The JFK 100

Jack Ruby's Warren Commission Testimony

Brian Doyle-Murray as Jack Ruby


In Oliver Stone's JFK, the filmmaker intimates that not only did Jack Ruby have inside information about a JFK assassination conspiracy, but that he wanted to confess. Only the actions of Chief Justice Earl Warren (portrayed, in a prime example of creative casting, by Judge Jim Garrison) prevented this from occurring.

Is this the case?

Here is how Stone presents the issue.


When are you going back to Washington, sir?

OFFICIAL [EARL WARREN] (looks at watch)
I am going back very shortly after we finish this hearing -- I am going to have some lunch.

Can I make a statement? If you request me to go back to Washington with you right now, that is if you want to hear further testimony from me, can you do that? Can you take me with you?

No, that could not be done, Mr. Ruby. There are a good many things involved in that.

What are they?

Well, the public attention it would attract. And we have no place for you there to be safe, we're not law enforcement officials, and many things are at stake in this affair, Mr. Ruby.

But if I am eliminated there won't be any way of knowing. Consequently a whole new form of government is going to take over this country, and I know I won't live to see you another time. My life is in danger here. Do I sound screwy?

Well, I don't know what can be done, Mr. Ruby, because I don't know what you anticipate we will encounter.

Then you don't stand a chance, Mr. Chief Justice, you have a lost cause. All I want is a lie detector test, and you refuse to give it to me. Because as it stands now -- and the truth serum -- how do you pronounce it -- Pentathol -- whatever it is. They will not give it to me, because I want to tell the truth . . . And then I want to leave this world.(1)

The camera pauses on Ruby's face. The men rise and leave in the shadows.


Is this an accurate portrayal of what Jack Ruby said to Earl Warren?


Article continues below.


Jack Ruby


Oliver Stone's JFK depicts Ruby before Chief Justice Earl Warren, begging to be taken back to Washington so that he can give "further testimony," presumably of a conspiratorial nature.

But Stone omits what is arguably the most lucid, significant remark of Ruby's testimony, when he told Chief Justice Earl Warren, Gerald Ford and others, "I am as innocent regarding any conspiracy as any of you gentlemen in the room . . ."(2) Ruby was actually begging the commission to take him back to Washington so that he could take a polygraph examination and prove that he was telling the truth when he denied any role in a conspiracy.


Mr. RUBY. Without a lie detector test on my testimony, my verbal statements to you, how do you know if I am telling the truth? . . . 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 . . .(3)


It was precisely this concern that was voiced when Ruby asked:


Mr. RUBY. Is there any way to get me to Washington?

Chief Justice WARREN. I beg your pardon?

Mr. RUBY. Is there any way of you getting me to Washington?

Chief Justice 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.

Mr. RUBY. . . . I would like to request that I go to Washington and take all the tests that I have to take. It is very important. . . . Because I have been over this for the longest time to get the lie detector test.(4)


Ruby made a number of statements that are all too easily taken out of context. For example:


Mr. RUBY. Gentlemen, my life is in danger here. . . . 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 test after I do make the statement.(5)


It is not any alleged conspirators that threaten Ruby, however. Rather, he fears that if he is believed to be part of an assassination conspiracy, someone might do to him -- and members of his family -- precisely what he had done to Oswald:


Mr. RUBY. [S]ome persons are accusing me falsely of being part of the plot . . . a plot to silence Oswald. . . . [T]he people that have the power here . . . already have me as the accused assassin of our beloved President.(6) I tell you, gentlemen, my whole family is in jeopardy . . . as to their lives. . . . Naturally, I am a foregone conclusion. My sisters Eva, Eileen, and Mary, I lost my sisters. My brothers Sam, Earl, Hyman, and myself naturally -- my in-laws, Harold Kaminsky, Marge Ruby, the wife of Earl, and Phyllis, the wife of Sam Ruby, they are in jeopardy of loss of their lives . . . just because they are blood related to myself . . . Consequently, right at this moment I am being victimized [falsely portrayed] as a part of a plot in the world's worst tragedy and crime at this moment. . . . At this moment, Lee Harvey Oswald isn't [seen as being] guilty of committing the crime of assassinating President Kennedy. Jack Ruby is. How can I fight that, Chief Justice Warren?(7)


Ruby was also very specific about precisely who was most actively pushing the theory of his involvement in a conspiracy:


[T]here is a certain organization in this area that has been indoctrinated [with the theory] that I am the one that was in the plot to assassinate our President. . . . The John Birch Society.(8)


Ruby was correct; the John Birch Society was indeed spreading propaganda implicating Ruby as part of a Jewish conspiracy. In fact, Ruby correctly named resigned US Army Major General Edwin Walker as one of the society's leaders in Dallas,(9) and it is quite telling that when Walker appeared before the Warren Commission, he insisted upon referring to Ruby by his birth name, Rubenstein.(10)

Ruby continued:


If certain people have the means and want to gain something by propagandizing something to their own use, they will make ways to present certain things that I do look guilty."(11) . . . 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 thing that will ever happen. And . . . I won't be around to be able to prove my innocence or guilt.(12). . . I am used as a scapegoat, and there is no greater weapon that you can use to create some falsehood about some of the Jewish faith, especially at the terrible heinous crime such as the killing of President Kennedy. . . . 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. . . .(13)


During the session, Ruby's attorney Joe Tonahill asked, "Who do you think is going to eliminate you, Jack?" Ruby replied, in another statement that has been quoted out of context by even reputable journalists such as Seth Kantor, "I have been used for a purpose [for propaganda by anti-Semitic organizations like the Birch Society], 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. . . . You have lost me though. You have lost me, Chief Justice Warren. . . . I won't be around for you to come and question me again. . . . All I want is a lie detector test, and you refuse to give it to me."(14)

For those more intent upon pinning the blame on Ruby than discerning the true nature of the facts, the only thing left to do is insist he was lying. One researcher, in fact, has even made repeated claims that the polygraph test Ruby eventually took indicated that Ruby was, in fact, lying. This researcher has claimed that "a panel of 9 polygraph experts determined that there were blatant signs of deception during Ruby's polygraph test, when he was asked about knowing Oswald and about involvement with Oswald in the assassination."(15)

This researcher asserts this in spite of the fact that the panel in question, that of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, actually concluded: "It is emphasized by the panel, however, that no opinion could be rendered on the validity of this examination or the reliability of the results for the numerous reasons discussed in this report."(16)

Click here to read the House Committee's full report on Ruby's polygraph examination.

The bottom line is that no one -- certainly not Oliver Stone -- has ever advanced a shred of evidence that Jack Ruby was involved in a conspiracy of any kind, and Ruby adamantly maintained his innocence of any such charge, even during interviews conducted on his deathbed.

But as wrong as it is to falsely accuse him of complicity in such a conspiracy, the manner in which Oliver Stone selectively quotes and distorts Ruby's own words borders on the obscene.


Read Jack Ruby's complete Warren Commission testimony:
Part One and Part Two


Copyright © 2001 by David Reitzes


You may wish to see . . .

The JFK 100: Who Was Jack Ruby?

The JFK 100: Jack Ruby Injected with Cancer


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1. Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York: Applause, 1992), p. 61. All quotations are from the shooting script and may vary slightly from the finished motion picture.

2. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. V, p. 204. For more on this issue, see author Jean Davison's evaluation of the treatment Ruby's testimony undergoes in Mark Lane's Rush to Judgment.

3. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. V, p. 181.

4. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. V, p. 190.

5. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. V, p. 194.

6. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. V, p. 209.

7. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. V, p. 197.

8. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. V, p. 198.

9. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. V, p. 197.

10. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. XI, pp. 421, 423.

11. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. V, p. 209.

12. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. V, p. 210.

13. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. V, p. 211.

14. Warren Commission Hearings Vol. V, p. 211.

15. Robert Harris, newsgroup post of July 14, 1999. Harris has posted an article on this subject, which argues that the HSCA panel concluded that Ruby lied when he answered "no," to the question, "Did you assist Oswald in the assassination?" The panel noted "a constant suppression of breathing and a rise in blood pressure at the time of this crucial relevant question. From this test, it appeared to the panel that Ruby was possibly lying when answering 'no' to the question."

There are at least a half dozen problems with Harris's conclusion. First, the HSCA panel noted no such reaction when Ruby answered "no" to the previous question, "Did you know Oswald before November 22, 1963?" A literal interpretation of these two questions would be that Ruby did not know Oswald, but was somehow involved in the assassination. This is possible, of course, but another equally valid interpretation would be that mention of the assassination upset Ruby for some other reason. It seems not inconceivable that this could be the case.

Second, Ruby's reaction to the question Harris cites is comparable to the reaction the HSCA panel observed when he answered "no" to the questions, "Are you now a member of the Communist Party?" and "Have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?" In fact, this latter question "also evoked by far the most dramatic breathing reaction" of the entire examination. Therefore, by Harris's reasoning, Jack Ruby was a Communist.

Third, the panel noted that prior to Ruby being asked if he assisted Oswald in the assassination, the so-called neutral control question asked him by his examiner was anything but a "neutral" question: "Have you ever been arrested?" The panel noted twice in its report that they "believed this to be an extremely poor control question."

Fourth, the panel noted numerous procedural errors in the administration of Ruby's polygraph examination, any one of which, they noted, could have invalidated any conclusions drawn from it.

Fifth, the HSCA panel's specific conclusion regarding the question about Ruby's assisting Oswald in the assassination was that "it appeared to the panel that Ruby was possibly lying." This is followed by the statement, "It is emphasized by the panel, however, that no opinion could be rendered on the validity of this examination or the reliability of the results for the numerous reasons discussed in this report."

Sixth, polygraphs are a notoriously unreliable indication of dishonesty in the first place, and most courts will not accept polygraph examinations into evidence for precisely that reason. The following is a selection of online articles that might be of interest regarding this topic:  

Skeptic's Dictionary: Polygraph: The "Lie Detector" Machine

Polygraph Test Considered Invalid by Two Groups of Scientists

US v. Scheffer

Lies, damned lies and polygraphs

Deception by Police

American Psychological Association: Psychologists Surveyed on Lie Detectors Say Most Are Not Valid, Not Scientifically Sound, and Can Be Easily Deceived"

Pinocchio Science: The Truth About the Polygraph

ACLU Briefing Paper: Lie Detector Testing

Polygraphs -- Danger to Innocent People?

The Poor Man's Polygraph

Jan. 21, 1998, 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, US vs. Gilliard on admissibility of polygraph to support claim of innocence

Committee on Judiciary, February 10, 1999, Arizona House of Representatives

Does the CIA stereotype Jews as security risks?


Further reading:

Lykken, David Thoreson, A Tremor in the Blood : Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector (Plenum Press, 1998).

Jussim, Daniel, "'Ouija Board Justice' in Florida: The Polygraph Comes to School," Civil Liberties, No. 358. (summer-fall 1986)

Shneour, Elie, "Lying about polygraph tests," Skeptical Inquirer, Spring 1990, Vol.14, No.3.

"Polygraph Tests Are Degrading, Don't Work -- and Should Be Banned," Civil Liberties, No. 355, Fall 1985.


16. House Select Committee on Assassinations, Hearings Vol. VIII, p. 219.



You may wish to see . . .

The JFK 100: Who Was Jack Ruby?

The JFK 100: Jack Ruby Injected with Cancer


Back to the top

Back to The JFK 100

Back to Oliver Stone's JFK

Back to Jim Garrison menu

Back to JFK menu


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Dave Reitzes home page