A logical approach to Jack Ruby and possible conspiracy

February 2001

    I know many people who became convinced of conspiracy in the JFK assassination the moment that Jack Ruby shot Oswald less than 48 hours after Oswald had [allegedly] shot Kennedy. Those people fervently believe in conspiracy to this day. But may we really conclude conspiracy from Ruby's act? The critical method for dealing with evidence and hypotheses [problem or question → all possible hypotheses → reliable evidence → all hypotheses consistent with reliable evidence → simplest hypothesis consistent with reliable evidence] is perhaps at its most helpful in cases like this, where emotions can so easily overrun knowledge. Here is my second version of how the sequence works for Ruby and his act.

The question
    Under whose auspices was Jack Ruby acting when he killed Oswald?

Possible answers
    1. He was acting on his own, and most probably on impulse.
    2. He was acting as part of a conspiracy.

Reliable evidence
    1. Saturday evening, Dallas Police Chief Curry had told the news media to be at the Police Station by 10 a.m. on Sunday the 24th of November if they didn't want to miss seeing Oswald  transferred to the County Jail. [WCR page 209]
    2. Reporters and TV equipment were assembled for the expected 10 a.m. transfer. [Photos and TV film.]
    3. The transfer was delayed by more than an hour when Chief Postal Inspector Harry Holmes arrived at the station just before 10 and wanted to question Oswald more about his use of post office boxes. [Holmes's and Capt. Will Fritz's testimony to the WC]
    4. At the last minute, Oswald asked to be allowed to wear a darker sweater, so that he could appear better in the TV lights. This delayed the transfer another 5 or 10 minutes, or until about 11:20. [Testimony of SS Agent Forrest Sorrels]
    5. At 10:19 a.m., Ruby was called by dancer Karin Carlin ("Little Lynn"), who asked him for $25. He told her he was going downtown, and would wire it to her from Western Union. [Carlin's phone record]
    6. He drove downtown to Western Union office to wire Carlin the $25. [Car parked in lot across the street from Western Union.]
    7. He finished at Western Union at 11:17 a.m. [Time stamp on his receipt.]
    8. He then walked one block to the police station and entered.
    9. He shot Oswald at 11:21 a.m. [Clock on wall captured on film]

Hypotheses consistent with this evidence
    1. Ruby acted on his own and on impulse.
    2. Ruby acted as part of a well-oiled conspiracy that kept him continuously informed about Oswald's whereabouts and movements.
        (No reliable evidence for #2.)

Simplest hypothesis consistent with this evidence
    1. Ruby acted on his own and on impulse.

    This answer must be considered provisional, or a working hypothesis. It is subject to challenge by additional evidence.

Other information that may be relevant but is not reliable evidence in the usual sense
    1. Ruby was widely regarded by close associates as being too talkative to ever participate in a conspiracy.
    2. Ruby came within two or three feet of Oswald at the press briefing on Friday night, with his pistol in his right hip pocket, yet chose not to shoot then. [Had Ruby been under contract to kill Oswald, he would have done it then and there because he could not have been assured that a better opportunity would present itself.]
    3. Ruby loved dogs excessively. When he entered the station, he left his favorite dog, Sheba, in the car, which he would never have done if he were planning to shoot anyone and be taken into custody. [Dog lovers, take note!]
    4. Ruby testified that when he drove by the county jail on his way to Western Union, he saw a large crowd of people and assumed that Oswald had already been transferred. [And it was a logical assumption, since it was nearly an hour after the announced time of transfer.]
    5. He was noted to have been unusually upset all Sunday morning.
    6. Jimmy Turner, a TV director at WBPA, testified that Ruby arrived at the bottom of the ramp within four or five seconds of when Oswald emerged from the elevator. [This was the result of either pure chance or the most finely tuned conspiracy ever.]
    [Most of these points are given in Gerald Posner's Case Closed, 1993]

Possible challenges
    1. Ruby had to have help getting into the police station because it was guarded.
        Response: As part of a decoy plan, a black car left the police station via the entrance ramp. Officer Roy Vaughn, who had been guarding that ramp, stepped into the street to direct traffic and let the car out. That allowed Ruby to slip by the distracted officer and head down the ramp. [Testimony of Officer E. R. Vaughn]
    2. Ruby's Saturday night telephone calls to Ralph Paul and Breck Wall may have concerned his shooting Oswald the next day.
        Response: No evidence to support this.
    3. Oswald should have been wearing a bulletproof vest for the dangerous transfer.
        Response: They didn't come into routine use until after that.
    4. Ruby came from a mob background in Chicago, and had been involved in mildly nefarious acts in Dallas. Does this not imply a conspiracy?
        Response: No. It is too general to even approach proving any level of conspiracy.
    5. If Ruby was such a dog lover, why did he leave his car door unlocked when he went to the western Union office?
        Response: That's how they did things in those days, and still do in much of the interior U.S.
    6. Why was Ruby carrying his pistol to the Western Union office if he didn't expect to shoot Oswald?
        Response: He was carrying $2000 in cash on him. In those days, Texans didn't need even that much excuse to carry a gun.

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