnist Dorothy Killgallen interviewed Ruby at length in the Dallas jail. She came out to tell a few friends that on the basis of this interview she was “about to blow the JFK case sky high.” Within a few days, however, before she had a chance to do that, she died of a massive overdose of barbiturates, ruled a suicide. Her New York apartment was found in a shambles. Her notes from the Ruby interview never turned up.
Sick with cancer (he claimed he was being poisoned), Ruby died in his cell of a stroke early in 1967.
The Yankee and Cowboy War
The conclusion of chapter four will be forthcoming.