Presiding over the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Judge William A. Morrison reached Case No. 37,900. "Jack Rubenstein," he intoned, "alias Jack Ruby, from Dallas. Reversed and remanded with directions." Thus the court last week struck down the verdict that in 1964 had sentenced Lee Harvey Oswald's killer to death. Their unanimous decision could mean freedom for Ruby within a few months.
The appeals court ruled that Dallas's Judge Joe B. Brown had made a serious error in the original trial by allowing jurors to hear testimony that Ruby, at least ten minutes after his arrest, had admitted he had planned to kill Oswald. Because of the delay, because Ruby's words were not taken as a written statement, and because he had not been warned of his right to remain silent, the testimony was inadmissible under Texas law. The court also found that Judge Brown's refusal to grant a change of venue from Dallas was in itself sufficient grounds to overturn the verdict.
Whether a new prosecutor will still press for the death penalty is problematical. There was talk of a possible deal that would permit Ruby to plead guilty to the lesser charge of murder without malice and a maximum five-year sentencewith the years he has spent in jail to count as time served.